PHOTO COURTESY OF PAMELA PETERSON
New Jersey's Best Towns For Families 2017 Essex County
Average Home Price: $470,216
Green space abounds in West Caldwell, a small community with strong schools and a diverse recreation program. Adults and kids can take advantage of programs ranging from twirling and wrestling to volleyball and track.
“The Essex County park system is amazing,” said Renee Reithmeier, a 32-year-old engineer who moved to West Caldwell from nearby Montclair with her husband three years ago. Nature lovers particularly enjoy the lush West Essex Park, a 1,360-acre wetlands preserve that runs through West Caldwell and several other towns.
The West Caldwell Public Library also offers a wide range of activities for all age groups—from storytime and LEGO family night to mahjong and movie screenings.
But the real draw for the couple, who has a two-year-old son, was the school district the town shares with Caldwell. The Caldwell-West Caldwell school district has a reputation for being tight-knit and high-performing. In a nod to the area’s rich history, many of the schools bear the names of presidents—Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington and Wilson. The middle school is named after President Grover Cleveland, who was born in Caldwell in 1837.
“We wanted to make sure the schools are great and it’s really family-friendly here,” says Reithmeier. “Everyone is very friendly and helpful.”
The leafy suburb is just about 23 miles from New York City. While there’s no train service in town, commuters can drive to stops in nearby Montclair (where there’s a direct train to Penn Station) or take a New Jersey Transit bus to Newark.
Reithmeier says West Caldwell provides the best of both worlds—proximity to the city with a small community feel.
“There’s a little downtown area and all these street fairs,” she says. “On Halloween the children trick-or-treat at the shops. It’s really nice.” – by Lisa L. Colangelo