Ardmore: Best things to do – The Philadelphia Inquirer

Ardmore’s small town feel is met with an exciting dining and shopping scene.
Located about 10 miles outside Philly, Ardmore is a suburban Main Line town with a distinct downtown feel that attracts city explorers for its walkability, diverse mix of businesses, and accessibility to the city by public transportation.
It is old and new, upscale and down-to-earth. Case in point: It is home to both the sprawling, storied Merion Golf Club and a high-tech indoor golf simulator (located in a strip mall).
Ardmore straddles Lower Merion and Haverford townships in Montgomery County and Delaware County, respectively; both sides boast attractive schools, parks, and community centers. Though it has always been a destination for shopping and events, Ardmore has developed a vibrant dining scene in recent years — enough to have its very own Restaurant Week.
Vivi Zayas, owner of Ardmore’s popular toddler playspace Lulu’s Casita, says, “You still get a sense of a small-town feel to it but there’s still so much to do. It’s very up-and-coming.” Nick Carlino, now the third generation to own and operate the beloved Italian market bearing his family name, agrees. “It’s still like a small town. It has that charm, it has the kids riding their bikes on the sidewalk and everyone knows each other. Over the past couple years, there’s definitely been a new excitement, a rebirth.” That’s both literal and figurative: “We’re seeing a lot of babies,” he says.
Originally called Athensville, Ardmore got its current name in 1873 when it was renamed by the Pennsylvania Railroad whose “Main Line” route through Philadelphia’s western suburbs came to define the region. Outdoor shopping complex Suburban Square opened in 1928, making Ardmore a commercial destination.
From historic homes dating back to the 1700s to the last two remains of Frank Lloyd Wright’s failed 1939 Suntop Homes project, Ardmore’s houses have some architectural history alongside the bustling commercial downtown.
Take the SEPTA Regional Rail’s Paoli/Thorndale line (also called the R5 if you’re old school) from Center City to Ardmore station, which will leave you right in the middle of things at Suburban Square and steps from Ardmore’s bustling Lancaster Avenue. SEPTA’s 44 bus also goes from Center City to Ardmore, stopping at Haverford Road and Montgomery Avenue. If you prefer to drive, Ardmore is about 25 minutes (via I-76W) from Center City.
What to do in fall
Ardmore Oktoberfest brings traditional German fare, beer, and entertainment for the whole family to Schauffele Plaza. And in October, Cricket Boo is a big Halloween party for little ones with crafts, entertainment, and trick-or-treating.

What to do in winter
Holiday happenings include a festive tree lighting celebration, strolling carolers, Santa at Suburban Square, and Christmas on Cricket, with kids’ activities and entertainment.

What to do in spring
Ardmore hosts its own Restaurant Week with prix fixe lunch and dinner specials around town. Typically held in May, the two-week event includes different price points and types of cuisine, and usually features free parking to sweeten the deal.

What to do in summer
In August, the Main Line Bike Race brings together cyclists of all ages to raise money for Narberth Ambulance. Ardmore Music Hall has now transformed the day into Rock n’ Ride, with a music festival, food vendors, and a family fun zone.
Formerly Brownies 23 East (and 23 East Cabaret before that), this independently owned, operated, and booked music venue reopened as Ardmore Music Hall (AMH) in 2013. AMH hosts concerts by local and national acts; an intimate capacity of 600 allows for a great view whether you’re standing general admission in front of the stage or in balcony seating. Both levels have bars, and thanks to owner Chris Perella’s partnership with next-door restaurant Ripplewood, you can grab a bite along with your drinks. This culinary overhaul also comes in handy during the venue’s popular (and family-friendly) Funky Brunch and Market events, which feature live music, local vendors, beer, and brunch.
📍23 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-649-8389, 🌐 ardmoremusichall.com, 📷 @ardmoremusichall
This cozy playspace has become a home-away-from-home for little ones on the Main Line — a place for kids under six to play, grow, and even celebrate birthday parties. Parents can meet, connect, and grab a coffee from the on-site café while their toddlers bond in the ball pit, take in bilingual storytime, or dance in the weekly music circle. Opened in 2013, owner Vivi Zayas named the spot after her daughter and expanded to a second location in West Chester in 2018. Zayas has cultivated a community with weekly events, BYOB family pizza nights, and annual events like character brunches and holiday parties. “I walk around Ardmore, and I still see kids I used to see at Lulu’s years ago,” she describes. Partnering with local businesses and “thinking outside the box” with innovations like mobile parties (and even a new party bus) have kept that connection alive during the pandemic. Lulu’s Casita currently requires reservations for timed play sessions (9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.) during the week.
