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Best things to do in Newark

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Where in the world: USA  /  New Jersey  /  Newark

Top 15 things to do in Newark

1. Branch Brook Park

Branch Brook Park is a county park of Essex County, New Jersey. It is located in the North Ward of Newark, between the neighborhoods of Forest Hill and Roseville. A portion of the park is also located within the Township of Belleville. At 360 acres (150 ha), Branch Brook Park is the largest public park in the city of Newark. The park is noted for the largest collection of cherry blossom trees in the United States, having over 5,000 in more than eighteen different varieties collectively called Cherryblossomland, as well as its spectacular Cherry Blossom Festival each April.
The park was formally created in 1895 by the newly created Essex County Parks Commission, making it the nation's first county park. The area had served as an Army training ground during the American Civil War. At the time, the northern portion of the area had been a marsh known as Old Blue Jay Swamp. In 1898, a public appropriation financed the conversion of the swamp into a landscaped lake. The initial park was only 60 acres (24 ha) in size but grew in the 1920s through private donations from prominent Newark families, such as the Ballantines, eventually reaching the city limit with Belleville and becoming one of the largest urban parks in the United States. The Morris Canal originally ran on the park's west side, until its old bed was turned into the Newark City Subway, providing access to the park from Downtown Newark.

The first designs of the park, based largely on romantic garden themes, were proposed in 1895 and 1898, after the Parks Commission hired several architectural firms to plan the park. In 1900, the commission hired the Olmsted Brothers firm to redesign the park. The result was the park's current naturalistic look and feel, with acres of meadows and forests, in a manner similar to their father's earlier designs of Central Park and Prospect Park.

The park is home to many architecturally significant structures, including bridges, buildings, gates, and sculptures. Many of these were designed by the beaux-arts architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings headed by John Merven Carrère and Thomas Hastings. The pair designed two Subway Bridges now referred to as Subway 1, East and Subway 2, West.
The famous cherry trees were the result of a 1927 gift from Caroline Bamberger Fuld, sister of department store magnate Louis Bamberger and widow of the store's vice president. The Cherry Blossom Festival attracts approximately 10,000 visitors each April. Branch Brook Park also features a lake and a pond.

During World War II, the park's grounds served a tent city for recruits, as well as a landing strip for airplanes of the United States Postal Service.

The neighborhood on the east side of the park, Forest Hill, is Newark's most affluent. Also on the east side of the park is the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Basilica, one of the largest cathedrals in the United States.

It has been placed on both the New Jersey (1980) and National (1981) Registers of Historic Places.

In 1999 Branch Brook Park began a $25 million ten-year restoration program. In 2004, the Park Avenue bridge was repaired, as were the baseball fields in the center of the park. In 2007, a plan was created to provide for more than 5,000 cherry trees in the park and renovate and rename the Welcome Center. The plan uses a $650,000 grant from the Essex County Recreation and the Open Space Trust Fund from 2006 and private donations.
In 2012, statues dedicated to sports figures Althea Gibson and Roberto Clemente were unveiled in the park. In 2013 the park was in the final phase of the restoration plan.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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2. Bronx Zoo, Bronx

The world's largest urban zoo, Bronx Zoo displays more than 650 different species from across the globe--about 6,000 animals in total. The 107 hectare (265 acre) park features numerous sections and regional themes, including Wild Asia, Madagascar, African Plains, the World of Monkeys, and Tiger Mountain. You'll find a colony of critically endangered western lowland gorillas in their jungle habitat in the Congo Gorilla Forest, which showcases the zoo's commitment to conservation and provides residents with spacious outdoor enclosures. Check the zoo's online events schedule for animal feedings, zookeeper talks, and enrichment activities.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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3. Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart

The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the fifth-largest cathedral in North America, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark. It is located at 89 Ridge Street in the Lower Broadway neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey. Construction began in 1899 and was finished in 1954. The original design called for an English-Irish Gothic Revival church, but plans were later modified in favor of a French Gothic Revival style.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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4. St. Lucy's Church

St. Lucy's Church is a historic church at 19-27 Ruggiero Plaza at the intersection of Seventh Ave.in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey, United States. It is home to the American National Shrine Of Saint Gerard Majella.

