It may feel like spring never faded, but if you’re calendar watching, it’s back! Road-trip fever is in the air, but gas prices are in the stratosphere. So, let’s travel the nearby highways and byways to some intriguing spots that shouldn’t consume more than a tank of gas each way–unless your ride gets real thirsty. –Jay Lloyd
Time it right, and you’ll be able to take in a tribute show to the Andrews Sisters while exploring the replica of a World War II encampment in France. You might watch a Civil War re-enactment, or just stroll the 67 (meticulously-maintained) acres that make up the Pennsylvania Military Museum, which sits in the shadow of Nittany Mountain. Both the museum and colonial Boalsburg are located very close to State College and offer endless possibilities for discovering a slice of little-known central Pennsylvania. This is the perfect diversion during a visit to Penn State for a spring graduation, college visit or simply a trip down memory lane.
And to satisfy the appetite after a day of exploration, a popular stop is Kelly’s Steak and Seafood; don’t miss the seafood chowder. Or, for a 19th century atmosphere and a 21st century pub menu, check in at Duffy’s Tavern. From prime rib to fajitas, Duffy’s is an experience that helps you unwind.
OCEAN CITY TO CAPE MAY, NJ
Nothing says “spring” like that first trip of the year to the Jersey shore! Anywhere between family-friendly Ocean City and eclectic Cape May offers an early chance to bask and bake on a still pristine beach, walk on an uncluttered boardwalk and get a choice table or seat at the bar without standing in a summertime line. The kids are still in school and hotels are offering off-season bargains. Each town has its own unique characteristics, from the flash of Wildwood to the elegance of Cape May and the family atmosphere of Ocean City. Get there fast via the Garden State Parkway, or meander with the top down along the scenic Ocean Drive.
Of course, the stops along the way to sample the local fare are part of the experience. A bay view combined with a varied menu make the Deuville Inn at Strathmere an ideal watering stop on the way to Cape May. Or for something a bit closer, Axellson’s Blue Claw offers up seafood straight from boat to table. Look out the window, and you’ll see the boats and the catch of the day being prepared for shipment to restaurants both far and near.
PLAY BALL ON A 422 RAMBLE – READING PHILLIES
1900 Centre Avenue/Route 61 south
Reading, PA 19605
With baseball mania in the air and money on the tighter side, take the crew for a drive on 422. The destination? The Reading Phillies, with a couple of stops along the way. Just a short jog off Route 422 near Birdsboro will bring you to the Daniel Boone Homestead. Faithfully renovated and preserved, the Homestead offers insight to the early life of the American frontiersman and his family. Tours, re-enactments and costumed guides take you back to the day when the Pennsylvania vision focused westward. Then scoot off to Reading for a ball game that puts you within touching distance of the players at prices that can bring a nostalgic tear to the eye. Tickets range from $6 to $11 a pop and a 2-1/2 hour, all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet costs just $12–less than the price of two beers at you know where!
Still hungry on the way home? Try a pub stop at the Caribbean-themed Tiki Bar near Earlville. This fun-filled bar and barbecue spot sells you the meat and provides the grill–you do the cooking. Fun atmosphere, island music, great crowd.
Nestled in the western Pocono Mountains, the colorful town of Jim Thorpe has it nailed – music, the arts, history, restaurants in abundance and quaint B&B’s, along with scenic beauty. It’s all within an hour-and-a-half of Philadelphia.
While there are a lot of towns that have a “Molly Maquires” pub, this town can claim an actual connection. Here in Pennsylvania’s Coal Country, the legendary Molly Maquires fought an ongoing labor battle in a violence-streaked campaign against powerful mine owners. Their history was emblazoned on the big screen in a popular Sean Connery flick and lives on in name at Irish pubs across America. But in Jim Thorpe, this version of the pub features a 24-ounce steak–enough to keep a couple of coal miners in calories!
More eclectic dining can be found at Moya, a rare Ecuadorian eatery that adds a unique touch to this trip to explore a rare bit of Americana.
You’ll want to make this one an overnight or weekend stop, and the centrally-located Manor B&B puts you in walking distance of the shops, restaurants and attractions that prompt frequent visits for a continuously revolving series of festivals and events. The quickest way to go is the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Lehighton and head west on 209.
A pleasant drive up Route 73 to Gilbertsville on the Montgomery-Berks county lines puts us on the bulls-eye for the most talked about rural farmers market in Pennsylvania. This year, Zerns celebrates its 90th year in business. Its roots as a backyard market dealing in Pennsylvania Dutch farm produce and livestock has grown considerably to include a massive indoor/outdoor flea market, along with vendors that offer everything from exotic spices to nuts and bolts. Staple fresh meats and vegetables are joined by seafood and snacks, and you can still get a $7 haircut and catch up on local gossip, then sell or buy your antiques and collectables in a unique “Bid Board Auction.”
When strolling this seemingly endless market, you’ll build up your appetite, and there’s a crab cake waiting at Carr’s Seafood, or lunch with Latin flavor at El Rincon. Then, there’s always the option of noshing your way around with shoofly pie, Dutch pickles and pretzels, pizzas and cheesesteaks. Plan to make a day of it!