It may be the fourth smallest state in the US, but New Jersey packs plenty of attractions into its 14,000 square mile area. Residents of the Garden State enjoy beaches, casino table games, national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, world-class museums and historical sites dating back to Revolutionary and Colonial times. There are plenty of great dining options, too, from Zagat-rated and Michelin-star restaurants to neighborhood diners and award-winning food trucks.
New Jersey is also close to Philadelphia and New York City, so New Jerseyans can explore the Friendly City or take a bite of the Big Apple any time they want. New Jersey also has the highest concentration of millionaires anywhere in the US – almost one household in 10! At the same time, there are affordable options. Are you keen to live your American Dream on or near the Jersey Shore? Here’s a list of the best high-end and budget places to live in New Jersey.
Roots and recreation: Princeton Junction
If you’re looking for a small-town atmosphere with lots of outdoor spaces in and about town, quality local schools, low crime and great access to amenities, Princeton Junction is a great spot to plant roots and raise a family. Located within Mercer County’s greater West Windsor Township area, Princeton Junction is a socially and culturally diverse neighborhood, with an eclectic food scene and a great sense of community pride and ownership. The prestigious Princeton University is close at hand and Philadelphia, New York City and the Jersey Shore are only an hour’s drive away, making Princeton Junction ideal for anyone looking to combine a slower pace of life with countless opportunities to work and play.
Nature and nostalgia: Mountain Lakes
With its nine scenic lakes, beaches, rolling hills and outstanding natural beauty, Mountain Lakes in Morris County feels a great deal like a resort town steeped in American nostalgia. Children walk or bike to first-rate schools that focus on the core foundations of learning and neighbors don’t trouble to close their doors. Sports and culture are alive and well, and the great outdoors is literally within walking distance, with some of New Jersey’s best hiking trails within the boundaries of the town. In the winter, there’s even ice skating at the cove.
Mountain Lakes is a very diverse community, with professionals relocating from countries all over the world. At the same time, many Lakers who grew up in the town have moved back because of the community spirit.
Culture and cuisine: Ridgewood
One of New Jersey’s hidden gems, the bucolic village of Ridgewood in Bergen County combines the advantages of a high-end suburb with the charm of a quaint, picturesque downtown that’s only 50 minutes by train from Manhattan. Built around its historic train station (constructed in 1853) and bustling village square with original Warner movie theater, Ridgewood has plenty of great dining options including a number of Zagat-rated restaurants to tempt the palates of the residents of communities such as The Downtown, The Old Country Club, Salem Ridge, Floral Park and The Lawns.
Schools are consistently rated among the top 10 percent in New Jersey. The many park facilities offer recreation suitable for young and old alike, including sports fields, swimming pools, winter sleigh riding, ice-skating, picnic pavilions and a multi-use bike and pedestrian pathway. All told, Ridgewood offers an idyllic way of life for those who can afford it.
Arts and education: Princeton
Princeton is probably the most famous small town in New Jersey, thanks to its world-class university. With its small-town feel (population: 30,000), big city amenities, scenic beauty, open nature reserves, museums, hiking trails, restaurants and theaters, Princeton is a highly sought-after place to live. Explore more than 92,000 works of art at the Princeton University Art Museum and enjoy music and plays at Princeton’s numerous performing arts centers. Take in historical locations such as Albert Einstein’s house, Princeton Battlefield State Park and the Jugtown Historic District and enjoy the many protected reserves and parks, including D&R Canal State Park, Lake Carnegie, Mountain Lakes Preserve and Marquand Park. Princeton is very pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly, too. All in all, Princeton is considered one of New Jersey’s best places to live, but it’s also extremely expensive. The average home costs in the region of $910,000, or $400 per square foot, while the median price for houses in the US is $184 per square foot.
Aspiration and mobility: New Brunswick
If Princeton seems out of reach, don’t give up hope! With a median home price of $253,300, New Brunswick is a safe, affordable alternative. Known as the Hub City, New Brunswick is popular with young professionals attracted by Rutgers University and major employers such as Johnson & Johnson. This small but vibrant city offers shopping, dining and entertainment galore, and a highly-integrated public transit including shuttles, buses and trains. Cultural experiences are abundant, from ancient and modern art at the Zimmerli Art Museum to concerts and contemporary ballet at State Theater New Jersey, not to mention comedy and open-mic nights at Stress Factory Comedy Club.
Affordability and casino table games: Atlantic City
For an even more vibrant and affordable lifestyle, Atlantic City is hard to beat. Beautiful ocean views, free beaches, nightclubs, comedy clubs and world-class music venues like the House of Blues offer entertainment around the clock. You can also play for fun in casinos like the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Try your hand at live blackjack (the casino game with the best odds) or spin the reels with the best slots to play at any casino (try online slots for a foretaste.) You might think that a city with so much going for it would be expensive, but Atlantic City is actually one of the cheapest places to live in New Jersey. The cost of living is 20% lower than the national average and the median home price is a low $156,700, while the average rent comes in at an affordable $904 per month. Atlantic City also ranks highly for education, with very good graduation rates in most schooling levels and plenty of opportunities for students to get involved in extracurricular activities such as band, choir, art and drama programs.
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