Located along Route 9 in Galloway Township, the Historic Towne of Smithville does not quite have the same lengthy history as Batsto, but it does offer an atmosphere of family friendly activities that will certainly make you glad that you took the time to visit. My husband has been telling me about it for quite some time now, and when we learned there would be a car cruise there today, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to take a drive out. His dad came along as well, which is always nice since it tends to be just the two of us and it is not often we all have the chance to do something together. This also means that during the ride we get to hear stories about how he used to go there with his wife and how long it has been since they last went.
The oldest structure in this quaint little South Jersey town is known as the Smithville Inn and it dates back to the late 1700s, though there is some debate as to whether or not the structure was originally planned as an inn. It is now a 42 seat restaurant which offers a charming and intimate dining experience, though there are several other places you can also grab some grub that range from coffee and baked goods to pizza and pretzels. Aside from food, there are over 40 different shops and boutiques that have a wide variety of merchandise such as collectibles and crafts, arcades that house antique artifacts from old amusement parks and an old-fashioned steam train that takes visitors on a tour around the town. You can also enjoy paddle boats, miniature golf or a round on the carousel that spins its riders right next to the lake.
Our purpose in visiting, aside from it being my first time there and wanting to check out what it was all about, was to browse the classic cars that were supposed to be on display until 5 pm. Whoever gave my husband that information may have misunderstood his question and thought he was asking about something else, as all of the cars were revving their engines and leaving just as we got to the lot they had been parked in. Oh well, it was still a beautiful afternoon and there were enough still around for me to get my fix of nostalgia and whatnot, so we decided to walk around so I could check things out. The arcades had piqued my interest when my husband had been showing me the town map, though I was disappointed that they did not have any games. They did, however, have some amazing vintage machines that are as solid as furniture, but I was not interested in flattening out my penny or having my ‘fortune’ delivered on a card via automaton psychic.
There were plenty of interesting shops that we visited as well, such as Evermore Herb Co. where you can purchase just about any herb you want for the kitchen or your own well-being. Inside the Candle Shoppe one will undoubtedly be overwhelmed by the numerous fragrances of Yankee Candles, though there are other assorted housewares available as well. We happened to find some really lovely smelling incense and bought a dozen sticks – I don’t know why we haven’t done this sooner since I used to burn incense all the time, as I tend to prefer them over candles. At Fantasea Treasures, I was enamored by the display of kitsch in the form of hand carved tikis, giant glasses made from cut liquor bottles and a large assortment of nautical themed gifts that were set beside quirky bar signs. Could not resist purchasing a blue crab, as they had plenty of them hanging on the wall, perhaps to integrate into a future hair piece or something.
Dad treated us to a ride on the train, and I don’t care how hold I get, I will never stop enjoying amusement ride and see plenty of people who are in there 60’s and beyond having a heck of a time relieving their youths on them, so I am going to have my fun too. There was a couple twice our age sitting in front of us, so that made riding with tons of kids and their parents a lot less awkward. Basically the train runs a loop around the area of shops known as the Village Greene, and gives you a better view of some of the on premises lodging options such as The Barn and the Johnson House. If you suddenly are struck with the urge to be groomed or pampered, there is a full service salon, nail space and barber shop that are more than happy to cater to your needs.
My favorite shop is also the last one we happened to stop in, and I was kind of surprised to hear punk music blasting out of it since the general vibe of the town is quiet in comparison. Underground is full of apparel, records and artwork related to punk, but it also carries a significant amount of Jersey pride merchandise. The prices are also much better than a certain store in Philly that carries mainly mass produced alternative uniforms, and I am always happy to support local businesses over larger corporations. We were just browsing, but I definitely spotted a few things I would not mind going back for, as the town is open every day except for Christmas.
On the way back we stopped for dinner at Mickey and Minnie’s Inn, a restaurant on the White Horse Pike that has been owned by the same family since 1938. There are not enough of these places, as large chains of the same old shit tend to dominate the highways that pass through all of these South Jersey towns and buildings that were once filled with hungry crowds now stand empty and slowly decaying. The interior of Mickey and Minnie’s was covered in wood paneling, kind of dark and looked like it hadn’t been changed since the 80’s. Our service was more than friendly and prompt, and the food came out on giant plates, so that made up for feeling as though we had hit a time warp. None of us were able to actually completely finish our meals, but we were all satisfied and that’s what matters.
Despite having missed the car cruise, I would have to say it still turned out to be a really great day that I got to spend with two people who mean a lot to me, and I don’t think it really gets any better than that.