Day Trip: Montclair

This hip Essex County township has become one of the state’s prime dining and entertainment destinations.

Raymond's
Ed Kashi

Everyone loves Raymond’s: People rave about the French toast at Raymond’s (28 Church St, 973-744-9263), but the corn-batter pancakes, served with real maple syrup and fresh fruit on the side, are pretty great too. The decor—old-fashioned black-and-white tile floor, vintage Art Deco clock, tin-roof ceiling, newspapers hanging from wooden rolls, library style—takes diners back to early in the last century. Raymond’s is a prime spot for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner over good conversation or the paper.

Simply perfect: If you’re looking for a gift, head over to Jafajems (2 Church St, 973-744-6800, or 623 Valley Rd, 973-746-5885), where you’ll be sure to find just the right pottery piece, pillow, basket, or tchotchke. For more great home furnishings and gifts, stop by semplice (pictured; 465 Bloomfield Ave, 973-783-7495) or Spice It Up (229 Glenridge Ave, 973-744-3344, spiceitupshop.com).

Worth a look: The Montclair Art Museum (3 S Mountain Ave, 973-746-5555, montclairartmuseum.org) has more than 15,000 works, including those by Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, George Inness (a nineteenth-century Montclair resident), Georgia O’Keeffe, and John Singer Sargent. The museum showcases New Jersey artists and offers classes in its Yard School of Art.

Make your own jewelry: Visit Montclair Beadworks (43 Church St, 973-744-3202, montclairbeadworks.com) for all your jewelry supplies, from Swarovski crystal to African trade beads and ceramic Raku beads. Beading classes are available as well.

Bookworm central: Check out the Montclair Book Center (219-221 Glenridge Ave, 973-783-3630, montclairbookcenter.com), where the shelves are crammed with new titles as well as used and rare books. Or go to one of the weekly readings and signings by local authors at Watchung Booksellers (54 Fairfield St, 973-744-7177, watchungbooksellers.com).

Extra credit: Stroll along the town’s main drag, Bloomfield Avenue, and you could easily get the impression that there isn’t anything except restaurants in Montclair. One noteworthy new spot near the train station is Extraordinaire Jamaican Cuisine(338 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-509-7700), where you can sit down or take out mango chicken, curried beef, or beef patties while quaffing a mango slushie, Jamaican ginger beer, or coconut water. A handwritten sign tells customers, “Can’t find parking? Call in your order and we will meet you at curbside at a specified time, your order and change in tow.”

Park it here: As the downtown goes through a recent expansion, it is pushing to provide enough parking along with it. The 430-space Crescent Deck, which opened in fall 2005 on Church Street between South Park and South Fullerton, has the Montclair artistic flair: a glass-and-ceramic mosaic by Anne Oshman. And from the top deck you can see the Manhattan skyline.

Or park it here: Brookdale Park, partly in Bloomfield and partly in Montclair, offers a fitness course, running track, soccer, football and softball fields, grandstand, playground, tennis courts, and basketball courts. On summer evenings, a free summer concert program includes visits from the Metropolitan Opera and a Fourth of July fireworks celebration. The smaller Edgemont Park, on Valley Road about halfway to Upper Montclair, has a pretty pond and paved paths.

Wheels: Montclair Bikery (145 Valley Road, 973-744-7252, montclairbikery.com) is the place to be if you’re looking for anything bike-related. Those packs of riders in spandex attire racing around the state on weekends might be from the store’s own competitive team, Team Bikery.

All the world’s a stage: Luna Stage, an Off Off Broadway theater in the old Public Service building (695 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-744-3309, lunastage.org), has two black-box theaters (99 seats and 50 seats), plus a 50-seat studio theater. Past offerings have included Suzan-Lori Parks’ 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Topdog/Underdog and Robeson in Space, a “speculative fantasia” about Paul Robeson by Guillermo E. Brown and Tim Raphael.

Not for divas only: The Diva Lounge (369 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-509-3000, divalounge.com) is a hot spot for dancing; it offers jazz, hip-hop, and R&B (Wednesday); free salsa lessons on Thursday (7-9 pm), followed by Latino music, including salsa, bachata, and hip-hop; Reggaeton and hip-hop (Friday); and house music, tarot card readings, belly dancing, and hookahs (Saturday).

Clothing hounds: Head to Ruby (27 Church Street, 973-744-7788), or Dem Two Hands (North Fullerton), Cisco Station (461 Bloomfield Avenue) or Kawayan (97 Walnut Street, 973-509-2100) for that new outfit.

