Harry Packer Mansion in Jim Thorpe
(Photo courtesy of the Harry Packer Mansion)
By Stephanie Kalina-Metzger
Valentine’s Day looms large for many who struggle each year to come up with an idea to surprise and delight the loved ones in their lives. While thoughts often turn to items like jewelry and chocolates, studies reveal that a more thoughtful choice might be a romantic getaway. According to an article printed in the Journal of Consumer Research, experiential gifts foster stronger social relationships. Often a short trip out of town is all that’s needed to recharge the batteries and rekindle the romance.
Bellefonte and Jim Thorpe in Pennsylvania and Havre De Grace in Maryland are three quaint and quiet walkable small towns worthy of a visit. Located less than two hours away, each is tailor made for strolling hand in hand, taking in the sights and being mindful of the love that has blossomed thanks to Cupid’s well-placed arrow.
Romance Thrives in Beautiful Jim Thorpe
Stefanie Chmiel and Tommy Hinkle of Wrightsville can attest to the beauty of Jim Thorpe. The couple visited the area in November. One of their first stops after arriving in town was a visit to Muggles Mug, a Harry-Potter-themed coffeehouse located on Broadway, where they sipped on lattes before stepping out into the cold. Next, they visited the time capsule known as the Asa Packer Mansion situated atop Packer Hill, where they learned more about the man who made his fortune from the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
Just steps from Asa Packer Mansion is the Harry Packer Mansion, which, with its 15-foot ceilings, marble fireplaces and elegantly appointed rooms, is ideal for an overnight stay and is within walking distance of Jim Thorpe’s boutique shops and restaurants. The mansion also hosts Murder Mystery Weekends with a plot revolving around the Packer fortune.
After the one-hour mansion tour, the couple strolled the streets, ducking into the many boutique shops, which carry everything from apparel, to antiques and jewelry. One of those is a shop that Chmiel won’t soon forget. “It was called the ‘Everything Nice’ gift shop and the owner welcomed us with a friendly greeting as we checked out all the unique gifts, figurines, home goods and wall signs,” said Chmiel, who up until then, was unaware of what Hinkle was prepared to do, until she saw him get down on one knee. “While standing in front of all the fun sayings on the wall signs, Tommy read aloud one about being bold and having courage and before I knew it, he was holding out a ring.” Chmiel said it “took her breath away.” Little did she know that he had been carrying around the ring for days, awaiting the right moment to pop the question.
Afterwards, the couple celebrated their future nuptials at the Stone Row Eatery and Pub located on historic Race Street. The business, which operates in a building dating back to the 1880s, features a gluten-free kitchen. “The owner heard our exciting news and sent us home with dessert,” she said.
Shopping, Antiquing and More in Havre De Grace, Maryland
Havre De Grace was named by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the top 20 small towns to visit. The scenic area, situated at the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, is popular as a wedding destination, with many couples choosing to tie the knot at the Vandiver Inn Bed and Breakfast.
The Vandiver Inn dates back to 1886 and is named after Murray Vandiver, who served as secretary and treasurer of Maryland and as Mayor of Havre de Grace. The mansion is within walking distance of John and Washington Streets, which are the main streets in Havre de Grace. There visitors can browse the many boutique shops, grab a bite for lunch or dinner, or go antiquing at a sprawling, repurposed cannery on John Street known as, “Seneca Cannery Antiques.”
Bob Bloom, who retired after spending 31 years in radio in Havre de Grace, is very familiar with the area and recommends The Vineyard Wine Bar on Washington Street. “The food, wine and atmosphere are great,” he said. For a unique southern dining experience, Bloom recommends the Backfin Blues Creole De Graw restaurant on Union Avenue. “They offer authentic New Orleans food with a Bourbon Street feel,” he said. Additional recommendations include a stroll along the promenade on the waterfront. “There couples can view waterfowl and be treated to incredible views of the top of the bay,” said Bloom. And for those content to wait an extra week or so, Havre de Grace hosts its annual Mardi Gras Parade on February 25. “It’s a lot of fun and the restaurants feature live music,” Bloom said.
Love is in the Air in Victorian Bellefonte
Bellefonte, otherwise referred to as “Central Pennsylvania’s Victorian Secret” is located 10 miles from Pennsylvania State University and is named after the natural spring located in the center of town.
Visitors can relax with a leisurely self-guided walking tour of the town with the assistance of a map drawn up by the Talleyrand Citizens Committee detailing dozens of structures with a brief explanation of each.
Nancy Noll, owner of The Queen, a Victorian Bed and Breakfast, said many couples enjoy a visit to Big Springs Spirits, located in an old match factory, or any of the unique shops within walking distance. “Boutique shops offer merchandise ranging from antique, art, collectibles, hand-crafted items and estate jewelry,” she said.
Noll, who has been hosting visitors for 25 years, said that guests who book at two-night weekend stay in February will receive a $50 gift certificate to one of two area restaurants: The Governor’s Pub, or the Blonde Bistro.
Proprietors at The Harry Packer Mansion, the Vandiver and The Queen are more than willing to answer any further questions when you call to book a room. Hopefully these few suggestions will help you on your way to making the most of your Valentine’s Day.