By Irene Levy Baker, author,
100 Things To Do In Philadelphia and Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia
Do both books include South Jersey? You bet!
Some people never cross the bridges from Philadelphia to South Jersey, except on their way to the shore. Boy, are they missing out! South Jersey is full of one-of-a-kind attractions and great, independently-owned restaurants. Here are some of the best reasons to visit South Jersey.
Where to While Away An Afternoon -- Haddonfield Sculpture Tour
You could easily spend a whole afternoon taking the Haddonfield Sculpture Tour, especially if you take your time in this charming, walkable town and linger at its independent boutiques and bookstore, local brewery and restaurants. Haddonfield has multiple chocolate shops and ice cream parlors - another sweet reason to spend time strolling Kings Highway, the main street. The walking tour, which weaves its way through the business district includes about two dozen sculptures. Some of the sculptures are abstract and others are representational, like the Open Heart, where couples stop to take photos, get engaged and even get married, the blue dog in the heart of town, and the larger-than-life animals in the Children’s Sculpture Garden. The sea lion, rabbit and toad were created by Eric Berg, the local sculptor who recently passed away. He is probably best known for Philbert the Pig in Reading Terminal Market and the Drexel Dragon in University City. He created several other oversized sea creatures in South Jersey - the sea turtle in the Ocean Ream exhibit at Adventure Aquarium and the sea lion in the welcome foyer at the Ronald McDonald House, both in Camden. The Haddonfield Sculpture Tour is about a mile and a half long and includes a few offshoots from Kings Highway, like the exultant ballerina atop the Welcome to Haddonfield sign and the mailman cleverly placed in front of the post office.
Best Place to Horse Around On Saturday Night -- Cowtown Rodeo
If you have a cowboy hat on the top shelf of your closet, and you only get to wear it on Halloween, dust it off and wear it to Cowtown Rodeo, the oldest weekly running rodeo in the country. Watch cowboys lurching wildly as they hang on to angry bulls, cowgirls racing horses around barrels, and two-person teams roping steers. It’s been going strong since 1929, other than a brief hiatus during World War II, and has been run by the same family for five generations. Even some of the horses go back generations - the horses are grandchildren of rodeo horses from the 1970s. The rodeo runs every Saturday night from Memorial Day until the fall and the stands are full of families. Thanks to the fast-paced action, kids manage to stay engaged sans electronics. It’s just 45 minutes from Center City in Pilesgrove, N.J. but you’re sure to feel like you’re in the wild west.
Where To Snag Reservations -- Collingswood BYOBs
In 2018, USA Today called Collingswood the top small-town food scene in America. It’s full of great restaurants. One of the latest to open is June BYOB, which moved from South Philadelphia. Zeppoli and Hearthside are also noteworthy.
Zeppoli, an intimate Italian BYOB in Collingswood, is a standout. The restaurant has 35 seats inside and for a few more weeks it will also have outside dining on the patio in front and in the garden behind the restaurant. It’s owned by Joey Baldino, who is also known for Palizzi Social Club in South Philadelphia. Palizzi was originally a private social club for Italian immigrants. After almost 100 years, Baldino took it over, opened membership up to everyone and turned it into an award-winning cult favorite. Can’t get a membership at Palizzi? One taste of the Sicilian dishes at Zeppoli and you’ll know why Baldino attracts rabid fans.
Hearthside, also in Collingswood, is easily accessible by PATCO high speed line. It’s a quick trip from the city to this inventive BYOB named the wood-fired oven that is prominently placed in the restaurant. Hearthside serves contemporary American cuisine. The restaurant has a chef’s counter where you can watch the action, interior seating and outdoor seating with heated floors to keep diners warm and toasty. The outdoor seating is first come/first served.
Satisfying Your Sweet Tooth -- The Pop Shop and Sciascia Confections
The Pop Shop is a local soda fountain with a Retro feel. Locations in Collingswood and Medford serve all day breakfasts, burgers, 30 types of grilled cheese sandwiches and more. That’s enough to please almost any palate but save room for over-the-top ice cream creations like the peanut butter cup milkshake or the pumpkin ice cream latte made of pumpkin ice cream blended with coffee, topped with caramel drizzle, whipped cream and cinnamon sugar.
Hit Stockton Market to try chocolates from Sciascia Confections. You’ll find more than 30+ kinds of chocolate truffles, plus chocolate bars, barks, brownies, authentic French macarons in a rainbow of colors and to-die-for hot drinking chocolate. Tom and Loren Sciascia’s hand-crafted sweets are made with 100% farmer-owned organic chocolate and all-natural, locally-sourced ingredients. The market in picturesque Stockton has vendors selling prepared foods and baked goods, produce and meats, as well as local artisans and pop up vendors.
Want to hear more about fun things to do on both sides of the Delaware River? Irene Levy Baker, author of 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia and Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia will share more of her favorites in a virtual book talk for the Greenwich Library in Gloucester County on Thursday, November 18 at 7 p.m. The virtual event is free and open to the public. Register at: https://www.gcls.org/online-events. Signed copies of her books are available at: www.100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia.com.