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Camden Rising
A four-part series on all the reasons you should love Camden
Presented by Cooper’s Ferry Partnership

 

It may not be the first place that comes to mind when you’re exploring day trip ideas, but that’s all changed now. Camden – only a short drive from your home – is the new go-to spot for family fun, hip entertainment and cultural experiences.  

“We want to encourage parents, families and children to come out and enjoy the city as a whole – all nine square miles,” says Camden Mayor Frank Moran. “Camden is definitely rising. The waterfront is alive and well.” 

If you’re planning a weekend getaway, a back-to-school staycation or simply a fun day trip this fall, use this guide to the city’s best events, exhibits and once-in-a-lifetime experiences as the starting point for your great Camden adventure.  

 

Fun for Kids (and Kids at Heart!)  

  1. Dance the Day Away
    The Camden Salvation Army Kroc Center will keep kids movin’ and groovin’ from 10 am to 7:30 pm with the fourth annual “Dance the Day Away” event on Sept. 15. Kids ages 7-14 will participate in dance classes, learn choreography and perform routines. The all-day workshop is open to everyone, but pre-registration is required.
     
  2. Mermaids at the Aquarium
    Get up close and personal with mythical, magical mermaids as the Wands and Wishes mermaids return to Adventure Aquarium in early November. The mermaids will perform synchronized swimming routines to the delight of visitors young and old, alongside the aquarium’s sharks, sea turtles and sting rays. Guests can also participate in an out-of-water experience, meeting and posing for photos with the mermaids.
     
  3. Camden Children’s Garden
    Kids (and their parents!) can get in touch with the natural world around them at the four-acre Camden Children’s Garden, which is packed with horticultural experiences to encourage kids’ creativity and imaginative play. Kids can visit with butterflies, ride the Garden Carousel and Arrow River Train, climb inside a baby Hadrosaur’s egg, explore an underground maze, and much, much more.
      
  4. Sea Turtle Encounter
    Go beyond the glass at Adventure Aquarium and get close – really close – to a whole family of sea turtles, from a rescued hatchling to massive loggerheads. You can help care for the turtles, participate in their training and entertainment and even help feed them their lunch!
  5. A Walk in the Park
    Pay a visit to Pyne Poynt Park, the home field of the North Camden Little League, and  check out the state-of-the-art playground equipment or take a stroll on the path along the adjacent Delaware River. In the spring, catch a couple of innings of hometown baseball.  

 

Have a Blast with Camden’s Past  

  1. Walt Whitman HouseThe house Walt Whitman lived in is preserved as a museum and a barely changed tribute to the noted poet. Much of his original furniture is there, including the desk where he sat to write much of his poetry collection “Leaves of Grass.”
     
  2. Harleigh Cemetery
    Head from Whiman’s home to Harleigh Cemetery, where you’ll find his carefully designed mausoleum. Also look for the final resting place of Camden haiku poet Nick Virgilio, four senators and more than 300 Civil War veterans
  3. Battleship New Jersey
    The USS New Jersey is a floating museum that will entertain and educate the whole family. On Sept. 8, pair a love of history with a love of craft beer at Brew Blast on the Battleship. Sample more than 50 brews, rock out to the WMGK house band and take a tour of the ship. The event is adults-only, and tickets are $45.
     
  4. Camden County Historical Society
    Camden’s history is South Jersey’s history. Many of our cultural icons – from condensed soup to the recording industry – have their roots here. Learn about Camden’s historical significance and impact with a visit to the Camden County Museum and Historic Pomona Hall. Keep an eye out for the 101-year-old stained glass window from the RCA Factory, featuring Nipper the dog, and a mural by local artist Donna Backues, documenting life in Camden from the late 1600s to today.
     
  5. Shipyard and Maritime Museum
    Camden’s shipyards once employed tens of thousands of people, and the berths here were the birthplace of some of the world’s most well-known vessels. The Camden Shipyard and Maritime Museum, housed in the beautiful and historic former Church of Our Savior on Broadway, is home to information and artifacts from Camden’s rich history as a city on the water. 

 

Be Amazed by Camden’s Arts & Culture 

  1. BB&T Pavilion
    This month, you can catch Deep Purple and Judas Priest on Sept. 9, Niall Horan and Maren Morris on Sept. 11, and the Outlaw Music Festival, featuring legends Willie Nelson, Van Morrison and others on Sept. 15. Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker  appear on Sept. 21.
     
  2. Camden Jam
    On Saturday, Sept. 8, bring the whole family to Wiggins Park, along the water on Riverside Drive, for the biggest event of the season: the 4th Annual Camden Jam: Arts and Music Festival. Last year, about 6,500 people attended the full day of music and entertainment. This year’s performers will include Grammy winners Arrested Development and chart-topping singer/songwriter Lil’ Mo, plus performances from local artists and musicians.
      
  3. Stedman Art Gallery
    The collection of art at the Stedman Gallery at Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts includes the works of more than 450 artists.
     
