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The 10 Best Places To Live In New Jersey

When it comes to embodying everything the Garden State has to offer, these 10 cities do it best.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

137 articles, 0 comments

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Here at Movoto Real Estate, we are moving from state to state, answering the question of just which cities are the best. We’ve covered states including Pennsylvania (congratulations, Mount Lebanon) and North Carolina (ditto, Apex), and today we are moving a bit east, to the great Garden State of New Jersey.

Jersey may be well known for Atlantic City and the shore, but here at Movoto we’ve run the numbers to once and for all reveal which city is the best. The winner? Fair Lawn. Fist pumps all around!

Fair Lawn isn’t the only great city in NJ, though. Here are the top 10 cities in New Jersey:

1. Fair Lawn
2. Edison
3. Westfield
4. East Brunswick
5. North Brunswick
6. Wayne
7. Toms River
8. West Orange
9. Hoboken
10. North Bergen

What exactly makes Fair Lawn so great? And how did we come up with this order? Read on for a complete breakdown of our methodology as well as a closer look into each of these 10 best cities in New Jersey.

What Makes a Jersey City Better than the Rest?

New Jersey’s motto may be “liberty and prosperity,” but for our study, we needed a few more criteria to determine just which cities were the best. So we settled on the following seven criteria:

  • Amenities per person (pizza places, bagel shops, and diners / person)
  • Amenities total (total pizza places, bagel shops, and diners)
  • Cost of living (percent above or below state average)
  • Crime (percent above or below state average)
  • Education (high school degree attainment rate compared to state average)
  • Median Income (city’s average compared to state average)
  • Home value (percent above or below state average)

We started with a list of the 50 most populous municipalities (cities, towns, villages, Census Designated Places) in New Jersey, then gave each city a rank from one to 50 in the individual criteria above based on the data, with one being the best possible score.

As far as amenities go, we chose pizza places, bagel shops, and diners as three amenities that clearly represent New Jersey. From there, we decided to break this category up into both amenities per person and the total number of amenities per city, because while we recognize that it’s great to have a range of choices for each person, we didn’t want to dock cities points just because they have larger populations.

After we rated each city, we averaged the criteria together and gave each city an overall score. The lower this number was, the higher the city ranked.

For a complete ranking of all 50 cities in our study, jump to the bottom of the post.

1. Fair Lawn

The 10 Best Cities in New Jersey

Source: Flickr user KoryeLogan

Topping off our list as the very best city in New Jersey, is Fair Lawn. This is one of the smaller towns on our list, with just over 32,000 residents, but that, by no means, hurt its score—in fact, when it came to amenities per person, the smaller population gave it a boost. With 16 pizza places, three diners, and six bagel shops, Fair Lawn has plenty of options for everyone (but let’s be honest—you really don’t need much more than John’s Pizza when it comes to pies.)

Fair Lawn also scored well in safety, with a crime rate 60 percent lower than the state’s average, and just to add to the idyllic-feeling of this city, there are also a number of historic places, like the Cadmus-Folly House, dotted throughout. It’s no wonder this city ranked No. 1 on our list.

Fair Lawn comes in at No. 1 for its high number of amenities per capita and low crime rate.

2. Edison

The 10 Best Cities in New Jersey

Source: Wikipedia

When it comes to the quintessential Jersey dining options, it’s hard to beat the No. 2 on our list, Edison. So named after the inventor, Thomas Edison, this town is genius when it comes to amenities both per person and total, ranking second and seventh in these categories respectively.

Aside from delicious dining options, Edison is also well-known for places like Roosevelt Park, Edison State Park, the Clara Barton downtown area, and the Dismal Swamp—which is actually not so dismal; it is a beautiful area of preserved wetlands.

Edison comes in at No. 2 for its number of bagel shops, diners, and pizza places, both per capita and total.

3. Westfield

The 10 Best Cities in New Jersey

Source: Flickr user John Beetham

Even smaller than Fair Lawn, with a population of just over 30,000 people, Westfield comes in at No. 3 on our list. But just because it is lacking in people, doesn’t mean it is lacking in benefits. In fact, the only thing that seems to be missing in Westfield is crime—they have a crime rate 64 percent lower than the state’s average.

