Walkable West Chester offers a getaway beyond the ordinary

Stephanie Kalina-Metzger

via Garen M. on Flickr.

The borough of West Chester touts a history of hospitality, welcoming its first visitors back in the 1760s when Phineas Eachus was licensed to build a tavern in the area. It continues in that tradition today. Shoppers, history buffs, foodies, and art enthusiasts will all find something enchanting in this walkable little town.

Stay in a historic renovated theater

Conveniently located within walking distance of dozens of shops and eateries, the family-owned and -operated Hotel Warner offers comfortable and elegant accommodations.

The structure dates back to 1930 and once served the community as an impressive art deco-style theater. Its over-the-top grandeur gave rise to rumors that it was intended for West Chester, N.Y., and ended up in West Chester, Pa. If you’re just passing through, you can peek inside the lobby to see the floor-to-ceiling photo that features the theater as it once was and the grand staircase that has been preserved from a bygone era.

Shop until you drop

The area features approximately 75 retail shops and boutiques offering everything from chocolates to jewelry, gifts, art, and items for the home.

Apparel is available at every price point. A custom clothier meets the needs of the sharp-dressed man and high-end boutiques offer goods for fashion-forward women. There also are vintage and thrift shops, and everything in between.

Insider tip: Be sure to stop by Eclat Chocolate, located at 24 W. High St., where you’ll find “The Best Chocolates in America,” according to Bon Appetit. Master chocolatier Christopher Curtin honed his skills at some of the finest chocolate houses in the world. Be sure to try the delicately flavored chocolate lavender truffles.

Soak in the history

History buffs will enjoy exploring the Chester County Historical Society on North High Street. Collections span 300 years and include a research library of rare documents, photographs, and newspapers and seven galleries of exhibitions.

Through December, guests can view the artwork of Adrian Martinez, who brings history to life with his exhibit, The Visionary World of Humphry Marshall, 1750-1800. The talented artist, who hails from Washington, D.C., tells the story of Chester County’s native son, Humphry Marshall.

“A stonemason, farmer, astronomer, chemist, and botanist — Marshall was known as a ‘curious man,’ as were Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson,” said Martinez.

To learn about the plethora of buildings in town that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, consider booking a walking tour. Malcolm Johnstone, a local historian and director of the West Chester Business Improvement District, is enthusiastic about the history and architecture of the region and provides tours on appointment. (mjohnstone@wcbid.com)

Restaurants rule

Restaurant 51 Tap & Spirit

West Chester is known for the assortment of restaurants which line the streets and appeal to a wide range of tastes and budgets.

Relatively new on the food scene is the Restaurant 51 Tap and Spirit, which opened just last year in a renovated firehouse. The eatery offers approximately 24 beers on tap and features an interesting wall-sized mural depicting Prohibition-era beer dumping.

Insider tip: Order the combination lamb/beef burger or the Reuben sandwich at the Iron Hill Brewery — neither will disappoint.

Learn more:

West Chester Tourism: downtownwestchester.com

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