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October 13, 2008

Escape to Bucks County

Washington
Word has it that the general wasn't in Bucks
for the apple picking.

Photo: Washington Crossing

by Bryan Pirollli

The fall has arrived and an escape from city life is downright mandatory. But why not enjoy the crisp air and beautiful scenery while seeing some sites at the same time? Even though I've lived there for 18 years, I only recently discovered the historic delights that Bucks County has to offer a mere 30 minutes north of Philadelphia.

As I child I knew a few things about Bucks County: There were cows, there were houses, and I lived here. The travel potential never really struck me. But the county is, as I learned in fourth-grade history class, famous as General Washington's jump-off point for his Christmas night invasion of Trenton, New Jersey. 

Washington Crossing Historic Park is a major destination for history buffs and families alike. The park includes the Revolutionary-era hospital, called the Thompson-Neely House, as well as the Soldiers' Graves, where only one soldier buried is named. Kind of creepy.

If you're up for a hike, the park has plenty of winding trails, riverside views, and old canals to explore. You can also head up Bowman's Hill to the castle-like lookout tower for a breathtaking, miles-deep view of autumn foliage. Called Bowman's Tower, the structure opened in 1931 and commemorates Washington and his army's contributions to American independence.

Reenactments and special events occur year-round, but the big spectacle happens on the second Sunday in December. Locals don costumes and stretch their sea legs as they cross the Delaware River, just as George Washington did in 1776. (Check the Web site if you're interested in taking part.) I'll confess, 18 years and I've managed to miss this consistently. 

Not far from the historic park, in beautiful Lahaska, Peddler's Village will bump you back into the twenty-first century with some high-end shopping and dining. You might think you're still in colonial times, though, in this quaint town setting adorned with brick buildings and pathways. A dinner at the Cock 'n Bull will round out a day of sightseeing with some classic American fare. It was a treat for my family to visit Peddler's Village, but we always ended the day with dinner at home. Cock 'n Bull has nothing on Mom's cooking.

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