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5 Best Places to Live in New Jersey

By: Susan Finch
August 17, 2021

Moving to New Jersey is more than being a stone's throw to opportunities in New York City. The state is filled with lucrative industries, beautiful beaches, green space, cuisine fit for a foodie, and plenty of diversity. Whether you want to hit the shore or shop downtown, you can find it in New Jersey.

The hard part about moving to New Jersey is finding the best spot to live. Not sure where to start? Here are some of the best places to live in New Jersey.

1. Newark

  • Population: 282,011
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,113
  • Median Household Income: $35,199
  • Walk Score: 79
  • Transit Score: 65
  • Bike Score: 61

As the largest city in New Jersey, Newark has served as a prominent location since 1666. It expanded during the Industrial Revolution and soon grew into the commercial hub of the region. The industrial era also saw the arrival of railroads and waves of immigration until it peaked in 1950. Over the decades, Newark's urban core has declined and transformed into a more suburbanized area. Many locals commute to Manhattan and through the New York City boroughs.

Newark's job opportunities and central location in the New York City Metro area make it an attractive option for college grads, millennials, and families looking for more reasonable rents. Depending on the neighborhood, public schools can be a win for Newark families. Newark is also home to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers Newark campus, and nearby institutions like Berklee College of Music and NYU.

Significant industries around Newark include pharmaceuticals and life sciences, advanced manufacturing, information technology, financial services, and transportation and logistics. Newark is also located off the Newark, NJ Penn Station line, near the Newark airport, and a relatively short train ride into Manhattan.

Many newcomers think you need to commute into Manhattan to soak up the culture, but Newark also offers its share of attractions. The expansive Prudential Center hosts hockey games, blockbuster musical performances, and a Grammy Museum Experience with iconic artists from the Garden State. The New Jersey Performing Arts Center is perfect for a cozy evening listening to cabaret, speaker series, and live concerts. To explore more of the arts, The Newark Museum offers exhibits through 80 galleries and collections.

There's a reason they call New Jersey the Garden State. The famous Olmsted Brothers park designers designed the stunning Branch Brook Park with a classic romantic garden theme. The impressive park is filled with seasonal cherry blossoms and seasonal foliage. For a bit of fun right in the city, locals gather on Brill Street on the south side of the Passaic River. Newark's Riverfront Park hosts events, activities, and paths for waterside exploring.

2. Jersey City

  • Population: 262,075
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,890
  • Median Household Income: $70,752
  • Walk Score: 87
  • Transit Score: 71
  • Bike Score: 70

Jersey City is the second-most populous city in New Jersey and features incredible views of Manhattan across the Hudson River. The Lenape Native Americans lived in the area now known as Jersey City, though it was settled in 1621 by the Dutch West India Company as New Netherland. The site was also an integral part of the American Revolutionary War, and a young Alexander Hamilton helped increase manufacturing in the area.

Jersey City's central location and proximity to the metro area drew immigrants and kickstarted the development of businesses and warehouses along the waterfront. Today, those structures are being turned into condos and business centers to fuel the city's renaissance.

Jersey City's waterfront location on the Hudson and a short commute to Manhattan make it ideal for young professionals, millennials, and college students alike. Significant industries around Jersey City include technology, biotech consulting, education, and finance. Some of the city's employers include Google, McKinsey & Company, Apple, American Express, and Johnson & Johnson.

When it comes to blending natural beauty with urban parks, Jersey City does it well. Liberty State Park is a favorite for locals and tourists for spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty. For a cultural stop, the Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre features live performances and movie festivals. Locals can also stick around Jersey City for shopping at the Newport Centre. Plus, the indoor mall is located next to the Holland Tunnel with three levels of shopping.

3. Paterson

  • Population: 145,233
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,400
  • Median Household Income: $41,360
  • Walk Score: 78
  • Transit Score: 48
  • Bike Score: 48

Paterson, also known as Silk City, evolved as a highly diverse city with immigrants from Hispanic areas, Bangladesh, India, South Asia, and the Arab and Muslim world. Paterson was incorporated in 1851 and was part of Alexander's Hamilton focus on harnessing the energy of the Passaic River to gain economic independence from British manufacturers.

