So, you want to park the car, stroll a village, have a mid-day toddy and a spot of lunch or early dinner, all in a unique setting. Maybe even stay overnight. Here are thumbnail sketches of 4 suburban stops that fill the bill. — Jay Lloyd

(credit: Jay Lloyd)

Phoenixville Bridge Street (credit: Jay Lloyd)

PHOENIXVILLE

Like the name suggests, this is a town that has risen from the ashes of a faded, but once thriving industry. The steel barons and their mansions are long gone, but a revitalized Phoenixville now boasts an array of eateries that span global taste trends, a distillery, unique shops, mural art and a central hotel. Frequent weekend festivals and a farmers market attract a vibrant crowd, and an old time movie theater hosts live performances, art films and throwback flicks that raise the nostalgia level.

SIP AND SUP at MOLLY MAGUIRE’S, my go-to spot in Phoenixville for fish and chips or a Happy Hour Guinness. IRON HILL BREWERY: This popular chain with indoor-outdoor seating serves up a commendable Gumbo, perfect for a light lunch.  BLUE BIRD DISTILLERY: Have a taste of locally distilled bourbon, rye, rums and vodka. PEPPERONCINI SOTTO introduces giant meatballs, craving inducing red gravy and a lively Happy Hour. Other restaurants range from pub fare to Tai, Latin, Mediterranean and custom pizza.

SHOP: Stroll Bridge Street for one-of-a-kind gifts and tchotchkes, vintage clothing and art work. Try LULU BOUTIQUE and the DIVING CAT GALLERY.

For an overnight stay,The MAINSTAY INN is right in the heart of town.

Skippack Park Bistro (credit: Jay Lloyd)

Skippack Park Bistro (credit: Jay Lloyd)

SKIPPACK VILLAGE

From upscale to casual nibbling, a cigar bar and shopping for home or garden, linger awhile in Skippack Village.

SIP AND SUP: The PARC BISTRO has long been on my list of top Happy Hour and lunch stops. The giant shrimp cocktail in a martini glass and a pizza at the bar sets the tone for a seafood packed bouillabaisse and a fine steak waiting in the wings. HOTEL FIESOLE gives you a choice – white table cloth as a launching pad for succulent lamb chops or a casual backdrop for a little antipasti and pasta lunch.  The BACK PORCH with an outdoor garden setting is an indoor-outdoor casual stop that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a BYOB that’s perfect on a weekend morning for a late garden breakfast, a newspaper and a bottle of Merlot. Then there’s BRASSERIE 73 for a sip and a taste of France, JUSTIN’S for an outdoor, deck bar, BASTA PASTA for a wonderful osso bucco and the neighboring CABANA BAR for a cigar.

Skippack Floral and Hardy (credit: Jay Lloyd)

Skippack Floral and Hardy (credit: Jay Lloyd)

SHOP: Stroll the village for a cascade of shops that cater to home, kitchen, gift buyers and garden addictions. My outdoor thermometers came from FLORAL AND HARDY. A unique gift shop is the dependable WOODEN DUCK. Le BUTLER’S PANTRY is the stop for fine cookware, coffee and tea. THE GRAND FROMAGE provides the cheese fix. Then browse the village for cigars, lamps, antiques and casual wear.

Overnighting at the FIESOLE HOTEL is the icing on a day in the country.

Peddlers Village Tulips (credit: Jay Lloyd)

Peddlers Village Tulips (credit: Jay Lloyd)

PEDDLERS VILLAGE

A tulip field, waterwheel and windmill are centerpieces of a crossroads village with over 70 shops, restaurants, bars and a vintage working carousel. Monthly festivals that range from a celebration of ginger bread sculptures to scarecrows fuel the fun at Peddlers Village.

Cock 'N Bull (credit: Jay Lloyd)

Cock ‘N Bull (credit: Jay Lloyd)

SIP AND SUP: My 3 favorites stops here to nibble and quaff are the venerable COCK ‘N BULL for their hearty chicken and seafood pot “pyes” or a robust beef burgundy at lunch. A stop at EARL’S for a steak or scallops, preceded by a turn at a lively local oriented bar is a dinnertime treat. Cap it off with a late night venture into the BUTTONWOOD GRILL for a beer and if there’s any room, a burger. Well, maybe share the burger.

SHOP: With over 65 shops, you won’t know where to stop first, but a morning of meandering netted us some vintage looking long sought coat hooks at KNOBS AND KNOCKERS, a stroll down Memory Lane at SPORTS COLLECTABLES and some fresh roasted nibbles at the NUT KETTLE. Most of the shops are truly one-of-a-kind. Collectively you have a browser’s bonanza.

Overnight at the GOLDEN PLOUGH INN. Save the drive home for morning.

Marsha Brown's (credit: Jay Lloyd)

Marsha Brown’s (credit: Jay Lloyd)

NEW HOPE

New Hope has long been a destination town for day-trippers and weekenders looking for rare buys, riverfront strolls, trend-setting restaurants and intimate bars. Want more? How about a professional theater?

SIP AND SUP at MARSHA BROWN’S. The woman who brought you Ruth’s Chris offers upscale Cajun fare, an oyster bar and an eye-filling setting. For those who prefer a veggie fix, head for SPRIG AND VINE. For comfy food with more than a splash of BBQ options, BITTER BOB’S is the bet. And to relax with a Happy Hour toddy in a classic bar followed by a traditional American dinner with a touch of Euro flare, set a course for the LOGAN INN.

Love Saves Lives (credit: Jay Lloyd)

Love Saves Lives (credit: Jay Lloyd)

SHOP: Occupying a central Main Street corner LOVE SAVES THE DAY is a must see store for shopping and browsing. You’ll find your long, lost childhood toys and the vintage clothing that went with them. HEART OF THE HOME carries decorator and utilitarian items that will get your guests all touchy-feely. The whole town is brim full of unique shops. Stroll and find your own perfect fit.

Overnight in Old World comfort at the LOGAN INN.

These are spots where you can expect the unexpected.

Enjoy.

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