Lambertville, New Jersey

Photo: Lambertville Station Restaurant & Inn

New Jersey has a bad reputation. When you leave New York City, you’re immediately surrounded by oil refineries, rail yards, and murky swamps. Home prices and property taxes are notoriously high. Then there’s the Jersey Shore and the reality television show created around it. No wonder the Garden State is the butt of so many jokes.

Not so fast. This was initially one of the states hit the hardest by the coronavirus. Its hospitalization rate has drastically declined. Its transmission rate sits below one, the benchmark for whether the virus is spreading. Plus it’s maintained strict public health policies—masks must be worn in public—despite the downward trend. New Jersey has effectively flattened the curve.

So as you start to consider travel plans—you desperately need to get out of your house this summer—where are you going to go? Arizona, Florida, and Texas are out. California is, too. You aren’t ready to board an airplane yet. While the thought of spending endless hours in the car makes you want to forget the whole trip. Nearby New Jersey is looking pretty good right now.

Photo: Lambertville Station Restaurant & Inn

Let’s start by getting away from cities. Hunterdon County lies along the Pennsylvania border. Its rolling hills feel like they’re farther than 40 miles from Philly and 70 miles from New York City. Lambertville—a small, historic town oozing with charm—sits beside the Delaware River. The river and its canals were used for ferries, freights, and even colonial forces during the Revolutionary War. Then it became a factory town. Now those buildings have been preserved and a historic district encompasses most of the town. Add an artsy, free-spirit vibe, and Lambertville becomes an easy escape from home.

But to be a long-weekend destination, you need a great place to stay. Lambertville has that covered, as well. Lambertville Station Restaurant & Inn is a quaint spot at the edge of the river. The boutique hotel was built around a stone train station from the 1860s. It now houses a rustic restaurant with a cozy basement bar. A modern building, which was recently renovated, was built next to it. That has a soaring lobby, rooms with incredibly comfortable beds, and views of the water. You treat yourself by upgrading to a Riverview Suite complete with a double fireplace and a soaking tub.

There are more treats to come. In addition to the restaurant, outdoor dining is offered alongside the canal. The terrace, lined with greenery and hanging flowers, is a perfect spot for lemonade and seafood. Sweet Lou’s raspberry lemonade is spiked with Stateside Vodka. Lobster-and-crab bisque and Chesapeake-style lump crabcakes are highlights on the menu. While dessert, a peaches-and-cream cake, shouldn’t be skipped. The Wine Cellar offers bottles from 50 independent vineyards. You can sample cool and crisp Chardonnays or unique Rieslings with its flight program. New Jersey’s second-oldest winery, Tomasello Winery, has a tasting room a block away. Plus the Goat Hill Overlook—the perfect spot to watch the sunrise in the morning if you don’t drink too much wine—is just a little bit farther. New Jersey is looking really good right now.

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