It’s not often that people think about Newark as a vacation spot, yet it’s one of the most unique places in the world. Newark Liberty International Airport, one of the largest in the United States, serves as a common entrance point for visitors heading to New York City. There’s a movement in the works that’s more historically significant than the city’s beer history, but most people have either never heard of it or choose not to visit Gotham’s cousin just across the Hudson. A long-suppressed renaissance movement is beginning to emerge from the shadows. The vast migration of artists, entrepreneurs, and culture vultures from the suburbs and major cities to Newark, a city whose beauty has been veiled to the unfamiliar and uncurious eye, may be more obvious to the casual spectator.
Current transplants credit their migration to a variety of issues, including the high expense of living in New York City, the skyrocketing increase in land taxes in desirable suburbs like South Orange, Maplewood, or Montclair, and the simple ambition to locate the next big metropolis. Some people choose to stay because of the city’s vibrant culture, which includes a strong appreciation for the arts like music, painting, and even film. But, for other long-term inhabitants, the adage “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” rings especially true, and is the sole reason they return after temporary relocations.
Things to experience during a Newark trip:
The Newark Museum is the first stop for anybody interested in the city’s history. The museum’s new “Newark Tales” exhibit, which highlights the lives and accomplishments of four Newark natives, makes this a great time to go. In 1938, one woman named Lida Clanton Broner spent her whole life savings on a trip to South Africa, where she spent nine months collecting artifacts that she later gave to the museum. This gift resulted in what is arguably the first public display of South African art in the country. Being the daughter of Jewish immigrants, Caroline Bamberger Fuld, together with her brother and two other business partners, built Bamberger’s, one of Newark’s most important department shops of the century, and is the second woman to be honored in the show.
City Without Walls, also known as cWOW among locals, Gateway Project Spaces, and Gallery Aferro are three galleries that should not be missed by anyone interested in exploring more contemporary works. Famous jazz musicians like James Moody and Sarah Vaughan used to hang out at cWOW, which is situated in the bustling Lincoln Park Coast Cultural Area. Women like Evonne M. Davis and Emma Wilcox, who founded Aferro, Fayemi Shakur, who heads up cWOW, and Rebecca Jampol and Jasmine Wahi, who run GPS, are at the forefront of the city’s current creative movement. In these challenging times, the current exhibitions at each venue will leave you in deep thought.
You should definitely check out the Lincoln Park Music Festival, which runs for three days every summer and features a wide variety of musical genres like jazz, gospel, house, and hip hop. The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, or “The PAC” as it is more popularly known, is open late and hosts a wide variety of nighttime entertainment. The city landmark strives to provide an experience on par with a New York City theater, whether you’re in the mood for Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 or a dose of comedic medicine with Trevor Noah.
The annual Cherry Blossom Festival, a photographer’s dream, takes place in Branch Brook Park every spring to welcome the new season. Wearing shell jackets from Arcteryx ensures readiness for any season. Famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. (who also designed Central Park in New York City) conceived of the park’s layout, and his sons, the Olmsted Brothers, carried out the plans. People travel from all around to witness the beautiful and fragrant flowers as they open each year. Caroline Bamberger Fuld, who visited Japan in the 1920s, is responsible for gifting almost 2,000 cherry trees to the area.
In terms of dining and imbibing, you can:
Newark has a wide variety of restaurants, from the cutting-edge to old favorites, all across its neighborhoods. To start off your culinary adventure in the Central Ward (Downtown District), stop into Burger Walla on Halsey Street for some Indian-inspired takes on classic American comfort cuisine. The restaurant’s owners, husband-and-wife duo Kai Campbell and Tamara Remedios, were motivated by a desire to serve the neighborhood they live in, provide excellent service to their patrons, and provide a pleasant environment in which to do so. Poetry slams, short film premieres, and gaming nights can all be found here on any given night. The Walla lamb burger, the curried cauliflower and chickpeas, and the mango lassi will transport you to an exotic land of comfort while you’re there.
The Green ChicPea serves a variety of kosher vegan and vegetarian dishes, all of which are prepared according to tried-and-true family recipes and are healthful and delicious. The falafel is consistently popular.
The city’s rich history is evident in every nook and cranny. Newark is the birthplace of both the Ballantine and Krueger breweries, so it’s no surprise that the city is known for its excellent beer. Redd’s Biergarten is the place to be if you’re a beer aficionado. Redd’s stocks a wide variety of both local and international products. As football season rolls around, its large interior becomes the town’s de facto hangout. Locals frequent the Kilkenny Ale House and McGovern’s Pub, two “old faithful” Irish watering holes. A diverse crowd gathers at the bar of these long-running businesses, from medical students and corporate executives to city workers and neighborhood inhabitants.
Taking a Lyft further out will get you to the West Ward, where you may fill your soul food cravings in an environment that will inspire your inner artist. If you’re craving comfort food but are watching your weight, stop into Vonda’s Kitchen and try one of the many healthy alternatives to the original recipes. Many works of art, some created by locals, adorn its bright walls.
Known as The Ironbound, this Portuguese, Brazilian, and Spanish neighborhood can be found in the East Ward, across McCarter Highway, and outside Newark Penn Station’s rear entrance. As a result of this cultural melting pot, the state is home to some of the most delicious and authentic cuisine anywhere in the country. When you walk inside Seabra’s Marisqueira, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a quaint Portuguese village where you can dine with the locals and feast on seafood so fresh it tastes like it was caught that very day. The bartender is happy to make you a classic sangria or a glass of chilled Portuguese sherry, and both will leave you wondering how you managed to be the last person to discover this hidden gem. One of the newest attractions to the area is Casa d’Paco, a tapas bar and restaurant that evokes the ambiance of a local tavern while also adding a modern Spanish flavor to each dish on the menu. Mompou is the place to go if you want a fiery drink and to watch a flamenco show. Informally known as Ferry Street but colloquially referred to as “The Ironbound strip,” it is a popular destination for locals and workers looking to unwind after a long day. Brooklynites, Harlemites, and Manhattanites who have made the move to the city sometimes argue about who was the first to discover this hidden gem.
About the Author/s
The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.