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Doylestown, Pennsylvania is the apple pie, ice cream parlor, covered bridge type of idyllic that you read about in classic American literature. Only 25 miles from Philadelphia’s city center, this historic hub is full of museums, markets, parks, and historic attractions. There are lots of great things to do in Doylestown.
Doylestown takes its name from 18th-century tavern owner William Doyle. Due to its strategic location on the corner of Main Street and State Street, William Doyle’s Tavern quickly expanded into what is now Doylestown. For a small town, this Bucks County gem has a rich history punctuated by great American architect Henry Chapman Mercer’s lasting impact. Visit for its enduring cultural artifacts, its small-town charm, or simply to retreat from the hubbub of the city.
We love visiting Doylestown and stop in at least several times a year. Here’s a look at some of our favorite things to do and see here.
Get cultured at the Michener Art Museum
Whether you’re gazing at a Zen space created by a master woodworker, a sculpture of King Lear, or a massive woodland landscape scene, the Michener Art Museum is full of creativity. This amazing space opened as a non-profit cultural institution in 1988, roughly a century after it opened for its initial purpose—a prison. It’s interesting to see the architectural details that remain from the prison as you walk the grounds.
Named for Doylestown-born and Pulitzer-Prize winning writer James A. Michener, the museum focuses on the art and cultural heritage of the Bucks County region. It has the largest public collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings and features works from the 1800s through today.
Temporary exhibits range from historic and contemporary works of Lenape people—the original settlers of the Delaware Valley—to the works of prominent Pop Art painter Keith Haring to student showcases. We particularly enjoy the sculpture garden in the courtyard as well as the sculptures out front, which can be seen for free.
Explore the objects of the Mercer Museum
If you’re looking for that wow factor, the Mercer Museum needs to be on your list. Designed and completed by Henry Mercer in 1916, this six-story reinforced concrete castle is one of Bucks County’s top attractions.
The interior of the museum feels like the collection of a very organized hoarder, with an astonishing 50,000 items. (Mercer was also a curator of the Penn Museum for several years, so he knew what he was doing). There are items in cases, on walls, in corners, and many hanging from the ceiling—a dizzying array of things to see as you explore the space.
The subject matter here is pre-Industrial focusing on the tools of the trades that shaped America and items of everyday living. You’ll find weapons, implements used by blacksmiths, gristmills, stagecoaches, and physicians’ tools. Just about everything you could imagine is here. It’s a great place for history lovers to visit.
Visit Fonthill Castle
Fonthill Castle is another masterful creation of Henry Mercer’s. The poured concrete structure was once his home, so a visit here offers a closer look at Mercer’s personal life, featuring his collection of books, prints, and Victorian engravings.
The Gothic, Medieval, and Byzantine architectural elements in Fonthill’s design were inspired by Mercer’s travels and his interest in archaeology. With 44 rooms, 18 fireplaces, and 200 windows, it was built to stand out. It still does over 110 years since its completion.
Among the arches, vaults, and lofts, our favorite element of Fonthill is its detailed Arts and Crafts tiles. They include folklore scenes, historical figures, and other motifs, so you don’t know what to expect as you move from room to room. They’re everywhere, and seeing how Mercer integrated them with Persian, Spanish, Dutch, and Chinese tiles is remarkable.
Book ahead to attend a one-hour guided tour through a portion of Henry Mercer’s historic home. Throughout the year, there are lots of special events at Fonthill such as the Beer Fest and night tours with different themes. The holidays are also a very popular time to visit when the whole castle is decked out in lights.
Appreciate the craft of the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works
The last of the Mercer Mile’s stops, the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works is within steps of Fonthill. Built with early Spanish mission and monastery architecture in mind, this National Historical Landmark produces handmade tiles and mosaics in the same style of Mercer’s original designs a century ago.
Guests can even watch artisans throughout the entire tile-making process on self-guided tours of the workshops six days a week. On Tuesdays, a special tour lets you make your own tile to take home.
See a movie at the County Theater
The County Theater is not your typical movie theater. Yes, the 1938 Art Deco-style theater plays first run blockblusters and the current hit movies, but its offerings go much deeper. The County Theater in Doylestown is for real film connoisseurs.
This arthouse theater is best known for showing independent films produced by local filmmakers, but it also hosts film lectures and special interest discussions. If you love diving deep on directors’ cuts, watching cult classics, and discussing them with similarly-obsessed film lovers, the County Theater is unquestionably the place to go. Keep an eye on their events calendar for special presentations.
Browse Siren Records
From cassette tapes to limited edition vinyl, Siren Records is one of the best independent music shops in Bucks County. We’ve been known to spend hours combing through the boxes here in search of international releases and special bootlegs.
