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New Jersey’s great “Brick City” flourishes in a period of regrowth, making it a burgeoning centre for arts and history buffs. Ten of its most-visited locations are a must-see for anyone discovering–or re-discovering the city. Easily accessible from New York City to the north and Philadelphia from the southwest, major inroads include the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and US 1-9. All provide access to State Road 21, the major artery to its centre.
Things To Do In Newark
Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart
The fifth-largest Cathedral in the United States – also registered with the New Jersey Historical Society and the National Historical Society– had its cornerstone set in 1899 and welcomed the public beginning in 1928. Both the faithful and the curious visited in spite of the lack of heating or air conditioning in the building until 1954 when the church was finally completed.
This jewel in the city’s crown boasts 232-feet-high main front towers, framing its French Gothic facade and exterior walls made of Vermont Rockport granite. The interior is just as breathtaking, boasting Munich stained-glass rosette windows, limestone walls and Italian marble medallion carvings done on-site by artisans during the Roaring Twenties.
Branch Brook Park
Across the way from Sacred Heart, breezes blow gently through the first county park established in the United States, one of Essex County‘s largest and Newark’s finest, accessible from Route 280 as well as Bloomfield and Park Avenues. A quarter-mile wide, its green space stretches for four miles and is home to a lake, pedestrian paths and bridges, large open meadows and thick stands of trees.
Remnants of the city’s old reservoir system are on site, and athletes can unwind on Branch Brook’s tennis courts, ball fields and playgrounds. In the spring, the park hosts an annual Cherry Blossom Festival. With more cherry blossom trees than Washington, D.C., the event rivals its cousin on the Potomac.
Essex County Courthouse
Nestled on the triangle formed where Market Street and Springfield Avenue meet, the old Courthouse is a Historical Site built in 1903 and recently renovated. Architect Cass Gilbert, who designed the U.S. Supreme Court building, in Washington, D.C., also drew the plans for this landmark.
The entire building is a work of art, inside and out: the exterior is in a Greco-Roman style with soaring pillars, and the interior ornamentation includes Tiffany glass skylights and murals by Edwin Blashfield, an artist who decorated the dome of the Library of Congress. Outside, at the bottom of the courthouse steps, sits a restored statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln by renowned sculptor Gutzon Burglum, most noted as the man who carved Mount Rushmore.
Just north of the Courthouse, in the Downtown Arts District, stands another of Newark’s architectural gems, built in 1909. The Museum houses Newark Planetarium and an extensive collection of natural science and art exhibits from the Americas, Africa, the Pacific and Asia. It is most noted for its astounding Tibetan room. On its grounds are also the Alice Ransom Dreyfus Memorial Garden, the Newark Fire Museum and the city’s oldest schoolhouse. A gift shop and cafe are also on-site.
Newark Public Library
Just a stroll down the block from the Museum, the Library features the James Brown African- American Room, named for a turn-of-the-century librarian in charge. Special collections offer hefty databases for genealogical research, and vintage photography and include New Jersey newspapers on microfilm dating back to the 1700s. Main exhibits change frequently. touching on subjects like female artists, world wars and global children’s literature. Whatever is on display, the Library captures Newark’s diverse multi-ethnic fabric.
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center is the right place to catch local, national and international talent and ongoing special events. Home of Newark’s Arts Ed program for up-and-coming city youth, the venue offers Prudential Hall, massive and elegant with four tiers, an orchestra and Grand Tier. The Victoria Theater is smaller but no less impressive.
Newark Symphony Hall
Built in 1925 as a Masonic temple, it switched over in the Fifties to secular use as the Mosque Theater. Influenced by Greek and English styling, the grand old building gave birth to the New Jersey State Opera, Symphony Orchestra and the renowned Newark Boys Chorus. It is also the home base of the African Globe Theatre Works.
Newark Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium
“The Den”, with its 6,000 seats, is where Atlantic League minors Bears prowl to full stands April through September. The state-of-the-art facility is one of Newark’s newest attractions; the Clubhouse is open on weekdays. Off-season, the Bears’ Street Team is visible for special events.
Known to the locals as “Penn Station”, the Neo-Classical, Art Deco structure is the core of the city’s rail transport system. Within walking distance of Bears Stadium, the depot was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White, who also built the legendary Penn Station in New York City. Large windows illuminate the interior, with its walls decorated with murals and medallions in bas-relief that tell the story of the history of transportation.
Ironbound Historical District
Just east of the station past Market Street, the Ironbound emerges, an industrial working community that got its name from being bordered on all sides by railroad tracks. Its streets are safe, its inhabitants proud and friendly; the largest Portuguese immigrant population in the US resides here.
Ferry Street, the Ironbound’s main thoroughfare, is loaded with wonderful restaurants, cafes, bakeries and botanicas. Welcoming shopkeepers and authentic music make a walking tour of the Ironbound the perfect place to end a visitor’s day in Newark.