The ability to play close to where we live has always been a major attraction of the Delaware Valley. With a single tank of gas, we can navigate to many destinations rich in skiing, boating, beaches, culture, the arts, fine dining and interesting spots to rest at the end of a busy getaway day. Here's the latest chapter on where to point your car for a family retreat or a romantic weekend for two. -Jay Lloyd
Milford, on the banks of the Delaware River near the Kittatinny Mountains of New Jersey, Port Jervis, New York and the picturesque Delaware Water Gap, offers the outdoor recreational attractions of three states. And in recent years, Milford has become a magnet for young artists and performers who have added another layer of vibrancy to a colorful town already rich in restaurants, boutique shopping and early American lodging. This place is a town that's just made for meandering. Stay at the classic Hotel Fauchere in the heart of town and dine formally in the hotel's traditional Delmonico room, or casually in the local gathering spot, Bar Louis at the Fauchere. Then, stroll downtown Milford on the second Saturday of each month for "Art After Dark," a journey into new art shows set to the backdrop of live music and further enhanced by an array of food that will cover that craving for dessert. In fact, I've known people who went to Milford for a getaway and never left!
Getting there: From the Philadelphia area, the easiest route is the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Route 209, and then follow 209 North to Milford.
KOZIAR'S CHRISTMAS VILLAGE
782 Christmas Village Rd.
Bernville, PA 19506
A weekend drive into the heart of Berks County reveals the ultimate Christmas light display. Because yes, it's just about that time again.
Of course, you've seen homes aglow in South Philly and suburban lawns, trees and houses covered with decorative lights. But until you head west of Reading and see the Koziar family farm--now known as Christmas Village--you ain't seen nothing!
It all started when William Koziar wanted to decorate the farmhouse for his four kids, including his daughter, Beverly Levine, who recalls that, "He added and added to it, and people would be parked in the highway for 15 miles straight."
Over the years it's grown to include a model train diorama in the barn, hundreds of display items, a Santa workshop and a lakefront holiday scene. But Beverly insists, "It's still all about the lights. You come over the hill, and you see this crazy fantasy thing of half a million lights."
That's a lot of wattage, and it's strictly a nighttime affair, beginning weekends on November 3rd, then casting its brilliant glow seven nights a week starting on Thanksgiving.
What it costs: Kids under 3 are free; kids 4-10 $7. Seniors 65+ $8. Adults 11-64 $9.
Getting there: It's not easy, but here goes! From Philadelphia, take the Schuylkill Expressway to King of Prussia. Pick up 422 West all the way to Route 222 North. Exit left toward Allentown and follow 222 to the PA 183-N ramp toward Pottsville. Make a left onto 183 to N. Heidelberg Rd and make another left. The third right turn will be Christmas Village Rd. If lost, call: 610-488-1110.
2800 N. Reading Rd.
Adamstown, PA 19501
It's not often you can find something for everyone in a single package. But a one tank trip to Adamstown, just off the Reading exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, takes you to Stoudt's Brewery and Antique Mall. While the shoppers in the family pour over treasures, beer lovers can spend some quality time over a pint or two. Then, everyone reunites for a meal that can only be described as most memorable.
For Oktoberfest fans, there's an impressive menu of authentic German dishes, including a perfectly marinated Saurbraten and the traditional Weinerschnitzel, to go with Stoudt's brews. The raw bar is hard to pass up, and steaks and seafood dominate the standard menu.
The entire operation is under the eye of Ed Stoudt. He enjoyed beer, so he started a brewery. He also likes antiques, so now he has 500 dealers selling on Sundays in his complex. And yes, Ed likes food too: The restaurant and pub are his centerpiece.
At Stoudt's the action largely unfolds on weekends, either in the antique mall, the beer garden, the brewery or the Black Angus restaurant that's studded with Picasso prints, antique oyster plates and political memorabilia. With nearby lodging, it's easy to make it a weekend destination.
Getting there: From Philadelphia it's about 1.5 hours. Take the PA Turnpike I-76 West to Exit 286. Turn right at the traffic light, take Route 272 North and go 1 1/2 miles. Stoudt's is on the left.
MOUNTAIN HOUSE HUNT
One of the most exhilarating one tank trips during the fall season serves as a prelude to winter, the time of year when snow sports enthusiasts take to the Pocono Mountains in a quest for the perfect ski house. For downhill fanatics who plan to take winter vacations and spend every weekend of the season on the slopes, renting a home or condo--preferably slopeside--for an entire winter is an economic necessity. The search can be a weekend getaway filled with eye opening possibilities, good food, drinks and (early) fireside relaxation.
The search can start in the Western Poconos at Jack Frost and Big Boulder Mountains. At Frost, you'll find fully furnished condos that allow you to ski right from the door to the lifts. Big Boulder's apartment and home complex is close to the mountain and offers lift ticket packages that allow skiing at both areas—days at Jack Frost, day and night at Boulder.
Heading east on I-80 brings you to Camelback Mountain, near the vibrant nightlife and restaurants in Tannersville and the Crossroads Outlet shopping complex on the Camelback access road. Rental housing at and near Camelback includes the Village and the Northridge homes, where you'll find mountain views from fireplace-warmed living rooms. And for a weekend stay while searching for that ideal ski house, the Chateau near the base of the mountain offers comfortable rooms, an indoor pool and a lively restaurant and bar. Dining in nearby Tannersville usually takes me to the Smugglers Cove or the Tannersville Inn.
Getting there: To reach the Jack Frost/Big Boulder area, take the northeast extension of the PA Turnpike to the Pocono exit. Turn left onto Route 940 West. At the first traffic light, turn left for Jack Frost and right for Big Boulder. To reach Camelback, return to the traffic light at the turnpike interchange. Make a left turn to I-80 and take I-80 east to the Tannersville exit. Make a right and then a left at the traffic light.
815 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
It's just a short journey down I-95 to Wilmington and its dynamic riverfront, where the banks of the Christina River form the backdrop for an incredible amount of synergy between a minor league ball park, the Delaware Theatre Company, a contemporary arts center, outlet shopping, a unique food market and more than half a dozen eateries. Dine in style or relax with a pint and a mess of crabs at Joe's Crab House. Visitors can also stroll a mile-and-a-half of scenic walkway along the river.
Spend a weekend in the classic DuPont Hotel or at one of the nearby motels, then concentrate your getaway around the riverfront. Browse the unique galleries at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts. Take in a play at the Delaware Theatre Company, and then dine formally or casually at Harry's Seafood, Firestone's, The Big Fish Grill or Iron Hill Brewery – all Delaware favorites.
'One Tank Trips' can be designed to fit any budget. Before going, check out the local web sites for special events and festivals; many of them are free. And don't forget to look up hotels, restaurants and nightlife venues that offer deep "off-season" discounts.
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