Newark gets a bad rap. As New Jersey’s largest city, parts of town have a high crime rate, like most big cities. But if you only ever go to Newark to go to the airport to catch a flight out of state, you’re missing out as there are so many great reasons to stop and actually visit.
Start at Branch Brook Park, with 360 acres, there’s plenty to explore here, and it’s part of the National Register of Historical Places. Inside this massive space you’ll find playgrounds, stunning walking paths, a retro roller skating rink and in the spring you’ll be able to see thousands of pink and white cherry blossoms in bloom.
The Newark Museum of Art is home to a large collection of American, Asian and African art, plus there’s a sculpture garden and the Ballantine House is a nearby mansion that’s part of the museum. Looking for something a little more musical? Check out the Grammy Museum Experience for a bit of music history and some exhibits of current pop stars. The New Jersey Historical Society is home to items from New Jersey’s past and present. All the museums are only available online at the moment, but they are worth a visit once they reopen.
Some of the best entertainment in the state can be found in this bustling city. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra plays regularly at NJPAC, and the theatre venue also features a number of touring productions including ballet and dance. Looking to see a big arena concert? Try the Prudential Center where some of the biggest acts perform. It’s also home to the New Jersey Devils hockey team.
Take a few minutes to wander around the Newark Penn Station train hub, which it isn’t as large as New York’s Grand Central Station, but is filled with stunning architecture and gorgeous interiors.
For food, head over to Ferry Street, which cuts through the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark. It’s not far from the Prudential Center and has a bevy of restaurants, many serving international fare, including Brasilia Grill featuring Brazilian BBQ, Fornos of Spain with Spanish surf and turf, Sol-Mar with upscale Portuguese cuisine or Mompou a Spanish tapas bar. Go for a walk along the Passaic River in Essex County Riverfront Park after your meal.
If you want more traditional options, try the famed Don Pepe for traditional Portuguese seafood dinners or drive to East Newark for a stop at Top’s Diner. The spot is regularly voted one of New Jersey’s best diners and its expansive menu and traditional chrome look are part of the NJ experience.