Destination doughnut hole: A weekend in Flemington
The bad news: you've got to travel out of town for an excruciatingly dull business meeting. The really bad news: your destination is a town the size of a postage stamp you've never even heard of. The really, really bad news: you will be stuck there for an entire weekend.
Small town travel is a tedious hassle. Finding a decent hotel will mean you're miles away from where you need to be. The food is a joke. And heaven help you if you forgot to pack something basic, because you're sure not going to find it within walking distance. And Uber? Forget it.
Your friends' placating nods of support poorly mask their true thoughts: better you than me. You put on a brave face, pack your things, and prepare to kiss your weekend goodbye.
Except if your destination happens to be Flemington, New Jersey. In which case, you are dancing the small town travel lottery jig because you just hit the jackpot. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! To cash in on your prize, though, you're first going to have to find it. The town, that is. And as odd as it sounds, there's a bit of a trick to it.
The borough of Flemington is the doughnut hole to Flemington's doughnut. Confused? Not to worry. Even the folks who live there are confused about it from time to time.
Though they share a zip code and mailing address, the borough of Flemington is geographically and governmentally distinct from the larger entity of the same name. To make matters even more complex, the larger doughnut portion (as opposed to the "hole") is technically called Raritan Township, though few who live there refer to it that way. The bottom line, though, is that Flemington Borough is smack-dab in the center of Flemington. And though residents refer to both entities simply as "Flemington," like a sweet, gooey, jelly doughnut (which we recommend getting here), you'll find the best bits in the center.
The cozy hamlet of Flemington Borough is nestled in the heart of bucolic Hunterdon County, New Jersey. In fact, this 1.1 square mile gem is its county seat. You wouldn't know it, though, if you were casually walking down its quaint Main Street. Government buildings such as its Justice Center are tidily tucked away behind the main thoroughfare. Rebuilt in 1828, the famed historic courthouse building, site of the trial for the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, blends seamlessly with the 19th and early 20th century architecture peppering the borough.
Eight of ten single family homes there were built prior to World War II, many mirroring the Greek Revival architecture of the colonnaded courthouse.The majority of structures in Flemington, in fact, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Undeniably cool Americana – that is the vibe you'll encounter when you stroll through Flemington's neighborhoods, shops, eateries, historical venues and artsy enclaves. From kitschy little diners to hole-in-the-wall curiosity shops, this town of fewer than 5000 residents lives and breathes Americana. Contemporary Americana in its restaurants. Classic Americana in its shops and historical venues. And cool Americana throughout.
For harried denizens of nearby sprawling metropolii — looking at you, Manhattan, Philadelphia, and D.C. — Flemington offers welcomed respite from wearisome smog, skyscrapers, subways, and traffic snarls. No offense. And for those who fancy a day trip into the citified fray, you can pick up a bus ticket (about $30 one-way) at Higgins', a one-off convenience shop featuring "New Jersey's largest collection of magazines, " per their hand-painted signage. Trans-Bridge buses ferry Flemingtonian commuters to and from the city on the daily.
To capture the true flavor of Flemington, you've got to be in the heart of it. Fortunately, Main Street Manor affords visitors the opportunity to do precisely that. From the moment you walk through the door (held open for you by the owner, no less), you'll notice the distinct difference that truly personal hospitality can make. If you're looking for the watered-down version of "hospitality" served up by dime-a-dozen hotel chain clones, you're going to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you're seeking the elusive hospitality hearkening to times past in which inn keepers happily cater to your every want and take your comfort and contentment as a personal mission, you are going to be delighted.
The owners of this little bed-and-breakfast treasure, Tim and Marissa Bebout, are treasures themselves. Pictured here playfully seated atop a family heirloom that represented home for this well-traveled military brat, Tim strives to ensure that his guests feel at home in the inn, as well. The Bebouts treat guests as valued family members during their stay in the stately, elaborately restored, 1901 Victorian manor house.
Whether you're coming to town for a wedding, a business trip, an arts-related event or historical research/tourism, book your room at the inn as early as possible. When the big day arrives, Tim will be waiting on the front porch beneath the magnolia to greet you.
If you think small town eateries mean bland, worn out versions of the same ho-hum staples you'll find in any other northeastern town, you are, again, in for a pleasant surprise. Jonas Gold, chef-owner of the award-winning 55 Main will set you straight on that [insert colorful noun of your choice] in a New York minute. In an endearing, quintessentially New Jersey accent, Chef Gold will (somewhat) patiently explain to you that at his restaurant, the personal touch is everything, and when it's personal, it is unique and it is second-to-none. It is second-to-none because he will accept nothing less than perfection. From himself, from his food, and from his staff.
That is why some of Gold's customers have been coming to the eatery since it opened nearly a decade ago. One in particular, Gold proudly noted, has received a different vegetarian dish every week for several years. "If it's served here, you can bet I had my hands on it at some point," he proudly notes.