"To know Jersey is to love her," said the late, great Anthony Bourdain. The state may have a bad image because of those foul smells along the Turnpike near Newark Airport, but once you start exploring The Garden State, you'll discover hidden riches that will impress even the most sophisticated New Yorkers.
Consider the charming villages on this list, which are perfect for a day, overnight, or a budgeted weekend getaway from New York City. And, as many New Yorkers do, you never know—you might graduate and relocate to one of them one day, too. Here are six small towns in New Jersey worth visiting.
The French always seem to do things correctly. This town's name and perhaps its ethos was influenced by early speakers of the love language. Today, it has a tiny downtown of interesting boho-chic businesses, including a gemstone gallery, a petrified wood gallery, art galleries, and gift shops. A dedicated men's store carries anything from glassware to vintage clothing to cowboy boots.
There's also a shop dedicated entirely to the zodiac, complete with tarot card readings, and a slew of little juice and coffee businesses, including one dedicated only to coffee and chocolate. However, Frenchtown Pottery is a must-see for high-quality local, handmade bowls and plates.
Frenchtown's Warren truss-style bridge is a destination in and of itself. While we can't encourage you to wait for the two-way traffic to clear before taking the perfect selfie in front of it, you wouldn't be alone if you tried.
With peaceful cobblestoned sidewalks, a magnificent brick-facade town hall, and the historic Cranbury Inn—which has existed since the 1750s—easy to see why this charming Central New Jersey hamlet captivates visitors. Plainsboro Nature Preserve is a beautiful nature preserve within easy driving distance if you enjoy the outdoors.
But Cranbury is anything but sleepy—just wait till you hear about its annual Cranbury Day, a yearly event held the Saturday after Labor Day that includes live music, local merchants and crafters, and a yearly duck race.
Many individuals will tell you that Montclair is "New Jersey's Brooklyn" (ditto for nearby Maplewood). And they wouldn't be wrong since you can definitely feel the Carroll Gardens ambiance all about you. The townhouses around Smith Street combine well-kept and truly grand old mansions and are decidedly more suburban.
The town, which famously lent its high school as a filming set for Mean Girls, has a terrific farmer's market on Saturdays and a few walkable shopping districts where you can get whatever you want. Montclair also got a new arts complex near the Wellmont Theater this year, with plenty of outdoor space for performances and public art. This is in addition to a well-established arts scene that includes live theater and galleries.
Restaurants, movie theaters, retail, and nightlife are all popular attractions. Don't leave without trying a meal at the French Lebanese restaurant and Uncle Momo.
Any town called "The Rose City" with a Shakespeare Theater should catch your curiosity immediately. The theater is located on the grounds of Drew University. While no indoor shows are currently taking place there, you can see a peek of it on tour around the typical college campus that looks straight out of a film—and has been featured in many movies.
A recognized freestanding clock stands in the center of Madison's beautiful downtown, filled with gift and decor shops, a bookshop, a resale shop, and an exquisite coffee café housed in an old motor garage.
Today, The Snooki Shop has a physical presence as the physical manifestation of the star's online store, but that doesn't imply this place is stereotypically Jersey in any manner, shape, or form. Long before the Jersey Shore encroached on this upscale neighborhood, wealthy New Yorkers built country mansions and filled them with flowers.
It raised the demand to the point where the area became home to many greenhouses and, by the turn of the century, was worldwide known for its roses, earning it the appellation above.
Clinton will seduce you like never before. The Red Mill will become a focal point when you visit and quickly appear on your social channels. The historic structures, which include an ancient schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, and log cabin, will reopen to the public on November 20 after being closed for the Haunted Red Mill festivities (a must-do for thrill lovers).
Clinton's little downtown transports you to a quaint, country village with shops and eateries that will appeal to choosy city slickers less than 90 minutes outside of NYC. Heartstrings, jewelry, home décor, gift boutique, and Fourchette, selling everything from exquisite cuisine and beauty items to garden tools and rugs, will not disappoint.
Princeton is easily accessible by train from Penn Station and is worth a weekend trip to explore. This town has fantastic shopping, arts, entertainment, food, museums, orchards, wines, and more because of its Ivy League school. The university's exquisite chapel is a must-see for Christian visitors, where you may attend a service or concert (advance registration required).
Explore the modest shops around Palmer Square. Olsson's, Princeton Record Exchange, and Labyrinth Books are among them. Virtually support the town's mystery bookstore, The Cloak and Dagger.
It is needless to say that all of New Jersey's cities offer something special; however, the ones that have made our list are more than just unique; they are magical. We're sure you're as excited to visit one of these locations as we are! The world is yours to explore with Leisure.com.