New Jersey has some larger cities that we love, from Piscataway to Plainfield, Cherry Hill to Hoboken and Montclair to Manalapan. We also have some incredible small towns like Cape May and Clinton. Lucky for us, we even have several perfect places that are just the right size; they offer the amenities of a bigger city with the safety and sense of community you’ll find in a tinier town.
What is the perfect size? For the purposes of this article, between 10,000 and 25,000 residents. Popular neighborhoods like Haddonfield and Princeton may come to mind, but I wanted to focus on a few other awesome cities and towns that might not necessarily get the attention they deserve. I’ve featured one fantastic town in each New Jersey county.
This Atlantic County town has about 15,000 residents and is also known as the "Blueberry Capital of the World." It is centrally located between Atlantic City beaches and nightlife and the bustling city of Philadelphia. Enjoy the famous "Red, White & Blueberry Festival" on June 26th, access to Wharton State Park, Annata Wine Bar, The Eagle Theatre and Las Lomas Grille.
2. Hasbrouck Heights
This Bergen County borough is home to approximately 12,000 residents and is located just off routes 17 and 46 providing quick access to shopping, NYC and more. Popular places include the Bendix Diner (featured in several films including Jersey Girl and Boys on the Side), Sofia's Mediterranean Grill, Jump On In Trampoline Park and The Heights Bar & Grill. Actor Jason Biggs attended high school here.
Located in Burlington County, the population of Medford is approximately 23,033. There's plenty to enjoy here, from Femmina Italian Grill, The Pop Shop, Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, Johnson's Corner Farm and the upcoming Art and Wine Festival on June 12th. Kirby's Mill, pictured, was the last operating mill in New Jersey and the JCC Camp is largest Jewish day camp in North America.
The Camden County borough of Bellmawr is home to about 12,000 residents and the historic Hugg-Harrison-Glover House (dating back to the 1700s), which currently faces demolition. Popular dining spots include Dominic's Tavern and Club Diner. Dominic's is a great place to grab a beer, watch a game or enjoy your favorite classic comfort foods.
5. Lower Township
With approximately 23,000 residents, Lower Township is home to the largest year-round population in Cape May County. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry departs from here and you'll find several historic sites including The Fishing Creek School and Naval Air Station Wildwood. Outdoor lovers will enjoy the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area and Cape May Point State Park, home to the lovely Cape May Lighthouse.
6. Maurice River Township
Cumberland County has several great towns, but all have under 10,000 or over 25,000 residents. Maurice River Township comes close with over 8,000 who call the town home. You'll find the historic East Point Lighthouse here (in the Heislerville area) along with numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation on the Maurice River. Head to the Maurice River Diner for large portions and friendly service.
The lovely Millburn in Essex County is home to around 20,000 residents and the scenic South Mountain Reservation. It got its start as a planned community created by spring-loaded window shade creator, Stewart Hartshorn. The famed Paper Mill Playhouse can be found here, along with delicious dining options like Basilico, Da Nico and La Strada.
8. West Deptford
In Gloucester County, West Deptford is home to around 21,000 residents. You'll find a quick commute to Philadelphia here along with slightly lower property taxes than much of the state. It is home to historic hidden gem, Soupy Island, a park originally designed to entertain children with Cholera. During the Great Depression it acted as an outdoor soup kitchen of sorts and still gives back to the local community, open in summer months with playgrounds, sports courts and more. Popular places to dine include Riverwinds Restaurant on the Delaware and Country House Restaurant.
This Hudson County town of 14,000 doesn't get as much attention as its neighbors, Hoboken and Jersey City, but it has a lot to offer. Besides spectacular NYC views, you can find more affordable apartments and fantastic restaurants including Chart House, Molos, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and Charrito's. You can also find the historic Weekhawken Dueling Grounds here, where Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton had their famed fight to the death.
Located in picturesque Hunterdon County, Readington is home to 16,000 residents and the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning. You'll also find fantastic fine dining in The Ryland Inn and family-friendly fare at The Rail at Readington. Enjoy historic sites including the Eversole-Hall House and Wade-Wyckoff Barn.
