Drive an hour southeast of Philadelphia and you'll be pleasantly surprised to find the town of Bridgeton, a gem of a community in the South Jersey wetlands. Historic, lively and in close proximity to a bevy of natural beauty, Bridgeton manages to maintain a strong cultural heritage while looking confidently to the future. Whether you're looking for the bustle of an urban center or the tight-knit nature of a rural community, you'll find both lifestyles in Bridgeton, as well as everything in between.
This town's prominence in the state is greater than the sum of the 25,000 strong who are proud to call it home. Walking around Bridgeton, it's not rare to see signs advertising "New Jersey's biggest..." or "New Jersey's first..." This is a place of pioneers.
Restaurants & Nightlife
The culinary scene is quite varied in Bridgeton, but whether you're looking for a classy steak dinner or a quick slice of pizza for lunch, this town emphasizes local, authentic food.
Big John's Pizza, around since 1969, best epitomizes the family-run, family-oriented nature of the dining experience in Bridgeton. Adults who have stayed their whole lives in the community take their children out to eat the same pizza they enjoyed growing up. Get a signature party tray to feed the whole family, but make sure you call ahead; the locals have the phone ringing off the hook, especially on Friday nights.
For some sweet treats, try Terrigno's Bakery, another beloved Bridgeton institution. This mom-and-pop store features all sorts of cannolis and eclairs, along with a banana cream pie that is hard to top.
If you're looking for a night on the town, Bridgeton also offers numerous nightlife options. Las Palmas Tequila Bar features great food and affordable drinks as well as opportunities to impress your friends singing karaoke. Hillcrest Tavern on Broad Street presents a relaxed atmosphere for enjoying food and drinks with friends. Patrons can grab a seat at the bar for a few drinks or head to the dining area for a full dinner meal.
History & Culture
Unsurprisingly, Bridgeton owes its name to a single bridge, constructed in 1716, that traversed the Cohansey River. The town was settled before then - initially by Richard Hancock in 1686 - but has been defined through the centuries by its strategic position on the direct path from the Atlantic coast to the markets of Philadelphia. With successful industries such as glass production, food processing, textiles and metal and machine works, it actually became the most prosperous city in New Jersey in the years following the Civil War.
Though the industrial base has largely moved on to other regions, Bridgeton's historical tradition is alive and well in the 21st century, evidenced by stately Victorian homes and New Jersey's largest historic district featuring over 2,200 structures. The Woodruff Museum of Indian Artifacts, hosting more than 30,000 specimens, is an important homage to the native tribes who first inhabited the region.
Relatively small and compact, Bridgeton is a town that promotes walking. The historic downtown district, especially, is always packed with pedestrians doing some shopping or dining. If using a car is more your style, then go right ahead – nothing in Bridgeton is more than a short drive away. The bus service, Greater Area Bridgeton Transit, serves most sizable Bridgeton neighborhoods and provides connects with New Jersey Transit routes accessing Cumberland County College, Camden and Philadelphia. Bus route 553, running right through Bridgeton, will take those searching for a weekend getaway at the beach right to Atlantic City, only an hour away.
Best of all, living in Bridgeton is very affordable. The median rent for a one-bedroom residence comes to around $650. Because it’s slightly off the beaten path of the I-95 corridor, single home prices are also manageable. Owing to its advantageous location in southern New Jersey, Bridgeton's gas prices are low across the board - and what's better, they'll pump your gas for you In Bridgeton, having fun doesn't come with a huge price tag. Drinks at local bars should not cost more than $3-4.
Bridgeton is home to a large, diverse collection of businesses. Many small businesses, boutiques and antique stores are located in the downtown area. It's a pleasant, pedestrian-friendly environment catering to a small-town crowd. Check out Bernie's for the latest comic book offerings from your favorite superhero. Every summer, the Bridgeton Outdoor Market is a bustle of activity, specializing in locally sourced Jersey Fresh produce. You might even catch one of your favorite local chefs or personalities sharing their culinary secrets during a Heritage Cooking Demonstration. It's especially a treat when on special occasions the market moves to Riverside Park on the banks of the Cohansey River.
Of course, there are more conventional, big-box shopping options for those wanting to save some cash. Many national chains, including ShopRite and Walmart, are a short drive north on Route 77.
Though Bridgeton boasts several municipal parks, Bridgeton City Park is an example of the large impact a green space can have in a community. This 1,100 acre park offers pretty much everything a park possibly can, from athletic fields and basketball courts to nature trails and picnic areas. Perhaps you'll be inspired to shoot some hoops after learning about the prestigious Southern New Jersey All Sports Museum and Hall of Fame. On a hot summer day, children can cool off in the 7,500 square foot Splash Park recreation area or enjoy the other three lakes found in Bridgeton City Park.
The trademark of City Park is the Cohanzick Zoo, New Jersey's oldest zoo. Hosting over 100 animals, the facility is an intimate but impressive display for a municipal zoo. Be sure to say hello to Ganesha the tiger, Holly the black bear and the boisterous lemurs as you stroll through. Don’t miss the many seasonal celebrations such as the scarecrow contest in the fall and a Festival of Lights during the winter holidays. In true Bridgeton fashion, local members of the community have pitched in substantial donations to keep the Cohanzick Zoo completely free to all.