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:
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.