Small Town NJ: Montclair
Let's hit the road ladies because it's back! Small Town NJ is one of my favorite series and I'm so excited to be restarting it. It's been almost 2 years since I shared a profile of a New Jersey small town and that is WAY too long. Exploring all the great things my home state has to offer in its small towns is one of my favorite hobbies. But it can be tough to get out of the house. Especially when there's a hole in my living room/dining room wall (if you follow my instagram stories, you know what I'm talking about).
Over the weekend the weather was just too good to stay indoors so I convinced Nick to fill a traveler tumbler full of coffee and hit the highway to North Jersey. We rarely make it up that way for several reasons: more traffic, more highway driving, and why not go to New York City instead? But I heard so many good things about Montclair, a small town with a university (hey there, Montclair State!), a museum, and just 20 minutes outside of NYC. And away we went!
What we did in Montclair
We got a later start but the ride up wasn't too bad, about an hour and twenty minutes via the NJ Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. Once we got off the highways on the streets, it's easy to see why Montclair is extra charming. Tree-lined streets, beautiful Victorian and early 20th century homes all decked out for Halloween, and streets lined with local businesses and restaurants.
Montclair is definitely a walkable town and we saw tons of families and kids enjoying the nice weather. We parked and wandered down Walnut Street and then over to Church Street and Bloomfield Avenue.
We grabbed a late lunch/brunch at Raymond's. With the weather being so nice, we were able to sit out on the sidewalk and listen to the jazz musicians playing outside a restaurant a little farther down. Though I loved being able to dine al fresco in late October, Raymond's inside is a classic diner with an upscale twist. They have an adorable bar with classic vinyl stools, tiled floors, and perfectly aged mirrors. I almost asked for us to be moved inside so I could take pictures on the sly but instead we're just going to have to go back!
We spent most of our time wandering and in Montclair, there's no shortage of places to stroll by. There are a few local businesses on Walnut Street, mostly antique shop, and several larger retailers like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters and Lululemon have larger outposts near Church Street.
Reasons to go back
As with most small towns, it's impossible to see, hear, and do everything that's good about it in just one visit. After exploring the town, I put together a list of places I want to return to.
Montclair Bread Company - this bakery was on the top of my list after I saw it in an article about best NJ bakeries. It's in the cutest little building on Walnut Street and are supposed to have out of this world donuts and croissants. My kind of place!
The Corner - we parked near this restaurant and I really wanted to go but it was packed! This breakfast/lunch/brunch spot has all the cute cozy vibes in a small corner location. I am obsessed with their pink neon "Good Vibes Only" sign but the food looks delicious too.
Montclair Art Museum - Montclair has a world class art museum that we weren't able to get to with our limited time. I've heard time and again that I must visit this museum and I'm bummed we didn't get to while we were there. Oh well, just another reason to return!
Montclair State University - we went all the way to Montclair and didn't even see the university! I know lots of people who went here and said it's just a beautiful campus but we didn't make it that far. Next time!
The Pig and the Prince - this gastropub is located in the old Lackawanna Railroad Station on Bloomfield Avenue. Unfortunately it didn't open until 4pm and we weren't hungry after our late lunch. But the pictures online have me convinced it's worth the drive up there.
And there you have it: Montclair, a charming, tree-lined small town! If you love really good restaurants and Instagram-worthy houses plus a little bit of good shopping and art, Montclair might be for you.