It was built in 1925 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

The church is in the Old First Ward near Branch Brook Park, a historically Italian parish in what was Newark's Little Italy, features an annual October procession and festival for St. Gerard Majella, the patron saint of childbearing, that is heavily attended by the New Jersey Italian diaspora. The October Feast of St. Gerard "became so popular and so widely-known for producing miracle babies for hitherto childless women that in 1977 the National Conference of U.S. Bishops made St. Lucy's the National Shrine of St. Gerard."
The church holds a monthly mass in honor of St. Gerard at which expectant parents and others hoping to become expectant venerate the saint.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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5. Ironbound

Ironbound is an unincorporated community and neighborhood within the city of Newark in Essex County, New Jersey, United States. It is a large working-class, close-knit, multi-ethnic community covering approximately four square miles (10 km²). Historically, the area was called "Dutch Neck," "Down Neck," or simply "the Neck," due to the appearance of the curve of the Passaic River. The Ironbound is part of Newark's East Ward and is directly east of Newark Penn Station and Downtown Newark, and south and west of the river, over which passes the Jackson Street Bridge, connecting to Harrison and Kearny.
The name "The Ironbound" is said to derive from the large metalworking industry in the area or from the network of railroad tracks that surrounded the neighborhood.
The Ironbound was an industrial neighborhood in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Workers at Benjamin Moore paints, Ballantine Beer, the Murphy Varnish Company and Conmar Zippers lived next to railroad and port workers. The neighborhood was also home to Hensler's Beer Brewery and Pride of Newark ("P.O.N.") beer by the Feigenspan Brewery. The Ironbound was poorer than was the rest of Newark at that time. A legacy of that 19th century poverty can be seen in the neighborhood's architecture - there are very few brownstones or even brick-faced buildings in the district. The inhabitants were considered to be in such need of help that Protestant reformers established the Bethel Mission there in 1850. Today however the Ironbound is one of the more affluent neighborhoods in Newark.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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6. Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, Central Valley

Woodbury Common Premium Outlets is home to 220 stores. Shop for clothes, shoes, jewelry, luggage, home furnishings, and gifts items from well-known luxury brands at significantly reduced prices. Color-coded areas will help you orient yourself in this 72,000 sq m (800,000 sq ft) center. Tour buses and shuttles depart daily from New York City. Foreign visitors can make use of interpreters, currency exchange, and shipping services.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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7. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx

New York Botanical Garden nurtures 50 different gardens and thousands of different plant species over more than 100 hectares (250 acres). Founded in 1891 and on the National Register of Historic Places, the gardens today represent one of New York's premier tourist attractions. You can wander through the herbarium, rock garden, an ornate vintage greenhouse, and even a research library containing more than half a million volumes. Don't miss what is perhaps one of the site's most notable sections: 20 hectares (50 acres) of original old-growth forest along the Bronx River, dating from before the European colonization of North America. Check the garden's schedule of events for information on temporary exhibits and special offers.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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8. The Newark Museum of Art

The Newark Museum of Art, formerly known as the Newark Museum, in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey is the state's largest museum. It holds major collections of American art, decorative arts, contemporary art, and arts of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the ancient world. Its extensive collections of American art include works by Hiram Powers, Thomas Cole, John Singer Sargent, Albert Bierstadt, Frederick Church, Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Joseph Stella, Tony Smith and Frank Stella.

The museum's Tibetan art galleries are considered among the best in the world. The collection was purchased from Christian missionaries in the early twentieth century. The Tibetan galleries have an in-situ Buddhist altar that the Dalai Lama has consecrated. In addition to its extensive art collections, the Newark Museum of Art is dedicated to natural science. It includes the Dreyfuss Planetarium and the Victoria Hall of Science which highlights selections from the museum's 70,000 specimen Natural Science Collection. The Alice Ransom Dreyfuss Memorial Garden, located behind the museum, houses numerous works of contemporary sculpture and is the setting for community programs, concerts and performances. The garden is also home to a 1784 old stone schoolhouse and the Newark Fire Museum.

The museum was founded in 1909 by librarian and reformer John Cotton Dana. As the charter described it, the purpose was "to establish in the City of Newark, New Jersey, a museum for the reception and exhibition of articles of art, science, history and technology, and for the encouragement of the study of the arts and sciences." The kernel of the museum was a collection of Japanese prints, silks, and porcelains assembled by a Newark pharmacist.
Originally located on the fourth floor of the Newark Public Library, the museum moved into its own purpose-built structure in the 1920s on Washington Park after a gift by Louis Bamberger. It was designed by Jarvis Hunt, who also designed Bamberger's flagship Newark store. Since then, the museum has expanded several times, to the south into the red brick former YMCA and to the north into the 1885 Ballantine House, by means of a four-year, $23 million renovation. In 1990, the museum expanded to the west into an existing acquired building. At that time much of the museum, including the new addition, was redesigned by Michael Graves.

The museum had a mini-zoo with small animals for some twenty years, until August 2010.
For the security of climate-sensitive artwork, the museum closed its front entrance to the public in 1997 to minimize the effects of temperature and humidity changes. However, in February 2018, after extensive renovation and the construction of a ramp for disabled access, the front doors were reopened.
On November 6, 2019, the museum changed its name to "The Newark Museum of Art" to highlight the focus of the museum on its art collection which was ranked 12th in the country.
The Newark Black Film Festival was founded in conjunction with the Museum and was formerly held every summer on the Museum campus.

