I’m just a New Jersey native who loves to travel anywhere she can.
I also happen to be a Millennial who works two jobs, freelances and needs to sell my soul for rent, bills and the inordinate amount of coffee and avocado toast that I consume. (Our generation’s learned you have to hustle in order to enjoy the finer things in life. And by finer things I mean an avocado smeared on a slice of warm bread.)
The truth is, I dream of one day being able to travel around the world and write about the people I meet and the places I see. Until I can find a way to fund this dream and/or get paid to do so, I’ve got this blog where I’ll be exploring all that Jersey has to offer. I’ve been going stir crazy since I can’t travel as much as I’d like to, however, I’ve recently realized that I don’t have to break my bank account or buy plane tickets to discover new places.
Adventure with me, as I meander through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware (and anywhere else I can get to) like the local that I am but with the eyes of a traveler. Quench your wanderlust, satisfy your travel bug, and appreciate where we live a little more.
In Hopewell, you’ll notice that a busy Sunday morning means couples walking their dogs down Broad Street, diners conversing on the porch of Boro Bean and the playground is buzzing with youthful, uninhibited imaginations. It’s definitely a place to visit while the sun is shining on the weekend. There are enough people meandering through town to energize you and not too many that you have to deal with unbearable crowds.
If you’re not familiar with central Jersey, it’s located on the edge of Mercer and Hunterdon County, west of Princeton and east of Lambertville in the Sourland Mountain Preserve. To get to the starting point of a nice hiking path in the mountains, it takes about a 5-minute drive from downtown. If you’re not a seasoned hiker, don’t be intimidated. New Jersey mountains are for everyone. While it’s a fairly spacious amount of wildlife for our densely populated state, no training is required. Perfect for a peaceful, but edgy, routine-breaking stroll. It’s not uncommon to see locals on their daily dog-walk. It’s a great place to spend a morning or afternoon with some friends or connect with your date on a picnic (if you dare…heighten the awkwardness by leaving your phones in the car so you only have the breeze to distract you).
Parents, take note:
I don’t see why you can’t take your family for a Sourland hike. Actually, yes please for the love of all things relaxing, take your kids for a hike before you take them anywhere they will inevitably disrupt everyone else’s precious Sunday. Rid them of their pent-up energy from sitting in the car and enduring your boring parent conversations, let them run around and be the little weekend-bliss-breakers that they are. Have them use only their outside voices and make sure they get really dirty. Like somersaulted into the stream and then made mud angels in the banks, dirty. Only then, when they’re nice and subdued and kinda remind you of the drugged up puppies you saw last week in “Puppy Barn”, are you permitted to re-engage with the rest of us eye-rolling citizens who savor every moment of the time we don’t spend at work.
Another place to unleash your children’s energy for everyone else’s sake is the playground in the center of town. It’s so nice that even I’ve spent a mildly embarrassing amount of time there climbing the monkey bars. It’s nestled in behind the main street and the school playground and has a short trail and stream if you’re looking to muddy-up some new shoes. You’ll also find two Little Libraries, one in front of each playground where you might be able to find something to distract you from your maniac children. If nothing else, you’ll find something to distract them on the car ride home (that is, if kids even know how to read on an unilluminated screen anymore?)
You’re welcome to carb-up at one of the many breakfast or lunch places in town before your outdoor adventure, or you can recharge afterward. I will only ever recommend places where I have had good service, because, to me, anything else is simply not worth it. As someone who spent many years working service jobs, I am more than respectful to every staff member I encounter. I believe the main priority of any service job is to ensure the consumer’s experience is an enjoyable one (within reason, course) and I don’t think it’s that hard. Yes, everyone has bad days, but I have faked it through every single one of my bad days and the customers had no idea, as it should be. If it’s that bad call out of work.
With that being said, here a few places I happily recommend.
Boro Bean is a hot spot for the Hopewell community. While I lived here, I also worked at Boro Bean for a few months while in between jobs and new to the town. Let me tell you, in a cozy town like Hopewell, there is no better place to get to know people than to hang out in the local’s coffee shop.
