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A Day Trip Guide to Maplewood, NJ

by Louise Bylicki
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When looking for a quick weekend day trip, it’s not necessary to travel far outside of Essex County. In fact, the adorable town of Maplewood is a fun spot for a quick day’s excursion. The people are friendly and diverse, and the downtown area exudes a 20thcentury nostalgic vibe, with restaurants and shops interspersed along Maplewood Avenue. With all the lush green space, such as Memorial Park and the nearby South Mountain Reservation, Maplewood offers plenty of outdoor options for picnics, sports, or relaxation. Given the combination of nostalgia and greenery, it’s not surprising that Maplewood is the birthplace of Ultimate Frisbee. Read on to plan your outing to Maplewood, New Jersey.

The History

The Lenape, a Native American Tribe, were the earliest residents of the Maplewood-South Orange area, according to Durand-Hedden, a museum in Maplewood. The tribe populated the Mid-Atlantic coast from New York Bay to Delaware Bay in the early 17th century and was then “known as the ‘Lenni-Lenape,’ according to the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape American Indian Tribe.

In 1667, settlers purchased 40,000 acres from the Lenape, including what is now Maplewood Township. In the late 18th century, the area received its first name, “Jefferson Village,” after Thomas Jefferson. As the region developed, farms and small industrial enterprises emerged in the early 19th century. But only when a rail line was built did “Maplewood” come about.

In 1860, a railroad station was built near Baker Street and Maplewood Avenue. “A large maple tree stood nearby… and because of the great maple swamp that had been well-known in the village,” according to the Maplewood Historic Preservation Commission. The town of Maplewood was born, and along with the railroad came many wealthy people seeking a break from city life.

Visting Today

Approximately 26,000 people call this village home, and the neighborhoods consist mainly of houses rather than apartment or condo buildings.  

Memorial Park is an Olmsted brothers-designed oasis centrally located in town and within walking distance from downtown. There you can find many charming shops and various restaurants along the avenue. If you’re lucky enough to be in town on a Friday or Saturday night, perhaps you’ll hear live music filling the streets. Check out the Maplewood Village Alliance’s calendar for upcoming events.

Where to Eat

Arturo’s | 180 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood

This pizzeria uses local, fresh ingredients and offers a seasonal menu of pasta, pizza, salads, small plates, and lunchtime sandwiches. Biting into the just-right crust on the brick-oven pizza satisfies. Currently, the lunch menu is for take-out only. 

Bistro D’Azur | 14 Academy Street, South Orange

(Photo credit: @bistrodazur)

The Artisanal French Mediterranean menu changes almost daily at Bistro D’Azur as Chef Richard Krug uses fresh, locally sourced ingredients. This fine-dining restaurant is open Wednesday – Sundays, 4PM – 10PM, with two- and three-course prix fixe dinner selections every night, including a vegan menu. It provides a limited selection of wines by the bottle and offers a BYOB policy with no corkage fee.

Coda Kitchen & Bar | 177 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood

Coda Kitchen & Bar boasts an extensive menu with locally sourced food and craft beer. The friendly and knowledgeable wait staff will let you sample a beer before ordering, and offer their suggestions on the dishes. The grilled peach salad (a special that night) hit the spot on an early fall evening.

Read More: Must-Try Doughnuts In + Around Montclair

Cornbread | 1565 Springfield Avenue, Maplewood

(Photo credit: @cornbreadmaplewood)

Cornbread serves “fast-casual, authentic, savory soul food” and sources its ingredients “from farm to soul.” The restaurant boasts its love of soul food as its highest standard, as it “represents the importance of family and strong ties that bring a community together.” This love is extended through their delicious meals of chicken, fried catfish, and ribs, along with side dishes, like cornbread, of course. Pick-up, delivery, and catering options are available.

La Villa | 261 Irvington Avenue, South Orange

(Photo credit: @la_villa_mexican_salvador)

This quaint and well-lit cafe serves homemade Mexican and Salvadoran food. The large menu features many appetizers, soups, salads, chicken, meat, vegetarian dishes, and dinner platters available. Indoor and outdoor seating available, as well as online ordering for pick-up. 

Pimento Grill | 1908 Springfield Avenue, Maplewood 

(Photo credit: @pimentogrill)

This Jamaican restaurant provides seafood, vegetarian, meat, and chicken dishes authentically “flavored from the usage of natural herbs & spices.” Chef Dahina has created “six tasty ways to serve lobster tail” and makes all dishes with natural ingredients. Reservations, catering delivery, curbside pick-up options are available.

Restaurant Lorena’s | 160 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood

(Photo credit: @restaurantlorenas)

Lorena’s has gathered a multitude of accolades for Chef Campos and his “seasonally Inspired French American ” cuisine since its opening in 2005. Campos named the restaurant after his wife, which makes it only appropriate that Lorena’s was voted one of the 100 most romantic restaurants in America in 2018 by OpenTable diners. Lunch and dinner are served Wednesday through Sunday. 

True Salvage Cafe | 292 Elmwood Avenue, Maplewood

(Photo credit: @truesalvagecafe)

Hometown girl Chef Signe Heffernan makes good with “farm-fresh ingredients and small-batch cooking” at this cafe. The menu focuses mainly on sandwiches, but also offers dinners. In 2020, NJ.com voted the True Salvage Taylor Ham/Pork Roll Breakfast Sandwich creation “the best.” Daily specials can be found on True Salvage Cafe’s Instagram page. Hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 8AM-3PM.