The museum is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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9. Grounds For Sculpture, Hamilton

A celebration of all things sculptural, Grounds For Sculpture, features a beautifully landscaped park and museum located on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. Founded in 1992 by John Seward Johnson II, the park contains over 270 large-scale contemporary sculptures by Johnson and other international artists. Most notable is the 7.9 m (26 ft) tall sculpture of Marilyn Monroe in her famous white billowing dress from the film "The Seven Year Itch.” Rat’s restaurant is well worth a visit, designed by Johnson to make customers feel as if they are dining in Claude Monet’s beloved town of Giverny.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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10. Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson

Not only a popular amusement park but also a renowned concert venue, Six Flags Great Adventure contains eleven themed areas, three of them designed with small children in mind. In 2012, the complex combined its 65 hectares (160 acre) with a 140 hectare (350 acre) animal park, making this one of the largest amusement parks in the world. Choose from over 100 rides, shows, and special events, or go on an off-road safari adventure for a chance to see and feed a range of big and small exotic animals. To help find your way inside the enormous park, pick up a map at the front gate. Save money and avoid long lines by buying your tickets online.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, Poughkeepsie

Cross the 2 km (1.28 mi) elevated pedestrian bridge--the longest one in the world--at Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park. Sitting 65 m (212 ft) above the Hudson River, you can cross the bridge by foot, bicycle, or even roller skates. No motor vehicles are allowed. Take a picnic if you like, as there are benches and picnic tables at both sides of the walkway. The area is also used for bird watching, dog walking, jogging, photography, and audio-visual programs. Restrooms are available at both approaches.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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12. Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Mount Pleasant Cemetery is a historic rural cemetery in the North Ward of Newark in Essex County, New Jersey, United States. It is located on the west bank of the Passaic River in Newark's Broadway neighborhood, opposite Kearny. It occupies approximately 40 acres (162,000 m²) and was designed by Horace Baldwin. The cemetery is listed on both the New Jersey Register (ID #1284, since 1987) and the National Register of Historic Places (Reference #87000836, since 1988).

The graves of some of Newark's most eminent citizens are within Mount Pleasant Cemetery. The cemetery is dominated by the marble mausoleum of John Fairfield Dryden, the founder of Prudential Financial. Other notable interments include Marcus Lawrence Ward, Governor of New Jersey; Seth Boyden, inventor of patent leather; and Mary Stillman, first wife of Thomas Edison. Mount Pleasant also contains graves of members of the Kinney, Ballantine, and Frelinghuysen families.

The cemetery itself was opened and incorporated in 1844, but there are graves that date back to the mid-17th century, which were moved from older graveyards that were crowded out due to development.

Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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13. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park

The first presidential library built in the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum was conceived when Franklin D. Roosevelt decided that a separate property was needed to house his large collection of historical documents, books, and papers. The library's research facilities and traditional study were converted to a high-tech interactive exhibit space in the 21st century, but Roosevelt's personal study has remained unchanged. Roosevelt spent many hours in the study organizing important documents, and even delivered his radio fireside chats from the room. This library set the precedent for the Presidential Libraries Act in 1955, stating that each president's papers and documents should be stored in one place for public access. Consider purchasing a reduced-price combined ticket to the library and the FDR house in nearby Hyde Park.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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14. Military Park

Military Park is a 6-acre (24,000 m2) city park in Downtown Newark, Essex County, New Jersey, United States. Along with Lincoln Park and Washington Park, it makes up the three downtown parks in Newark that were laid out in the colonial era. It is a nearly triangular park located between Park Place, Rector Street and Broad Street.

The New Jersey Historical Society, Military Park Building, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the Robert Treat Center and the newly built One Theatre Square and 50 Rector St buildings are located across Park Place from the park. A $3.25 million renovation led by Dan Biederman was announced in February 2012. The reconstruction was expected to be completed in late 2013, but due to harsh weather was postponed until spring 2014. A casual restaurant, Burg, does business in the park. The park reopened in June 2014.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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15. Princeton University, Princeton

Established in 1746, Princeton University sits on a 200 ha (500 acre) campus and welcomes 8,000 students each year who learn about humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. Take a guided tour of the campus to find out about its educational, cultural, recreational, and athletic aspects. Walk through the grounds and buildings to get a feel for the university's community and culture, and see what one of the wealthiest schools in the United States looks like. The main campus, with its gothic structures and 20th-century sculptures, has been named one of the country's most beautiful by Travel + Leisure magazine.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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