The coolest places in New Jersey for New Yorkers

Trade your NYC neighborhood for its Jersey equivalent with our essential guide

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Red Bank, New Jersey

Red Bank, New Jersey Photograph: Courtesy of New Jersey Tourism

We know: Jersey is for high-haired Bruce Springsteen fanatics with ridiculous accents, who go to the mawl every weekend and whose most bragworthy characteristic is that they don’t have to get out of the car to pump gas. Here’s the thing, though: It’s not all like that. In fact, there are places in Jerz where even a tried-and-true New Yorker would feel comfortable—at a fraction of NYC’s exorbitant rents. Still skeptical? Our neighborhood conversion guide just might convert you.

Newark Ave, Jersey City

Trade: Williamsburg, Brooklyn for Jersey City

Get there: PATH to Penn Station: 31mins
Live there: Brooklyn artists and young professionals are flocking to this expansive waterfront community for the same reasons they moved to Williamsburg years ago: city life and proximity to Manhattan, without a sky-high cost of living. Decidedly less bro-y than nearby Hoboken, over the past few years Jersey City has welcomed cute cafés and restaurants—and outposts of north Brooklyn spots, like old-school arcade and drinkery Barcade (163 Newark Ave at Barrow St; 201-332-4555, barcadejerseycity.com) and cozy bookstore WORD (123 Newark Ave between Barrow and Grove Sts; 201-763-6611, wordbookstores.com).

Montclair Book Center

Trade: The Village for Montclair

Get there: NJ Transit to Penn Station: 29mins
Live there: Historic downtown Montclair has an array of retro architecture to ogle, including the Wellmont Theater (5 Seymour St between Bloomfield Ave and Roosevelt Pl; 973-783-9500, thewellmonttheater.com), a beautiful and imposing 1920s brick edifice that attracts major touring acts. Cultured New Yorkers (is there any other type?) will feel at home at Clairidge Cinema (486 Bloomfield Ave between Church and South Park Sts; 973-746-5564, bowtiecinemas.com), an art-house theater, and Montclair Book Center (221 Glenridge Ave between Bloomfield Ave and Forrest St; 973-783-3630, montclairbookcenter.com), which could feasibly have been transported from the Village of the ’60s.

Maplewood Avenue at Maplewood center

Trade: Jackson Heights, Queens for Maplewood

Get there: NJ Transit to Penn Station: 28mins
Live there: NYC’s cultural and ethnic diversity isn’t always easy to find elsewhere, but it’s well entrenched in this burb, with a 40 percent nonwhite population and active gay and artistic communities. The quaint streets look like they haven’t changed much since the early 20th century, but Maplewood offers more than retro charm, such as a few gourmet hot spots, like the popular Freeman’s Fish Market (155 Maplewood Ave between Durand Rd and Inwood Pl, 973-763-9363).

Red Bank, New Jersey

Trade: Red Hook, Brooklyn for Red Bank

Get there: NJ Transit to Penn Station: 1hr 14mins
Live there: This east-central harbor town will feel familiar to Red Hook denizens, thanks to the beautiful Navesink River waterfront and its expanding art scene and out-of-the-way location. Less than 30 years after the economically strapped Red Bank was mocked as “Dead Bank,” the city is slowly making a comeback. Music snobs, take note: Stoner-rock vets Monster Magnet are from here, and the Boss has been known to stop by Jack’s Music Shoppe (30 Broad St between West Front and White Sts; 732-842-0731, jacksmusicshoppe.com).

Rialto Theatre, Westfield, New Jersey

Trade: The Upper East Side for Westfield

Get there: NJ Transit to Penn Station (NYC): 1hr
Live there: In recent years, Westfield has become a landing spot for upper-middle-class transplants from New York and elsewhere. This influx, along with a good public school system, means that property isn’t always cheap—but for those who can afford it, Westfield features the ideal merging of suburban serenity with a pedestrian-friendly main drag. The downtown area’s most eye-catching attraction is the Digiplex Rialto movie theater (250 East Broad St at Central Ave, 908-232-1288, digiplexdest.com), whose neat old Art Deco marquee is straight out of a Woody Allen film. And come summertime, the Sweet Sounds Downtown Jazz Festival (westfieldtoday.com/jazzfestival) features concerts at various locations every Tuesday night from July through August.


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Users say

11 comments
Joann S
Joann S

Montclair N.J is an amazing town full of wonderful things to do especially the ARTS!

Chris O
Chris O

Trade: Murray Hill for Hoboken

David F
David F

It is very funny that my last post was made before I read any other posts!! Now that I have looked at a couple let me tell you how bad these "New Yorkers" really are! For one they are very rude! Two the don't know how to drive they don't use blinkers! The worst of all is the lowest move in a Town Like Montclair is that they double park! Please go back to NYC you carpetbaggers! I could go on but why....these people and their shitty little short kids suck!!

David F
David F

I live in Montclair and have for 52 years! Cultured New Yorkers hah they suck!! They are low end!