Village Coffee | 164 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood

Village Coffee serves breakfast all day, as well as bowls, wraps, and paninis. In addition to regular coffee drinks, six types of Chai, six variations of hot chocolate, and four types of cider (in season) are available, either hot or iced. Sit outside in the sun or on a chilly day, move inside where the brick and wood interior gives off a warm feeling. It’s close to the train station, making it convenient for a coffee or tea on the run.

 Village Ice Cream Parlour | 185 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood

This classic shop serves ice cream, sugar-free ice cream flavors, and frozen yogurt. The store follows Covid-19 protocols and only allows in a few people at a time. The store doesn’t take debit or credit cards, so make sure you have cash on you before you go.

Where to Shop

A Paper Hat – Art + Design Supply | 84 Baker Street, Maplewood

This cute store offers a large variety of brushes, paints, journals, notebooks, sketch pads, pens, markers, and even slate pencils. The store was established in 2016, and “carefully selects well-made, well-designed art supplies, stationery, and gifts for all ages and abilities.” The store follows Covid-19 guidelines and requires masks to be worn even for the fully vaccinated. 

The CannaBoss Lady | 9 Highland Place, Maplewood

The CannaBoss Lady is a serene boutique shop that “curates luxury products for women (and men, too), who are focused on their beauty, health, and wellness.” Owner Jill Cohen opened the shop in 2020 and is focused on educating women about cannabinoid products to make informed CBD buying decisions. The CannaBoss Lady’s mission is “to support women by selling a variety of women-owned brands,” and to donate to women minority charities. 

See More: Quincy Boutique Brings a European Shopping Experience to Montclair

Freeman’s Fish Market | 155 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood

This small shop has been big on “providing the area’s freshest seafood since 1989,” when Maplewood natives and owners Reggie Delphin and Shawn McClure started it. The fish is picked daily from the Fulton Food Market, and the store also offers prepared foods, produce herbs, and seasonings. Freeman’s caters to business events and personal parties and offers free home delivery service.                

Maplewood Mercantile | 145 Dunnell Road, Maplewood

This women-owned and operated marketplace opened in 2017. The 2800-square-foot space is filled with vintage art, clothing, furniture, jewelry, and other items for sale. Also, this co-op has hosted community cultural events, such as art shows, live music. Maplewood Mercantile is open Thursday through Sunday, 10 AM – 5 PM. 

My CBD Organics | 171 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood

This retail shop carries only one brand of CBD products, the Organic Touch brand, as it is part of a franchise. In addition to providing the usual CBD products, such as gummies, salves, and teas, the store offers CBD Pet Treats, “formulated by a veterinarian,” to help keep your fur babies calm. The store exudes an airy and clean contemporary feel, and staff members are friendly, knowledgeable, and happy to answer any questions. 

Perch Home | 9 Highland Place, Maplewood

A cozy shop that carries “quality goods,” such as cashmere shawls and knit scarves, jewelry, candles, and seasonal items like wassail spice kits. A baby section includes muslin sleepers and swaddles, children’s books, and gifts for babies. Perch will shift into the holiday season in early November and display its curated collection of ornaments and decor based on the shop’s 2021 holiday theme, Celestial Skies.

Words Bookstore | 179 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood

(Photo credit: @wordsbookstore)

This community bookstore offers a wide selection of classics, new works, young adults, and children’s books. The mission: “Engaging readers of all ages and interests, welcoming patrons and employees with autism.” Browse to “classic” music, such as UB40 and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. 

Things to Do

Hiking in the South Mountain Reservation

Located near Maplewood (Millburn, West Orange, and South Orange), the reserve boasts about 2,110 acres of land along the Rahway River and offers nearly 20 miles of walking and hiking trails. Choose an easy one-mile path, such as the Rahway and Maple Falls Trail, the moderate 4.3-mile Openwood, River, Lenape, and Overlook Trails loop, or for true trekkers, a multi-day hike on the 32.8-mile Lenape Trail: Branch Brook Park to South Mountain Reservation.

 South Mountain Reservation Fairy Trail

This half-mile fairy trail is open year-round. It begins at the Locust Grove picnic area and is a doable walk for small children. Along the footpath, habitats of sprites are nestled amongst the trees. Local artists helped create these miniature homes along the Rahway Trail. 

Durand Hedden House & Garden | 523 Ridgewood Road, Maplewood

(Photo credit: @njfieldmusicgroup)

The museum explores the history of Maplewood (and surrounding towns) from “its original settlement in the late 17th century to the late 20th century” through music, food, and participatory activities, just to name a few ways. It is open one Sunday per month for public programs, usually from 1PM-4PM. 

Memorial Park | 580 Valley Street, Maplewood 

In addition to encompassing a picnic area, playground, tennis courts, basketball courts, softball fields, amphitheater, Memorial Park hosts the Fourth of July celebration and Maplewoodstock (postponed ‘til July 2022). In May, it was the setting for the first “Painters in the Park” event for local artists. This verdant beauty, designed initially in the 1920s by the Olmsted Brothers, is in the center of town.  

Turtle Back Zoo | 560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange

(Photo credit: @officialturtlebackzoo)

Turtle Back Zoo is located in the South Mountain Reservation and about a 15-minute car ride from Maplewood. Ticket prices for Turtle Back Zoo: $17 adults; $14 children 12 and under, and seniors 62 and older. The zoo is a 10-15-minute drive from Maplewood. It is open daily from 10AM – 4PM. Face coverings are required inside. 

So, the next time you want to take a fun day trip, but not spend the whole day away, consider venturing to Maplewood, and check out some of these spots!

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