Review: Lambertville, New Jersey

crafting a visit that connects kids to the town and country

Outdoor Appeal: 7

Setting: cultural hub of Hunterdon County Delaware River towns

Explorable Op's: A ton. Although the outdoor scene is mostly limited to the canal tow path, Lambertville has a lot to offer. With shops, parks, museums, bars, cafes, restaurants and New Hope right across the river, it is a choice destination for a visit with or without kids. In this post we'll be reviewing a more outdoors, kid friendly stroll through Lambertville and steering clear of what would be some of the highlights for an adult visitor.

Difficulty: Easy. The visit we are reviewing today is almost entirely flat. But there are times when we venture near the water so you need to be hyper-aware of your kids in these spots.

Facilities: Um... although the town is only a few blocks from where we parked, there were no bathrooms open to the public for us to use. I'm sure that with a little research there is a place you could duck into in an emergency. But for now we're going to have to say there were no public bathrooms on our stroll.

Review: Isn't it just so quaint and civilized to be walking through a picturesque town, with your kids happily amused in their stroller while you sip on some expensive coffee? Only there's one problem. Your kids aren't happily amused. They want out - now! And when they get out they don't want to walk. And if they do walk, they won't walk in the right direction or at an appropriate speed. This exact scenario kept me away from Lambertville for a while. I needed a place where the kids could run free for a bit so they would not be too unruly when walking through town. Lambertville's answer to this dilemma is Cavallo Park Tot Lot.

The park is located on St. Union Street and Mt. Hope Street. It has two novelties that are worth mentioning. First, it is next to a pond that is fed by they canal. There is a bridge on the tow path the goes over the pond and if you are into feeding water fowl, this is a stellar spot to do it.

Second, there is a merry-go-round the likes of I've never seen. It's a bowl that the kids can sit in. The kids think it's pretty neat and indeed it is.

Cavallo Park is a good place to start with the kids. You could easily be ready to hit the town after a few whirls around the playground. If you are looking for a bit more adventure and some more time in nature, we suggest a short walk down the tow path, south towards the dam. There are two long, flat cement breakers that jut out into the river from both sides of the river just south of Lambertville and New Hope. It's an great place to eat lunch and feel as though you are on the river.
Although most of the water on both sides of the barrier is shallow, there are places, especially near the furthest edge, where the water is deeper and swift. So you need to be extremely careful with yourself and your kids. Also, the dam could be under water after a heavy rainfall up stream. So if you venture down the path and don't see the dam, you may need to change your plans.
You can be relatively sure that your kids will have run off a lot of energy after Cavallo Park and exploring the dam. This was the case for us, so from the dam we decided to head back up the tow path towards town. Along the path there is a spillway that provides an impressive waterfall. A bridge on the tow path spans the falls. There is a small catwalk that crosses directly over the falls if you are looking to get real close to the water. We chose to stay on the tow path. One peculiar thing I noticed about the falls is that they seem to fall into a pond that leads to absolutely nowhere. Thousands of gallons of water are pouring into this pond every minute and there is no sign of another stream taking that water away. If you have information about where all this water is mysteriously flowing, please leave a comment.
At this point you are very close to town. Your options are many. We took a very short spin around Lambertville Station. The restaurant and bar are housed in the old station. There are train tracks, railroad crossing signs and a train car (although the car is well hidden by bushes.)

This was a big hit for Max and Frank. Trains are always a sure thing. From town you can easily make it back to Cavallo Park in under 5 minutes on the tow path.

Recommendations: A trip over the bridge to New Hope is well worth it if you have the time. You can take Bridge Street up a few blocks and actually see an old steam engine and tour the station at New Hope Ivyland Express. If you're into ducks, bring some cheerios to Cavallo park to feed the fowl. If you aren't sure you want to go out on the dam, don't! It's not a place to test your kids obedience. Finally, try to find a place with a bathroom for yourselves. Have fun and happy trails.


Review: Washington's Crossing

Outdoor Appeal: 9

Setting: Quintessential Delaware River park. The Pennsylvania side houses a visitors center dedicated to Washington's daring maneuver to take Trenton as well as historical buildings and the boats. The New Jersey side has a more recreational feel with a picnic area, access to the river and the canal and hiking and biking trails.

Explorable Op's: A lot. The obvious draw to the park is the historical significance, but the hiking, biking, fishing, boating and just picnicking are well worth a visit regardless of whether you or your kids would be into the history of the place. The visitor's center is free. It has a short movie that retells the story of Washington crossing the Delaware . The auditorium holds the iconic painting of the scene. The painting is impressive. It takes up the entire back wall of the stage. The grounds on the Pennsylvania side have historic buildings as well as the boats used to cross the river. Trails run through the park on both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania sides and are connected over the bridge. You could easily spend the day without running out of options.