Located in downtown Doylestown, Siren carries an incredibly wide variety of music: rock, pop, jazz, hip-hop, soul and R&B, and country. They also buy and trade in certain genres, so check the website to see what they’re currently looking for.
Pop-up concerts and special events contribute to making this a community space adored by music lovers.
Relax at Peace Valley Lavender Farm
What exudes tranquility like rows of lavender swaying in the breeze? While this family-owned farm stays open year-round, the peak of the blooming season is typically the third and fourth weeks of June. During those weeks (and a few before), we love to go and harvest our own lavender right from the field.
If you can’t make it to Peace Valley or miss the harvest time, fret not. Find a variety of fresh lavender-infused products on their website.
Play around at Kids Castle Central Park
One of the best things to do in Doylestown with kids, playing at Kids Castle is fun for the young and young-at-heart. The incredible complex includes the main castle and lots of surrounding play areas. Kids can climb throughout the structure, race on 38-foot-long slides, swing, and play on rope bridges.
There is a separate section for toddlers and two play areas for children of different abilities and needs, making sure that this free, fun space is accessible to as many people as possible.
Shop at Doylestown Farmer’s Market
Every Saturday from April through November, this market is one of many reasons to visit Doylestown. The open-air Doylestown Farmer’s Market features dozens of local Bucks County vendors, live music, and tasting events from 8am to 1pm. We absolutely love the soups from Bowlface and the aged cheese from Haven Farmstead.
Throughout the season, the market also puts on special events, cooking workshops, and demos from notable local chefs. For entertainment, local musicians give performances, and there are occasional scavenger hunts for kids.
Enjoy seasonal fun at Hellerick’s Family Farm
For family-friendly activities, Hellerick’s Family Farm is the place from spring through fall. The Aerial Adventure Park features nine zip lines, 21 bridges and a free fall jump for ages 7 and up. The farm’s 40+ family friendly activities include hayrides, a corn maze, and slides. You can even take a goat yoga class.
It’s especially fun to visit the farm in the fall when the grounds are filled with pumpkins and gourds. Pick up some fresh pies and breads on your way out!
Sample the brews at Geronimo Brewing at Lilly’s Jury Room
Geronimo Brewing uses fresh, diverse ingredients to create an ever-changing menu of interesting brews. The approach keeps visitors returning to try new styles and flavors at the microbrewery all the time. The Pathfinder Chocolate Porter on nitro is a regular offering and one of Lance’s very favorite local beers. Grab some food at Lily’s and a beer from Geronimo for a perfect evening.
See the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa
Poland’s most important religious icon is honored at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. A faithful copy of the original Black Madonna of Czestochowa (the original is still in Poland), the icon in Doylestown was blessed by Pope John XXIII and later visited and signed by Pope John Paul II. U.S. presidents Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush also visited the site, underscoring its significance.
The shrine’s altar and stained-glass windows are impressive even for those (like us) who aren’t Catholic. The grounds attract the religious faithful and the curious to see the chapels, the Stations of the Cross, and more. The annual Polish Festival each Labor Day weekend attracts over 25,000 visitors to Doylestown to enjoy Polish food and music plus carnival rides, games, and family fun, all thanks to the presence of the unique icon.
See the Doan Outlaw graves
A band of five brothers, the Doans were notorious outlaws and Revolutionary War Loyalists. The gang were reported to have robbed the Newtown Treasury of 1,307 British pounds – quite a sum of money in those days. The loot was never found, but the Doan Legend was born.
Locals say the loot may be hidden in one of several caves in the area that the gang used as a hideout. If urban legends are your thing, peek into the cemetery behind the Plumstead Friends Meeting house. The graves can be seen by peering over the left side of the back wall. An historical marker out front lets you know you’re in the right place.
Explore Henry Schmieder Arboretum
The Henry Schmieder Arboretum of Delaware Valley University is a horticultural jewel just west of town and is one of the top Doylestown attractions. These 40 acres provide a living collection of plants and serve as a “green resource” for the surrounding community. We love seeing the Iris and Peony Garden and the Rose Garden and walking around the lake. Self-guided tours are free.
Shop and eat at Terrain Garden Cafe
Plant lovers, decorators, and gourmands unite at Terrain’s newest location at Delaware Valley University. The huge nature-inspired store, nursery, and café is a top destination in town with everything you could want to create your own serene space at home.
The outdoor nursery is packed with plants which spill over indoors with succulents and planters worthy of a magazine cover. The retail store has even more beautiful things, including candles, vases, and lots of decorations and specialty items.
The greenhouse café draws visitors from all over for daily brunch and dinner. The menu varies based on what is in season, but the bread baked in a flower pot is always a homerun. We love visiting for the weekday happy hour at the bar.