Aside from safety, Westfield has some other things going for it, namely a high school graduation rate 12 percent higher than the state’s average, a median household income 68 percent higher (over $127,000 per year), and the best home values on our list—71 percent higher than the rest of the state. Not to mention some of the area’s most beautiful parks like Brightwood Park.

Our No 3 city, Westfield, is one of the safest in the state, with a crime rate 64 percent New Jersey’s average.

4. East Brunswick

The 10 Best Cities in New Jersey

Source: Flickr user Nevin

East Brunswick comes in at No. 4 on our list, largely because of its high median household income of over $94,000 (24 percent higher than the state average) and its excellent high school graduation rates—8 percent higher than the state average.

Outside of these numbers, though, East Brunswick is known for its community feel. Outdoor enthusiasts can kayak, canoe, or just enjoy the scenery of Farrington Lake and Weston Mill Pond. Every year, the Middlesex County Fair is held in East Brunswick—a favorite for families throughout Central Jersey; and almost every night locals can catch a performance at Playhouse 22.

Our No. 4 city is East Brunswick for its median household income—24 percent higher than the state’s average!

5. North Brunswick Township

The 10 Best Cities in New Jersey

Source: Flickr user hb123

With East Brunswick at No. 4 and North Brunswick at No. 5, it’s clear that these Brunswicks have something good going on—and in North Brunswick, a lot of that seems to be pizza.

With a population of just over 41,000 and over 160 pizza restaurants, not to mention several diners and bagel shops as well, North Brunswick scored really well when it came to amenities total. And with a cost of living four percent lower than the state average, residents here can certainly afford to dine out.

North Brunswick comes in at No. 5 on our list for its high total number pizza places, diners, and bagel shops.

6. Wayne

The 10 Best Cities in New Jersey

Source: Flickr user Kurt Wagner

Our No. 6 city is certainly not waning when it comes to affluence. Residents in Wayne make an average median household income of over $100,000—that’s 36 percent higher than the rest of the state. Their home values are also pretty impressive—43 percent higher than the state average.

What started out as a farming community in the 18th and 19th centuries, quickly became a luxury summer vacation retreat, once New Yorkers discovered Wayne’s charm. The luxury feel may have stayed, but summer bungalows have since been replaced with more permanent residences, as natives like Queen Latifah and yes, even George Washington himself, well know, Wayne is a great place to live.

Wayne comes in at No. 6 for its high median household income of over $100,000, and home values 43 percent higher than the New Jersey average.

7. Toms River

The 10 Best Cities in New Jersey

Source: Flickr user kurtlewisart

Toms River comes in at No. 7 on our list, largely because of its huge selection of pizza places, diners, and bagel shops. In fact, when it comes to amenities per person, Toms River came in first and came in fourth for the total number of amenities in the town.

Residents of Toms River know that this town is more than just pizza, bagels, and diners (though the Blue Fountain Restaurant is reason enough to move here.) Toms River also has a relatively low cost of living, 9 percent lower than the state average, and tons of beach options, like Ortley, Normandy, Monterey, Ocean, Chadwick, and Silver Beach. Not a fan of the Jersey shore? Toms River downtown hosts many community events, including the world’s largest Halloween parade.

At No. 7 on our list is Toms River, with its variety of pizza places, diners, and bagel shops and low cost of living.

8. West Orange

The 10 Best Cities in New Jersey

Source: Wikipedia user Jared Kofsky

West Orange comes in at No. 8 on our list, thanks to a median household income 13 percent higher than the state average and a whole lot of bagels. With eight bagel shops, four diners, and a relatively small population of just over 46,600, West Orange placed well when it came to amenities per capita.

What our numbers can’t tell you, though, is just how beautiful West Orange is. It is surrounded by two large parks, the South Mountain Reservation and the Eagle Rock Reservation, and within its borders are several unique neighborhoods, many dotted with Victorian, jazz-age, and Tudor-style houses.

No. 8 on our list is West Orange with a median household income 13 percent higher than average.

9. Hoboken

The 10 Best Cities in New Jersey

Source: Wikipedia

Coming in at No. 9 is Hoboken, known as the Mile Square City for its small area. This may be known as the birthplace of baseball and the birthplace of the legendary Frank Sinatra, but these days, Hoboken is known to residents as just a great place to live.

