New Jersey is often viewed as a slightly less culturally inclined, somewhat less refined cousin to neighbouring New York. Many people’s perception of this beautiful state is far from what Jersey really is and what it offers in terms of cultural activities and variety. We’re here to share all of the unknown gems in Jersey — the little towns that are havens for those who love food culture and appreciate the arts. These are our favorite Jersey towns and the best places to eat, drink, and shop in each of these quaint towns.
The arts and culture scene in New Brunswick is thriving, largely thanks to the concentration of students that Rutgers brings in. There are interesting lectures to attend — whether or not you attend the university — and many interesting up-and-coming films screened by local filmmakers. There’s also an incredible collection of Asian, European, Russian, and Soviet art to experience. One of the oldest theaters in Jersey, the State Theater, has been renovated beautifully. This once-silent movie palace now plays host to several exciting musicals and performers. There’s also the Tavern on George, a jazz joint that hosted acts like Tia Fuller and Ravi Coltrane in its heyday and still boasts an incredible lineup.
This is the spot if you’re wondering where to eat in New Jersey. This fantastic restaurant serves authentic, local, and seasonal cuisine crafted by Chef Bruce Lefebvre. With a reputation for modern American food, served by impeccable staff in a stunningly decorated location, you’ll undoubtedly be coming back for more. Book a table for their world-class Thanksgiving feast — an unmissable experience if you’re in the area around Thanksgiving.
This unique New Brunswick mall includes several boutique and lifestyle retail options. The mall also has several salons and spas so that you can always look your best.
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Once again, we have a university to thank for this town’s incredible cultural and artistic diversity. Since Princeton is one of the best universities in the country, it’s hardly surprising that the arts and culture scene in this idyllic college town is significant. Here, a collection of poets, artists, and other budding creatives and intellectuals come together to create an atmosphere conducive to excellent food, cultural, and retail experiences. A notable local cultural experience is the WPRB 103.3FM college radio station, which plays everything from metal to jazz and classical. Princeton reunions bring in huge crowds, so if you want to experience the town at its most exciting, schedule your trip to coincide with one of these gatherings.
Walking into this uniquely decorated restaurant, you get the impression that you’ve entered a refined, chic establishment. As the name implies — the “Agri” in Agricola — this restaurant is farm-to-table, and the food is locally and responsibly sourced. The universal language of food is spoken fluently here. The menu is fresh and down to earth while still modern enough to retain a loyal customer base.
This is Princeton’s premier shopping location: a corridor featuring over 35 luxury and casual stores you can peruse from morning to night. There’s clothing, lifestyle, home, pantry, and more.
Known throughout the state as the live music capital of Jersey, South Orange will never disappoint you in terms of performers and performances. The South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) hosts renowned singers and songwriters, holds speaking events, and sometimes even features theater companies. The Village at SOPAC is also where you can find the local South Orange cinema, and Downtown After Sundown hosts live music events every summer weekend all over the downtown area. You can watch the Concert Series on Floods Hill while enjoying a picnic or order from one of the local food trucks that park in the area.
The artisanal French Mediterranean cuisine from the Bistro d’Azur kitchen is genuinely special. Foodies come from all over Jersey to experience these distinctive and culturally relevant dishes, all made with the finest local ingredients. Mediterranean cuisine using French techniques is unusual, and chef Richard Krug makes it memorable for all the right reasons. The restaurant is also community-focused, supporting the local vendors and economy by buying locally and participating in various community events.
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Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack are a mainstay in American retail. The Nordstrom Rack store in East Orange offers an incredible array of clothing, shoes, and home decor. You’ll leave the store with a refreshed look from head to toe and, maybe, a few pieces to refresh your living space. Discounts of up to 70% are applied daily so that you can stay within your budget, too.
As you can see, New Jersey has many artistic and cultural entertainment options in gorgeous little towns, incredible foodie-worthy eateries, and places to shop until you drop. Include our favorite towns in your itinerary on your next trip to New Jersey.