Outdoorsy types: If camping or hiking is in your present or future, you must stop in at the Outdoor Store (32 Church Street, 973-746-5900), which boasts a full array of sleeping bags, backpacks, tents, and other roughin’ it regalia. Your non-camping shopping buddy can browse the clothing and travel luggage next door at Patagonia (30A Church Street, 973-746-5902) while waiting.

Jazz it up: Head over to Trumpets Jazz Club & Restaurant (6 Depot Square, 973-744-2600, trumpetsjazz.com) for jazz every night but Monday (closed Sunday-Tuesday in July and August). Recent names at the club have included tenor saxophonist Houston Person, Caridad Cruz, and Michael Lemma and the New Jersey Guitar-Mandolin Society.

Calling all folkies: Outpost in the Burbs (40 S. Fullerton Avenue, 973-744-6560, outpostintheburbs.org), which hosts concerts in the First Congregational Church, is northern New Jersey’s premier venue for folk music. Noteworthy upcoming events include Aztec Two-Step (September 8), The Acoustic Strawbs (October 6), and Arlo Guthrie (October 27).

Funny business: Rascals Comedy Club (499 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-744-3711, rascalscomedyclub.com), a regular stop for some of the nation’s best comics, has relocated from its former digs in West Orange; every Thursday is a live taping of “The New Rascals Comedy Hour.”

School days: At Montclair State University (Montclair.edu), at the northernmost end of Montclair, you can cheer on the Red Hawks at a basketball or football game, see dancers, singers, jazz musicians, or actors in one of the many cultural offerings at the Alexander Kasser Theater (973-655-5112), go ice skating at Floyd Hall Arena just over the border in Little Falls (973-746-7744, floydhallarena.com).

Uncork it: With so many BYO restaurants in town, a stop at Amanti Vino (30 Church Street, 973-509-9463) is a must before dinner.

Another forkful: Try the chicken breast over Moroccan apricot stew or the pear tarte Tatin with cinnamon ice cream at CulinAriane (33 Walnut Street, 973-744-0533), a new restaurant that is the creation of husband-and-wife team Michael and Ariane Duarte, the latter of whom was executive chef of Vine, in Manhattan.

Let your fingers do the walking: The towns of Montclair, Bloomfield, and Glen Ridge are the focus of the well-run website barista.net.com, run by longtime New York Times columnist Debbie Galant and New York Daily News and magazine writer Liz George. Here, you get the daily dish on everything going on in these three towns—with recently expanded coverage of all of Essex County—from the constant chatter about restaurant happenings to McMansions, local politics, and more.

Wake up: At breakfast and lunchtime, visit Bluestone Coffee (123 Watchung Avenue, 973-783-3523) for a hit of java or chai; Bluestone also operates the Isabel Rose Café, situated in the main branch of the Montclair Public Library (50 S. Fullerton Avenue, 973-744-0500). Or head over to Coffee Club Café (151 Valley Road, 973-744-7090) for a bagel and cup of Joe—or tapioca bubble tea.

Pilates, please: Take regular Pilates classes or try the Gyrotonic Expansion System, a blend of yoga, gymnastics, swimming, and dance, at Equilibrium Pilates (427 Bloomfield Avenue, Suite 406, 973-744-3555, pilatesequilibrium.com).

See a movie: Downtown Montclair has two movie theaters: the Clairidge (486 Bloomfield Avenue, 973-470-2589) and the Roberts Wellmont Theatre (5 Seymour Street, 973-783-9500), a full-size, old-fashioned theater where the balcony (formerly the smoking section) is really a balcony; the Wellmont hosts annual events like the Montclair Film Festival.

Learn to tango: Teatro Sí and 12 Miles West Theater Company give lessons the first Tuesday of the month at the Montclair Art Museum (3 South Mountain Avenue, 908-301-9496 or 973-259-9187, 12mileswest.org, teatrosi.com). Lessons are followed by an evening of dancing with live tango musicians.

Smell the flowers: See roses, rock gardens, and more at the historic Van Vleck House & Gardens (21 Van Vleck Street, 973-744-0837, vanvleck.org), open to the public April 15 through October 31.

They live for art: The town of Montclair is home to many artists; check out some of their work at Studio Montclair (108 Orange Road, 973-744-1818), JKK Fine Arts (594 Valley Road, 973-744-0111), Makeready Press Gallery and Gallery 214 Artspace (214 Glenridge Avenue, 973-744-1940, makereadypress.com), or Gallery 51 (51 Church Street, 973-744-4484, gallery51.org).

Suit up: If you still haven’t found this season’s perfect swimsuit or coverup, head down to Johari (47 South Park Street, 973-744-8070), which has a colorful array of choices from all the best designers.

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