The Ultimate Guide to Lambertville, NJ: Dan Zarrow’s Top Things to See and Do
You know what I love about New Jersey? Every single corner of our great state offers countless opportunities to relax, eat, and play. From day trips to recreation areas to stay-cation destinations, I am so excited to highlight some of my favorites. This is part of a special series brought to you by the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism.
This month, we are headed to a tiny city in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, right along the Delaware River.
Far from the hustle and bustle of New Jersey's urban corridors and busy highways, Lambertville has a rich history as a hub for rail traffic, canal ferries, and road travelers. Over the last three or four decades, Lambertville has reinvented itself as a prominent creative center and all-season tourist destination. It also is considered by many to be "The Antiques Capital of New Jersey".
Lambertville may only have a population of about 4,000 permanent residents, but the downtown area has a distinctive, renowned character. In fact, HGTV named Lambertville as the most charming downtown in New Jersey. There is plenty to do and explore, from shops to eateries to galleries to parks.
I decided to frame this love letter to Lambertville as the setup for a "perfect day". Filled with a variety of activities and experiences, mixed with meal and entertainment suggestions. Whether you spend a few hours, a full day, or a weekend overnight in lovely Lambertville, I am sure you will enjoy the trip!
Most of your time in Lambertville will be spent on foot. So not only should you arrive early to score a primo parking spot, but you also need a healthy dose of breakfast and caffeine to start the day.
Full Moon Cafe is a great option, with a full selection of breakfast entrees, omelets, and their "famous" benedicts. They serve Sunday Brunch too. And dinner, but only during a full moon. (Seriously!)
If you just want a quick spot for coffee and a pastry, check out the Lambertville Trading Company coffee bar right in the middle of downtown. They have been waking up Lambertville for over 40 years. They seem to have perfected the art of iced coffee in particular, by offering very popular coffee ice cubes in their drinks. (Brilliant!)
Morning: Walk the D&R
No matter the season, a highlight of Lambertville — like many spots in Hunterdon County — is a refreshing walk along the Delaware & Raritan Canal. The waterway runs along the entire west side of downtown Lambertville. The walk, jog, or run along the towpath from Cavallo Park past Holcombe Island to the Alexauken Creek Aqueduct is a little more than a mile.
By the way, the mighty Delaware River is just steps away too, offering countless more nearby recreation opportunities like hiking, fishing, tubing, kayaking, and more.
Part of the charm of a quaint NJ downtown like Lambertville is wandering, getting lost, and discovering something new. With dozens of delicious lunch options around, I recommend just stopping in to try the first spot that looks good and/or smells good.
If you want to do a little bit of planning, I can recommend high-class tapas at Under the Moon Cafe, river-side tables and gyro at Local Greek Lambertville, and classic and affordable lunch fare at Liv and Charlie's Restaurant.
Unfortunately, my personal favorite Lambertville lunch spot - Sneddon's - closed down in June 2023. But I am looking forward to seeing what new business springs to life in their prime Bridge Street storefront.
Afternoon: Art & Antiques
You would not think that such a quiet corner of Hunterdon County is home to such a bustling antiques and art scene. But there are several antique shops and galleries to explore.
The most prominent is probably the Golden Nugget Flea Market, open all year on Wednesdays and weekends. Fans of the PBS show Antiques Roadshow may be familiar with appraiser David Rago, who owns Rago Auctions on the northern edge of Lambertville. For an eclectic mix of clothing items, check out Bear Bone Vintage on Church Street.
Lambertville is also home to a number of art galleries. Haas Gallery, Robins Egg Gallery, and Highlands Art Gallery are within just four blocks of each other and are open to the public. (Appointments may be required.)
Alternate Afternoon: James Wilson Marshall House
History buffs may want to make a special side trip for this one. Although I caution you, the hours are very limited. (As of this writing, tours are open on Sunday afternoons only.)
The Marshall House, right on the main stretch of Bridge Street, was the boyhood home of James Wilson Marshall. His claim to fame? Discovering gold in California in 1848. The house was built in 1816 and has earned spots on both the National and New Jersey Registers of Historic Places. It is currently the home of the Lambertville Historical Society.
Dinner: Lambertville Station
A true landmark of Lambertville. Heck, it's one of the most treasured highlights of the entire stretch of the Delaware River in New Jersey.
Lambertville Station is a lot of things. It's an award-winning restaurant. It's an elegant hotel. It's a wedding venue. It's a meeting place. It's a historic 19th-century era train station.
And Lambertville Station is really the perfect punctuation mark for a day in Lambertville, offering great food and stellar river views, steaks and seafood, impressive wine cellars, and a fully-stocked pub. They have a signature cocktail called the Summer Rambler that looks tasty and refreshing.
Reservations are highly recommended.
Evening: Music Mountain Theatre
Lambertville is also home to one of my favorite musical theater spots in the entire state.
Yes, you can find wonderful, professional, Broadway-quality theater in western New Jersey!
Music Mountain Theatre is in the midst of its sixth season since raising the curtain in 2017. Every summer, the MMT company produces the most impressive lineup of plays and musicals. Each show is only on-stage for three weeks before the next production comes tearing in.
The acting and singing are top-notch, the theater is comfortable, and tickets are affordable. I have thoroughly enjoyed every show I have seen at Music Mountain Theatre. And I can't recommend it highly enough for a nightcap to your day in Lambertville.
Bonus: Shad Fest
The shad is a native fish that swims from the Atlantic Ocean up the Delaware River every year to spawn. The only commercial shad fishery remaining on the entire basin is located in - you guessed it - Lambertville, New Jersey.
What a perfect excuse for an annual festival! Shad Fest happens in the Spring, organized by the Lambertville Chamber of Commerce. It features art, music, food, and activities for the entire family.