Each American small town has a characteristic appeal. Having fallen in love with a place, I’m often left wondering how – if ever – I could relive the affair elsewhere. With its history, culture, and natural endowment, New Hope evokes the same worry.
We profile twenty-one towns that share some common features with New Hope, Pennsylvania. They offer a combination of climate, art culture, scenic hinterland, and small-town cozy. Ten of the towns are in the US. The rest are in South America, Europe, Oceania, and Africa.
We’ll commence the journey by taking a look at the signature Pennsylvania town. This will set the template of what we’ll seek abroad.
A Look At New Hope
New Hope is much like the impressionist paintings in any one of its signature town galleries. It is a simple place whose beauty is sketched by a few broad strokes that hang together. There’s a river. A creek. A station, mills, and a borough. The tonal details of town life fall effectively between.
|Surface Area||1.42 sq mi|
The Delaware River rises in the Catskills of New York, twisting southeast through Pennsylvania to the New Jersey Delaware border at Delaware Bay. Here it finds the Atlantic. New Hope lives along the west bank of Delaware, near its confluence with Aquetong Creek.
The hinterland consists of forest, farmland, and low rolling hills. The Appalachian Oak is the dominant vegetation in the area. Common birds are wood duck, grey heron, and red-tailed hawk. The land fauna includes squirrels, tree frogs, snapping turtles, white-tailed deer, and foxes.
The area has a humid continental climate, with thunderstorms occurring in the warm month of July. Sub-zero temperatures are typically in the winter, where extreme wind is not uncommon. In 1955, 2004, and 2006 Delaware burst its banks, flooding the downtown area. This led to temporary business closure and extensive damage.
New Hope lies thirty miles north of Philadelphia, near Solebury township. The official population density (1,992/sq mi) is overstated, as many people with addresses in the town are, in fact, residents in Solebury.
The area was first occupied by forerunners to the Lenni-Lenape, who settled the area for its abundance of food, water, and arable land.
Located roughly midway between New York and Philadelphia, the town acquired its modern life as a stopover for travelers before making the Delaware River crossing. This development started with the building of a mill, commissioned by Robert Heath.
General George Washington used the settlement as a staging area for campaigns against the British. These included campaigns around the battles of Monmouth and Trenton and some of the town’s older buildings carry the scars of British reprisals.
In its role as a transportation hub, much travel infrastructure was built around the town. By 1891 New Hope was incorporated in the North Pennsylvania Railroad. This steam route was electrified in the 1970s. Scenic tourist excursions still take off from this railroad.
The town hosts a ferry and has been serviced by canal boats, trolleys, and stagecoaches.
Wealth levels are well above the national average. Average incomes and median household incomes are respectively $64,119 and $83,313, against national averages of $28,555 and $53,482. At 6%, the unemployment rate tracks the federal average.
The key income driver is tourism, followed by manufacturing. While the town is surrounded by farmlands, with a millennia-old history of farming, agriculture is a minor economic contributor.
The highest employing sectors are Sales and Related, Business and Financial Operations and Management. An unusually high number of residents are employed in Life, Physical and Social Science, Arts and Design, Entertainment and Business occupations.
Mixed freight is the leading export component for Pennsylvania. As an interstate transport hub, New Hope is exposed to this activity. The top three trade partners are New York, New Jersey, and Ohio.
New Hope was the center of Pennsylvania Impressionism, an influential American art style that developed in the early 1900s after landscape painter William Langson Lathrop established a summer school in 1898. The school flourished into a thriving colony as artists were drawn by the natural beauty of the hills, creek, and tributaries.
This art tradition persists in the galleries distributed around town. It has infused the town’s shopping culture, which is described as crafty and eclectic. The downtown area contains a witch shop, a rare books shop, and diverse boutiques, leaving the flavor of a small town with a big city feel.
Leisure activities involve exploring the surroundings. Hiking and biking along the canal and through the hills and forest are popular pastimes. The town has a theatre tradition and has been used as a testbed for Broadway plays.
The rail and road infrastructure provides an exploration of the scenic hinterland.
Key town attractions include:
- Bucks County Playhouse: Luminaries including Liza Minelli, Grace Kelly, and Dick van Dyke have played here. Several international plays have been launched here, and the theatre offers classes to aspiring actors.
- Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve: The Delaware Valley’s native fauna is showcased in one hundred and thirty-four strollable acres. The garden includes a botanical museum.
- New Hope Railroad: Centered on New Hope’s iconic station, the railroad offer trips in vintage trains. Steam coaches take visitors on scenic explorations and wine tours.
- Ferry Market: This is a trendy food market that offers a variety of cuisine. The roofed section keeps it going during the rain.
- Bucks County Children’s Museum: A drawcard for kids, this interactive educational museum includes scientific and craft activities. It features a miniaturized town with shops to work in.
- New Hope Arts Center: This is a non-profit center showcasing the works of amateur visual artists from New Hope and Lambertville. It spans painting, illustration, and sculpture.
- Main Street: This is New Hope’s downtown portal. It hosts boutiques, eateries, and the town’s varied shopping options.
- Nakashima Woodworkers: This complex centers around the home of George Nakashima, an American furniture maker with a modern, Japanese-influenced style. Guided tours explain the nature and evolution of his organic naturalist style.
10 Similar US Towns
In and out of the Delaware Valley are towns that mirror the New Hope charm. We profile ten of them.
Town 1: Lambertville
|Surface Area||1.23 sq mi|
On the east bank of Delaware, opposing New Hope across the New Hope-Lambertville Toll Supported Bridge is a town with the same climate, greenery, and similar downtown quaintness.
Founded in 1705 and incorporated in 1854, Lambertville has several historic buildings, like its City Hall, constructed in 1871. The town offers an eclectic dining experience and walks and artifacts around its waterways.
Key attractions include the Delaware and Raritan canal. Known as “The Antique Capital of New Jersey,” the town has several shops with dated items. The Golden Nugget Antiques Market is an extensive rare items market that takes place three days a week.
Town 2: Abingdon
|Surface Area||8.06 sq mi|
Originally named Wolf Hills, this town nestles in the Blue Ridge Highlands, a green mountainous area twelve miles removed from the Appalachian Trail. Long summers, hot and humid, give way to very cold, wet winters.
The Virginia Creeper Trail, a disused railway line, creates a hiking trail that snakes thirty-four miles, crossing rivers on its way to the town of Damascus. The Great Channels of Virginia offer a scenic tour through a four-hundred-million-year-old sandstone structure.
The Barton Theatre, Virginia’s most famous, anchors an art scene that includes the William King Museum of Art. The Barton hosts the country’s oldest professional Equity theatre company and has seen the likes of Gregory Peck, Hume Cronyn, and Ned Beatty.
Town 3: Carmel By The Sea
|Surface Area||1.06 sq mi|
With a green hinterland and Pacific views, the town has preserved architecture from its origins as a Spanish mission. The Carnegie-backed Coastal Laboratory saw a number of scientists move in. A Catholic retreat followed. Carmel was incorporated in 1906.
The Carmel Arts And Crafts Club was established in 1905 and grew when artists fled San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake. A diverse range of writers, painters, sculptors, and dramatists arrived, including Mary Austen, George Sterling, and Upton Sinclair.
The Carmel Beach Festival is a long-running two-week music concert. The town hosts the Monterey Symphony, which puts on seven shows a year.
Town 4: Lewisburg
|Surface Area||3.81 sq mi|
Located one mile north of the river, this town hosts one of the world’s only four remaining continuous-use Carnegie centers. Established in 1902, it serves more than seventy-five thousand patrons a year with international shows, classes, and exhibitions.
Old buildings and sites preserve the town’s history, predating the Civil War. Flyfishing and hiking through the Greenbrier State Forest and kayaking along the Greenbrier River are popular leisure options.
“America’s Coolest Small Town” (according to Frommer’s Budget Travel Magazine) has no fewer than five galleries, with a panoply of visual art displays. The Lewisburg Literary Festival and Music Festival round out the art offering.
Town 5: Manitou Springs
|Surface Area||3.15 sq mi|
The Ute fancied the place for its restorative spring water. Since its incorporation in 1886, the town (originally set up as a health resort) drew a growing audience. Englemann Canyon and the Manitou mountains border the town to the south and west.
The Manitou Springs Depot showcases vintage rail carriages. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is one of only three remaining cog railways in the United States. It takes visitors on scenic tours over Pikes Peak mountain.
