For a town that’s only about 15 blocks long and eight wide, Lewisburg crams a lot of fun, history — and good food — into a small space.
To get a bird’s eye view of the community’s 870 historic buildings, start at Bucknell University. Founded in 1846, the 450-acre campus creeps up a hill that culminates with a great view of the entire valley. On your way back down, stop to pat the statue of the Bucknell bison, who peers out toward the lovely, iron gateway to Christy Mathewson Memorial Stadium.
Mathewson, a Bucknell grad who went on to dominate the pitcher’s mound during professional baseball’s early years, is buried in a cemetery that adjoins the campus.
From there, a short walk east leads to the town’s picturesque war memorial, located at the base of Lewisburg’s prettiest street, South Third. Among the well-maintained, historic homes representing a variety of styles are three imposing, spire-topped churches, including Christ’s Evangelical Lutheran, a gorgeous brownstone that boasts a $300,000 Austin pipe organ.
For a close look at local history, stop by one of Lewisburg’s three museums. The Slifer House, off River Road, is an 1863 Tuscan-style mansion overlooking the Susquehanna River. The building, now the site of concerts, ice-cream socials and other Victorian-themed events, was so well-regarded in its heyday that it was featured in the national magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book.
If you like your history on the quirkier side, visit the Packwood House at the corner of Market and Water Streets. Evolving from one of the town’s first log cabins, the museum features the random collections of an eclectic former owner, who had a passion for everything from Pennsylvania German furniture to Asian art.
Or stretch your legs at the Dale/Engle/Walker House, just outside town. The 1793 limestone farmstead was a stop on the Underground Railroad and is now the starting point for a two-mile hiking trail that’s perfect for families with children.
Lewisburg’s main corridor, lit by the community’s trademark three-globed streetlamps, is lined with stores that cater to locals and Bucknell students and parents, creating a vibrant shopping experience.
Outdoor enthusiasts will like Campus Cycle & Fly Fishing Center (test-“drive” a Cannondale) and Vargo Outdoors, where you can rent a kayak to explore the river, just a few blocks away. Big Earl’s Bike Shop, on Route 15, is another popular stop for cyclists.
Back on Market Street, you’ll find a surprising number of independent clothing and gift shops, including Wilson Ross, which offers a mix of vintage and trendy new clothes. At nearby Retrah, you can get a casual shirt or a tailored suit. And if you’re on a budget, check out Mimi’s Boutique, an upscale used clothing store.
In the market for gifts and home décor? Try Terra Sylvan for global fair-trade goods; Dwellings for the funkiest of furnishings; or Lucky Lucky Gift Shop for toys, art and T-shirts, all inspired by Japanese pop culture. This Lewisburg treasure is hidden in a larger building called “the Marketplace,” so you have to seek it out — which is part of its charm.
The arts and literature are represented by Brushstrokes, where owner Randy Snyder will take his time explaining what you need to create in any medium, and the Bradley Shoemaker Gallery, featuring watercolors that commemorate local life, from Bucknell views to country vistas.
A new addition to the shopping scene is Barnes & Noble at Bucknell. The store, located off-campus on Market Street, is nevertheless the school’s official bookstore, so you can pick up the latest bestseller, grab a Starbucks coffee or try on a university sweatshirt. Make sure to ride Union County’s first escalator, just to say you did it.
Finally, Lewisburgers take antiquing seriously. Roller Mills, in a renovated industrial building, is home to about 400 dealers, and its sister facility, Street of Shops, boasts an “indoor village” — a streetscape recreated inside the sprawling, historic woolen mill.
Other Fun Stuff to Do
As the home of playground equipment manufacturer Playworld Systems, Lewisburg offers some awesome places to swing, climb and cavort — thanks in large part to Playworld’s generosity. There’s small but well-equipped Hufnagle Park downtown and a whopping recreation complex just across Route 15 on St. Mary Street. This state-of-the-art, showcase facility has rock-climbing walls, a skate park and a swimming pool with twisty slides and a volleyball court.
Lewisburg is also home to the Campus Theatre, one of only a handful of single-screen art-deco cinemas still showing first-run movies. Opened in 1941 and lovingly restored with community support, the Campus also shows classic, art and independent films.
Dining and Lodging
Lewisburg is largely a meat-and-potatoes town, but you can get those staples interpreted as everything from gourmet fare to barbecue on the back porch.
At Elizabeth’s, sample free-range hen and a glass of wine from award-winning cellars in one of two charming dining rooms, where fires roar in the cooler months.
If you’re in the mood for down-home eating, head up Route 15 to Country Cupboard, where the buffet groans under the weight of Pennsylvania Dutch goodies, including the best coleslaw ... maybe anywhere. This bus-tour staple also has a huge gift shop full of country kitsch.
And if you want a real rural experience, drive outside town to Ard’s Farm Market. Follow the smell of barbecuing meat to the patio, which overlooks tire swings, a tunnel slide and — if you’re lucky — the occasional pig mud-wrestling tournament.
Desperate for global fare? There is an unexpected sushi bar inside Peking Garden on Route 15. The place looks like a tin barn but houses a lovely Asian restaurant. Or visit Cherry Alley Cafe for “Dinners Around the World” — a different ethnic cuisine served one night each week.
During the warm months, locals flock to The Fence for the legendary fish sandwich, served by carhops or at tables overlooking the Susquehanna.
Eat and sleep at the 1834 Lewisburg Hotel, which has hosted everyone from Walt Whitman to Kevin Costner — but more often a cast of friendly regulars at the cozy bar. Other unique inns include Copper Beech Manor, a Federal-style home, and the 1857 Pineapple Inn, where they’ve been hand-ironing the linens for more than 20 years now.
Although all accommodations are located on Lewisburg’s busiest street, the traffic won’t keep you awake. While this town bustles during the day, it’s lights out early here in the country.
1. Bucknell University
701 Moore Ave.
2. Christ’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
100 S. 3rd St.
3. Packwood House
15 N. Water St.
4. Campus Cycle & Fly Fishing Center
223 Market St.
5. Lucky Lucky Gift Shop
328 Market St # 2
340 Market St,
7. Barnes & Noble
400 Market Street
8. Roller Mills
517 Saint Mary St.
9. Hufnagle Park
10. Campus Theatre
19 Market St.
412 Market St.
12. Cherry Alley Cafe
21 N 3rd St.
13. 1834 Lewisburg Hotel
136 Market St.
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