The Delaware River, which originates in New York state, runs along the Pennsylvania-New York, New Jersey-Pennsylvania, and New Jersey-Delaware borders on its way to the Atlantic ocean. It’s one of the major rivers in the eastern United States, and also one of the cleanest, environmentally. Beautiful little towns, scenic wild areas, and major cities like Philadelphia dot its banks. There are many ways to enjoy and explore the Delaware River, including many annual events that span the full calendar year and a range of interests and activities.
In May, you can welcome Spring at the Delaware River Run, hosted each year in Port Jervis, New Jersey. The race is usually held in the first week or so of May and follows a five kilometer course. Summer along the Delaware brings lots of events. Up river at the Delaware Water Gap, where the river runs through the Pocono Mountains, you can attend the annual Delaware River Sojourn and reconnect with the river’s history and fascinating ecology. The Sojourn is a ten-day program of kayaking and canoeing, camping, and environmental and historical education programs. It traces the course of the river on its way out to the Atlantic Ocean. The Sojourn is held in June, which is the official national ‘American Rivers’ month. Anyone can sign up, whether for just a part of the program or the whole ten-day excursion.
The Delaware Water Gap region also hosts its annual Celebration of the Arts offering an incredible lineup of jazz and folk musicians, including local acts, set in the beautiful Pocono Mountains. The festival has been running for over 30 years now and is a highlight of the summer events along the Delaware.
In Lambertville, New Jersey, you can visit the popular and famous Shad Fest. This weekend-long festival features food, crafts, music, dance, face-painting, contests, and more. The city of Lambertville shuts down the center of town to vehicles and opens it up to festival goers. It’s a great place to take the whole family. The festival celebrates the annual return of the shad fish, a small local fish, up the Delaware for spawning. Lambertville also offers a weekly fireworks show on Friday nights. The best place to watch the fireworks is standing right on the bridge over the Delaware River that connects Lambertville, NJ with the town of New Hope right across the river in Pennsylvania.
Farther south, there are a number of regular events during the summer at Penn’s Landing along the river in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One popular event is the summer film screening series, where you can check out a movie under the stars right by the water. Another great way to enjoy the summer afternoons on the river and get some exercise is by boat. On weekends you can ‘Paddle Penn’s Landing’ by renting kayaks or swan paddleboats to cruise the Delaware along the Philadelphia waterfront. This hugely popular activity is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation. You can also catch fireworks many nights over the river.
Penn’s Landing is also host to many outdoor concert events during the summer at its Festival Pier. With a fully equipped concert stage right by the water, many of the best concerts to catch take place here along the Delaware River. Penn’s Landing is also where the famous Philadelphia Folk Fest comes to town each year. Every year, the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations throws its annual Hispanic fiesta, offering a weekend packed with music, dance, food, and artwork.
Toward the end of the summer, you can head back up to the Poconos to check out the Pocono Garlic Festival, which celebrates (you guessed it) garlic. Try some garlic ice cream, hear local musicians, and visit food and craft booths. The festival is located at the Shawnee Mountain Ski Area in Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania. Shawnee is also home to the Labor Day Open golf tournament.
If you have kids, check out the Delaware River Ramble held just outside of Philadelphia each year in late summer or early autumn. It’s a big festival spread out across several locals, and offers amusement park-type rides, food, games, crafts, and music.
Another highlight of events along the river is the annual Summer Music Fest and Blues Fest hosted by the Stockton Inn, in Stockton, New Jersey. The Stockton Inn, a lovely bed-and-breakfast tourist attraction in itself that’s located along the Delaware River, books great musical acts every year, including both big-name bands and local favorites.
As the seasons turn colder, there are still many events centered on the Delaware River. One of the river’s main claims to fame is the historic crossing of General George Washington on the night of December 25, 1776. Washington and his troops, under the cover of darkness, secretly crossed the river in order to launch a surprise attack on Hessian troops stationed in nearby Trenton, New Jersey. Washington’s victory was a decisive battle and a turning point in the American Revolutionary War. The crossing of the Delaware River also reflected strong support for the revolutionary army in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area, as anyone caught lending their boats to Washington’s troops would certainly have been viewed as traitors by the British forces.
Today, you can see a reenactment of this historic event. Local historical societies and history buffs don authentic military uniforms and costumes and reenact the troops’ crossings. In addition to the event held on December 25, there are generally several other reenactments that take place around the same time. It’s a fascinating story and can be part of a larger tour of historical sites in the area. State parks have been established on either side of the river in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that offer historical interpretation exhibits and presentations. A word to the wise if you decide to check out this event: bring warm clothes! Watching the reenactment of the troops crossing the icy river at night, facing a long march and then battle, you gain a new appreciation for the sacrifices made by our Founding Fathers.
- Top 5 Reasons to Visit Lambertville Right Now (hunterdon.happeningmag.com)
- Catching shad on the Delaware River in Lambertville (nj.com)
- Lambertville Hall finds rebirth as local arts spot (wfmz.com)
- Field of Food Festivals in NJ (dishingondining.wordpress.com)