Paul K
Paul K

Dear NY'ers please stay on your side of the river. You don't like us and we really don't like you so I think it will be better for us all.

t t
t t

Westfield is no  Upper East Side. It is filled with a bunch of uncultured stay at home moms and spoiled children. The town is littered with chain stores like the Gap and the Children's Place. The Rialto caters to loud, pretentious teenagers. There is nothing remotely appealing about the town.

Cliff G
Cliff G

Unless you like unimaginative restaurants and awful bars, yeah, Red Bank is exactly like Brooklyn. The train takes 80 to 90 minutes to get to Penn Station in Manhattan and costs $29.50 round trip. If you're used to the city, good food, an eclectic nightlife, an art scene, a music scene then stay where you are. We have no Indian food, no good Thai food, mediocre sushi, and a whole lot of lame Italian food.

So what do we have? A great community, neighbors that actually know each other and care about each other. We have houses with yards for parties and other activities. We have oxygen, plenty of it, since we're on the river and 4 miles from the ocean. We have some of the best beaches just a 5 to 15 minute drive from home. We have surfing, kayaking, boating, and some great parks. We have a YMCA that's better than most commercial gyms. We have a great school system. We have two theaters for plays and music, and an independent cinema. We have an ice rink. We have a train station within walking distance. We do have good bagels. We have plenty of health food stores, a farmers market and a Whole Foods in the next town.

But most important, we're free of pretense and posers. There's no trends and nobody is cool or trying to be unless maybe they're in high school. Nobody is smug or cynical.

Most of us don't care much about "The Greatest City In The World" because it's too far and far too expensive. NYC has been taken over by Taco Bell and Burger King and TGI Fridays (none of which we have), and has become millionaire island. It's also become unlivable, which is why you're reading this weak article written by some hack who will go on to write his next post about The 5 Apps You Must Have Now or some other list of link-bate piffle.

So yes, Mr and Ms Hipster, there is a wonderful life outside of the heartless, filthy, rat and roach infested, overpriced city, but you'll need to surrender your ironic T-shirt and your indier-than-thou attitude at the boarder. Nobody gives a damn about all the bands that only you've heard of, who you know or once partied with.

But before coming here, have you considered Austin or Portland?

Joe A
Joe A

Fuck you. Stay outta Jersey.

Robert T
Robert T

@t t 

The other day at Mindowaskin Park in Westfield, I saw a local woman wearing a Vassar t-shirt speaking in French to her husband about their recent vacation to Angkor Wat.  This debutante was sipping a 2001 Barolo and her husband was eating some fine foie gras.As the woman turned to leave, she grabbed her picnic basket and accidentally dislodged a hard cover copy of Joyce's Ulysses.I picked it up and her husband turned around in his Georgetown Rugby and exclaimed "Well done! Cheers" in a high British accent.Then they headed to the Presbyterian Church to hear a rehearsal of the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, formerly the Westfield Symphony Orchestra, while the father skyped with his daughter's Chinese language immersion teacher.


TT, the last time I saw you, weren't you wearing a University of Delaware sweatshirt in Nutley while holding a McGriddle?You inhaled one last puff of a "Black and Mild" before heading into "Beach Bumz Tanning Salon."The funny thing was, as you were walking in, the Nutley "tanning Mom" was walking out.She bummed a "Black and Mild" from you.You adjusted your grey sweatpants, which were rolled up to your knees, but as the "tanning Mom" sauntered down Franklin Avenue you got turned on and started playing the skin flute.Nutley PD then put the handcuffs on and said "Not again, TT!?!"

Emily T
Emily T

@t t LOL. There is nothing remotely appealing about you. Get out of Westfield.. we spoiled brats don't want you.

katzgrau
katzgrau

@Cliff G  Drop the pitchfork! Unless you haven't noticed, Red Bank has plenty of hipsters. Any area that goes through some sort of gentrification is going to have some. They're as much a part of Red Bank's character as nice neighborhoods and tight community.


And hey, a lot of kids who grow up in Monmouth County eventually hang out in Brooklyn after college. I did, and now I have a house in RB.


Some other points: "There's no trends and nobody is cool" — everybody in this town is cool.


For food:


Sushi: Sogo is awesome. Best in Monmouth County.

Thai: Muang Thai is amazing. Best Thai I've ever had, and I went through an extended Thai phase in college.

Italian: Gaetano's and Via 45 are both award winning. Patrizia's is coming.

Indian: Point taken. Go to Edison.


For bars: Jamians, Globe, Dublin (outdoor, particularly), Basil T's. We're lacking in serious brew pubs, but I think that may change. I'm not a fan of the club-types, like Char, Red, Downtown, but they're an essential part of a healthy nightlife.


As for the city, overpriced? Yes. Heartless? Definitely not. The city is awesome for a lot of reasons, but when you're ready to actually have a backyard where you can light a grill and have a bunch of friends over, Red Bank is a nice place to land. The beach is 5-10 minutes away too.