Newark aka ‘Brick City’ is the Garden State’s largest city, and the nation’s third-oldest city, established in 1666. It’s no surprise that people refer to it as the cultural epicenter of the state. A popular neighborhood in the four-square-mile city is known as the Ironbound because it is surrounded by railroad tracks and factories due to the industrialization of the early 1800s. Many people who settled in Newark at that time were European immigrants who brought their culture with them. In no time, restaurants and shops were opening and many of the owners were of Spanish and Portuguese descent.
Because of this, some locals also refer to this neighborhood as Mini Spain or Little Portugal. However, Newark is a true melting pot. The port of Newark is one of the largest in the nation, the public parks are widely popular, it was the brewery capital in the nation at one point, it’s home to the New Jersey Devils it’s lined with historical landmarks, some of the biggest celebrities are from there, and it’s a hub for art. Newark is in a league of its own, and always will be. Read on to discover some of the must-try restaurants and things to do in the renowned city.
Things to Do
Newark Print Shop | 304 University Avenue, 2nd Floor
DIY screen printing shop is one of Newark’s best-kept secrets and has been a mainstay for local artists looking to create their art on whatever canvases they choose, from t-shirts to bags to hats and everything in between. Visitors pay a flat fee to enter, the studio is broken into sections, and guests work their way through each section in order of the process. The result? Handmade art, IRL. The shop also hosts educational workshops.
Newark Museum of Art | 49 Washington Street
Established in 1909, the Newark Museum of Art is the state’s largest museum. Visitors can view collections of American art, decorative arts, contemporary art, and arts of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the ancient world. The Museum also hosts cultural events throughout the month both virtually and in person.
Prudential Center | 25 Lafayette Street
It’s impossible to talk about Newark without mentioning the Prudential Center. It’s home to the New Jersey Devils, the New Jersey Rockets, and is one of the largest performance venues in the area that has hosted the world’s biggest artists right in the center of the business district. While visiting, don’t forget to stop at the Grammy Museum – an interactive museum dedicated to the history and winners of the Grammy Awards.
The New Jersey Historical Society | 52 Park Place
The New Jersey Historical Society is located in the former headquarters of the Essex Club. There are two floors of exhibition space, a gift shop, and a hall for lectures. According to the site, the Museum collections include costumes, furniture, paintings, prints, tools, and much more. The library has manuscripts, reference books and rare books, photographs, maps, broadsides, pamphlets, and other materials that document the cultural and historical heritage of New Jersey from the Colonial Era through the 20th century.
Self-Guided Mural Tour
The walls of Newark have some of the most creative, thought-provoking, and culturally representative art in Essex County. It boasts work from both internationally-acclaimed artists and locals. Plan out which murals to see and make an afternoon of it. Trending In and Newark Happening have curated lists of murals in town. One of the hundreds of murals includes a portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama and Whitney Houston, a Newark native.
Newark Moonlight Cinema | 220 Orange Street
Newark-based filmmaker Ayana Stafford-Morris and real estate developer Siree Morris created the Newark Moonlight Cinema during Summer 2020 as a way to bring Black films to their neighborhood. It was so popular that it returned again in 2021, and has plans to reopen in Summer 2022. This seasonal drive-in theater experience is a hit in the warmer months from the moment it opens to closes. From cult classics to recent releases, each weekend Moonlight is a destination for hundreds of people.
New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) | 1 Center Street
(Photo credit: @njpac)
Nestled in downtown Newark, NJPAC is home to the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and offers arts education programs, arts training classes, scholarships, in-school residencies, and more. The center is made up of four main venues including the Prudential Hall used for opera, ballet, symphony orchestra, and Broadway series performances.
Newark Symphony Hall | 1020 Broad Street
New Jersey’s oldest and largest arts and entertainment venue, the Newark Symphony Hall was founded in 1925 under a different name and has seen generations through performances of vaudeville, cinema, live music, and countless symphony orchestra performances. Currently, many of the performances are virtual. Check the site for upcoming events.
Self-Guided Public Park Tour
Dubbed the Garden State for a reason – Newark is home to some of the largest and most beautiful public parks in the area. Some must-visits include Branch Brook Park (MG Tip: Visit during Cherry Blossom season, it’s spectacular), Military Park, and Weequahic Park.
Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart | 89 Ridge Street
For those who appreciate historic architecture, this is the fifth-largest cathedral in North America. In 1899, construction began on the Basilica, and in 1954 was finally opened to the public. The church offers tours, walking visitors through the structure and history.
Self-Guided Art Gallery Tour
The art scene is thriving in Newark: a peek into the local gallery scene is confirmation. Stop into Gallery Aferro, Paul Robeson Galleries at Express Newark, Akwaaba Gallery, City Without Walls, Aljira, Paul Robeson Galleries, and others for a taste.
The Jewish Museum of New Jersey | 145 Broadway Street
The Museum was founded in 2003 and is housed in the Congregation Ahavas Sholom. The Congregation is over 100 years old, is a state and national landmark, and is the longest-running synagogue in the city. According to the site, “New Jersey has the fourth-largest Jewish population in the country and can trace its Jewish roots to the 17th century – yet, it didn’t have a permanent state-wide museum to preserve and exhibit the state’s Jewish history.” That’s when the Museum was born. It is currently closed to the public but check the website for updates on upcoming opening dates.
Where to Eat + Drink
All Points West Distillery | 73 Tichenor Street
All Points West specializes in gins, vodkas, and whiskeys. It also carries spirits like Pink Pepper Gin, Black Pepper Vodka, and its award-winning Malt and Grain Pot Still Whiskey. The distillery offers tasting tours and cocktails on weekends.
Hobby’s Delicatessen & Restaurant | 32 Branford Place
This old-school Jewish deli has been run by the Brummer family since 1962. It pickles its own well-known corned beef in 50-gallon stainless steel vats. Go-to orders are the potato pancakes and homemade soups. Patrons can also stop in for salads, fresh fruits, and daily specials like gazpacho, fresh salmon, wraps, and more.
Little Tijuana | 538 Market Street
This gem has a patio and a rooftop bar. It’s known for its strong margaritas and classic Mexican food. The design is super IG-worthy – from Mexican wall art to a swing on the rooftop, it’s the perfect atmosphere for a fun night out with friends.
Manu’s Kitchen Bar & Sushi Lounge | 90 Ferry Street
Traditional Mediterranean fare meets Japanese techniques and recipes – that is the concept behind Manu’s. From vegetarian eats to tapas, Manu’s offers a mixture of cuisines. It also stocks imported wines, sake, and beer to complement the dishes.
Starting in the 1950s, a large number of Portuguese, Brazilian, and Spaniard immigrants moved to North America, bringing the beauty of their culture with them, including the sought-after cuisine. New Jerseyians travel far and wide to the hub of Portuguese food in the state – Newark. There are too many great restaurants to list, but some of our favorites include Sabor Unido, Seabra’s Marisqueria, Iberia Tavern, Fernandez’s Steakhouse, Adega Grill, Fornos of Spain, Casa d’ Paco, and Teixeira’s Bakery.
Vonda’s Kitchen | 183 W. Kinney Street
Founded by local restauranteur Vonda McPherson, this spot has European vibes in terms of decor, undoubtedly a nod to the town’s history, but with a modern twist to reflect the new residents. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served. The menu highlights classic comfort food dishes from BBQ burgers, mac and cheese, and more.
Places to Shop
Closet Savvy Consignment Boutique | 37 Maiden Lane
Closet Savvy Consignment is a consignment boutique that specializes in high-end, authentic luxury items. Brands like Levi’s, Moschino, YSL, and Louis Vuitton can all be found here from clothes to handbags to shoes, and more.
Off the Hanger | 12 Linden Street
Known for edgy fashion, art, and decor, Off the Hanger is a must-visit for those who love bold looks and home design. Think: vibrant prints, and hard-to-find styles. The owner, Lynette Lashawn, has had a long career in fashion, including coordinating fashion shows and directing Newark’s Lincoln Park Music Festival’s first fashion moment.
Magic Sneaker | 847 Broad Street
This is the neighborhood’s one-stop-shop for all things streetwear for the whole family from exclusive sneakers to classic bombers and jerseys. Everything in stock is carefully curated for locals who want to stay in style but in comfort. Puma, Timberland, and New Era are all brands carried in-store.
Source of Knowledge Book Store | 867 Broad Street
Founded in 1992, this bookstore has been a mainstay in the community, and for good reason. It began as a bookstore and has become a community center that highlights Black art, literature, culture, and community. Every year, Source of Knowledge collects funds to sponsor young locals going back to school.