Difficulty: Easy. For the most part both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides are flat. If you travel up the ramp across route 32 on the New Jersey side you'll run into some hills but all the paths are either well worn or paved on both sides of the river.

Facilities: Civilized. The visitor center on the Pennsylvania side has restrooms, a gift shop and vending machines. The New Jersey side has restrooms in the picnic area. In addition there are convenience stores and casual restaurants on both sides of the river.

Review: BoldIn a summer of abnormal weather, we were fortunate to be able to get out to review Washington's Crossing on a sublime day. We parked at the visitors center on the Pennsylvania side of the river. We took a quick tour around to place. There were a few surprises. First, I didn't expect the visitors center to be free. Second, I didn't expect that Max and Frank would be interested in the historical movie, but they sat through it twice! (I'm still not sure why.) Finally, the famous painting of the crossing is huge.


I think most would agree that it is slightly misleading, as the Delaware River in this spot is, well... just not that menacing. But the painting is inspiring and the dimensions are astounding: 12 feet by 21 feet. So even a 1 and a 2 year old could appreciate the scale of it all for a few minutes. From the visitors center we ventured towards the river. There is a high wall that flanks the river on the PA side. While the wall makes getting down to the water is difficult, it does give you a good view of the landscape.

The boys had little interest in the historical buildings on the grounds, although the boats were fun to look at. We then ventured to the bridge to cross over to the Jersey side. The bridge proved to be one of the most exciting places for the kids. Max loved to hear the cars go over the corrugated steel bed of the bridge. We were lucky enough to see some large turtles sunning themselves on one of the bridge supports.

When we got over the bridge the first order of business was finding a place to set up for our picnic. We grabbed a table and started to chow down. After lunch we ventured to the alluring walking bridge that crosses over route 32. Max had his bike with him and he was ready to test out his skills. The bridge has a nice incline and once at the top you can get a good view of both the canal and the river.

We didn't make it too far into the park on this side because the ride back down the foot bridge was tempting. But we did explore enough to see that some of the trees have plaques on them with the details about the tree. I personally like it when I see this. I often wonder what kinds of trees I'm looking at and I do my best to identify them. But it's nice to have the facts when you're out and about.

Then, it was finally time to take the long ramp ride back down towards the PA side. This was quite a thrill for a 2 year old.

From the end of the foot bridge we headed back to the Pennsylvania side over the iron bridge. We stopped in the middle to take a photo looking north up the river. You can see on the left side of the river there are docks for boats. They accompany the houses that line River Drive - more about that in the Recommendations section.

We took one more picture of Max on the bridge before we set off back to the car just so he could tell his mom that he rode his bike all the way to New Jersey and back.

We made it back to the parking lot and our car. It was definitely time to wrap things up. Nap time was over due. But Just as we were getting ourselves in the car Frankie heard the distinctive chop of a helicopter. For unknown reasons, this helicopter made a few rounds over Washington's Crossing.

That in itself was enough to burn this trip into Max and Frank's memories forever.

Recommendations: There's plenty to do at Washington's Crossing but on this last visit it struck me as a perfect place to take kids on a bike ride. Most of the area is flat with smooth trails for riding. The the New Jersey side has a road within the state park and easy access to the tow path along the canal. Another beautiful section for bike riding on the New Jersey side is River Drive. The road runs north out of the picnic area and rises to give great views of the river. Historic houses line the road which make for a very pleasant, civilized ride. Also, Bowman's Tower is part of the park on the Pennsylvania side. Although it's a few minutes car ride north of Washington's Crossing, it's well worth a visit. Happy trails.


Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum, Delaware Valley Historical Aircraft Association, DVHAA

Big jets!
No matter what your views are on American military prowess, seeing big jets up close is awe inspiring. The Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum has 17 aircraft that you can check out.  (If you're looking for detailed information on the museum and the aircraft click on the link in the previous sentence.) Most of the aircraft are located outside.  On some visits we've been able to wonder around the aircraft on our own while others times we get a volunteer to take us around and tell us a brief history of aircraft. The indoor museum has thousands of small model airplanes that makes it hard for any small boy to resist the gift shop on the way out.  The indoor museum is a converted hanger and houses 4 aircraft as well as a two cockpit simulators that you can sit in.  So this place is a big hit with kids of all ages.  We've found the volunteers to be friendly and always ready to answer any question.  In this post we'll be highlighting some of the interesting things we've learned at the museum and showing off our photos from the day the "Huey" was open for us to sit it. (The aircraft are not usually open to guests.)  The Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. (Click here for hours)  It's a great place to visit for an hour or so with the kids.  Even if the weather makes it tough to get outside to see the majority of the aircraft, the indoor museum can be lots of fun all by itself.  The museum is free to visit but they do ask you to sign in and there is a donation box at the front counter.  Enjoy our little insights and our photo tour.
The helicopter inside is like the one that flew into view on the opening credits of every episode of M*A*S*H*. 

