Five miles outside of Philadelphia is Collingswood, NJ. However, this small South Jersey town isn’t one you should just pass through on your way to the city. Collingswood is well-known for its fine dining scene, shoppable downtown, historic sites, farmers’ market and seasonal festivals. Haddon Avenue is where visitors will find most of the action, although there are many nearby lakes and parks if you wish to immerse yourself in nature.
The town itself is home to the final resting place of American poet Walt Whitman. You can visit his gravesite, tucked into the hillside of Camden County, at Harleigh Cemetery. Or, take a leisurely stroll past historic residences including the Collings-Knight Homestead and the Stokes-Lee Mansion. Collingswood is also considered to be one of the most LGBTQ-friendly destinations in the state, home to the nation’s first and largest family and ally organization.
Like many NJ neighborhoods that have undergone a downtown revival, the vibrant, albeit dry town of Collingswood is popping up on locals’ radar as a place to not only spend the day, but even to live. If you’re looking for a reason to visit, we’ve got five.
Robust (BYOB) Dining Scene
The dining scene in Collingswood has been building steam for years now—it’s just been on the DL. So what’s there to eat and drink? Well, as I mentioned earlier, Collingswood is a dry town so you won’t find fancy cocktails or wine lists but you can score craft beer at Devil’s Creek Brewery, also known as NJ’s first brewery.
When dining out, Collingswood is home to two James Beard-nominated restaurants: Sagami and Zeppoli. June BYOB is another standout which opened in the summer of 2021. The French restaurant comes from Philadelphia restaurateurs Chef Richard Cusack and his wife, Christina, who is a certified sommelier. Other tried-and-true favorites include Sabrina’s Cafe for brunch, Hearthside for a modern menu, Li Beirut for elevated Lebanese cuisine and Oasis Mexican Grill.
Speciality Shops, Boutiques and Consignment Stores
Given Collingswood’s close proximity to Philly, it makes sense that some of the town’s most popular stores have owners that conduct business in both cities. Take Occasionette, an award-winning gift shop, and Ida’s Bookshop, named after Ida B. Wells, for example. Wander Boutique is another local favorite. Consumers have the option of purchasing clothes online, in-store or via their mobile boutique on wheels.
For vintage finds, Dig This specializes in mid-century modern furnishings from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Clutter Vintage is where you’ll find lots of handmade and upcycled items. Then there’s Ellis Antiques where you can buy/sell 17-20th century jewelry and more. Music lovers have to pay a visit to Inner Groove Records for an awesome collection of used vinyls.
In short, Collingswood is where art, history and culture intersect. There’s no better demonstration of this than the town’s local galleries, performance venues and even co-op spaces. The latter includes The Factory located on Fern Ave. What’s now a 13,000-square-foot community makerspace was once a movie theatre. Today, The Factory hosts an array of artists, craftsmen, creatives and the beloved Revolution Coffee Roasters.
On Haddon Avenue you’ll find tons of local galleries. There’s Galerie Marie, MK Apothecary and Arts Plus Gallery to name a few. If you’re in the mood to see a show or catch a concert, Collingswood has a number of venues including the Scottish Rite Theatre and the Grand Ballroom at the Scottish Rite.
Collingswood Farmers’ Market and Festivals
From street fairs to farmers’ markets, there’s always something to do here that supports the local community. (And most of the events are free to attend). In the spring, the famous Collingswood Farmers’ Market kicks off on Saturdays underneath the PATCO line. For over 20 years, shoppers have had the opportunity to score everything from fresh produce to local honey, handmade goods and more.
In September, the town hosts Porchfest, a volunteer grassroots community music and arts festival. As the name suggests, residential porches throughout Collingswood are transformed into stages for local bands and musicians to entertain passersby.
For one week in October, the town hosts a book festival, the largest literary event in the region. And in August, the Collingswood Crafts and Fine Art Festival takes place and normally features works from over 100 local artists.
No wonder this town is lovingly referred to as, “The Festival Capital of South Jersey.”
Lakes, Rivers and Parks
Into kayaking? How about hiking and biking? There’s more than 100 acres of scenic outdoor space for self-guided exploration. Cooper River Park, on the north side of Collingswood, features running trails, two bike paths, volleyball courts, mini golf, a boat launch and more. From November through February, goers can check out WinterFest Ice Skating at Cooper River Park.
On the southern side of town is Newton Lake Park. This idyllic spot has playgrounds, picnic areas, bike baths and motor boat opportunities. If you’re up for a hike, the trail consists of a 3.3-mile loop. Dogs are welcome, but must remain leashed. The best time to visit is from April to October.
In the summer, nearby Knight Park is known for hosting community events, including outdoor movie nights. Located at the center of town, visitors will find walking and bike paths, a pond, playground and picnic-ready pavilion.
Did you enjoy this article all about Collingswood, NJ? Then check out this piece on visiting Lambertville.
Main photo via @collingswoodnj