Only five miles outside of Philadelphia, Collingswood, New Jersey is a bustling suburb that has become a small-town destination, attracting visitors and prospective homebuyers with its diverse dining scene, flourishing small businesses, and Victorian homes and craftsman-style bungalows.

Much of the action in town percolates along Haddon Avenue, the main thoroughfare running through the center of Collingswood. Here you’ll find local shops, some of which are extensions of their Philadelphia counterparts like Occassionette, the popular boutique gift shop that has a location on East Passyunk Avenue, and Ida’s Bookshop, owned and operated by Jeannine A. Cook of Harriett’s Bookshop in Fishtown.

When it comes to the dining scene, Collingswood is not only home to two James Beard-nominated restaurants, it was also recognized as USA TODAY 10 Best’s Readers’ Choice winner for Best Small Town Dining Scene in 2018. You can feast on Sicilian cuisine at Zeppoli or walk across the street for Lebanese fare at Li Beirut. Plus, Collingswood is a dry town, meaning no alcohol is served within town limits, (aside from one craft brewery), so be sure to bring a bottle of your favorite wine, bubbly, or beer.

History

Before it was Collingswood, the land was the home of the Lenni Lenape Native Americans. During the 17th century, the area was settled by Quakers who established the Newton Colony along Newton Creek and the Cooper River.

Using the rivers that flow through the town to transport goods, most families who lived here made their livelihood through agriculture, working as farmers, millers, merchants, and artisans. Through the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the land was owned by the Collings family, after whom the town is named.

Collingswood was incorporated on May 22, 1888.

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Getting there

Collingswood is a very easy day — or even afternoon — trip from Philadelphia and is accessible by the PATCO Speedline as well as via the Ben Franklin Bridge and Walt Whitman Bridge. You can catch the PATCO from 15-16th and Locust St., 12-13th and Locust St., 9-10th and Locust St., or 8th and Market St. to the Collingswood station; it’s about a 15-minute train ride.

From Center City, it’s just under a 20-minute drive.

Collingswood, by the season

What to do in fall:

Residential porches throughout Collingswood turn into music venues as local bands and traveling acts perform shows for friends, neighbors and passersby during Porchfest, an annual free-to-attend music festival.

What to do in winter:

Haddon Avenue is a festive place during the holiday season. Take a stroll down the avenue, take in the lights, enjoy the carolers, and bring the kids to see Santa.

What to do in summer:

Head to Knight Park every Tuesday and Thursday evening during July and August for Movies in Knight Park. Watch a summer film for free, but don’t forget to bring a chair.

What to do in spring:

Spring welcomes the Collingswood Farmers Market, a weekly market on Saturdays under the PATCO line where neighbors gather to purchase Jersey-fresh produce and locally made goods while listening to live music.

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Things to do:

Knight Park

70 acres of grassy fields, playgrounds, sports areas, walking and biking paths, and natural beauty make up Knight Park, one of the largest parks in Collingswood. Bringing the community together around outdoor recreation, the park serves as a wonderful place to play, relax, and gather. Its tree-lined pond makes for a picturesque setting for events during every season.

Situated on the corner of Collings Avenue and Browning Road is the Knight Park House, which was built in 1888 by Edward Collings Knight, the resident who had given this plot of land to the town to be used as a park. The historic house is currently being restored by caretaker, Sean O’Donnell, a lifelong resident of Collingswood who says he used to walk by the old Knight Park House every day on his way to high school. “There were all these signs that said keep out, keep away, private property. It wasn’t very welcoming,” says O’Donnell, describing the condition of the Knight Park House before restorations. “Now I’m just trying to make it very welcoming, warm, and inviting. That’s the most important thing for me.” Renovations are funded by donors who wish to see this part of the town’s history preserved. It’s not open to the public, but you can follow along with O’Donnell’s renovations on Instagram .

📍Park Ave. & W. Browning Rd., 📞 856-854-0720, 🌐 knightpark.org, 📷 @knightparkhouse

All Fired Up

This charming pottery studio invites visitors to paint their own ornamental ceramics. Whether you’re looking for a playful project for children to express their artistic side or a unique activity for date night, you can choose from an array of giftable items like mugs or vases, in addition to items like soap dishes and ring holders to keep for yourself. Ceramics and paint are both provided.

