New Jersey is often associated with a lot of bad things, and neighbouring its hipper, grander sister, New York, doesn’t help matters. The Garden State is accused of having some of the highest taxes in the country. And being too populated. Scratch that – and being the most densely populated state with 9 million people cramped up in its tiny shores (it’s the fourth smallest state by area but 11th largest by population).
A land mostly made up of highways, yet traffic is a constant theme here. And rude people. And factory fumes. And landfills. And pricey homes.
The thing is, though, every place has its own ups and downs. And while Jersey has some pretty nasty ones, it is not short of its fair share of plusses.
Like its enviable location – it is possible to work in New York and live in New Jersey; or spend a Saturday in Philadelphia and be back home for dinner.
New Jersey is a beautiful state (give credit where it’s due) with plenty of shore towns and beloved diners. Its rural farmland is a source of fresh local produce that you’ll find displayed on farm stands, albeit mostly in summer.
It is a beautifully diverse state, and a state famous for high-performing public schools, with one of the highest high school graduation rates in the country (ranked #2 in 2016, for instance).
Here are the best places to live in new Jersey:
1. North Arlington
Starting us off our list of best places to live in New Jersey is North Arlington, a suburb of 15,800 residents located in Bergen County, the most populous county in the state.
North Arlington was included in TIME’s Money Magazine Best Places to Live in America 2017, checking in at No. 8.
The beauty of North Arlington is that it offers a small-town feel yet promises all the perks you would expect while living in the city. In this case, that city happens to be arguably the world’s most famous: New York City.
This suburb of New Jersey is only 15 miles from the Big Apple’s financial district, the world’s most prominent financial district.
Median home value stands at $349,800 and rent averages $1,223 for a single-family home.
Residents have access to an excellent school district, and the area has a low crime rate; not without its cases, but certainly favourable enough to warrant North Arlington a top 10 spot of best places to live in the nation.
Other contributing factors include the area’s proximity to the Meadowlands Sports Complex and MetLife Stadium.
As mentioned, Bergen County is the most populous part of the state, so don’t be surprised if you find quite a few entries from the area on this list.
Ridgewood is another suburb from this county, a suburb characterised by an eye-popping mix of Victorian homes and turn-of-the-century farmhouses.
The houses in this area are postcard material, and it shouldn’t be astonishing to know the average home value in the area stands at an enormous $716,400, with rental prices averaging $1,981 a month.
That automatically rules it out as a neighborhood for the ordinary Joe. Of course, there are cheaper homes, but cheap here is somewhere in the range of half a million dollars.
But that hasn’t stopped people from flocking here. 25,370 residents call Ridgewood home. Its kids have access to some highly rated schools, and the village offers access to plenty of parks, a thriving downtown and other family-friendly activities.
3. White Meadow Lake
White Meadow Lake is a suburb in Morris County with a population of just a little under 9,000 people. Happy people. The area is often on the top 10 list of happiest places in New Jersey, but it’s really hard not to be if you call this unincorporated community home.
White Meadow Lake is easily one of the most picturesque places in the Garden State, and it really does have a lake AND meadows.
Crime is something the residents probably get to hear about on Facebook, and the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the state.
Throw in a high median income of $116,623, excellent schools, buzzing nightlife and a commute time of 20 minutes on average, and there is little not to smile about.
If the name rings bells, it’s because it is here that the prestigious Princeton University is based. The Ivy League university is one of the best universities in the country. It may be the most famous address in the town of just under 30,000, but there is a lot it has to offer.
Princeton’s location is almost exactly between New York and Philadelphia, making it a perfect launchpad for anyone who might be making frequent trips to either or both cities.
The cost of living can be a bit steep in the Mercer County town, with median home value sitting at $780,300. But the residents also bank handsome figures in the range of $114,645 per household.
If you can afford it, few places in the state can promise you a better place to call home. Niche.com named Princeton the third best place to live in New Jersey 2017. Princeton came in at #1 on the list of “Best College Towns to Live in” by Smartasset.com.
Wallethub.com named it the best small city in America from a list comprising over 1,200. And it came in at position 15 on Money Magazine’s top towns to Live and Work in America.
Oradell is a small town in Bergen County that is home to some 8,000 residents. This is a highly affluent neighbourhood where median home value hovers upwards of half a million bucks ($549,100 to be exact).
A large majority of its residents are well educated, with almost 80% of them (79.25%) having a minimum of a college degree. Their efforts have not gone unrewarded as the households in Oradell take home on average $141,550, certainly no mean figure.
This is one of the safest places in New Jersey, a tranquil town that is ideal for strolling around with family, with the Little Firehouse Theater one of the major entertainment spots.
6. Edison Township
Edison is a small city in Middlesex County with a population of 102,000, which makes it the fifth largest municipality in New Jersey in terms of population.
In case you’re wondering, the city gets its name from the one and only Thomas Edison whose home and main research lab were based here – yes, including the lab where the famous “10,000” light bulbs were tested before he finally cracked the puzzle.
As with several entries in our list of best places to live in the Garden State, Edison has been featured multiple times on many a “Best list”. And the driving factors behind this are multiple.
One is the low unemployment rate due to the presence of many big-name businesses in the area, including the John F. Kennedy Medical Center and Johnson & Johnson.
The education system is top-notch and surprisingly, the cost of living remains lower compared to the rest of the state.
