Less than an hour’s drive west of Princeton, not far from the Delaware River on the Pennsylvania side, sits a most quaint and welcoming destination spot for young and old alike—Peddler’s Village, a theme park cleverly disguised as a shopping outlet. The truth is that no one actually goes there to shop; one merely buys Stuff in the process of absorbing a truly delightful atmosphere.
Village is a very apt description of this, um, village of stores. Resembling nothing so much as a small New England town of a century or more ago, it is home to dozens of little shops offering all manner of clothing, artwork, clever and whimsical gifts, specialty items and yes, food. Arranged along and around a meandering warren of cobblestone paths, the Village invites individuals, couples and families to spend an entire day exploring and enjoying its pleasures.
I’ve been to Peddler’s Village a number of times in various seasons, and each one brings its own special magic to the little town. But last weekend’s spontaneous visit, my first in winter, was special indeed. The afternoon was gray with drizzle, one best spent somewhere offering a cozy fireplace and warm blanket. Visitors were out in decent number, enthralled by the Christmas decorations and atmosphere in which each shop was bathed. It was impossible not to feel the cheer; the Village was bustling as always, now wearing its holiday best.
Then something magical happened, just about when it was time to call it an afternoon and head back to the Jersey side of the Delaware. An outdoor tree lit up, then two. Then a dozen in short order. The magic of the shop interiors was drawn outside like moths to a full moon. As dusk turned into full-on darkness, the Village turned into a wonderland rivaling anything Disney himself could have designed for one of his kingdoms. Every shop, every tree, bush and lamppost glowed in a spectacular palette of colors. The Village, casting off the gloom of the damp afternoon, had come alive.
The glow and sparkle of a million bulbs revealed something curious: the healthy number of daytime visitors had slowly grown into a sizable throng. A mostly stationary throng except for those steadily adding to its number from the perimeter of the Village, all holding up iPhones and Androids and an occasional real camera to capture the incredible beauty. The winter secret was revealed—a great number of people come from all over to experience the spectacular beauty of the Village after dark. And their efforts are very well rewarded indeed.
Peddler’s Village truly is a year-round destination spot for those seeking a little something special, little surprises tucked away in the nooks and crannies of an inviting little town that is miles away from the mundane just across the highway. Like Disney World, it cannot be absorbed in one visit; several pleasant ones are in order. For an adventure a little different from a typical weekend Haul to the Mall or a day strolling in a park, Google Map the directions to Peddler’s Village and enjoy. It won’t take a village to convince you.