What Makes Ridgewood, New Jersey, a Desirable NYC Suburb?

Nestled in the heart of Bergen County, Ridgewood, New Jersey is a picturesque suburb of New York City. Known for its charming downtown, excellent schools, and strong community feel, Ridgewood is a popular choice for families and professionals alike. In this blog post, we’ll explore the unique aspects of Ridgewood, NJ, and discover why it’s considered one of the best places to live in the NYC suburbs.

Ridgewood’s Historical Perspective

The Early Years

Ridgewood’s history dates back to the pre-Revolutionary War era. Originally inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans, the area saw its first European settlers in the early 18th century. These early settlers were primarily Dutch and English, drawn to the region for its fertile soil and abundant water sources. The name “Ridgewood” was chosen due to the area’s prominent ridges and wooded landscapes.

Development and Growth

In the 19th century, Ridgewood began to transform from a rural farming community into a more developed area. The arrival of the Paterson and Ramapo Railroad in 1848 was a significant catalyst for growth, making it easier for people and goods to travel between Ridgewood and New York City. The late 1800s saw a surge in residential development, particularly with the introduction of the East Side-West Side neighborhood plan by real estate developer Frederick Dunham.

Architectural Evolution

The early 20th century marked a period of architectural development in Ridgewood. The village saw the construction of many Victorian, Tudor, and Colonial homes, many of which still stand today. The Ridgewood Train Station, built in 1916, is a notable example of the period’s architecture, reflecting the Beaux-Arts style. This era also witnessed the establishment of several schools and churches, foundational to the village’s community structure.

The 20th Century and Beyond

Throughout the 20th century, Ridgewood continued to grow and evolve, maintaining a balance between preserving its historical character and embracing modernization. The post-World War II era saw a housing boom, leading to the development of new neighborhoods and a significant increase in population. The village also became known for its strong educational system and active civic engagement.

Birch and the house on coast of lake 

In recent decades, Ridgewood has focused on preserving its rich historical heritage while adapting to contemporary needs. Efforts have been made to maintain the village’s architectural integrity, with many historical buildings being repurposed for modern use while retaining their historical charm.

A Focus on Education and Schools

Ridgewood, New Jersey, is renowned for its commitment to education, boasting some of the finest schools in the state. This dedication to academic excellence and comprehensive educational opportunities is a cornerstone of the community. Let’s delve into the educational landscape of Ridgewood, highlighting its schools and educational programs.

Public Schools of Excellence

  1. Ridgewood High School: Known for its rigorous academic programs and high college matriculation rate, Ridgewood High School offers a wide range of AP courses, arts, and athletic programs. It’s recognized for its strong STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curriculum as well as its humanities and arts education.
  2. Benjamin Franklin Middle School: This middle school is commended for its robust academic program and its emphasis on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills in students. The school provides a supportive environment for young adolescents, fostering both academic and personal growth.
  3. Elementary Schools: Ridgewood is home to several elementary schools, including Somerville, Orchard, Ridge, Travell, Willard, and Hawes. Each school is dedicated to creating a nurturing and inclusive environment. They focus on foundational skills in literacy and numeracy, while also incorporating arts, technology, and physical education.

Specialized Programs and Extracurriculars

  • Gifted and Talented Programs: These programs cater to students who exhibit exceptional abilities, providing them with challenging coursework and opportunities for advanced learning.
  • Extracurricular Activities: The schools offer a variety of clubs and activities, ranging from robotics and science clubs to music, theater, and sports. These programs are designed to enhance student engagement and develop well-rounded individuals.

Ridgewood Public Library: A Hub of Learning

  • Community Programs: The Ridgewood Public Library is not just about books; it’s a community hub that offers a variety of programs for all ages. These include reading clubs, educational workshops, and cultural events.
  • Resources for Students: The library provides numerous resources to support student learning, including access to research databases, homework help services, and educational materials.
  • Programs for Young Children: Early literacy programs and storytime sessions are popular among families with young children, fostering a love for reading and learning from a young age.

