Photo credit:Via Britannica
This year’s Guide to Philly features neighborhood guides written by students and recent grads. In this mini-guide to Camden, we cover things to do, places to eat, and everything YOU need to know to enjoy the neighborhood!
As told by Shaniyla Johnson, Rutgers University-Camden 2023
Hey y’all! My name is Shaniyla Johnson. I graduated from Rutgers University- Camden in May 2023 with a Bachelors of Arts in Urban Studies with a Certificate in Civic Engagement and Social Change. I’m interested in all things cities from faith-based community development to placemaking to urban education. You can follow me on Instagram here.
Introducing you to your next best kept secret: Camden City, New Jersey. As someone who has lived here for most of my life, I love living in a place that has a city feel, but isn’t too big. The thing I love the most about Camden is the people. Camden is everywhere!
Camden has a thriving arts scene. Do yourself a favor and come to know the music artist Sol Chyld, the youth-based energetic band Trumpet Chics and trumpeter Arnetta Johnson. If you’re feeling artsy, whether that’s taking pictures in front of a mural or you’re in a mood to do some poetry, I got you covered.
- IDEA Center for the Arts: if you wanna see some really good live music, IDEA hosts live music every Thursday in downtown Camden from 12-2pm on 3rd and Market Street before they wrap up the series at the end of September. IDEA also has youth programming, so if you’re looking to volunteer or even get paid, be sure to contact them.
- We Live Here Artists Collective: if you’re looking to post a really nice pic on Instagram, We Live Here Artists Collective is a group of visual artists who are Camden natives. Be sure to click the link above to follow them on Instagram and keep up-to-date with their murals and events.
- Come out every other Saturday from 10:30pm-12:30am for Midnight Notes to vibe and write some poetry in community. Very low stakes environment; express yourself!
- You must go to an event hosted by the arts collaborative CMD Muse where you’ll be able to hear some local artists, meet cool people, and buy from local vendors.
Not only can you get a good picture from the We Live Here Artists Collective, but be sure to go to these places to sit, sightsee, and take more nice pictures.
- Get your blanket, book, journal, and speaker, and head over to RCA Pier Park in front of American Water in downtown Camden. You can get a great view of the Philly skyline as well as the Ben Franklin Bridge.
- Get a tour of Petty’s Island hosted by the Aquatic Sciences Center.
- You must go to Dudley Grange Park in East Camden to see the huge tiger and Farnham Park in the Parkside neighborhood of Camden to see the huge panther.
I love festivals. Growing up going to events where people would gather and have a good time is a reason why I chose to major in urban studies. Check out some of these festivals and events below to learn more about Camden culture.
- The Haddon Avenue Street Festival, hosted by the Parkside-based community development corporation, Parkside Business and Community in Partnership, happens every September.
- Johnson Park Music and Arts Festival presented by IDEA Center for the Arts.
- Be sure to follow the Camden development non-profit, Camden Community Partnership’s Community Outreach Program, Connect the Lots. They host all types of events—from live music to movie nights.
- Check out the City of Camden’s Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Adventure Aquarium loop in December. Follow the Camden City Government on Instagram to see the flyer as it gets closer to December.
- The Farmacy: Camden Farmers Market, every Saturday in September from 10am-1pm at the Adventure Aquarium loop to get some fresh fruit and vegetables.
Let’s talk food! These just my personal favorite spots, but in no way is this list exhaustive of the food options in the city:
- Go to Nories Lunchbox in downtown Camden for the seafood cheesesteak. The coolest thing about Nories is that you can get the seafood over multiple options including fries, Doritos, or rice. This option is $25, and it is worth it! You get so much food, and it can definitely be leftovers. Also, they close at 2am on the weekends so if you want a late-night food spot to hang out with friends, go check it out!
- Go to El Burger Bar in East Camden and order either a seafood burger or seafood pastelito with the lemonade and banana pudding. I don’t know what kind of sauce they include on their food, but it’s great.
- Go to Mylestone Catering in downtown Camden. You will have to make multiple trips. Do not, again, I repeat: do not come here before class, because you will need a nap after eating at this soul food joint! For the first meal get a chicken ball platter with banana pudding. Chicken balls are fried balls of chicken and cheese; the platter comes with two sides. For the second trip, go on a Wednesday because each piece of shrimp is only 50 cents. Get buffalo shrimp and the salmon bites!
- Go to Camden Diner on 5th and Market Street in downtown Camden and get the croissant french toast and home fries. Food is takeout only. You can also get the food delivered to you on Grubhub. If you are going in person and would like to order ahead, the number is 856-966-4016. Their hours are 7am-1pm Monday-Friday and 8am-1pm on Saturday; they are closed Sunday.
Got a paper to finish? Well, go to these places to grab coffee, sit, and get it done.
- Nuanced Cafe is a Black-owned cafe on Market Street in downtown Camden. Go here, order a smoothie and a buttered croissant, then get to work. During your study break, chat with the owner Ms. Rose, look at the art, and write a motivational quote on the wall.
- University District Bookstore is a Barnes and Noble joint college bookstore, so most college students who go to college at one of the Camden campuses get their college textbooks from here. This is also a nice place to sit since there’s a Starbucks in there and some seats!
Now I’ve named everywhere that you could go, but how will you get around? Say no more, I got you covered.
- Camden Loop is what I call the Camden Uber. It’s a ride share service but at a flat rate of $2 to get anywhere in Camden. The Camden Loop only goes throughout Camden though, but its great if you’re trying to spend the day in the city. The Loop runs from 6am-8pm on weekdays and doesn’t run on weekends.
- The NJ Transit is another way to get around the city. New Jersey Transit is New Jersey’s official transportation authority. This includes buses, light rails and trains. There are a few buses that go from Philly straight into Camden such as the 406, 400, and 404. If you just wanna get on the bus and take a tour of the city, I would recommend getting on the 452.