Think you know New Jersey? If you haven’t explored the charming small towns of picturesque Hunterdon County, you’re missing out on one of the Garden State’s most delightful secrets. Tour the scenic countryside, stopping at three of the cutest towns you’ll ever see, with a little help from New Jersey Travel & Tourism.
Capture the authentic flavors of Clinton, Frenchtown and Lambertville with these sure bets. In the heart of downtown Clinton, visit the Red Mill Museum Village for a peek into Hunterdon County’s agricultural past. Don’t forget to take your own snap of the iconic Red Mill, one of New Jersey’s most Instagrammed locations. Celebrate the French roots and the Delaware River location of Frenchtown at two summer festivals: Bastille Day (July 13) and Frenchtown Riverfest (September 2). And bring your walking shoes and an eye for vintage treasures to Lambertville. Along with smaller antique shops, its People’s Store, Rago Arts and Auction Center, and Golden Nugget Antique & Flea Market are prime New Jersey antiquing destinations.
Here in Hunterdon County, small town doesn’t mean light on culture. In fact, these charmers will pique your cultural passions. In Lambertville, the Birdhouse Center for the Arts offers occasional live folk and bluegrass concerts in an intimate listening room setting. Nearby is Music Mountain Theatre, mounting a year-round calendar of musicals, plays and children’s productions perfect for budding theater-goers. Coming up: the thriller Wait Until Dark (July 19-28) and The Will Rogers Follies (August 2-18). Frenchtown is home to the arts incubator, ArtYard. See art exhibitions, film screenings and more at its current location, while construction begins on a new state-of-the-art theatre and gallery space at the site of a former hatchery. And Clinton’s Hunterdon Art Museum stands out with its collection of contemporary art, craft and design showcased in a classic 19th-century stone mill.
The upper feeder section of the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park is an idyllic summer destination for walking, canoeing, kayaking and especially biking. Running parallel to the Delaware River, the picture-perfect canal towpath offers a flat, mostly shady ride that is enjoyable for all ages and biking abilities. Feeling ambitious? Start in Lambertville and ride to Frenchtown (about 16 miles one way). Take a break at Bull’s Island Recreational Area and stroll across the walking bridge. Then pedal on to Frenchtown, where you can reward yourself with a Morning Glory muffin or oversized cookie at the Bridge Café, located in a former train station by the Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Bridge. (Fun family tip: On a hot summer’s day, cool off with a day floating down the river with Delaware River Tubing.)
Bring your urbane palate to Hunterdon County—these small towns are true dining destinations! On Clinton’s Main Street, try the historic Clinton House or ask for a patio table at the farm-to-table Clean Plate Kitchen. Along Lambertville’s Union Street, satisfy your craving for French fare, wood-fired pizza, small-batch artisanal coffee and handcrafted, locally sourced ice cream at Manon, Liberty Hall Pizza, Rojo’s Roastery and Owowcow, respectively. (Fun foodie tip: get a taste of the area with Sister Cities Food & Shop Tour, taking you through Lambertville and across the Delaware River to New Hope, PA, on the third Saturday of the month.) And in Frenchtown, dig into delectable breakfast and brunch dishes at Lovin’ Oven and the Frenchtown Café, or enjoy the old-world charm of the Frenchtown Inn.
Romance the Night
Historic inns and charming B&Bs are tucked away throughout Hunterdon County, making the area an ideal spot for a romantic summer getaway. Frenchtown’s National Hotel dates back to 1833 and was rebuilt in 1850 as a stagecoach stop and brothel. Today it offers luxuriously appointed guest rooms, along with dining and nightlife. The Inn at Lambertville Station sets the scene for riverside elegance with 46 rooms and suites, as well as alfresco fine dining and a popular Sunday brunch. Just a few steps away, the Lambertville House Hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, offers charming accommodations, some with fireplaces. Enjoy a cocktail on the porch, one of Lambertville’s prime people-watching perches.
In New Jersey, every new day brings a brand-new destination…like Hunterdon County’s charming small towns! For more ideas and accommodations, go to visitnj.org, where you can also download a free NJ travel guide or sign up for e-news from New Jersey Travel and Tourism.