Dreaming of living near New York City but with a lower cost of living, less traffic, and lush green spaces? Check out Newark, NJ! With a fraction of the population of The Big Apple and a quick commute to Manhattan, Newark is a top spot for those who want access to great jobs, unique restaurants, an growing arts scene, and more spacious homes without skyscraper prices. Ready to move? Here are 13 things to know about living in Newark that will make the commute across the Hudson River worth your while!
Newark vs Jersey City
If you’re planning on living in New Jersey and commuting to NYC, you’ll have to settle the great Newark vs. Jersey City debate. As a city near Newark, Jersey City gets points for being closer to New York and having a slightly lower crime rate. But thanks to the high-speed train and revitalization efforts, Newark is now only a 15-minute trip to Downtown Manhattan, and the city has been working hard to increase its safety. Not only does Newark have a lower cost of living and cheaper monthly rent than Jersey City, but it’s also known for having a more diverse community. While Newark is slightly larger with a population of 280,139, there’s still plenty of room to grow despite the influx of new residents who are getting priced out of NYC, Jersey City, and Brooklyn.
Newark Revitalization Is Nonstop
Is Newark safe? This is probably the most frequently asked question by outsiders. While Newark hasn’t always had the best reputation, it continues to make headlines for its strides in developing and transforming into a hot spot to live and work. Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group and Prudential Financial have greatly helped these effort by investing millions into the local infrastructure. Opting for healthy, sustainable growth and fighting Newark gentrification that would displace locals is a top priority for current Mayor Ras Baraka. One innovative solution that’s currently being tested is the Teacher’s Village, a hybrid development complex complete with schools, a community learning center, retail spaces, and affordable apartments in the heart of the city. The current Newark Renaissance isn’t the first transformation the city has undergone, and it likely won’t be the last, thanks to the resiliency of its residents and the community’s ability to adapt together.
Traveling Here Is a Breeze
Traveling within city limits, as well as outside of Newark, is easy! Those hoping to fly for business or pleasure can do so at Newark Liberty International Airport—one of the busiest airports in the area after John F. Kennedy International Airport. Newark Penn Station can get you to Jersey City or Manhattan quickly with the PATH high speed train. NJ Transit can also help you plan your rides with their app, connect you to the light rail, or get you around the city by bus as 40.3% of households here don’t have cars.
An Expanding Economy
Not everything is about The Big Apple! Plenty of residents living in Newark are near good employment opportunities. Financial services, legal firms, health care systems, and local universities make up some of the largest employers in Newark. Companies like Prudential Financial, Audible, and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey are all headquartered here. Another huge portion of the local economy is made up by Port Newark, which is the largest container shipping center in the Northeast. Investment groups like Newark Venture Partners are even helping Newark grow into a top destination for tech startups and small business innovators like AeroFarms, Floss Bar, and Resilia!
Yep, It’s a College Town
While Newark might not come to mind first when discussing college towns, 60,000 students and faculty attend or work at higher education institutions here. Located downtown, Rutgers University-Newark enrolls the most undergraduate students in the area, while the local branch of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences brings in graduate and medical students. Also in the heart of the city, Seton Hall University School of Law attracts students hoping to someday work at one of the numerous law firms or major financial corporations in the metro. Students hoping to pursue degrees in computer information systems and engineering can find top-rated programs at New Jersey Institute of Technology, and locals can find 74 degree and certificate programs, as well as continuing education credits, at Essex County College.
There’s a Festival for That
Looking for fun things to do in Newark? There are festivals for every season or interest! Held each year at Branch Brook Park—the oldest park in the U.S.—the Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival brings visitors from all over the world to enjoy unbeatable natural beauty, live music, fun runs, bike races, a fishing derby, and more. Head to Ferry Street to discover Portuguese BBQ, traditional folk dancing, classical guitar, and more at Portugal Day. Go to the Newark Museum Black Film Festival to watch screenings tailored to youth and adults followed by forums with screenwriters, historians, and scholars afterward. Take the whole family to enjoy African fashion, food, and art from over 200 vendors, as well as live music at the AfroBeat Festival. Or visit the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival for four days of spoken word readings, workshops, and Q&As.
Parks in All Parts of the City
Many of the best free things to do in Newark involve taking in the stunning scenery! Despite being a big city, there are lots of parks and green spaces to explore. The newest recreation area is Mulberry Commons. As part of the downtown revitalization projects, this park adds a playground, greenery, and a pedestrian bridge to the otherwise urban Central Business District. Also located downtown, Military Park offers a space for outdoor fitness classes, movie screenings, and tech or author talks. Escape from the skyscrapers with 360 acres of lush terrain to hike or bike at Branch Brook Park. If your ideal outdoor space includes waterfront views, head to Riverfront Park, where you can play soccer, tennis, baseball, or basketball. Families can go to the South Ward to participate in fishing derbies, attend an outdoor concert, monkey around on the playground, or head to the golf course at Weequahic Park.