  4. South Camden Theatre Company
    The South Camden Theatre Company’s home on the corner of Ferry Avenue and Jasper Street is an exact replica of the building that once housed a Prohibition-era speakeasy on the same spot. Now in its 13th season, the company will open “By The Water,” an original drama about a Staten Island family dealing with the fallout of Hurricane Sandy, on Sept. 7.
     
  5. Third Thursday Art Crawl
    Experience Camden’s thriving creative arts community on the third Thursday of every month. Stop at The Victor at the waterfront for live music and an occasional pop-up art exhibit. And Rutger’s Stedman Gallery, with its 450 works of art, stays open until 8 pm on Thursdays.
     
  6. FireWorks Gallery
    The renovated historical firehouse that served as Engine Company 3’s home from 1890 to 1986 is now an art gallery and creative space for painters, sculptors and photographers.
     
  7. Haddon Avenue Street Festival
    The biggest block party in Camden kicks off on Sept. 15 at noon. Haddon Avenue will be closed between Kaighn and Mechanic Street for craft and food vendors, live music and lots of kids activities.  

 

Cheesesteaks, Kiosks & Camden’s Best Eats  

  1. The LunchBox
    Support Camden’s food culture in delicious fashion with a visit to the LunchBox, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership’s pop-up food hub at Roosevelt Plaza Park, in front of City Hall. Open 11 am to 3 pm, Tuesday to Friday through October, the LunchBox features Respond Bakery (and their famous “Camden Cookies”) and Cathedral Kitchen’s CK Café. 

    On Tuesdays at noon through September, the LunchBox will also host free lunchtime concerts as part of the Connect the Lots event series. “The concert component is a great touch,” Camden Mayor Frank Moran says, “allowing people to explore our city’s diverse music scene on their lunch hour. The LunchBox is just one more thing helping to make Camden a better place to live, work and play.”
     
  2. Donkey’s Place
    Philadelphia might be known as the home of the cheesesteak, but if you’re from South Jersey you know you can find the best cheesesteak in the world on this side of the Delaware River. Donkey’s Place, opened 75 years ago by a former heavyweight boxer, has been serving up its signature sandwich to local fanfare for decades. In 2015, when late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain tried the cheesesteak – loaded with American cheese and fried onions and stuffed into a poppy seed-covered kaiser roll – he said it ought to be “a national landmark.”
     
  3. Corinne’s Place
    If you’ve got a craving for soul food, there’s no better way to satisfy it than with a visit to Corrine’s Place. Owner Corrine Bradley-Powers has been feeding visitors on Haddon Avenue for nearly three decades, and you just can’t beat her homestyle Sunday buffet.
     
  4. Reggae Grill
    If you’re looking for authentic Jamaican cuisine – how about mouth-watering jerk chicken with mac and cheese? – look no further than this popular spot located in the heart of Camden on the corner of Federal and 21st.   

 

Walk, Bike or Run Camden 

  1. Yoga Day
    Grab your mat and get ready to vinyasa with the fishes during Adventure Aquarium’s yoga days. A combo ticket includes admission to the aquarium and a 75-minute yoga class taught by one of the resident biologists.
     
  2. Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge
    Sweat for a cause during the 2018 Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge event on Nov. 4. The 10K run begins at 8:30 am. After opening ceremonies on the Rutgers-Camden campus, participants will head to the toll booths on the New Jersey side of the Ben Franklin Bridge, which will be closed for the event. Race fees will benefit the Larc School, which serves South Jersey kids with moderate to severe disabilities.
     
  3. The Camden GreenWay
    Perhaps the most scenic way to experience the city is with a trip along the Camden GreenWay, a network of walking and biking trails connecting Camden to Philadelphia and suburban South Jersey communities. 

 

How to Get to Camden 

“Many South Jersey families can be on the waterfront in under an hour. One way to do that is by taking the River Line,” says Camden County Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli. “Or, you can hop on the Speedline and be there in no time. When it comes to ease of transportation, there’s no city where it’s easier to get in and out.”  

The RiverLine is a diesel tram-train light rail that plots a scenic course along the Delaware River, connecting Camden to Trenton. On its southbound route, the RiverLine stops in Bordentown, Roebling, Florence, Burlington, Delanco, Riverside, Cinnaminson, Riverton, Palmyra and Pennsauken, before making multiple stops at Camden’s major hubs.  

For those coming to Camden from the Philadelphia side of the river, the RiverLink Ferry System provides waterfront-to-waterfront service. Ferries run daily through Sept. 3, then on Saturdays and Sundays only (during concerts and special events) through September. The 500+ passenger ferry Freedom docks next to the Adventure Aquarium.  

The PATCO Speedline runs through Camden County and across the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia, PATCO stations in Lindenwold, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Westmont, Collingswood and Camden make getting to the city as simple as climbing aboard.

September 2018
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