When the town of Haddonfield, New Jersey comes up in conversation, most people think of the discovery of Hadrosaurus Foulkiiin in the early 1800s. But this quaint little town nestled in northern central Camden County, in the shadows of Philadelphia, is home to an even richer history and a thriving present-day downtown.
Everything is Better with Coffee
We found ourselves heading to Haddonfield in search of a close, interesting hike. However, before hitting the trails, it is always a good idea to charge your battery. We wandered into DiBartola European Bakery and were greeted by the smell of coffee and a display case packed with an assortment of baked goods and pastries to delight any palate. As we sipped our coffees, we enjoyed the wall of their award-winning display cakes; of course, “Haddy” is proudly featured here too.
A Walk in the Woods
Crows Woods Nature Preserve, maintained by the Haddon Parks Conservancy, is about 15 minutes south of downtown. The park has the requisite courts and ballfields, but it also has 1.5 miles of trails through rolling slopes and mature deciduous forests, along with mountain laurel and holly bushes peppering the trail. One of the best parts of spring hiking for me is the abundance of yellow and purple blooms bursting out; trout lilies, celandine, Virginia spring beauties, and blue violets landscape on the forest floor.
When we entered at the trailhead, we were struck by the sound of songbirds singing all around us. The path was wide and rolled along the uneven terrain. This upland forest has chestnut, red and white oak trees and is a perfect home for fall and spring migratory birds in their tall canopies. The skunk cabbages were popping in abundance at this time of year.
The path will lead you down to the Cooper River Floodplain. This swampy area has reported beaver activity, but we weren’t that lucky on this day. We did encounter another interesting form of wildlife–local teens on a rope swing. This is not a rope swing for the faint-hearted. The boys were actually nice enough to let me take a turn and I have to admit my heart was pumping when I swung out over the ravine–and I didn’t go too far, trust me on that.
Hiking Makes Me Thirsty
After a nice blood-pumping hike, a beer sure sounded good. We made our way back into town and over to Kings Road Brewing. This home-grown local brewery opened in 2017 and brought a brewery and tasting room to the previously dry town. Sip a hand-crafted ale or lager while watching the people stroll by on Kings Highway East, or join their Mug Club and enjoy specially priced pours. Not a beer drinker? The hibiscus berry seltzer sounds mighty good too.
Feed Your Head
Now that my heart rate is back to normal, how about a stroll through a local independent bookshop? It says a lot about a town that it can support not just one, but two independent bookstores, let alone two of New Jersey’s best. Nelsons Books specializes in antique and rare books. The focus here on “the unpopular, the obscure, and the forgotten” has an intriguing ring to it.
Inkwell Books is a female-owned shop. You can buy, trade or sell new and used books here. This store seems like a great place to look for titles from some of our favorite New Jersey authors, or for the just-published “New Jersey Fan Club: Artists and Writers Celebrate the Garden State” anthology edited by Jersey Collective Founder, Kerri Sullivan.
Walk the Streets
The Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust (HOST) in partnership with the borough of Haddonfield has been bringing art to the downtown area since 2013. This public/private initiative is active in securing permanent and loaner sculptures to beautify public spaces. Currently, over 14 sculptures are on view. A guide for this program can be found on the HOST website.
Are you more interested in history than art? There’s so much more than Haddy here. In 1702, a 20-year-old Elizabeth Haddon, an English Quaker, moved to the land her father had purchased here in America in what was then called West Jersey. She married John Estaugh, a Quaker minister, and they constructed the family home of New Haddonfield Plantation. Once they established the Friends Meeting House in town, Haddonfield quickly became a nexus of commerce for the surrounding farming communities. Proximity to Philadelphia also helped spur this growth.
Walk Through History
The Indian King Tavern Museum sits quietly on the main thoroughfare, Kings Highway East. If you didn’t stop in, and if you didn’t read the historical marker, you would never know how important this quiet little tavern was to New Jersey history. For it was here, in 1777, that it was decided that the colony of New Jersey would be declared a state. The tavern museum stands as a monument to this monumental decision. On June 4, 2022, the Redcoats are coming again! The Colonial Patriots are planning a reenactment of the skirmish in Haddonfield of 1778.
You Don’t Have to Have Tofu
Walking the town is bound to stir the appetite, so why not head over to Leaf for a delicious vegan meal? The menu is full of beautifully plated dishes with fresh ingredients and is bound to have something for anyone. And if you’re still thirsty, you can BYOB or order a glass from local Cedar Rose Vineyards in Millville. They certainly prove that being vegan is more than eating tofu.
Sweet Dreams Are Made of These
You might want to save room for dessert. Again, this town of about 11,500 is also able to support two of the best chocolate shops in New Jersey. Founded in 1922, family-owned Duffy’s Fine Chocolates, is the older of the two. Delicious dark and milk chocolate-coated treats have been their forte for generations.
Have a chocolate craving of a different sort? Try Mecha Chocolate. The specialty of this house is artisanal hand-dipped ganaches and caramels. Craving a lavender-vanilla treat; you’re welcome.
Haddonfield – A Secret Gem
Having lived, and traveled, in New Jersey for over 40 years, I find it remarkable that I didn’t know about Haddonfield. The downtown is thriving, all the stores appear occupied. There’s a lively restaurant scene here and there are cafes all along Kings Highway East. The town is clean and friendly; parking wasn’t impossible on a nice Saturday.
The discovery of the Hadrosaurus Foulkiiin certainly once put Haddonfield on the map. The irony is that long after the world met “Haddy” and the skeleton went on to renown, the actual discovery site went to waste and became a forgotten overgrown mess. It wasn’t until a 1984 Boy Scout project cleaned the area up and erected historical markers giving the site the respect it deserved. I feel like this is somehow a metaphor for how the other 49 states view New Jersey. But like Haddonfield, we continue to evolve, grow and expand and become so much more than the sum of our parts.