If you've never been to Saint Peter's Village in Chester County, take a Saturday afternoon and treat yourself to something...simple. The Village is located between West Chester and Lancaster along French Creek.
It's history is typically Pennsylvanian, established as a company town servicing its quarry from the 19th Century to the 1970s, it went through a lull of uncertainty before preservationists restored nearly the entire village.
To say Saint Peter's Village is charming is an understatement. It feels like the kind of quaint New England villages that nondescriptly adorn the puzzles you did with your grandmother, and it's only 45 minutes away. It's also located just beyond the formal suburbs of the region, so it's not surrounded by gated communities and plagued with traffic. It's a bit of a secret, and I was hesitant to even write about it.
When you enter the town you're greeted by the Inn at Saint Peter's Village, a local wedding destination, and ample, yet discreetly tucked away parking. Atop a hill to the right is a rock quarry filled with water. Due to accidents it's been unattractively fenced off and tagged with graffiti, but that doesn't diminish the town's charm.
After parking and taking a few obligatory photos of the quarry, walk the town's lone street. To be honest, past the Inn, there isn't a lot. Some nicknack shops, a bakery, ice cream parlor, and a vintage arcade. But it's just so cute. If you're adventurous, there are biking trails through the aptly named Hopewell Big Woods beginning at the far end of the town.
If you want to trek on foot, circle back towards the town across the enormous boulders that top French Creek. Some landed in the creek naturally while others were dumped there when the town operated the quarry. It's treacherous so be careful, but it's also a lot of fun. Leaping from rock to rock, grappling for trees and branches, you'll engage your primal roots.
The creek itself offers beautiful views of the village. Each of the village's buildings have large decks overlooking the boulders, with a few local spectators likely wondering which day-tripper will bite the dust this day. When you get back towards the Inn, you'll find a classic swimming hole, complete with a rope to swing out into the deep water.
We decided to have lunch at the Inn today. I was skeptical at first. Like I said, this Inn is the definitive bed and breakfast and I was leery of even looking at the menu. But it's modestly priced for lunch, offers live music, a fun crowd, and perhaps the best burger I've ever had.
The funny thing is, I had been to Saint Peter's Village when I was a teenager. In my twelve years living in Philadelphia I have been searching for this town, always assuming it was upstate near Williamsport. Who knew it was in my own backyard?
So if you find yourself a Saturday with nothing to do, frustrated with the hustle-and-bustle of the Big City, hop in your car (or rent one) and head west. Be sure to take a camera, because you're going to want to take pictures. You'll probably even find quite a few classic cars parked throughout the town. Bring quarters too, because if you're a Gen Xer like me, you'll have a lot of fun in that vintage arcade.