I’d wake up at the crack of dawn and walk (run) to work at 6 or 6:30 AM to open with the owners, Ellen and Johnny and was trained on the Boro Bean way and how to converse with customers by Elaine. I could write a book on what the term “regulars” mean. Within a few weeks, I was starting Frank’s double hot chocolate before he even walked through the door.
When I’d go for walks with my roommates around town, I’d run into at least 2 people I knew from the Bean without fail. I immediately felt part of the community in a town I had never been to before but one day, just woke up in. So if you’re looking for a truly local spot, Boro Bean is the place to be. They have much more than great Small World coffee, they make breakfast sandwiches and platters and many lunch options. Most everything is homemade a delicious. You order and pay at the counter and then they bring the food out to your table. There’s porch seating in the front and the back, and the street parking in Hopewell is free.
I could go on and on about my experiences in Boro Bean but here are some highlights, lunchtime can get a bit crazy during the week, but there’s no set time when it spikes. The weekends are pretty busy but if you aren’t in a rush it’s worth it to sit outside on a nice day. Also, if you need tips about town, and this blog post isn’t enough for you, I’d trust anyone in Boro Bean (employee, regular or Johnny if he’s out chatting) over any information you find online.
OH, and how can I forget their delicious made-from-scratch baked goods! Daily muffins with rotating and some adventurous flavors, cookies, brownies and Rice Krispie treats on occasion and my favorite guilty pleasure award goes to the scones. They come out hot in the morning, two batches are made every day and they are the only reason to get up early on the weekends. You never know what flavor it will be that day until Ellen posts on Instagram or Facebook (which she does daily to share specials, scones, and coffee of the day) so it’s a nice surprise because they’re all delicious but when you pop in and your favorite, maple walnut scone it sitting there waiting for you, you know it can’t be a bad day. (Also love the papaya mango and the blueberry.)
My final recommendations for the Bean–honestly you can’t go wrong. Just Don’t forget the special board (by the cookies) because their soups are amazing and they get creative with sandwiches too! I love the veggie wrap, the squash and zucchini panini is something you won’t find somewhere else, which is a similar option to the chicken panini if you prefer meat with your pesto. Note: the coffee is STRONG so if you’re not an addict, get a small and take your time. Their breakfast sandwiches come on a variety of bread options, but I recommend the panini bread because the dough is homemade and Ellen bakes it fresh right there in the Bean.
The Brother’s Moon is another good place to eat before your hike through the Sourlands (or your next adventure for the day) and they have brunch, which, you’ll come to learn is one of my favorite things this world has to offer. You can’t go wrong by finishing your weekend/starting your week with a classic eggs benedict. Their menu changes and it’s a nice, sit down restaurant which also has outside seating, and would be the perfect spot for a romantic date.
Thana Thai Cuisine is the new Thai place in town. It was formerly Da’s Kitchen, also a Thai restaurant. Thana is a new restaurant with a new owner. And, while I’ve only gotten takeout, I can say the service was excellent, the owner greeted me when I walked in and everyone I encountered was friendly and efficient. The Panang Curry and Pad Thai that I ordered lived up to my exceedingly high expectations of Thai food even after it journeyed 20 minutes home with me. I will definitely be consuming their Panang Curry again soon, hopefully when it warms up and I can sit outside on their patio.
Now, you’ve connected with nature, hopefully, exercised your kids a bit, boosted your energy with some strong coffee and something homemade or cooked with care, and you’re ready for something else. You have a variety of shops to browse all within a walkable distance to avoid the food coma coming your way. Get up, and walk west on Broad Street, there will be just a few antique shops, but keep going until you get to The Bear and the Books.
The Bear and the Books is the cutest little bookshop, it’s great for kids but also has some unique books for all ages. The owner is more than helpful and willing to order anything you’d like since they have limited space for inventory. It’s a perfect place to shop small.
Hopewell is a cute little Jersey town that has quite a bit to offer the locals, the weekenders, and the commuters. Now that I’m no longer a local, I’m happy to be able to pass through town on my commute to work and grab a cup of coffee strong enough to make my hair seem clean and get me out of my I-just-forced-myself-outtabed-20-minutes-ago funk.