The climate is humid continental, with no extremes, and pleasant Spring and Fall weather. The town sports dozens of galleries and boutiques, as well as more than twenty studios for the burgeoning community of resident artists. Several of their works are installed in public spaces around the town.
Town 6: Stockbridge
|Surface Area||23.7 sq mi|
Originally chartered for the Stockbridge Indians, the Indians were forcibly resettled in the west. The town was incorporated in 1739, and following the establishment of the railroad in 1850, settled into its role as a getaway for the rich.
A network of lakes and marshy brooks feed the Housatonic River, which runs through the center of the town. The Berkshire Mountains cradle Stockbridge without.
Founded in 1969, the Norman Rockwell Museum houses the largest collection of prolific artist’s work. The impressive Chesterwood mansion, the studio and summer estate of American sculptor Daniel Chester French sits in Williamsville Rd.
Locals and art lovers from out of town are drawn to the Summer Crafts & Art Show and the Tanglewood Music Festival.
Town 7: Gatlinburg
|Surface Area||10.42 sq mi|
Gatlinburg is part of the Heritage Arts and Crafts Trail, an eight-mile network of art communities that extends through Tennessee. The town has galleries and shops featuring imaginative works, but the main drawcard is the Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Community.
The Community is America’s largest independent organization of independent artisans, where more than one hundred craftspeople and artisans contribute. They do so in an interactive engagement with visitors, who can gain an insight into the genesis of the assortment of creative products.
Outdoors, the town opens to the Smoky Mountains chapter of the Appalachian Trail. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers family visits by train through the Smoky Mountain thicket.
Town 8: Eureka Springs
|Surface Area||6.90 sq mi|
In this town, winding mountainside streets seat Victorian homes dug into the sides of cliffs. The National Register of Historic Places has included the entire downtown area, a quaint shopping space lined with boutiques, craft emporiums, and fine art galleries. Leatherwood Creek fans its tributaries through the city center.
Overexploitation has diminished the flow rate of the springs that gave the town its name. The surrounding Ozark mountains create the basis for outdoor life. Canoeing and trout fishing are popular activities on the surrounding rivers. The Ozarks make excellent biking and hiking terrain.
The Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway provide excursions of the surroundings. Fine dining on retro carriages allows visitors to take in the scenery of this mountain oasis.
Town 9: Cody
|Surface Area||10.46 sq mi|
Tourism is the main economic activity in this town. Although it is serviced by the BNSF, the largest freight railroad in North America cuts through Cody. Historically, the key attraction has been the adjacent Yellowstone National Park.
Over time the city council has diversified the town’s national attraction by building a budding craft and art community. The Whitney Western Art Museum is included in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Annually the local art community’s activities are showcased in the Rendezvous Royale.
Cody is a style furniture niche, with a number of artisanal producers turning out collections of custom pieces.
Town 10: Taos
|Surface Area||6.01 sq mi|
|River||Rio Pueblo de Taos|
“The Place of the Red Willow” sits south of a community that’s been occupied for a millennium. The pueblo – multi-story communal structures built between 1000 and 1450 AD adorn the town’s surroundings. More than twenty sites on the National Register of Historic Places are located in Taos.
The town does a good job of preserving its ancient artistic heritage while being a mecca for modern art. The Helene Wurlitzer foundation provides residencies for artists, and over the years, the town has attracted artists like Ansel Adam, Buck Dunton, and Georgia O’Keeffe.
There are numerous hot springs, and the Rio Grange and mountainous surrounds provide opportunities for rafting, bike trails, and fly fishing.
11 Similar International Towns
To get a sense of the New Hope flavor much further away from Delaware, we continue our search offshore.
Town 1: Ribe
|Surface Area||2.81 sq mi|
The establishment of Ribe is recorded in a document from 854AD, making it the oldest town in Scandinavia. Located on a strategic trade route, it was chosen as the site for the first Scandinavian Christian church.
The Viking Center, Viking Museum, and Art Museum sit in some of the many well-preserved historical buildings. The surrounding river habitat is home to rare birdlife.
Town 2: Rye
|Surface Area||1.6 sq mi|
This town has a mix of medieval cottages with terra cotta roofs and walls of timber. The Ypres Tower and St Mary’s Church provide comprehensive views of the town. They are its two oldest buildings.