📍6 Cricket Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-642-3623, 🌐 luluscasita.com, 📷 @luluscasita
The Philadelphia Skating Club & Humane Society is America’s first skating club, with roots stretching back to the mid-1800s and a strong focus on figure skating (its most famous alumni are Olympians Dick Button and Scott Hamilton). The indoor rink is host to year-round lessons, and on second Saturdays skaters showcase their skills in exhibitions that are free to public audiences. Though the club is membership-based, they also hold weekly public skating sessions (Fridays and Sundays) that are great for families and skaters of all abilities. They also offer public learn to skate programs four times a year, as well as birthday party packages. Need to get your skates sharpened or upgrade your gear? There’s a skate shop on-site, too.
📍220 Holland Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-642-8700, 🌐 pschs.org, 📷 @phillyskating
This paint-your-own ceramic and craft studio welcomes all ages and skill levels. No appointments are needed — just pop in, pay a studio fee, and buy your project. Items range from functional (mugs and platters) to whimsical (ceramic animals and superheroes) and change with the seasons. Paint your ceramics, and they’ll glaze and fire them for you to pick up in a week. If you’d prefer to create at home, they also offer to-go pottery kits. The Mudroom also does birthday parties and camps for kids.
📍 11 Station Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-896-3887, 🌐 mudroomstudioardmore.com, 📷 @mudroomstudio
Indoor golf simulators have been on the rise for a few years, and Play-a-Round has cornered that trend on the Main Line. Their year-round indoor range has dozens of virtual golf courses and driving ranges that cater to golfers of all skill levels, whether you want a family night out or are looking to improve your golf game. Avid golfers can get a membership and come for routine practice; and for those who really want to analyze their progress, the simulator provides data and video replay which can be stored in a locker app for review. Play-a-Round also provides lessons, indoor golf leagues, kids’ camps, and parties for all ages (they can even change the course to make it themed for your party, and you are welcome to bring outside food and drinks for your guests).
📍 56 Greenfield Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-228-2814, 🌐 playaroundgolf.net, 📷 @playaroundgolfardmore
The term “Farmers Market” is a bit of a misnomer here — Ardmore Farmers Market is more like the Main Line’s mini Reading Terminal Market than a gathering of independent farmers offering up their harvest (though you will find some fresh produce here). Need basic groceries? Hit up the Trader Joe’s across the parking lot. Instead, stop into Ardmore Farmers Market for lunch during the day, to pick up gourmet ingredients for a special dinner, or just walk around and see what goodies catch your eye. These days, half of the market is occupied by Di Bruno Bros., offering signature items like cheese, antipasti, and prepared food. Another highlight is Stoltzfus Family Foods, which offers fresh meats, dairy products, baked goods (don’t miss the whoopie pies), and other pantry items (think: homemade preserves, honey, and snacks) from Lancaster County.
📍120 Coulter Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-896-7560
Opened in 2018 by Peter Martin and Executive Chef Biff Gottehrer, “the Ripp” occupies two floors, each with its own bar, plus a heated covered patio for comfortable outdoor dining. Come for the expert cocktails (that unsurprisingly focus on whiskey), local beers, and “throwback Americana” cuisine—favorites include pretzeled Parker House rolls, flatbreads, wings, and a gouda-topped burger that food critic Craig LaBan recommends. Fun fact: Ripplewood’s name has two discrete sources: an old dive bar in Martin’s hometown Elkins Park, and the Grateful Dead song “Ripple.” It resembles neither of its namesakes, but does pay homage to Jerry Garcia behind the scenes.
📍 29 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-486-7477, 🌐 ripplewoodbar.com, 📷 @theripplewood
As its difficult-to-Google name suggests, this neighborhood spot focuses on local ingredients, and especially local wine and curated wine flights. You’ll find a full menu of bar snacks, dinner, and dessert, but the biggest highlight is the charcuterie section of the menu, letting diners customize their own boards with meats, cheeses, and accoutrements. Sit at the bar, and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations for your board, wine pairing, or whatever imaginative cocktail that is the night’s staff pick.
📍 39 W. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-896-4740, 🌐 localwineandkitchen.com, 📷 @local_ardmore
Owner and chef Gregg Herman named Sophie’s BBQ after his daughter — both were “born” in 2020, and the logo’s sweet pink heart is a nod to its namesake. Come here for big portions of barbecue with lots of flavor, plus comfort foods like cornbread, hush puppies, and baked mac and cheese. Using fresh ingredients and homemade marinades, Herman prides himself on the time, quality, and care that goes into the meats he smokes in one of two large smokers on site. Fan favorites include coffee-rubbed brisket, “dinosaur” beef ribs, and dry rub chicken.
