On a getaway to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, we enjoyed a cozy country inn, an art museum with Impressionist paintings, and gourmet food. We loved an eccentric collection of 19th century American objects housed in a castle. A romantic weekend in the charming riverfront towns of New Hope and Doylestown feels like a different world. But Bucks County is within an hour of Philadelphia and two hours of New York. It’s an easy weekend destination.
Romantic Weekend in Bucks County, Pennsylvania
We spent a romantic weekend in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, enjoying museums, great food, and a cozy stay at a mansion converted into a welcoming inn.
Of course, “romantic” meant we didn’t bring kids. If we had, we would take advantage of kids’ programs at museums and theaters.
Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm in Bucks County
The Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm was once the home of Broadway writer and director George S. Kauffman. Each room is named for one of the author’s plays. Our spacious room, “Stage Door,” was warmed by the gas fire in the fireplace. Our glass-enclosed sunroom had a daybed and an enormous tub, all overlooking a terrace, and the pool, pond, and woods beyond. In summer, I could imagine whiling away an afternoon in that inviting sunny space.
We visited in winter, waking up to a fresh coating of white snow outlining the trees on the 30+ acres surrounding the Inn. How lucky – and lovely!
We brought our own wine and enjoyed the Inn’s cheese board in its comfy living room. Deciding to splurge, we feasted on the three-course dinner at the Inn. We sat near the open kitchen to watch as chefs created gourmet dishes of roast duck, and potato encrusted tilapia. After dessert were homemade sweet extras: salted caramel and a fresh donut to go. While we were happy to eat both dinner and the lavish breakfast at the Inn, next time we will try one of the many restaurants in nearby New Hope and Doylestown.
Michener Art Museum in Bucks County
I’d never guess this art museum used to be a prison. Only the prison’s high exterior stone wall and stone arch entrance remain. The rest was torn down to create spacious, airy galleries for this gem of an art museum. The museum is named for James A. Michener. The author of such classics as Hawaii and The World Is My Home, he is one of the many writers who have lived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
The Michener Art Museum has a huge collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings. It was fun to see paintings of the landscape of rural Bucks County, the same beautiful woods, streams, and fields we saw outside the museum. My husband and I especially enjoyed the wooden furniture of George Nakashima, an artist who worked in Bucks County after his release from a Japanese internment camp. His carved wood pieces focus on the wood grain and preserve the tree’s ragged edges.
Opening at the Michener in March 2017 is a fashion, photography, and sculpture exhibit of the work of Charles Sheeler. Sheeler lived and worked in Bucks County. The exhibit will focus on fashion photography and portraits by Sheeler, a photographer for Conde Nast, and will include 1920’s fashions. The exhibit will also feature live music and film.
The Michener Art Museum is kid-friendly, although we didn’t have any kids with us. The museum has hands-on programs for kids, a café, and space in the outdoor sculpture garden for kids to run around.
In the middle of rural Pennsylvania is a concrete castle built around 1900 to house the Mercer Museum. For sheer weirdness, we couldn’t miss visiting this eccentric collection.
The founder of the Mercer Museum, Henry Mercer, was an archaeologist. As machines replaced hand labor, Mercer realized people would forget the everyday objects of 19th century life. He built the concrete castle and opened the Mercer Museum to display the tools and equipment of pre-industrial life in the U.S.
It was strange and wonderful to walk into the central gallery of this dark castle, and look up to see huge objects hanging above us. We saw horse carriages, baskets, a whaling boat, all suspended from the ceiling 5-stories above our heads. Smaller displays let us look at the objects up close. While we didn’t have kids with us, the Mercer offers hands-on kids’ programs.
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Bucks County Playhouse
Our weekend in Bucks County included a stop at the Playhouse. While they were between shows, the artistic director told us the Playhouse recently was renovated. It has re-opened to offer year-round plays, comedy, and musical performances, with a goal of nurturing new theater talent. Many Broadway actors have starred at the Bucks County Playhouse, including Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, John Lithgow, and Audra McDonald. Now the Playhouse is again a testing ground for new plays. Two already have reached Broadway. The Bucks County Playhouse takes advantage of its beautiful riverfront location. Its café overlooks the river and nearby bridge.
A romantic weekend in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is a step into a different world. But it was an easy drive for us from Philadelphia, and it’s within two hours of New York and other spots on the east coast. If you combine it with a visit to Philadelphia, ideas on where to eat and where to find free fun in Philly are just a click away.
Would you spend a weekend in a cozy country inn, exploring the art and culture of an artistic town? Tell us about it in the comments.