Cities Journal

Top 14 Small Cities In New Jersey

South Orange
Photo credit: Dougtone / Flickr

2. South Orange

Gaslight street illumination and a stunning Village Hall are just two of the features that make South Orange a distinctive place to live. While no one knows the origin of its name, the town’s rich history can’t be denied, and many sites remain on the State and National Historic Registers, including Old Stone House, Baird Community Center, the South Orange Railroad Station and several others.

Many South Orange residents commute to New York, but urban appetites are equally at home here thanks to a walkable downtown area bustling with shops and restaurants. As home to Seton Hall University, South Orange also offers a taste of the sought after “college town” feel.

While South Orange has a population over 16,000, according to Neighborhood Scout, annual events like “River Day,” during which residents gather to clean up their beloved section of the Rahway River, supports the small town vibe.
South Orange’s The Baird, meanwhile, serves as a dynamic epicenter for the area’s arts and entertainment scene.

Located in Meadowland Park, it runs a variety of arts and arts education programs, as well as events including the extremely popular Giants of Jazz concert series and the biannual juried “Essex Exposed,” exhibition which shows off the work of local artists. Residents also enjoy access to plenty of other community resources, including a municipal swimming pool.

The New York Times cited South Orange as “A place to feel homey while staying hip,” in a 2008 article, describing the hamlet as a “cultural and social melting pot” offering plenty of diversity — both in terms of population, scenery and amenities.

Those looking for big city proximity, the conveniences of suburbia and an “old-fashioned gauzy glow” may find the perfect combination of all three in South Orange.

But be prepared to pay for it: according to AreaVibes, South Orange’s Cost of Living Index is a whopping 137 compared to a national average of 100. Furthermore, the median house value is $527,200, a staggering 36 percent higher than the rest of the state in addition to significantly exceeding the national average.

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