Lifestyle

The Eight Most Exciting Suburbs Outside Philadelphia

You could use a little space.

Suburban Square in Ardmore, PA
Suburban Square in Ardmore, PA | Suburban Square
Suburban Square in Ardmore, PA | Suburban Square

Sure, we’re city dwellers around here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use a trip to the ‘burbs to unwind. Luckily, Philly is surrounded by lively towns and communities in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey all within a short drive or SEPTA/PATCO ride. From quaint main streets to picturesque orchards, these Philly-adjacent suburbs check all the boxes whether you’re a thrift shopper or love to harvest your own produce. We won’t judge you if you love them enough to stay for good.

Ambler

Distance from Philly: 45 minutes
How to get there: Lansdale/Doylestown Line
At less than a square mile, Ambler is incredibly walkable, which means you can hit all your must-sees on foot. The town’s commercial hub of Butler Avenue features a few theaters—Act II Playhouse and Ambler Theater—and plenty of shopping—home decor shop Antique Garden Cottage and Paxon’s Used Books and Records (to name a few). When you’re not giving standing ovations, get to grubbing at any number of dining locations, such as Dettera Restaurant and Wine Bar (New American and wine!), Mokja (Korean meets American!) The Lucky Well (Memphis-style ribs!), La Provence (French!), Buutchiis Grille (African and Caribbean!) or Pie and Plate Cafe (pies!). Or pick up some beer to-go from Forest & Main, a local brewery located inside a Victorian-style house.

Ardmore

Distance from Philly: 30 minutes
How to get there: Paoli/Thorndale line
Amid this town’s main street and ritzy homes is its open air shopping center, Suburban Square. Complete with retailers like Lululemon, Gap, Sephora, Apple, plus dining options like HipCityVeg, Cava, and DiBruno Bros., the community center is a one-stop shop for your suburban shopping needs. Another popular visitor destination is Lancaster Avenue, where you’ll find popular music venue Ardmore Music Hall (currently hosting live streamed concerts), Mexican restaurant El Limon, Tired Hands Brewing Co., American restaurant Not Your Average Joe’s, Calliope Music Store, glass art and clothing boutique Free Will Collective, and whiskey bar Ripplewood Whiskey & Craft.

Collingswood

Distance from Philly: 15 minutes
How to get there: PATCO
A short trip over the bridge, Collingswood is a small town nestled within a network of nearby South Jersey communities. Haddon and Collings Avenues boast many of the town’s shops and restaurants, like home products and houseplant store Bespoke Home + Life, Bobby Chez Crab Cakes, Clutter Vintage, Hearthside BYOB, Sagami Japanese Restaurant, and Indiya. For outdoorsy adventures, take a walk through Cooper River Park, which runs through Collingswood, Pensauken, Cherry Hill, and Haddon Township—follow the paved path around the park for a nice three-ish mile jaunt.

Haddonfield

Distance from Philly: 20 minutes
How to get there: PATCO
Fun fact: Dinosaur fossils were found here! While you won’t be able to peep the bones here (they’re in the city at the Academy of Natural Sciences) you can see a statue dedicated to the creature along Haddonfield’s main street corridor. While you’re there, go vintage shopping at The Lavish Loft or Raks Thrift Avenue or pick up some fitness gear at Haddonfield Running Company or Sole Active. No mini excursion would be complete without a good meal. Get your fill at American brunch and dinner restaurant Denim BYOB, thai at Sanook Thai Cuisine, or Italian at Valente’s Cucina.

Kennett Square

Distance from Philly: One hour
How to get there: I-95 South by car
Home to Longwood Gardens, probably the most famous horticultural center in the area, Kennett Square is also known for its mushroom output (the area’s farms yield about half of the country’s supply), so pick up some fresh ones at the Woodlands at Phillips Mushroom Farms. For meals beyond mushrooms, Talula’s Table offers farm-to-table American eats, and yes, Portabellos does indeed serve mushrooms on their dishes like stroganoff and pappardelle pasta. Craft beer enthusiasts can enjoy sips at Braeloch Brewing and Kennett Brewing Company.

Media

Distance from Philly: One hour
How to get there: Media/Elwyn Line
Media really knows how to show off when it comes to nature. Spend your time among the flora and fauna at Tyler Arboretum and the nearby Ridley Creek State Park, which is home to 13 miles of hiking trails. Perfect year round, but especially lovely in the fall for apple and pumpkin season, Linvilla Orchards offers pick-your-own produce, hayrides, a beer garden, and market for some laid back farm times. For downtown happenings, catch a show at Media Theater when they reopen, don’t miss the crab and pork soup dumplings at Tom’s Dim Sum, the modern Asian and sushi at Azie, and the locally-sourced small plates at Rye BYOB. Don’t leave without picking up a Delco shirt at Local Home & Gifts.

New Hope/Lambertville

Distance from Philly: One hour
How to get there: I-95 North via car
A two-for one deal, these riverfront communities are on opposite sides of the Delaware River, but mere feet apart. On the Pennsylvania side is New Hope, a lively community full of art, theater, and local business. Live performances have resumed with extremely limited capacity at the Bucks County Playhouse while galleries like The Creeper Gallery, New Hope Arts and Red Tulip Gallery are available by appointment. For pick-your-own apples, blueberries, cherries, and flowers, don’t miss Solebury Orchards. Between wineries like New Hope Winery and Buckingham Winery and eateries such as Stella and Triumph Brewing Co. you might not feel like wandering over the bridge into New Jersey—but you should. In Lambertville, get your antique needs fulfilled by the famed Golden Nugget Antique Market, Antiques Center at the People’s Store, and A Touch of the Past Antiques (among many others). Elsewhere on the Jersey side of the river, dine in a restored 19th century train station at the Lambertville Station Restaurant, sip New Jersey wines at Tomasello Winery Tasting Room, or sample authentic Peruvian fare at El Tule. In the summertime, make a point of tubing down the river and biking, running, or strolling down the towpath trails.

Phoenixville

Distance from Philly
How to get there: 1-76 West via car or bus
Breweries are in no short supply in Phoenixville. DIY your own brewery crawl and sample the offerings at Root Down Brewing Company, Iron Hill Brewery, Conshohocken Brewing Company Rec Room, Rebel Hill Brewing, Crowded Castle Brewing Company, Sly Fox Brewery, Stable 12—and one distillery for good measure, Bluebird Distilling. If you don’t care to imbibe, historic movie theater Colonial Theater (they host an annual event dedicated to the movie The Blob) has reopened for screenings or hit the great outdoors at French Street State Park or the Schuylkill River Trail (yes, this is the same SRT that connects with Philly). It sounds like you’ve worked up an appetite. For a modern spin on favorites like crepes and crab cakes, try Paloma’s, medeterranian delicacies at Avlo’s Greek Cuisine, pupusas and tacos at Guatemalan Kitchen, or breakfast and sandwiches at Your Mom’s Place

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Allie Volpe is a writer based in Philadelphia. She hasn't slept in days. Follow her on Twitter: @allieevolpe.
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