What makes it such a great place to live? According to our study, the median household income and home values might have something to do with it. Hoboken residents can expect to make about 34 percent more money than residents elsewhere in the state—that’s about $101,782 per year. Their home values are also on average 48 percent higher than the state’s average. Not too shabby, Hoboken.

10. North Bergen Township

The 10 Best Cities in New Jersey

Source: Wikipedia

Last but certainly not least is North Bergen, coming in at No. 10. North Bergen made our list, mostly due to its median household income, 18 percent higher than the state average, its home values, 11 percent higher, and its high school graduation rate, two percent better than average.
North Bergen is also one of the most diverse cities on our list—both culturally, with a large Hispanic population, and geographically. The place is made up of hills, water, cliffs, and even meadowlands. These things together make for a hodgepodge of eclectic and charming neighborhoods.

We Love You, New Jersey

Jersey may be the butt of some jokes on reality television, but as residents know, the joke is really on those who aren’t lucky enough to live there—particularly in New Jersey’s finest city, Fair Lawn. We love you, New Jersey—especially your pizza.

(click to enlarge)

Best Cities in New Jersey Ranking

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posted on: November 26, 2013
233,040 views, 22 comments

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22 Comments

  1. Adamsky

    North Brunswick
    East Brunswick

    wut.

    top lel. Literally two of the worst towns suburbia has to offer.

    - Summit
    - West Windsor
    - Princeton
    - Moorestown

    literally hundreds of towns vastly superior to East Brunswick.

    East effing Brunswick is a sh*t hole.

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Adamsky

      Hey Adam,
      My in-laws live in Princeton and I have a bunch of friends from Summit and I agree they are great “towns” to live in. Unfortunately, their population was too small to make it onto our list of “cities”.

      • Wesley in response to Chris Kolmar

        Really! Orange and Westfield make the list with populations of ~30K, and Bergenfield with a pop. of 26K.

        Montclair with a pop. of 37.6K is left out? Why? They have the university and a great business district with lots of fine restaurants. Where is the lack of “amenities” in Montclair? Not enough Pizza Huts, Dominos, Papa John’s, McDonalds, and Quiznos?!?

        This entire list is laughable. What were you guys thinking??

    • Luis in response to Adamsky

      With the exeption of Hoboken, NONE ARE CITIES! I’d hate to see your list of “worst suburbs”
      1. Camden
      2. Irvington
      3. Newark
      4. Elizabeth…you get it.

  2. jen

    This list is a joke. To include cities such as Camden, Newark, Irvington, Paterson, etc. just shows they don’t know what they are talking about. Anyone from Jersey knows those cities are the Worst to live in.

    • Chris Kolmar in response to jen

      Hey Jen,
      Just wanted to let you know we only looked at the top 50 most populous cities in NJ as anything smaller really stops being a “city” (It’s in the how we did it section above). The 4 cities you just mentioned were all ranked in the bottom 10 of our list. So I think that just shows our methodology matches up with perceptions to a certain degree.

      • Erin in response to Chris Kolmar

        Then you probably should have just left it as the 10 best. Because even putting Camden, Lakewood, or Newark on a list of “best” is warped. 10 best and then 10 worst maybe… But even so maybe factoring in traffic would have been a good idea too. Because Fair Lawn is nice, but try to get anywhere in less than 40 minutes and that too place goes out the window. Our pizza ion NJ is definitely great though.

        • Erin in response to Erin

          I meant “top” place goes out the window. But yea good call on the pizza.

  3. Zach

    No, this list really is ridiculous. Montclair has a higher population than many of these “cities,” and Cherry Hill’s population beats most of them by a long shot. And on what planet does pizza, bagels, and diners constitute amenities? That would be like judging a music store in our state by the number and variety of Bon Jovi CDs it has in stock, even if it doesn’t have any other type of music. Because, after all, that would “clearly” represent New Jersey.

  4. Laura

    Both the criteria and tone of the accompanying news release are offensive.

  5. Jim

    I would highly recommend that you take this list down immediately. It is entirely inaccurate & seriously undermines your firm’s credibility. Like someone else suggested, do an overall top 10, not just municipalities over a certain population. Your list contains some of the worst places to live in NJ. It shows your company knows nothing about NJ.