A Roman-era shipping culture has turned Rye into a laid-back fishing town beloved by tourists. The annual Bay Scallop Week is a popular attraction. A scenic train ride of two hours connects the town to London.
Town 3: Hiraizumi
|Surface Area||24.48 sq mi|
This Buddhist capital sits in the northern prefecture of Iwate. In the thirteenth century, it was an influential center of power, as the seat of the dominant Fujiwara clan. Over centuries, the glory dwindled, and a modest, stunningly beautiful town emerged.
Various Buddhist temples are recognized as UNESCO treasures. They are impeccably preserved, reflecting the town’s golden age. “Pure Land” landscape gardens create a verdant theme through the town.
Town 4: Nelson
|Surface Area||4.61 sq mi|
Noted as a cultural center, early twenty-five writers and artists call Nelson home. In 1998, it was designated “Number One Small Town Arts Community in Canada.” The town is home to a large and varied community of artisans.
Outside the town, the Selkirk Mountains and Kootenay Lake provide scenic greenery. The climate is New Hope continental, with pleasant humidity in the summer.
Town 5: Beechworth
|Surface Area||300.4 sq mi|
This shire was proclaimed in 1856 and was at the epicenter of the contemporary west coast gold rush. Its history is preserved with old buildings showing off the English influences that shaped the town.
Beechworth has a mild, Oceanic climate. It is a springboard to the Woolshed Waterfalls, host to notable annual festivals and museums. Town’s streets are graced by the historic courthouse and asylum.
Town 6: Albarracin
|Surface Area||174.8 sq mi|
The town is situated in Spain’s Aragon region. The surrounding cliffs and sandstone boulders make for appealing rock climbing.
Echoing the British shelling of New Hope, Albarracin was largely destroyed in the Spanish Civil War. The government rebuilt the town in the Moorish style, with pink, red, and orange houses filling the town. The 12th-century Albarracin castle looks down over the tiled roofs of the bell towers and iron bars on the windows.
Town 7: Aguas Caliente
|Surface Area||150.39 sq mi*|
|Nearest City||Santa Ana|
*Greater Machupicchu Pueblo area.
This town did not exist until 1931 when a railroad was constructed. The town evolved as a hub for worker lodging. It then boomed into a springboard for exploration of the Machupicchu ruins.
Walking the streets, there is a variety of restaurants around the old station precinct. Excursions into the surrounding woodland are available through forest trails.
Town 8: Gore
|Surface Area||483.25 sq mi|
Formerly a busy railway junction, gore sits on the Main South Line linking Invercargill and Christchurch. The Oceanic climate is mild and warm in summer, much like New Hope.
Gore is an art magnet and hosts the annual Golden Guitar Awards, New Zealand’s premier country music event. There are several second-hand shops and a Moonshine Museum. Brown trout fishing at the Mataura river is a favorite leisure activity.
Town 9: Tumut
|Surface Area||1,7629 sq mi*|
*Tumult Shire Area.
This town is exceptionally pretty throughout the year. It sits in a valley on the edge of the Snowy Mountains and is flanked by rolling foothills. 19th-century European settlers planted poplars and willows that endure along the river’s banks.
Several historic buildings grace the streets. Included are the Court House, Montreal Theatre, Tumut Museum, and Anglican Church, the latter built in the Gothic-Revival style.
Town 10: Riebeek Kasteel
|Surface Area||2.47 sq mi|
|Nearest City||Cape Town|
One of the oldest South African towns, Riebeek Kasteel, lives in a fertile valley, nourished by the Bergrivier tributaries, in the lap of the Kasteelberg mountain. It was a hotbed of 17th-century wars involving Dutch settlers and the indigenous Khoi.
Several of the country’s leading visual artists have made the town their home. This has led to an art scene that features residencies, galleries, and an annual arts festival. The Dutch Reformed Church and Royal Hotel show well preserved colonial-era architecture.
Town 11: Giethoorn
|Surface Area||1.6 sq mi|
Made famous by its inclusion in the International Edition of the Monopoly board game, this Dutch town is remarkable for its total lack of roads. All transport around the town is by boat, via the canals that connect houses and shops. The canals are skatable during the winter months.
“The Dutch Venice” is seated in a large wetland area where lakes abut. Kayaking and canoeing in the canals is a popular pastime. The Museumfarm exhibits the history of the town.
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