Life After Jersey City - Top 5 towns to raise a family within 1 hour of NYC
It’s been bliss. You’ve taken the short Path ride to NYC and back hundreds of times, watched all the trendy restaurants and bars pop up along Newark and Grove streets and probably grabbed a few cocktails at Porta's roof top bar or enjoyed some BBQ, a cold beer and great music at the South House on a beautiful summer night.
It’s been great to have NYC just a stone’s throw away and your family loves all the local attractions from the beautiful waterfront area in Paulus Hook to the great farmer's markets at Hamilton and Van Vorst parks to the winter-time ice-skating rink in Newport. Jersey City almost has it all.
Even weekdays in Jersey City are a dream.
But the kids are growing up, and though the gleaming city you love is just across the Hudson, you realize you are running out of space and now spend more time worrying about what school to send your kids to rather than which up-and-coming restaurant to visit on Grove Street.
I’ve lived and worked in the area for seven years and get questions from my Jersey City neighbors all the time: where’s the best place to move when it’s time?
And so I decided to do some research and give you the scoop on the best five New Jersey suburbs that will give you a large house, good schools, plenty of activities for the family, and even a lively nightlife all within an easy, less-than-one-hour commute to the city.
[Not ready to leave Jersey City, access my custom search for local, larger homes below]
Rumson, New Jersey
If you enjoy a smooth ride, possibly a cold beer and an ocean view on the way home from work, Rumson near beautiful Jersey Shore might be for you. It may look a bit south on the map, but it’s a short drive from a Seastreak ferry terminal, which gets passengers to and from Wall Street and Midtown in about 40 minutes and offers, satellite TV, plush seating and, on the way home, drinks.
The Seastreak ferry gets passengers from the terminal in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey (a short drive from Rumson), to Wall Street in 40 minutes.
Rumson offers world-class options for families looking for places to relax and play nearby including the private beach clubs such as Chapel Beach Club. Nearby Jersey Shore, of course, has plenty of public beaches for families to enjoy.
Chapel Beach Club, and other private beach clubs near Rumson, offer family beach fun.
The town also includes the Rumson Country Club, which features an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, croquet, trap and skeet shooting, a marina and more. Victory Park, on the shores of the Navesink River, offers a good place for kids and families to unwind with picnic tables, a gazebo and playground.
Nearby Red Bank, New Jersey, has a vibrant downtown, offering amenities every family enjoys such as shopping, restaurants, nightlife and the Count Basie Theater, which attracts top-notch comedy and music acts from around the country.
Summit, New Jersey
Downtown Summit, New Jersey, offers big-city dining and activities in a small-town setting
Just about 20 miles inland due east of Jersey City, Summit, with a population of just over 20,000, offers you the best of both worlds: a small-town vibe with big-city perks. It has great restaurants like Fiorino in the town’s vibrant heart on Springfield Avenue, spacious homes and great schools. Summit homes list for approximately $1.1 million.
The school-ranking site Great Schools rates the town’s schools as excellent: a 9 out of 10 (Great Schools rates schools based on test scores).
The commute to Manhattan is a breeze with Interstate 78 and the New Jersey Transit train line nearby, with the latter getting you to Penn Station in approximately 45 minutes. Like Chatham and Short Hills below, the area is less than a 30-minute car ride from Newark airport.
Summit also offers a lively community and amenities that everyone in the house will love. The Summit Aquatic Center is open all summer and has a two-story slide your kids, and maybe you, will love. The town also features a 9-hole municipal golf course.
The town has a community theater, The Summit Playhouse, and the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, which has a studio and classes for everyone, near city center. The city holds fun annual festivals such as Daffodil Day each April at the Reeves-Reed Arboretum with games, arts and crafts, food vendors, music and more.
Chatham, New Jersey
Summit’s neighbor to the west, Chatham, is another great option for Hoboken and Jersey City homeowners looking for a great, family-friendly community within a short commute of Manhattan. Its charming, walkable downtown offers tree-lined streets and good restaurants such as French-style Restaurant Serenade and popular Italian restaurant Scalini Fedeli.
The town provides many of the same perks as Summit: great schools (with a Great Schools rating of 9 out of 10), easy access to standout golf at nearby country clubs such as Canoe Brook, athletic fields (including two with artificial turf) and summer swimming at Memorial Park Pool. The homes in Chatham are less expensive than those in Summit with prices in the mid-700s.
The town also features a group for new residents and an opportunity for parents of young children to socialize and build community, the Chatham Newcomers and Social Club. In addition to a downtown farmer’s market in summer. Chatham throws the Fishawack Festival held every second Saturday in June and is a local favorite.
Millburn, New Jersey (Short Hills area)
Just north of Summit and Chatham lies the more exclusive Short Hills neighborhood of Millburn. While home prices are higher, schools are better (Great Schools gives Short Hills schools a perfect score, 10 out of 10), parks top-notch, the shopping exquisite, and neighborhoods offer an idyllic 1950s charm. Homes in Short Hills typically list in the $2 million range.
One of the area’s chief assets is the 2,110-acre nature reserve, South Mountain Reservation, which borders Short Hills to the east. Residents love unwinding on the hilly, forested park’s numerous trails, visiting its waterfall and taking their pup to its dog park.
Families love nearby Turtleback Zoo and Gero Park, which features baseball and other athletic fields.
Short Hills also offers some of the best shopping this side of Manhattan with the renowned Short Hills Mall, which has upscale stores such as Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Cartier, Coach, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and more.
Short Hills, like its Chatham and Summit neighbors, enjoys a brisk Manhattan commute with close proximity to I-78 and the New Jersey Transit train line.
Tenafly, New Jersey
Looking north, the Hudson River-bordering town of Tenafly just north of the George Washington Bridge is also a great option for growing families. The small town of approximately 14,000 people has excellent schools (Great Schools gives it a rating of 9 out of 10), borders the superb Montammy Golf Club and is an easy one-hour bus ride to Times Square. Tenafly homes typically list for just over $1 million.
Bike commuters also get a treat here. Their approximate 15-mile commute include Hudson views and a trip across George Washington Bridge.
The charming Cafe Angelique, located in a historic train station building downtown, offers gourmet coffee, fresh-baked pastries and live jazz weekly. It’s a popular place to start Saturday mornings with the paper or book. Englewood, the adjacent town to the south, offers residents a more lively downtown experience.
Cafe Angelique, located in a historic train depot, is a local favorite.
The area also features a heavy dose of nature with the 380-acre Tenafly Nature Center, which has hiking and cross-country ski trails and easy access to approximately a dozen parks just minutes away. The semi-annual Tenafly Street Fair brings dozens of vendors and thousands of visitors to downtown and provides a festive atmosphere.
So What's Next?
It's time to take action but before you do it's important to have a budget.
Twin photograph courtesy of Daisy Beatty Photography