Below is the Viper.  This is the kind of jet John McCain was shot down in in Vietnam.

Below is a close up of the Viper art work on the nose.

The C-1A "Trader" below has wings that fold up and a propeller that you can get real close to (but not touch.)

The Grumman F9F-2 "Panther" became the US Navy's "Blue Angel" demonstration teams first jet. (Also the first picture at the beginning of this post.)
I couldn't get confirmation on this but the flag below looks to be taken from a kamikaze from WWII. If you've got better information on this, please leave a comment at the end of this post. 
This was our lucky day!  Below is Max in the "Huey" with Frank attempting to climb on board.
Max flying.
Frank flying.
Max and Frank next to the Piasecki HUP-2 - a search and rescue helicopter for aircraft carriers in the 1950's.  (The volunteer that cuts the grass keeps some tools in this helicopter and let us take a look inside.  He framed this picture for us so we'd have a memoir of where we were - kind of cute.)
Please be aware that you cannot enter the airbase to get to the museum.  The entrance in on route 611 just south of the the entrance to the airbase.  It's a small parking lot and there is usually a large "open" sign posted near the entrance when they are open.  This last photo is the standard star and stripes taken from the HUP-2 helicopter.
We hope this give you a little taste of the museum.  If your kids like planes, you can't go wrong.



Lake Nockamixon

*Warning:  this post contains a lot of family photos
Lake Nockamixon might as well be a world away from the rest of Bucks County - or at least as far away as the Poconos.  And come to think of it, in some ways it's kind of like the beach.   The expansive lake is buffered from civilization by dense woods.  There's hiking as well as a bike/hike trail system.  Rock climbers can scale/boulder up Haycock Mountain or strike out to other locales.  There are stables all over upper Bucks and horse trails thread the forest.  Boating and fishing are top notch as well as sailing - and not just the little sunfish sailboats.  There's a marina with yachts... oh yeah, and an occasional seagull.   The park even has a beautiful 1/2 acre pool with water slides, a snack bar and a shallow end with fountains.  It's close to some hardcore tourist attractions like the Crayola Factory in Easton and the New Hope-Ivyland stream engine train. So why take a vacation to the beach or the Poconos with all the bounty of an outdoors vacation just minutes from home?  That's a question Corinne and I asked ourselves a few years back.  One problem is that there is no place to pitch a tent or roll in a camper in the park.  The solution?  Cabins!  The park has 10 modern cabins on the south side of the lake.  They are the same cabins you'd find in any state park in Pennsylvania.  Renting a cabin for a week comes to just under $400.  When we discovered the cabin option our family vacation tradition was solidified.

This year my sister and her family rented the cabin next to ours so we had taken over a good percentage of the available space in the cabin area.  The cabins are a short walk to the lake which was great for the kids.  There is also a playground in the cabin area so there is always a place to go that can help alleviate "cabin" fever.  Another huge bonus is that we are close enough to home that friends and family can come to visit which can be a real win-win.  Even a place only an hour or two away might be just far enough to eliminate this option.  

Unlike other Review posts, this post will be different in that I'll just be highlighting some of the things we did without trying to give you a critical angle.  This was our vacation and we had a great time.  I wouldn't have change a thing.     

view of the cabin entrance

trail to the lake

Corinne, Matt, Frank and Max at the lake

Annette, BJ, Jill and Dominic

Grandpop and Max at the Lake

Grandmom, Frank and Max

Max in the hammock

Corinne and Frank at the marina

Max at the Marina

Corinne and Frank on the dock

Max at the pool

Annette at the pool

Frank at the pool

Jill and Dominic at the marina

Max in motion on the New Hope-Ivyland Express

Corinne, Max, Frank and Matt after the train ride

Hope this gives you a glimpse of our vacation.  Low cost, low stress, local and lots of fun.  Check out the cabins when you get a chance.  Happy trails.