  6. Avid

    I have lived in Fair Lawn all my life. It’s obvious that this “ranking” is by a real estate agent. John’s is the only really bad pizza place in town. As for historic preservation, what little that is left, is squarely a target of out-of-town developers, dollars in their eyes, including a tragically decaying but highly historic house and a beloved park in the historic Radburn section. Better move here before it’s all developed: Fair Lawn is quickly urbanizing. Also, what’s with all the excitement about pizza and bagels — those are really off-kilter criteria for ranking a town. (The writer must weigh 400 lbs.) That said, Fair Lawn is a nice place with really great people, and several other fine features besides fast food places and rapid overdevelopment. Readers, this “ranking” is an object lesson on being careful to source the information you read on the internet.

  7. Themis

    This list must’ve been made by someone out of state. Many towns on this list I consider to be undesirable. Others are ok, and but this is not a top 10 list of towns in nj. Some of the best areas are amaller towns in Bergen county, Morris and mercer. Like someone else mentioned, where’s Princeton? Saddle river? Upper saddle river? Ramsey? Mahwah? Montville? This list and the author should be dumped very quickly.

  8. Michelle

    I agree with Themis. My first impression was that the list was a joke or that the company publishing this list and doing the research are clearly inexperienced. Shame on them for trying to defend their list. Listen to your readers who live here, check on your research, and try it again. My concern is that folks who live outside of NJ read this inaccurate data, interpret these towns for what the authors description depicts, and by deception, they find themselves and their children in very unfortunate circumstances. Then again, they say, never trust anything you read on the internet yet most of us do! I also agree with Jim, take this post down.

  9. Jasmine

    JASMINE:
    I just read most of comments on here. I must say it’s confused me even more.
    I planning on moving to NJ by the end of the year from Europe. I’ve never been to NJ so my trying to get as much info as I can before hand. My Husband will be working in Hoboken and we have two young kids (5yrs- 6yrs).
    We don’t want to live in Hoboken itself, but somewhere nearby that has a community feel with good schools and lots to do with kids both all year round. I wound appreciate any info .

  10. Russ

    What about education and job availability, park space, fine dining, nightlife, and municipal services? None of these were accounted for. Heck you ranked Jersey City above Parsippany. Guess which one you’re more likely to get mugged in. I don’t know about anyone else but I care a little more about my personal safety than how long I have to wait for a seat at the local diner, or how many pizza places I have to choose from.

  11. Linda

    My town Montville was left out but Paterson and Passaic made the list ?????? Something is very wrong here.

  12. Jan

    Clearly you left out south Jersey… Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Haddonfield. Your list is a joke. I’m guessing it lists the towns where you have the most unsold houses… gotta do something to move them.

  13. christopher

    If you listed quality of schools and tax burden as attributes, this list would be very, very different. Hoboken schools, for example, are terrible and considering the gold coast it has, an illustration of mismanaged municipal government. By comparison, Paramus has much better schools and an equally advantageous suite of ratables, so clearly it’s possible to run a local government well in NJ.

  14. Jill

    Fair Lawn is a nice place to live. But, your headline is misleading and your list is awful. Given your description, you should have said “The top 10 cities among the 50 most populous”. And then labeled your table as a ranking of the 50 most populous cities. However, you even got that wrong. As many people pointed out there are numerous cities missing from your list that larger than cities on your list (like Cherry Hill and Montclair). Also, it isn’t a matter of you just leaving off South Jersey because I see Vineland and Atlantic City. Your criteria is also awful, as noted by others. If I am ever looking for real estate info I will make sure to avoid your site.

  15. Renata

    I grew up in No Bergen until 25. Although it’s great, the mean income & home value is thrown off by all of the expensive waterfront property on the Hudson. People assume that’s all Edgewater, but a big chunk of it is actually No Bergen. If you take those property values & incomes out, the rest of the town is pretty average.

  16. Mike

    Jackson’s area is 100.6sq miles and is one of the biggest townships in NJ. To not make the top 50 is a joke. It has a population of 42,816 just so no petty argument can be brought up against the size of the township.

 

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