11. Robbinsville Township
In Mercer County, Robbinsville is home to approximately 14,000 residents. The family-friendly town is an official "Tree City USA" and holds events like the upcoming Community Festival. The free event will be held on June 11th and will feature live music, a kids play zone, amusements, games, contests, a food court, rock climbing wall, pony rides and fireworks at 9 pm. Check out Villa Barone or the famous Papa's Tomato Pies when you're in town.
12. Highland Park
There's lots to enjoy in this Middlesex County town of 14,000, including free movies in the park throughout the summer and a seasonal farmers' market on Fridays. There's a fantastic downtown and you can find wonderful shopping and dining options all over including Make Me Take Me art center, Scarlet Mambo for dance lessons, SpeakMusic Conservatory and Pithari Taverna. Be sure to check out the spectacular Donaldson Park on the Raritan River.
You always hear about popular Monmouth County towns like Red Bank, Long Branch and Asbury Park, but Holmdel doesn't get as much attention. Home to 16,671 residents and Bell Labs, the Holmdel Horn Antenna can be found here - it provided significant evidence that the Big Bang occurred. You'll also find the popular PNC Bank Arts Center, picturesque Holmdel Park, Holmdel Arboretum and La Ginestra Ristorante Italiano.
When it comes to Morris County, Madison gets a lot of attention. While it is certainly a fantastic town, today Pequannock gets the spotlight. Sitting in the foothills of the Waughaw Mountain, this scenic valley is home to several historic sites including the Giles Mandeville House, a stop on the Underground Railroad. The town offers safety, good schools and casual BYOB spot, Pizza Man.
15. Little Egg Harbor
You can find around 20,000 residents in this Ocean County town, which grew over 25% from the 2000 census. Remains of the Tuckerton Wireless Tower can be found here, which was once controlled by a German telegraph company. It is believed that the tower may have transmitted the signal ordering German U-boats to attack the RMS Lusitania. Check out the Pinelands Brewery Company while you're here and be sure to take a tour. $10 will score you the tour, tastings (4 - 4 oz. beer samples of your choice) and a souvenir pint glass.
This Passaic County town has a population of over 18,000 residents, a community garden and summer concerts at the Boro Bandshell. Named after novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, Debbie Harry of Blondie fame lived here for many years. (She was born in Miami, but adopted by a Hawthorne couple at 3 months old.) Residents and visitors alike enjoy a wide variety of dining options including Macaluso's, Villa Rosa and Kirker's Inn.
This Salem County town on the scenic Salem River is home to approximately 13,000 residents. For decades it was home to the magical Riverview Beach Amusement Park, which closed in 1967. A park still remains in the area, and hosts an annual wine festival. Check out Orient Chinese for fantastic authentic cuisine while you're here.
This Somerset County town is home to approximately 22,000 residents. There's plenty to enjoy here including the popular Montgomery Rodeo, a must-see, and community events like the upcoming Spring Social (June 14th, featuring dinner, golf, chair massages and more).
There are few places prettier than the Lake Mohawk section of Sparta, a Sussex County town with around 19,000 residents. Lake Mohawk isn't all the town has to offer - throughout the summer enjoy Thursdays on the Green featuring free live music. When deciding where to dine, consider Krough's Restaurant & Brewpub. On June 17th, head to Krough's for a benefit concert to support the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. The suggested donation is $5 or more.
20. Scotch Plains
Union County has so many fantastic towns to choose from, Scotch Plains being one of them. The population sits at around 23,500 residents and there's something for every one of them to enjoy. You'll find free Friday Family Movie Nights in the summer, the upcoming Arts & Crafts Fair (June 11th) and Race to Summer 5K (June 23rd). Dine at the historic Stage House Tavern while you're here.
This picturesque Warren County town is home to around 15,000 residents. If the scenery doesn't speak for itself, enjoy live music all summer, casual dining options like Joe's Steak Shop and Twin Rivers Tubing for fun on the Delaware.
What is your favorite town on this list? Are you a proud resident? What’s your favorite favorite perfectly-sized city in New Jersey?