7. Saddle Brook
If your job involves lots of time on the road, one of the first places you should consider settling down in New Jersey is Saddle Brook, a small town in Bergen County that is home to 14,000 residents.
The area is crisscrossed by multiple major highways like the Interstate 80, the Garden State Parkway and Route 17. In fact, this is considered one of the best places for commuters, and the fact that New York City is just minutes away really says it all.
As far as recreation goes, there is plenty in Saddle Brook to keep you occupied, with numerous community events that include baseball game outings, community movie nights and even walks with the mayor!
Money Magazine listed Saddle Brook the 24th best place to live in America 2017. Median home value stands at $362,500.
Succasunna is a charming community in Morris County with about 9,000 residents.
The cost of living in this uniquely named village is high, but so is the median income which stands at $120,895.
New Jersey has a lot of things damaging its cred, as we initially highlighted. But it also boasts many unique firsts that few states can only dream of. Succasunna happens to be the site of the first electronic switching public telephone exchange in the world.
Beyond that, the crime rate here is slim to none, the unemployment rate is low and the community ranks favourably for its married families.
More than 75% of the residents have a college degree and above, and it naturally follows that the local school district in the area be among the best in the state. Which it is.
Ho-Ho-Kus is a tiny borough of 4,132 residents in Bergen County, widely considered one of the best places to live in the state.
The major downside to it is a high cost of living – expect to pay rent averaging $2,243 per month, and if you are one of those looking to invest in a home, the median value rests at the $723,000 mark.
That’s a bit high for most people, but unfortunately, it’s the price you get to pay if you want an area served by some of the best schools in New Jersey, with numerous outdoor activities and low crime rate to contend with.
Some would argue these are perks you can enjoy for much less in some places in the state, but households raking $162,386 on average might not deem it too big a price to fork out.
10. Little Silver
Little Silver is considered one of the happiest places in New Jersey for a reason.
Just a few minutes to the famous beaches of Jersey Shore, the town is more of a coastal borough.
It is a small community of just 6,000 residents, and one of the most expensive places not just in the state, but also consistently features on many nationwide lists revolving around cost.
No matter, the residents who call Little Silver home are crazy rich, and many of them are families with children. Almost all the homes, whose median stands at $597,400, are single-family owner-occupied homes, a reflection of the stability in the local community.
Incidences of crime are foreign news in this small town of Monmouth County, with a high employment rate and many outdoor activities to keep the residents smiling.
The welcoming town really is a little gem as the name hints; probably silver.
11. Parsippany-Troy Hills
In the 2017 Money Magazine list of best places to live in America, Parsippany-Troy Hills grabbed position 33, and it is not hard to see why.
The suburb of Morris County features breathtaking scenery that has no doubt swayed the decision of many to settle in the area.
More than 53,600 people call the scenic city home, and another key draw to Parsippany-Troy Hills is the high number of corporations situated here. The likes of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Jackson Hewitt are headquartered here.
Parsippany-Troy Hills also features a bustling art scene, and this, along with its 25 parks, were some of the reasons Money Magazine ranked it so highly.
There is also a museum in the area, a school for the arts & crafts movement and Craftsman Farms.
Bergenfield is a borough in Bergen County that is home to more than 27,330 people.
This is an area more suited to those looking to raise a family, as it has everything every parent could wish for. A highly rated public school system, low crime and many outdoor activities for everyone to partake in.
The cost of living in Bergenfield is low compared to the state average, with homes averaging $337,000. This is just about the price of a three- or four-bedroom single-family property, depending on street, of course.
Indeed, Bergenfield got the nod from Bloomberg Businessweek when they named the town the second best place to raise children in the state.
Manhattan is only about 13 miles away.
Waldwick is not only one of the best places to live in New Jersey, but it is also surrounded by some of the best addresses in the state. Ridgewood. Ho-Ho-Kus. And Midland Park.
The small suburb is home to 9,900 residents, and it boasts a pretty solid education system with a high high school graduation rate.
Waldwick has never considered itself a crime hotspot, and who really doesn’t want a safe area to live, right? The cost of living is reflective of the high costs that characterise Jersey, with a single-family home averaging $424,400.
The high cost of living is the only major deterrent when gauging the viability of this area, but if the money is happy, then you can’t really wish for a nicer place to call home.
Concordia warrants a mention on our list of best places to live in New Jersey for its invitingly low cost of living, first and foremost.
The Middlesex County has one of the lowest median home values at $164,800, and it is surprising the population has managed to remain below 3,500.
Then again, this is a neighbourhood best suited for retirees and anyone who fancies a low-key, low cost of living.
There are some great schools in the area, with plenty of outdoor activities that range from tennis courts to golf; the 18-hole Concordia Golf Course is a perfect place to go shooting some rounds.
The residents also enjoy an almost non-existent crime rate, and while the area may be a little dull when it comes to nightlife, so happens that some of us just prefer it this way.
Chatham has a population of 9,000, with an adult population that holds a minimum of a college degree.
The high levels of education in the town is reflected in two major aspects.
One is that the children of these residents get to be schooled with some of the brightest tools in the box. And second, the area has a high per capita income, outperforming the national average by a massive 139%.
Families take home $142,765 on average, which is a good thing considering the high cost of living in the area where home values average $706,800.
Nightlife is a little wanting, but this is negated by other perks that include a short commute time, many outdoor activities and low crime rate.
If a neighbourhood populated by smart, affluent folks sounds appealing, Chatham may just be the place for you.