Clinton, Hunterdon County
Drive (or walk) across the old steel bridge over the Raritan River and you enter one of Central Jersey’s most charming historic districts. To your left is the Hunterdon Art Museum, a sanctuary for contemporary art, crafts and design. Straight ahead on East Main Street the shopping options include Bearpaw Leather Shop (for hand-crafted bags, shoes and jackets); Fourchette (fine cheeses); Carrie Anne’s (antiques); Balic of Clinton (wine and specialty foods); Bill Healy Designs (hand-cut crystal and Irish products); and Amaryllis (women’s clothes). And that’s just one side of the street. You can dine on the riverfront terrace at the Clean Plate Kitchen or grab a beverage at the adjacent Riverside Coffee & Tea. Both offer a nice view of the waterfall and the historic Red Mill Museum Village across the river. For a more ambitious dining experience, try Dora, also on East Main.
Madison, Morris County
Madison’s walkable downtown attracts locals with kids in tow and students from the town’s three campuses. They come for the food at Soho 33 and 54 Main Bar and Grille; the ice cream at McCool’s; and the cool scene at Shanghai Jazz, a world-class music venue and restaurant. Shoppers make great finds at Statements Boutique (women’s clothing, jewelry, shoes and bags); Time After Time (vintage clothes); and J&M Home & Garden (unique furnishings and nursery products). The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is a cultural treasure on the Drew University campus, just outside of downtown.
Millville, Cumberland County
The downtown arts district of this former glass-manufacturing town is alive with galleries and studios; beyond downtown, the Wheaton Arts Center, on the grounds of the old Wheaton Glass plant, has studios, exhibitions, artisan shopping and a museum of American glass. Each month, Third Friday brings live music downtown; Bogart’s Books and Coffee hosts acoustic groups on weekends; and the Off Broad Street Players perform regularly at the old Levoy Theatre. Jim’s Lunch (open from Columbus Day to Memorial Day) is legendary for its small burgers—a favorite of baseball star Mike Trout, Millville’s most famous son. BoJo’s Ale House and Old Oar House have eclectic bar food. For unique gifts, try Across the Pond.
Tenafly, Bergen County
The 19th-century Victorian train station—with all its gothic flourishes—is the hub of Tenafly’s downtown. It long ago stopped serving commuters; today it houses Café Angelique, where patrons can enjoy a meal al fresco or in the soaring former waiting room. Attractions on nearby Washington Street include Mint for vintage fashions; Orogio and Allure Time for elegant jewelry; Celebrity for clothing for teens and tots; Petit Paperie for fine stationery; and Womrath’s for books. Additional dining options include Axia Taverna for Greek specialties and Tenafly Kosher Deli, hailed for its pastrami on rye.