📍 64 Rittenhouse Pl., Ardmore, 📞 610-642-0100, 🌐 sophiesbbq.com, 📷 @sophies_bbq
Chef and owner Levi Hernandez came here from Venezuela in 2017, but it was when he and his wife Maria-Elena were laid off during the pandemic that they decided to open their own restaurant and serve dishes that they grew up eating. Opened just last year as a ghost kitchen sharing space with Ardmore Station Café, Autana quickly gained attention — and a loyal following — with its Venezuelan food like arepas, tequeños, empanadas, and some irresistible mandocas. You’ll have to time your visit to fit within the restaurant’s limited hours, but the deep-fried goodness is well worth it.
📍 6 Station Rd., Ardmore, 📞 484-416-5843, 🌐 autanapa.com, 📷 @autana_pa
When it opened in spring 2021, Lola’s Garden took over part of Suburban Square’s courtyard, erecting a 2,500-square-foot trellis of twinkle lights and outdoor seating, plus an additional outdoor bar. Like its city sister Harper’s Garden, Lola’s comes from the team behind outdoor dining experiences like Parks on Tap and Morgan’s Pier. Its garden motif complements its focus on locally sourced ingredients, while the giraffe inside the restaurant is a nod to the spot’s former occupant, Banana Republic. To create that seasonal, local menu, FCM Hospitality teamed up with Andrew Wood, who was the chef at former restaurant Russet on Spruce St., who favors “simple, clean, big flavors. Big flavors, few ingredients. With that, there is nowhere to hide.”
They’re open all day, but the garden vibes and location in the middle of the Square make it a perfect spot for day drinking at Sunday brunch. Speaking of which, if you can’t decide between their draft cocktails, opt for a flight of three smaller servings presented in tiers. Despite its upscale feel, they also have a kids’ menu and high chairs, so your little ones can enjoy chicken fingers while you dine on beet salad and seared scallops.
📍51 St. Georges Rd., Ardmore, 📞 484-412-8011, 🌐 lolasgardenrestaurant.com, 📷 @lolasgardenardmore
Opened nearly 40 years ago by owner Nick Carlino’s grandparents, this gourmet market has been a favorite for generations. Locals and out-of-towners alike come here for prepared foods, holiday catering, pastries, gourmet gift baskets, and pantry items like homemade pastas and sauces.
The Carlinos immigrated to the United States in 1968, choosing Ardmore because it was home to a significant population from Abruzzo, their region of Italy. Though Angela “Mama” Carlino lacked formal training, she was a talented chef, recreating recipes from her grandmothers. “People started to find out and would order her cakes and cookies,” which she initially baked out of her house up the street from the market’s current location, says Laura Carlino (Mama’s daughter-in-law and Nick’s mother). When Mama outgrew this operation in the 1980s, the family opened Carlino’s in an Ardmore storefront that once was a barbershop. Italian recipes passed down from Mama (she trained the executive pastry chef before she passed) are still made today. Nick Carlino says their calginetti — a traditional Italian dessert he describes as fried ravioli-like “pillows” of sweet wine dough, filled with chestnuts, jams, and chocolate — are ordered “from [people] all over [the country]” because the costly ingredients and labor required to make the pastries difficult to find.
Now in its third generation of family ownership, Carlino’s has seen Ardmore evolve. Laura has noticed that some of the grandkids of her in-laws’ fellow émigrés have returned to Ardmore to settle down. “A young couple will come in and say, ‘We’re so happy we found you, my grandmother used to live in the neighborhood, and she used to come here,’ and it’s so great to see.”
📍 2616 E. County Line Rd., Ardmore, 📞 610-649-4046, 🌐 carlinosmarket.com, 📷 @carlinosmarket
Grab a coffee and choose an impossibly gorgeous confection from the pastry case. French brothers Joseph and Antonie Amrani opened this charming café and patisserie in 2017, bringing their decades of culinary expertise and a rainbow of macarons to their little corner of Lancaster Avenue. If you don’t feel like indulging your sweet tooth, they also offer lunch items like croque monsieur sandwiches, salads and quiche.
📍 9 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-649-7001, 🌐 delicechocolat.com, 📷 @delicechocolat
In early 2021, this fancy throwback steakhouse took over the grand two-floor spot formerly occupied by The Bercy (and originally by Haverford Trust Bank in the 1900s). Owner Anthony DePaul wanted to open an upscale, hospitality-focused restaurant and chose Ardmore for its growing restaurant scene. “Where I think I elevate the experience is through developing relationships with my guests. I want to know their favorite dishes, wines, table preferences, birthdays, kids’ names…That’s the culture I create at DePaul’s Table,” he says. In addition to steaks, DePaul’s Table has a raw bar, flatbreads made in a wood-fired oven, and a full kids’ menu. Along with their wine list and local beer selection, handcrafted cocktails are the primary focus of the beverage program. Classics befitting DePaul’s old-school glamor include the Cedar Planked Smoked Old Fashioned, made tableside with smoke and drama — and one giant ice cube.
