Outsiders think of New Jersey as one big metropolitan area, but residents know that’s certainly not the truth. In fact, you’ll find many more small towns than big cities when you travel across the state. These towns are among the best spots in New Jersey for day trips and longer getaways.
Over the last several hundred years, Frenchtown has reinvented itself from a riverside mill town to one of the area’s most charming small towns. In fact, many of the downtown area’s original buildings still house local businesses that range from clothing boutiques to art galleries to general stores.
The town’s scenic location on the Delaware River makes it a favorite for visitors and residents alike. During your visit to the town, you’ll want to make time for a walk on the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail. The trail borders the river and offers the ideal spot to enjoy a little downtime after spending a morning shopping or visiting galleries.
Frenchtown isn’t the kind of place you only visit once. After your first visit, you’ll want to come back for special events, like Bastille Day (July), Riverfest (September), and the Frenchtown Zombiecrawl (October).
Maywood, one of Bergen County’s quaint small towns, certainly doesn’t feel like it’s just 30 minutes from New York City. Unlike many towns close to the big city, Maywood isn’t overrun with high-rises or multi-lane expressways. Instead, you’ll find a cute downtown area with plenty of places to eat and shop. Bergen Town Center, located just over the Maywood in Paramus is the place to go if you love shopping for bargains.
The Maywood Station Museum, the most popular attraction in town, provides a glimpse back in time when railroads were the primary means of transportation for area residents. You won’t find any hotels in Maywood, but there are plenty of places to stay in Paramus, Rochelle Park, and Saddlebrook.
Named for former U.S. senator John Rutherfurd, Rutherford offers a large, vibrant business district surrounded by older homes and small apartment buildings. (No, that’s not a typo. The name changed from “Rutherfurd” to “Rutherford” in the late 1800s.)
Although any time is an excellent time to visit Rutherford, you may want to plan your visit to coincide with these events:
Rutherford Tree Fest (April)
Independence Day Parade (July 4)
Rutherford Multicultural Festival (September)
Rutherford Street Fair (Labor Day weekend)
Rutherford Downhill Derby (June)
Rutherford Holiday Parade and Festival (late November)
Are you planning an overnight stay in Rutherford? A variety of chain hotels are available in town and surrounding areas. Rutherford is also an excellent place to stay if you want to venture into New York City. It only takes 30 minutes to reach the city when you catch an NJ Transit train at Rutherford Station.
You’ll want to add Lambertville to your list if your idea of the perfect Saturday includes shopping and antiquing, followed by lunch or dinner at a historic restaurant. In addition to serving tasty cuisine, the Black Bass Hotel on the scenic banks of Delaware also offers boutique suites, many with river views.
If you run out of things to do in Lambertville, you’re only a short stroll from New Hope, PA. The East Bridge Street bridge connects the two towns, expanding your shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
During the evening, take in a film at the Acme Screening Room or a show at the Music Mountain Theatre in Lambertville. The Roxey Ballet and River Ballet Company also offer performances throughout the year. Do you enjoy the spooky side of life? You’ll want to pay a visit to the VAMPA Vampire Paranormal Museum in Lambertville or visit during the Lambertville/New Hope Zombie crawl in late October.
Industrious immigrants opened the nation’s first glass factory in this small town in the 1700s. Today, glass artists use time-honored techniques to create one-of-a-kind art pieces that fill local galleries and stores. In fact, a visit to the Glasstown Arts District is likely to be a highlight of your trip to Millville. It’s an excellent destination for a weekend getaway or a day trip during a visit to one of the nearby beaches.
During the warmer months, the Maurice River area is a popular place to fish, hike, boat, and kayak. You’ll find the usual selection of chain hotels in the area. Sea Isle City, Ocean City, and Strathmere, located about 45 minutes away, offer more upscale hotel choices and vacation rentals.
Salem’s the place to visit if you’re a history buff. The town, located in Southeastern New Jersey near the Delaware River, was the first English-speaking settlement in New Jersey and retains many historical buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. While you’re in town, stop by the
Salem County Historical Society for a self-guided tour brochure. After your tour, visit a few antique stores and galleries or stop for a snack at Jewel’s Café or Pat’s Pizza and Bistro.
Barrett’s Plantation House in nearby Mannington offers a convenient home base for your visit. Your stay includes breakfast and evening cocktails and snacks. The House’s two guest suites feature period antiques and reproduction furniture, in addition to plenty of modern amenities.
Home to fewer than 1,000 people, Andover definitely qualifies as a small town. A collection of antique, gift, and clothing stores draw shoppers to Main Street. Scranberry Coop at the southern end of town is home to more than 170 vendors selling antiques and vintage and collectible items.
While you’re in Sussex County, you’ll want to make time to play a few rounds of golf at Crystal Springs Resort (depending on the weather), ski at Mountain Creek Resort, or zipline at Tre Escape Aerial Adventure Park.
Crossed Keys Inn, located in the center of the business district, provides comfortable, updated rooms, a continental breakfast, and a full-service restaurant.
If boardwalk attractions and crowded beaches aren’t your ideas of a good time, you’ll want to check out Avon-by-the-Sea. The tiny town, located between Belmar and Bradley Beach, is just about an hour from Central New Jersey. You won’t find any high-rise hotels or condo buildings in Avon-by-the-Sea, or the crowds that usually come with them.
Day-trippers are just as welcome as long-term visitors. The town offers guarded beaches, two public restrooms, and reasonably priced beach tags ($9 per day for guests 12 and older). Restaurants and a selection of beach, souvenir, and gift shops are just a few blocks from the beach. Although summer is obviously the most popular season, visitors will find plenty of things to do in the area in the spring too.
Avon Manor, one of several bed and breakfasts in Avon-by-the-Sea, offers comfortable hotel rooms and cottage and house rentals. Amenities include free WiFi, complimentary breakfast, country club golf, a putting green, 600-thread count sheets, and complimentary beach badges, towels, chairs, and bikes.
Just a short drive up I-287, Morristown is an interesting place to visit for an afternoon or a weekend. Although the town has certainly changed since George Washington made it his winter headquarters, it hasn’t forgotten its roots. Morristown National Historical Park gives visitors a glimpse of the conditions Washington’s troops endured during the record-cold winter of 1780.
A collection of stores and restaurants line the streets around the picturesque 200-year-old Green in the middle of town. In fact, with so many dining choices, you may find it hard to pick the perfect spot for lunch or dinner. Root Steakhouse, the Committed Pig, Grasshopper on the Green, The Famished Frog, and the Morristown Diner are conveniently located in the downtown area.
Would you like to spend more than a few hours in town? The elegant Madison Hotel offers luxurious accommodations for weekend stays. Presidential suites feature king beds, sitting areas, flat-panel TVs, and nightly turndown service.
Are you looking for a new town to call home? Country Classics at Frenchtown offers 3-bedroom, 2.5-bedroom single-family attached homes with more than 2,000 square feet of space. Since these homes are selling quickly, you’ll want to get in touch with us right away if you’re interested in becoming a Country Classics homeowner.