Paterson was once home to major manufacturing plants and fabric production, making it an ideal location for career climbers. Local government is the city's largest single employer, followed by textiles, healthcare, tourism, and smaller industries that moved into the historic mills and warehouses. Paterson is also close to New York City and major highways and attracts businesses looking for a central business location. Local companies produce everything from garments to electronic components and cosmetics.

Paterson is also a welcoming spot for families thanks to its public schools and more affordable prices than nearby metro cities.

For an overview of the area, Native American history, and historic war relics, the Paterson Museum delivers. It features an exhibit of Paterson local Lou Costello, who also has a namesake memorial park in the area. Lambert Castle, otherwise known as "The Castle," is a Victorian-era mansion owned by former silk magnate Ctholina Lambert. The castle features prized paintings that are on display when the property is open and not undergoing renovations. It's easy to see why this gem earned a spot on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic.

Paterson may be short on city attractions, but it makes up for it with impressive falls. At 77 feet, The Great Falls of the Passaic River draw thousands of visitors to the Great Falls National Park each year. The impressive falls are the second largest, next to Niagra, east of the Mississippi River.

4. Elizabeth

  • Population: 129,216
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $2,043
  • Median Household Income: $48,407
  • Walk Score: 81
  • Transit Score: 43
  • Bike Score: 56

Elizabeth, once known as Elizabethtown, was founded in 1664 by English settlers. It's a popular myth that the town was named for Queen Elizabeth I, though was actually named after the wife of one of the original Proprietors of the New Jersey colony. The city once served as the capital of New Jersey and was continually attacked by the British. It is now home to several monuments marking the American Revolution. Elizabeth has also long been home to big industries. Singer Sewing Machine, Electric Carriage, and Wagon Company employed thousands of locals in the area.

With a rich history in industrial work, Elizabeth still serves as an economic epicenter of New Jersey and a hub for transportation, shipping, and retail. Elizabeth is attractive for businesses due to the reduced sales tax, corporate tax credits, and unemployment insurance rebates. Plus, the commute into Manhattan is just over 15 miles for more job opportunities, though you'll have to battle traffic or commute by bus or train.

Elizabeth still offers historic stops from walking tours to the art deco Ritz Theater and one of the oldest residences in New Jersey, the Bonnell House. For some retail therapy, shoppers head to the two-level outlet mall at The Mills at Jersey Gardens. The Elizabeth River Trail attracts bikers and walkers during warmer months at Warinanco Park.

5. Toms River

  • Population: 94,108
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,350
  • Median Household Income: $79,607
  • Walk Score: 28
  • Bike Score: 39

Toms River, New Jersey, was once the site of a rural farming community. The area served as a strategic salt works location for colonial militias during the American Revolutionary War. Toms River grew into a shipbuilding, iron, and lumber production area and once fished and wales as part of their economy. The city also provides the backdrop for numerous shows, including the Jersey Shore, Boardwalk Empire, the Amityville Horror, and hosts the second-largest Halloween parade globally.

Toms River is still home to manufacturing opportunities, though some of the other major employers include Six Flags Theme Parks, local government, healthcare, and the Toms River Regional School District. The median age in Toms River is higher than much of the metro area at 43.5 years old. Millennials and young professionals are also found in Toms River, along with families and retirees. The city is close to the Jersey Shore and has a lower cost of living than the rest of New Jersey.

Toms River caters to the community with the local library, which has an on-site coffee shop. Year-round kid-friendly events are available, along with seating areas to leaf through books and magazines. Robert J. Novins Planetarium provides an opportunity to explore the universe and public laser music shows, sky shows, and full-dome family-friendly movies. Downtown Toms Rivers is also the place to go for cold brews or dining.

Wildlife lovers feel at home around Toms River too. Cattus Island County Park features a small nature center with samples of ingenious wildlife. Hike or stroll along the trails to see Hortons, osprey, and other birds, along with cozy gardens. Walk a mile out to the bay for a quiet spot to watch wildlife. Locals also learn more about nature at Insectropolis, the Museum of New Jersey, with exhibits and insects worldwide.

Final Thoughts - Where Should I Move to In New Jersey?

Moving to Jersey and ready to start looking for your new home? Browse Apartment List to find that dream New Jersey apartment.

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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