Emphasis on Continuous Improvement

  • Professional Development for Educators: Ridgewood schools invest in ongoing professional development for teachers, ensuring that they are equipped with the latest teaching strategies and educational trends.
  • Community Involvement in Education: There’s a strong partnership between the schools and the community, with parent-teacher associations and local organizations actively involved in supporting educational initiatives.

In Ridgewood, NJ, education is more than just academic learning; it’s about fostering a community of learners who are curious, compassionate, and prepared for the challenges of the future. The village’s educational institutions, from its public schools to its public library, are pillars of the community, offering resources and opportunities that enrich the lives of residents and set students on a path to success.

A Deeper Dive into Downtown Ridgewood

The Vibrant Main Street

At the core of downtown Ridgewood is East Ridgewood Avenue, a bustling main street that captures the essence of this suburban community. Lined with a mix of historic and modern buildings, this street hosts a variety of businesses that cater to every need and interest. The storefronts, often decorated seasonally, add to the area’s appeal, making it a picturesque location for both shopping and leisurely walks.

Shopping and Retail Therapy

Shopping in downtown Ridgewood is a unique experience. From high-end boutiques to family-owned shops, the retail scene is diverse. Olive R Twist Olive Oil Company offers gourmet food items, while Fox’s is a popular destination for the latest in women’s fashion. For book enthusiasts, Bookends is more than just a bookstore; it’s a cultural hub that frequently hosts book signings and events with well-known authors.

Culinary Delights and Cafes

The dining scene in Ridgewood is a food lover’s paradise, reflecting the area’s cultural diversity. Restaurants range from casual eateries to fine dining, offering cuisines from around the world. Mediterraneo, for example, serves up Mediterranean flavors, while S. Egidio brings authentic Neapolitan pizza to the heart of Ridgewood. For coffee aficionados, Ridgewood Coffee Company provides a cozy spot to enjoy a well-crafted cup of coffee and pastries.

Arts and Entertainment

The Warner Theater, a restored 1930s movie theater, stands as a testament to Ridgewood’s commitment to the arts. It hosts a range of movies, from the latest blockbusters to indie films. The theater’s classic marquee is a beloved landmark and adds to the nostalgic feel of the downtown area. Additionally, the Ridgewood Art Institute and the Schoolhouse Museum offer cultural experiences, with art classes, exhibitions, and a look into the local history.

A stroll through downtown Ridgewood is more than just a walk; it’s an experience that encapsulates the spirit of this New Jersey suburb. The blend of history, culture, and modern convenience makes it a destination where memories are made and community ties are strengthened. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, downtown Ridgewood offers a slice of suburban life at its best.

Exploring the Green Spaces and Recreation in Ridgewood, NJ

Ridgewood, NJ, is a haven for those who love the outdoors and recreational activities. The village’s dedication to maintaining and enhancing its green spaces is evident in the variety of parks, playgrounds, and natural areas it offers. Here’s a closer look at some of these spaces where residents and visitors can unwind and enjoy nature.

Saddle River County Park

  1. Saddle River County Park – Extending beyond Ridgewood, this county park features a 6-mile multi-use path that winds along the Saddle River. It’s ideal for jogging, biking, and walking, offering picturesque views and a tranquil environment. The park includes tennis courts, a playground, and picnic areas, making it a perfect spot for family outings.
  2. Ridgewood Duck Pond – A peaceful retreat within the village, the Duck Pond is a favorite spot for picnicking, fishing, and bird watching. The pond and its surrounding areas offer a serene setting for relaxation. Walking paths, benches, and a charming wooden bridge add to the pond’s allure.
  3. Van Neste Square Located in the heart of downtown Ridgewood, Van Neste Square is a small but significant urban park. It’s a popular gathering place for community events and a peaceful spot for lunch breaks. The park features a memorial, benches, and beautiful landscaping.
  4. Graydon Pool – More than just a pool, Graydon offers a sandy beach and a large area for swimming, resembling a natural pond. It’s a summer favorite for families and swimmers. There are areas for picnicking and volleyball, as well as a snack bar.
  5. Veterans Field – This expansive recreational area is a hub for sports and outdoor activities. It includes fields for baseball, soccer, and other sports. In addition to sports fields, there’s a track for running and walking.
  6. Kings Pond Park – A smaller but equally charming park, Kings Pond offers a quiet escape with its scenic pond and natural beauty. Walking paths and benches provide spaces for contemplation and enjoyment of the outdoors.
  7. The Schoolhouse Museum – While not a green space, the Schoolhouse Museum is an important cultural and historical site in Ridgewood. Housed in a restored 1872 schoolhouse, it offers insights into the local history and heritage. The museum features rotating exhibits and educational programs.
  8. The Ridgewood Wildscape Association – This association maintains several nature preserves in and around Ridgewood, offering opportunities for hiking and wildlife observation. Trails and informational signage provide an educational aspect to the preserves.