Endless Things to See & Learn
When it comes to things to see in Newark, the Cathedral Basilica of The Sacred Heart is a highly recommended site. As a national historic landmark, many come to view the church’s limestone walls, elaborate stained glass windows, vaulted ceilings, and French Gothic Revival-style furnishings that make it one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Another stunning historic landmark is the Jewish Museum of New Jersey, which is housed in the Ahavas Sholom synagogue. Rotating exhibits featuring artifacts, photos, multimedia installations, and more preserve the stories of the large Jewish population in New Jersey. History buffs can travel back in time at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park. Here, they can explore the laboratory where countless inventions were created before strolling the grounds and taking in the Queen Anne-style architecture of Edison’s home. Looking for fun things to do with kids in Newark? Stop by the Alice and Leonard Dreyfuss Planetarium located in the Newark Museum and learn about astronomy through interactive programs.
Creatives Are at Home Here
A vibrant arts scene means there are plenty of interesting things to see in Newark! If you’ve noticed murals around the city, they’re likely curated by Gateways to Newark, a street art project dedicated to beautifying entryways into the city. Are galleries more your thing? See contemporary visual art, large installations, and performance pieces curated around inviting discussions on social issues at Project for Empty Space. Or visit Gallery Aferro to check out the latest exhibit, become a regular at the People’s Book Club, or attend the monthly poetry open mic. Live music is another staple of Newark culture! Enjoy a variety of performing artists each summer at the Lincoln Park Music Festival, which features everything from jazz and gospel to hip-hop and house music. If you’d rather be entertained indoors, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center hosts the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, touring jazz musicians, modern dance master classes, and community lectures.
Newark’s Jazz Roots Run Deep
Dive into the history of how Newark became one of the greatest jazz cities in the world. Artists like Sarah Vaughan, James Moody, Woody Shaw, and Wayne Shorter all made their mark on the Newark jazz scene. Today, the Sarah Vaughan Concert Hall—the main venue at the historic Newark Symphony Hall—pays tribute to her legacy and hosts musicians, speakers, and film screenings. Discover one of the largest collections of oral histories on jazz, listen to recordings, and explore the archives and research libraries at the Institute of Jazz Studies located at Rutgers-Newark, or pursue your master’s degree in Jazz History and Research. And don’t forget about the Newark Museum’s Jazz in the Garden each summer, or the live jazz at cozy, cabaret-style Clements Place each week!
Rock Out at “The Rock”
The Prudential Center (known by locals as The Rock) is home to countless fun things to do in Downtown Newark! Not only do fans of professional hockey come to the indoor arena to see the NHL New Jersey Devils play, but they cheer on the NWHL Metropolitan Riveters here as well. The ice rink transforms into a basketball court for the Seton Hall Pirates NCAA men’s basketball team. When there’s not a game to watch, national touring acts like Elton John, Cher, Travis Scott, and Fleetwood Mac take the stage. Comedy shows, community events, Disney On Ice, the Harlem Globetrotters, and the McDonald’s Gospelfest—a tribute to Aretha Franklin—are all hosted here as well. The Prudential Center also houses the East Coast Grammy Museum outpost, where visitors can learn the history of some of the revered performing artists, see a concert simulation, or try their hand at drumming through an interactive learning experience.
Discover International Cuisine in Ironbound
Ironbound has historically been a popular Newark neighborhood for immigrants, especially for those of Spanish and Portuguese descent since the 1960s. But even as revitalization attracts new populations and young people to this up-and-coming area, the promise of great food remains. If you’re looking for Portuguese food in Newark, stop by Adega Grill for boiled octopus, stuffed lobster tail, and an extensive wine selection. Get your fill of fresh seafood, including prawns, skewered shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops, and more at Seabra’s Marisqueira. Visit Brasilia Grill for endless skewers of traditional Brazilian BBQ, grilled chicken hearts, and sangria. Eat stuffed salmon, Chilean seabass, or the Paella Marinera filled with rice, lobster, clams, mussels, scallops, and shrimp at Fornos of Spain.
Treat Yourself to Nasto’s Old World Desserts
When it comes to Newark food, there’s no shortage of ethnic cuisine, BBQ, diners, and new restaurants to try. But for sugary treats, Nasto’s Old World Desserts remains king. While much has changed in the historic Ironbound neighborhood over the years, Nasto’s has been a staple of the area since it opened in 1939. The technology has evolved, new desserts have been added, and the shop has gone through three generations of family ownership, but the original Italian recipes and focus on high-quality ingredients is still at the core of the business. Today, you can try a variety of fresh fruit sorbets, creamy gelato, or one of the many specialty desserts, including tartufo, spumoni, reginetta, and more!
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Data from AreaVibes