Top 5 Downtowns in New Jersey
When deciding where to settle down, many families consider not just the properties or the commute, but things to do in the area (sign up for our monthly newsletter to get monthly activities and event sent right on the bottom of our homepage). Large downtowns are perfect for urbanites, because it provides the city feel without the city crowds. Read on to find out about 5 amazing downtowns New Jersey has to offer!
Summit, aptly named for sitting on top of one of the many Watchung Mountains, was founded in 1710 and became the City of Summit at the turn of the century in 1899. It's easy to spend the whole day in downtown Summit with all it has to offer.
If you're running errands, just want to browse or are looking for something specific, Summit has the store for you. Summit's downtown is home to over nearly 100 shops, from West Elm, to Jos. A Bank. Looking for a gift? There's multiple knowledgable wine merchants that are excited to help you find the perfect bottle, or visit one of the three jewelry stores to find that special item.
Once you've worked up an appetite there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, many of which have outdoor seating options. Craving Ramen? Try Ani Ramen on Springfield Avenue. Or maybe you're up for pita and kebabs, in which case the Summit Greek Grill is the spot for you.
Summit also has multiple coffeeshops for when you need that caffeine kick, from local chains like Ahrre's Coffee (one of our personal favorites) or you can get your usual from Dunkin' or Starbucks.
Lastly, Summit also has art installations throughout the town and year. Right now there are 21 pieces sprinkled around town. Enjoy walking amongst beautiful sculptures in the Village Green or take a photo for your Instagram in front of the "What Lifts You" mural.
Described as "a classic town for modern families," Westfield offers shopping and dining experiences that you can't get anywhere else, along with fun activities that all ages can enjoy. While long ago, Westfield won the "Great American Main Street Award" in 2004. However, the downtown area has only evolved and flourished since.
Enjoy any cuisine in Westfield. Get something fast from Chipotle or Qdoba, or sit down and enjoy your meal outside at Ferraro's or Sweet Waters Steak House. Some recent additions to Westfield include Addams Tavern and Bareburger.
For shopping enjoy your favorite retailers like Urban Outfitters, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and the Gap. Or you can enjoy Westfield gems, like the Farmhouse Store and Golden Bee Antiques.
What also makes Westfield different from other New Jersey downtowns is the community initiatives that occur throughout the year. For example, in October they have "Addamsfest," which celebrates Westfield's longtime resident Charles Addams who developed The Addams Family. They also have large scale sidewalk festivals like the Festifall and Spring Fling that attracts New Jersey residents from across the state.
A more recent winner (2015) of the "Great American Main Street" award, Montclair offers a bustling downtown area for residents and visitors alike to enjoy, as well as Montclair State University students. Similar to Summit, downtown Montclair (known as Montclair Center) is quite broad, with many bustling streets full of restaurants, shops and activities.
While you can go to your favorite shops like Anthropologie and BlueMercury, then get lunch at Playa Bowls or Cuban Pete's, Montclair offers more unique experiences such as the Montclair Art Museum. Right now you can see exhibitions like paintings by George Inness, who was a resident of Montclair in the late 19th century. There's also Maggie Meiner's photography exhibition known as "Revisiting Rockwell," which is available for viewing until June 2021. Rather make some art yourself? The Museum offers classes and workshops as well.
Lastly, while only a week long, the Montclair Film Festival is held annually in Montclair's downtown. The Festival has been made popular by its famous advisory board which includes Laura Linney, Stephen Colbert, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jon Stewart, among others. Stay tuned for the 2021 festival this fall.
Winner of nj.com's Great Downtown in both 2018 and 2019, Cranford is a favorite and has a special allure - many of those who grew up in Cranford end up raising their families there as well. Cranford has everything a family could need - including an amazing downtown!
Enjoy coffee from Track 5, one of Cranford's most popular coffee spots, and shop at unique boutiques like the brand new Hill & Hickory General Store or bath & body shop Witch Baby. Cranford also has a number of spas and salons so you could absolutely do a solo self-care day, or one with the girls.
Similar to Westfield, Cranford always has fun seasonal events going on. They just held their "Virtual Restaurant Week," and on Valentine's Day held a scavenger hunt. Every October they have a "Scarecrow Stroll," where you can walk throughout the town and spot classic Scarecrows as well as Scarecrows dressed as your favorite pop culture characters.
Last, but most certainly not least, is Maplewood, New Jersey. Maplewood's downtown area is known as Maplewood Village. Maplewood was one of the towns chosen for Apartment Therapy's "Coolest Suburbs in America" in 2019. If you've never been to Maplewood you should totally sign up for a tour with us, because this is town is a must-see.
This particular downtown area is tiny compared to the other towns, however, it is still one of the more well known New Jersey downtowns simply because it is so charming and offers visitors so much to do and see. Maplewood has great dining (Arturo's Osteria & Pizzeria) and shops (Maplewood Mercantile, a vintage home goods marketplace). But Maplewood really shines when it comes to events.
Instead of monthly events like Cranford, Maplewood concentrates on a few big events throughout the year. Enjoy a small-scale music festival known an Maplewoodstock which is a completely free, weekend-long event that showcases 20 bands and over 50 art vendors. For the holidays, Maplewood's "Dicken's Village" tradition goes strong! Started over 50 years ago, Dickens Village features 10 6-foot tall homes that are decorated for the holidays. Guests can also visit Santa.
Well, what town will you visit first? Be sure to take a photo and share with us on Instagram - tag us #SEARCHtheBurbs. And when you're ready, we'd love to tell you a little bit more about these towns and even take you on a tour. Our services are FREE!