Thanksgiving break is right around the corner, Columbia! If you don’t have the luxury of going home for Turkey Day but still want to get away from the busy streets of New York during the holiday rush, here are seven New Jersey towns that might be worth the visit over Thanksgiving break.
Just a few stops away on the PATH line from 33rd street, this miniature town is the perfect mixture of vibrant and quaint. Walking or renting a scooter is the best bet to get around this city, as it’s only two square miles large. Amble down busy Washington Street or Frank Sinatra Drive for plenty of local businesses and eateries, visit the open campus of Stevens Institute of Technology, or best of all, spend time in one of the many parks along the edge of the Hudson River. The views of Manhattan from here are beautiful, especially at night, and most definitely worth the cold of being outside near the water.
While many view Princeton, New Jersey as the home of Princeton University, it can be so much more. It can be wonderful to witness this town in the fall due to the abundance of trees in the area. Go for a photo op with friends and stop at a restaurant or shop if it gets too cold. It’s also worth noting that Princeton is a town with an abundance of history; you can take a guided walking tour from the Historical Society of Princeton starting every Sunday at 2 p.m. or go on your own using the locations at visitprinceton.org. Whatever you decide to do, don’t miss out on this picturesque town.
Spending time in malls is essential to the New Jersey experience—almost as important as eating at diners or arguing about processed meat. For this town, I recommend visiting Bridgewater Commons. With over 100 stores, 30 dining locations, and a movie theater, this is a fun way to spend the day. There are also a few parks worth visiting, such as Duke Island Park and Washington Valley Park. This way, you can get a good mix of inside and outside without having to go too far.
Just a tad larger than Hoboken, Red Bank is a charming city with many attractions. While it offers its archetypal small-town businesses, it goes beyond the expected with its arts scene. Red Bank is home to the Two River Theater, a local playhouse that has been the origin story of a few more notable productions, including as Be More Chill, which is currently on Broadway. The company’s most recent work Love in Hate Nation with the same composer and lyricist is running until Dec. 1. Another reason for visiting Red Bank is its abundance of antique stores. It can be enriching to visit these shops to witness the history behind otherwise seemingly meaningless objects.
If you are interested in getting lost in an artist’s playground, visit Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton. This hidden gem features life-size replicas of many famous paintings, including Monet’s Bridge Over a Lily Pad Lake and the Mona Lisa, with whom you can pose in the frame. While most of the park is outside, there are indoor sculpture exhibitions with local touring displays as well. The best part of this location is the ability to get lost in it. You can spend a whole day with friends touring the trails saturated with nature and never fully discover every detail. With this feature and the traveling exhibits, Grounds for Sculpture is not necessarily a one-time visit. I would recommend going in the fall this break and again in the spring to see the art with the backdrop of contrasting seasons.
Like Princeton—albeit closer—Montclair is home to a state university. While it’s worth visiting the school itself for the unique architecture or top theater productions, the town has much to offer as well. Head down to the Montclair Art Museum, home to over 12,000 works, or take a stroll through the Van Vleck House and Gardens free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. For food and shops, Bloomfield Avenue is the place to be.
Metuchen is unusual in that it’s what locals refer to as a doughnut hole town. Surrounded entirely by Edison, New Jersey, this borough has the small-town benefits of pedestrian roads with local shops and eateries as well as the larger suburban features of Edison. Walk a mile down the busy side of Main Street and experience Jersey delights like bagel cafes or retro diners. Then, head to Edison to visit Roosevelt State Park, Menlo Park Mall, or TopGolf. This little town and larger city combination leads to a easy choice of how to spend your day in NJ.
Hope to see you all in Jersey this Thanksgiving break! If you have any other ideas or would like more recommendations for what to do, feel free to email me.