Monday, 9 November 2009 12:00 AM
Tourists flock to see the fall colours in New England but just a few hours south Pennsylvania has enough vibrant red and gold foliage to beat anything in Vermont. Travelbite.co.uk's Natasha von Geldern takes a tour of Bucks County, PA, and discovers Route 32 and a place called New Hope.
Only 25 miles from Philadelphia and 75 miles from New York, the gentle rural Bucks County can feel centuries removed from these great American cities.
Bucks County has been a retreat for urbanites since Pennsylvania founder William Penn established a country estate here by the Delaware River in 1683.
Pennsylvania Route 32 is a scenic river route that runs alongside the Delaware River in Bucks County. This popular driving holiday route is one of the best places to see Pennsylvania's stunning autumn foliage on show.
Most local motorists use parallel roads and for most of its length speeds are limited to 35 mph. So traffic volumes are low and route 32 is left to the Sunday drivers, motorcyclists, fishermen and of course lovers of fall foliage.
Route 32 passes through Washington's Crossing State Park - named for the place where the general led his troops across the Delaware River on Christmas night 1776 to surprise the Hessian troops at the battle of Trenton, which proved a turning point in the American Revolution. The crossing is re-enacted each year, with boats battling the swift river currents and ice.
Fall foliage in Bucks County (photo: www.reflectionsbyruthphotography)
A place called New Hope
Another stopping point on route 32 is the little village of New Hope. Bucks County has long been a magnet for artists, who established a community here in the 19th century at what was once called Coryell's Ferry - the halfway stop and crossing point for journeys between New York and Philadelphia. Washington is said to have lodged here the night before the Delaware crossing.
On the banks of the peaceful Delaware you will find dozens of galleries, charming cafes and unusual crafts. In facts it's the arts and crafts Mecca of Pennsylvania. The annual arts and crafts festival in September boasts over 125 artists presenting and selling their work at a prestigious juried event.
It's also reputed to be one of the most haunted towns in the region and ghost tours of New Hope are offered June through November. Follow a lantern-led walk with Adele Bamble through the streets and learn about the phantom hitchhiker who may appear in the moonlight, or the Revolutionary soldier haunting the Logan Inn.
There are many perfect picnic spots and walking trails in the region, as well as romantic inns and bed & breakfasts.
All aboard for Fall Foliage
The New Hope & Ivyland Railroad is a different way to experience the beautiful autumn colours of Bucks County. The railroad follows a 35-mile, two-and-a-half-hour round trip on elegantly restored 1920s vintage passenger coaches pulled by a 1925 Baldwin steam locomotive.
As well as the Fall Foliage special trips there are other themed train rides such as the North Pole Express at Christmas and murder mystery evening dinner rides.
The bridges of Bucks County
Enjoy a driving tour of Bucks County's 12 covered bridges on a sunny Autumn day. Rich with nostalgia, these carefully preserved bridges date back to the 19th century but are still in use today.
A covered bridge driving tour is a great way to take in the scenery in many more out of the way corners of the county. Perhaps you won't be driving a horse and buggy but driving, walking or biking through all the Bucks County covered bridges is a great way to spend a weekend in Pennsylvania. You'll find a guide and map online at the Visit Bucks County website.
Covered bridges of Bucks County (photo: www.reflectionsbyruthphotography)
Going all out for Halloween
Yes there is a Pumpkinfest in Bucks County, and this year was its 18th successful year attracting over 25,000 people to the grounds of the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works. The event showcases local artists carving giant 100-300 pound pumpkins. There's also live musical entertainment on two stages, games, food, storytelling and many children's activities.
Ever popular festivals
Coming up in November is the Bucks County Apple Festival, the largest in the region and held at the Peddler's Village shopping enclave. Scrumptious apple treats include country apple butter, cider, dumplings, fritters and everyone's favourite - apples dipped in caramel.
Take home a bushel of apples just picked from the orchard. There are artisans selling and demonstrating, live entertainment and it's just an all around traditional autumn celebration. And what would an apple festival be without an apple pie eating contest?
Peddler's Village is an 18th-century style shopping village sprawled among 42 acres of landscaped gardens and it has fun family festivals and events throughout the year. The Scarecrow Competition in September is very popular. Larger than life scarecrow creations are displayed around the village and compete for nearly $5,000 in cash prizes.
Natasha von Geldern
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