Passaic County Winner: RINGWOOD
Despite its proximity to NYC and major highways, this Passaic County borough’s brimming with rural beauty. “Ringwood is a quiet town at night. You can still hear birds, crickets and tree frogs in the spring,” says Cindy Livesey, a mom of one and resident of 29 years. “You’re close enough to highways, shopping, NYC [and] transportation, but far enough [from] the noise and sprawl.”
Lakes and hiking spots galore separate locals from the hustle and bustle. Take Ringwood State Park, home to both Skylands Manor, a 1920s Tudor Revival mansion open for tours, and the New Jersey Botanical Garden, a 96-acre spread of specialty gardens, woodlands and unique preserved plants.
Monksville Reservoir is an idyllic fishing and bird watching spot (kids love paddle boarding here), while Erskine Lake boasts a sailing club, beach and events. Families can kayak at nearby Greenwood Lake, then hit the Village of Greenwood Lake on the NY side for everything from sledding in the winter to jet skiing in the summer.
The sense of community might be Ringwood’s most valuable asset, though. Says Livesey: “The schools are good, people are friendly and neighbors look out for each other.”
Fun fact: During the Revolutionary War, Ringwood iron was used for Union tools and hardware. Even George Washington paid several visits to the Ringwood Manor, the town’s former ironmaking hub.