Located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on the Delaware River, about 90 minutes from New York and an hour from Philadelphia, the picturesque town has long been known for its thriving LGBTQ+ community. Today, however, a lineup of upscale boutique hotels, buzzy restaurants and bars, and other noteworthy establishments combined with a growing population of city transplants are adding a vibrant, urban feel to this small suburban destination.
The new 38-room River House at Odette’s from local hotel brand Refined Hospitality, for one, made a splash when it opened in September in a new construction building set along the river just outside the main downtown.
Inspired by the location’s previous incarnation as French actress and musician Odette Myrtil’s cabaret, Chez Odette, the property is a design showpiece. The past meets present aesthetic weaves contemporary leather couches, richly colored velvet textiles, and sharp light fixtures with original early 20th-century art and accent pieces. All guest rooms feature bold floral wall murals above tufted leather headboards, jewel-toned custom-made furniture, and expansive views of either the water or the mountains.
On the main level, Odette’s Restaurant & Lounge, with its eclectic American cuisine using local ingredients, has already become a hot-ticket reservation. Executive Chef Adam Sheff’s tasty dishes such as fennel crusted tuna with stewed tomatoes and olives and cherry glazed duck breast are served up in a glamorous vaulted ceiling room with a long wooden bar.
Post dinner, hotel guests can head up to the members-only Roof to imbibe on a cocktail or glass of wine by fireside while overlooking the glimmering river. And in true Odette’s style, starting in November, the lobby piano bar will feature monthly cabaret.
In the heart of the town on Main Street, a five-minute walk from River House at Odette’s, entrepreneurs and husband-and-wife Sherri and Kevin Daugherty, are driving the change from mom-and-pop feel to hip and happening.
Their Stella by Jose Garces, from the eponymous James Beard award winner, is a bi-level spot in a formerly abandoned 1950s building on the river. Menus change seasonally and draw on the best of Bucks Country farms. Fall dishes include charcoal roasted baby carrots with whipped ricotta, Peking duck with farro and corn risotto and curry and coconut roasted cauliflower.
Stella is part of Ghost Light Inn, the Daugherty’s 12-room chic hotel that has a soothing back-to-nature vibe with its muted color palate, light woods, a stone stairway and brick stained concrete.
The inn and restaurant are flanked by a long waterfront pedestrian promenade leading to the Bucks County Playhouse. This cultural institution has seen a major turnaround in the last few years, following its decline at the turn of the 20th century—more than 50 years after Grace Kelly made her stage debut here in 1949.
The change is due to the Daugherty’s non-profit, the Bridge Street Foundation, which has tapped three Tony award-winning producers including Alexander Fraser, winner of A Normal Heart in 2011, to put out its top caliber productions. For the remainder of this year, the Playhouse will stream two rock and roll concerts: one for Halloween with American Idol star Justin Guarini and Bat out of Hell lead Andrew Polec, and another for the December holidays.
A few doors away, Ferry Market is a new indoor food center in what was once a dilapidated building. A Peruvian spot, Lima Fusion, is among the dozen vendors as is The Good Gyro, where the fall-off-the-bone Moroccan chicken with ginger, garlic, and turmeric, is a must. Then there’s artisan chocolatier Sciascia Confections with its hard-to-resist sea salt caramels and nut studded barks.
New Hope’s nightlife scene is flourishing, too. Gastropub The Salt House, situated in a building from 1751, is a local favorite and owned by former New York record executive Steve Lau. In a nod to his love for agave spirits, the bar offers more than 40 tequilas and mezcals while the menu is full of unusual comfort food dishes like duck meatballs and venison chili.
Lau’s second enterprise, Center Bridge Inn, with nine guest rooms and a Mediterranean influenced restaurant, is opening in December in a 16th-century riverside colonial home on the outskirts of town.
A destination spa, Nurture Spa, is part of New Hope’s attractions and spans 10,000 square feet over four floors in a mid-19th-century building. Owned and run by ex-New Yorker Carolyn Holdsworth, who wanted to bring a stellar city spa experience to the suburbs, it offers a long list of services in a luxe atmosphere including massages and medi treatments. Nurture’s boutique is a boon for its smartly curated workout gear, beauty products, and jewelry from independent designers.
The region surrounding New Hope adds to its diversions. In the sprawling countryside, farms, hiking, biking, and skiing trails as well as nature preserves abound. Then there are historic sites and other charming towns.
Whether you stay for a night or a few days, there’s no doubt that New Hope makes for an appealing escape.