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: In 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.