Ridgewood’s commitment to green spaces and recreational areas is a key aspect of its appeal. Whether you’re looking for a place to play sports, enjoy a picnic, or simply relax by a serene pond, Ridgewood has a spot for you. These spaces not only enhance the quality of life for residents but also attract visitors seeking a taste of nature within a suburban setting.

Transit and Commute Options from Ridgewood to NYC

Living in Ridgewood, NJ, offers the distinct advantage of being in close proximity to New York City, making commuting for work or leisure quite convenient. There are several transit options available for those traveling from Ridgewood to NYC, catering to different preferences and schedules. Here’s a breakdown of the most common modes of transportation:

1. Train Service

  • NJ Transit Rail: The most popular mode of commute is the NJ Transit train service. Ridgewood has its own station – Ridgewood Station – on the Main/Bergen County Line. This line connects directly to Penn Station in Manhattan, offering a convenient and relatively quick way to reach the city. The average travel time is about 50 to 60 minutes.
  • Hoboken Terminal Connection: For those looking to get to Lower Manhattan or the World Trade Center area, you can take a train to the Hoboken Terminal and then transfer to the PATH train.

2. Bus Service

  • NJ Transit Bus: NJ Transit also provides bus service from Ridgewood to NYC. Bus lines such as the 163 and 164 offer routes to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. This option can be preferable during off-peak hours or for those who live closer to a bus stop than the train station.
  • Express Buses: During peak hours, there are express bus services that offer a faster, more direct route to NYC, which is ideal for commuters.

Hoboken Terminal Connection

3. Driving

  • Personal Vehicle: Driving to NYC is another option, though it can be less preferred due to traffic and the cost of parking in the city. The George Washington Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel are the primary routes into Manhattan. This option offers more flexibility in terms of travel times and destinations within the city.
  • Carpooling: For those who prefer to drive, carpooling can be a cost-effective and environmentally friendly option. There are various carpooling apps and community groups that facilitate this.

4. Park and Ride

  • Park and Ride Lots: For those who prefer a combination of driving and public transit, there are Park and Ride facilities in the vicinity of Ridgewood. Commuters can drive to these lots, park their cars, and then take a bus or train to NYC.

5. Ride-Sharing and Taxis

  • Services like Uber and Lyft: These services provide another option for getting to NYC, either from Ridgewood directly or from a nearby train station or Park and Ride lot.

6. Biking

  • Bicycle to a Transit Hub: For the fitness and environmentally conscious, biking to a local train station or bus stop and then taking public transit into the city is also an option.

Ridgewood’s proximity to NYC and its array of transit options make it an ideal location for those who work in the city but prefer the suburban lifestyle. Whether opting for the train, bus, driving, or a combination of modes, commuters from Ridgewood enjoy a range of choices to suit their schedules and preferences.

Conclusion

Ridgewood, NJ, offers the perfect balance of suburban tranquility and urban accessibility. Its strong sense of community, combined with the charm of its downtown area, green spaces, and excellent schools, makes it an ideal suburb for those looking to be near NYC but with a quieter, more laid-back lifestyle. Whether you’re a young professional, a growing family, or anyone in between, Ridgewood has something to offer. Come and see for yourself why this New Jersey suburb is so beloved by its residents.