📍602 Haddon Ave., 📞 856-833-1330 🌐 paintatallfiredup.com, 📷 @allfiredup1997

Revolution Coffee Roasters

To Revolution Coffee Roasters, coffee is a craft. Sourcing single origin coffee beans from around the world, Revolution roasts small batches of premium coffee right in Collingswood. Among their unique single origin coffees is the India Monsoon Malabar, which is made with beans that acquire mellow and less acidic qualities due to being exposed during the humid conditions of monsoon season. After a medium-dark roast, the India Monsoon Malabar coffee develops an earthy and chocolatey flavor, which is a delightful way to start any morning. Stop by for a fresh brew and a locally baked pastry or grab a bag of coffee beans to enjoy at home.

📍809 Haddon Ave., 📞 856-240-0640, 🌐 revolutioncoffeeroasters.com, 📷 @revolution_coffee

Devil’s Creek Brewery

Collingswood was dry (a town where the sale of alcohol is prohibited) for more than a century until 2016 when Devil’s Creek Brewery brought the art of craft beer to town. Take a tour through the facilities and see what goes into every beer, or pull up a seat at the 19-foot bar and try a variety of pours ranging from a hoppy and citrusy Nelson IPA to their robust Truffle Stout. Since Collingswood is full of BYOB restaurants, Devil’s Creek Brewery is a great spot to pick up a growler to share with the table before dinner. Or, open up a tab and place a delivery order to the brewery. Devil’s Creek Brewery doesn’t sell food, but they do allow you to bring in food while you enjoy their tasting room.

📍1 Powell Ln., 📞 856-425-2520, 🌐 devilscreekbrewery.com, 📷 @devils_creek_brewery

Exit 4 Private Escape Rooms

If you’ve ever wanted to be immersed in a real-life game, now’s your chance. Haddon Ave.’s Exit 4 has four different escape rooms for you to play. Bring your friends or coworkers and have fun while building collaboration and teamwork skills. You have 60-minutes to solve the puzzles and escape the room.

📍710 Haddon Ave., 📞 856-942-1993, 🌐 exit4escape.com, 📷 @exit4collingswood

Songbird Karaoke

Any night can be karaoke night at Songbird Karaoke. Sing along with your friends or show off your musical talents while jamming to all of your favorite songs. You can reserve a private suite for parties as small as four and as large as 60. Located in the heart of Haddon Ave., it’s a great spot to hang out after dinner, or BYO food and drinks and make an entire night out of it. Songbird is BYOB, but hard alcohol is not permitted, just beer and wine.

📍790 Haddon Ave., 📞 856-869-7464, 🌐 songbirdkaraoke.com, 📷 @songbirdcwood

Where to eat:

Zeppoli

Chef Joey Baldino of Philadelphia’s Palizzi Social Club brings his traditional Italian cuisine to Collingswood. Focusing mostly on Sicilian fare, Zeppoli invites guests to enjoy pasta, roasted meats, and the Sicilian Fisherman Stew, a saffron-seasoned stew made with a mix of seafood from the Mediterranean. Definitely start off the meal with the Antipasto Siciliano, a generous starter of cured meats, cheeses, pickled vegetables, and other satiating bites.

📍618 W. Collings Ave., 📞 856-854-2670, 🌐 zeppolirestaurant.com, 📷 @zeppolirestaurant

Sagami Japanese Restaurant

For nearly 50 years, Sagami has been serving expertly made maki and nigiri, making it a sushi destination. Nominated twice for James Beard awards, this Tokyo-style restaurant is the place to experience sushi at its finest. Every bite of fish is buttery in texture and dissolves in your mouth leaving intense umami flavors that taper off into subtle notes of the sea. Order a few maki and nigiri a la carte, but definitely indulge in the chirashi, an artfully crafted bowl of perfectly sliced raw fish over rice.

📍37 Crescent Blvd., 📞 856-854-9773 or 856-854-2505, 🌐 sagamirestaurant.com

Hearthside

Every seat in Hearthside’s chic dining room has an excellent view of the open kitchen where diners can watch as chefs cook over a wood-fire stove. It’s an exciting experience that translates on to the plate with inventive seasonal dishes that push the boundaries of the ingredients used. The menu rotates regularly, but the whole roasted branzino for the table is a consistent offering and a customer favorite.

📍801 Haddon Ave., 📞 856-240-1164, 🌐 hearthsidebyob.com, 📷 @hearthsidebyob

Li Beirut

The spirit of hospitality and generosity is alive at Li Beirut. The menu features bountiful dishes of traditional Lebanese fare. Order from a wide selection of cold and hot mezza to start, and for an entrée, choose from their menu of aromatically spiced meats. If it’s your first time, the Taste of Lebanon menu lets you explore the restaurant’s best. The fixed Taste of Lebanon menu is available any time, but is the set menu for all guests on Fridays and Saturdays.