📍 7 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-589-0500, 🌐 depaulstable.com, 📷 @depaulstable
As founder Seiko Dailey explains, “Maido!” is a friendly shopkeeper greeting used in Japan’s Kansai region. That spirit infuses this Japanese grocery store, which is a delight to visit. From snacks to cooking ingredients, you’ll find foods here that are hard to find anywhere else — plus an assortment of cute stationery items like Sanrio stickers and Washi tape. Maido’s unassuming lunch counter is also a hidden gem in plain sight. It’s worth a visit for its Japanese fare including rice bowls, soba noodles, and Japanese street food.
📍 5 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, 📞 484-417-6745, 🌐 maidoardmore.com, 📷 @maidousa
When Tired Hands brought its “strange and beautiful beers” from Fishtown to its Ardmore “Fermentaria,” it ignited a suburban craft beer scene and gained a loyal following. With eye-catching packaging, complex flavors, and names like “We Are All Infinite Energy Vibrating at the Same Frequency” and “Sticky Drippy Crystals,” Tired Hands remains prolific with offbeat beers. The Fermentaria features both a storefront to pick up to-go beers, as well as a restaurant and bar to enjoy them in person.
In 2021, former employees spoke out about the racist and sexist discrimination they experienced at the hands of founder Jean Broillet IV. After he stepped down from operations, the brewery’s new leadership developed a Code of Conduct and committed itself to change.
📍 35 Cricket Ter., Ardmore, 📞 484-413-2983, 🌐 tiredhands.com, 📷 @tiredhandsbrewing
This outdoor center for shopping and dining (as well as other attractions like Life Time Fitness and SoulCycle) is the core of downtown Ardmore. Suburban Square opened in 1928 and put Ardmore on the map in 1930 when Strawbridge & Clothier opened its first suburban location in the town. Today, popular chain stores like Sephora, Madewell, Lilly Pulitzer, Apple, GAP, and Lululemon draw in suburbanites who want to avoid the hassle of the mall. You’ll also find fast-casual chains like Sweetgreen, CAVA, HipCityVeg, and Starbucks along with destination dining like Lola’s Garden and DanDan.
Suburban Square also serves as a community gathering spot, with year-round free events including outdoor concerts, kids’ activities, cooking demonstrations, lawn movies, and even strolling Santa during the holidays. Tip: Head to the giant Adirondack chair in the courtyard for a fun photo op.
📍 Anderson and Coulter Aves., Ardmore, 📞 610-896-7560, 🌐 suburbansquare.com, 📷 @suburbansquare
With its collection of unique and handmade toys from around the world, pucciManuli is easily one of the area’s best toy stores. The shop is curated like a lovely gallery of heirloom-quality playthings, but alongside the fancy European dolls and cuddly stuffed animals, you’ll find plenty of books, journals and craft kits to keep kids engaged. “We are imagination-driven, which we think is so important in this day and age,” Kohs says. Whether you’re shopping for a posh baby shower gift or a whimsical giraffe model kit to pass a rainy afternoon at home, they’ve got you covered.
📍2 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-649-2909, 🌐 puccimanuli.com, 📷 @puccimanuli
Part café, part bookstore, this new spot supported by the nondenominational Calvary Chapel of Delaware County has quickly become a favorite place to gather, shop, or just grab a good cup of coffee and stay a while. The shop features a collection of new and used books, plus a reading room whose wall art is made entirely from books. In fact, most of the space’s decor is thrifted, repurposed, or donated; the result is an eclectic environment including items like an 1893 Schomacker & Co. piano and a custom lion-head bar from a mansion in Jenkintown. “There’s just something magical about all these discarded, broken, imperfect things coming together to make something beautiful that captures the heart of The Story,” says founder Anna Walker-Roberts. Proceeds from The Story support Helping Hand Rescue Mission and other groups.
📍 45 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-649-1235, 🌐 thestoryardmore.com, 📷 @thestory.ardmore
Since 1976, founder Sherry Tillman has stocked her shop with eclectic gifts, art, jewelry, and home décor from around the world, as well as from local artists. Tillman focuses on handmade, one-of-a-kind items that make each visit to the shop feel like a discovery.
📍 15 W. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-642-4040, 🌐 past-present-future.com, 📷 @pastpresentfuture_crafts
Its name is a holdover from when it sold primarily Guatemalan imports back when it opened in 1963, but like its flagship location in Chestnut Hill, this gift shop has everything from a Notorious RBG mug to healing crystals. El Quetzal also sells clothing and accessories that lean hard into the “boho chic” aesthetic — items from its Suburban Square neighbor Free People would not look out of place here.
📍 41 Coulter Ave., Ardmore, 📞 610-642-0300, 🌐 elquetzal1963.com, 📷 @elquetzal1963
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