📍619 W. Collings Ave., 📞 856-477-2105, 🌐 libeirutnj.com, 📷 @libeirutnj

Sabrina’s Café

Enjoy indulgent versions of your favorite breakfast dishes all day at Sabrina’s Café. Get yourself some eggs any style with a side of crispy home-fried potatoes or sink a fork into a tall stack of challah French toast topped with cannoli cream and wild berry sauce. If a savory brunch is more your speed, try the shrimp and grits or the twice-dipped buttermilk fried chicken and waffles.

📍714 Haddon Ave., 📞 856-214-0723 🌐 sabrinascafe.com, 📷 @sabrinascafe

June BYOB

For fine dining that is approachable yet elegant, head to June BYOB. The French-inspired menu brings a unique style of cuisine to Haddon Avenue. Though the menu changes with the seasons, you can expect to find dishes highlighting regional ingredients as well as game meats like venison and duck.

📍690 Haddon Ave., 📞 856-240-7041, 🌐 junebyob.com, 📷 @junebyob

Oasis Mexican Grill

Chef and owner Rogelio Garcia brings a taste of his home of Puebla, Mexico to Collingswood. Share a Nachos Festival topped with all the fixings with a choice of chorizo, grilled chicken, or beef. The enchiladas menu is extensive, ranging from enchiladas with three styles of mole to enchiladas stuffed with crab meat. And while the restaurant is excellent every day of the week, Taco Tuesdays hold a special place in many locals’ hearts.

📍498 Haddon Ave., 📞 856-858-1807 🌐 oasismexicangrill.com, 📷 @oasismexicangrill

Where to shop:

Occasionette

Philadelphians may know and love the Occasionette store on East Passyunk Ave. in South Philly, but did you know that the flagship location is just across the bridge in Collingswood? Stop by for independent products, gifts that sport both Philly and Collingswood pride, clever cards, and handmade jewelry made by small artisans and local crafters. After getting gifts for friends and loved ones, go a few doors down to their companion shop, the Joy Shop, and treat yourself to lotions, soaps, and everything you need for a little self-care.

📍724 Haddon Ave., 📞 856-854-0111, 🌐 occasionette.com, 📷 @occasionette

Bespoke

Plant people, beware. You will not be able to go into Bespoke without buying at least one new houseplant. This boutique specializes in trendy home décor, designer plant accessories and, of course, unique houseplants. Bespoke is full of inspiration on how to incorporate great design into your own home and how to fill the spaces you love with some greenery.

📍817 Haddon Ave., 🌐 bespokehomeandlife.com, 📷 @bespokehomeandlife

Ida’s Bookshop

Jeannine A. Cook, the owner of Fishtown’s Harriett’s Bookshop, opened Ida’s as a radical hub focused on engaging the community through the printed word. “We take books and turn them into a catalyst for action. Literacy needs to be in motion,” says Cook. Named after the Black investigative journalist, early civil rights leader, and one of the founders of the NAACP, Ida B. Wells, this bookshop honors her legacy while igniting the power to continue the work toward social change today. Under the philosophy that we can build community through cultural expression, Ida’s hosts events like their Story Circle with music from Much City Love that encourages people young and old to share their experiences with one another. At Ida’s, everyone from avid readers to activists are welcome to explore literature, exchange thoughts and ideas, and share their knowledge.

📍734 Haddon Ave., 🌐 oursisterbookshops.com, 📷 @idas_bookshop

Haddon Culinary

Get a taste of the region by shopping at Haddon Culinary, a chef-driven market that features locally made products. Philly favorites like DiBruno’s cheeses and meats, Fishtown Pickles, Food & Ferments, and Merzbacher’s breads are offered alongside seasonal produce and grab-and-go bites made by leveraging the region’s bounty. Don’t forget to peruse the dessert case — Haddon Culinary sells pastries, single-servingcakes, cookies, breads, and other fresh-baked treats.

📍741 Haddon Ave., 📞 856-559-0440 🌐 haddonculinary.com, 📷 @haddonculinarynj

About the writer

Kae Lani Palmisano is the Emmy Award-winning host of “WHYY’s Check, Please! Philly” and of the food history series “Delishtory.” She is also a food and travel writer, podcaster, recipe developer, and home cook exploring the journey food takes to get to the plate. She lives in Collingswood.

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