Where to move for a job in west/central NJ?
August 25, 2011 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Moving from Seattle to west/central NJ. Where should we live?

I am considering taking a job in Ringoes, NJ. If you made a triangle between Lambertville, Flemington, and Princeton, it’d be in the center. My fiancee and I (late 20s, looking to rent for less than ~$1500/mo) would be moving to the area after living in Seattle for five years, where we’ve grown accustomed to certain amenities like good restaurants, farmers’ markets and natural/ethnic food shops, great libraries/book shops, geek culture, music, and walkable neighborhoods. I’m originally from South Jersey and went to school up in the Lehigh Valley in PA, but I don’t know much about this region in-between. What are some nice, relatively progressive cities that would be within an hour or so of this place? I guess this would be something like Hunterdon/Mercer/Somerset/Bucks/Northampton counties. Closer would be nice, as I’d prefer to bike to work most of the time if I’m within 10 miles of the office, but I understand that eliminates a lot of potential places, especially if we want to avoid super-suburbia. Many people at the company commuted from PA because it was cheaper to live there; Doylestown, New Hope, Yardley, and Morrisville were all mentioned, but I’d like to hear any more suggestions or comments. It looks like even Easton could be an option, but I don’t know the current state of the city. Proximity to some kind of transit for access to Philly or NYC would also be a plus. Thanks!
posted by yukonho to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Lambertville, across from New Hope is a cute town. I live on the other side of the state, but have been to that area for visits. I have family in West Windsor (Princeton area) that they find very nice, and I think Hopewell area is nice, as well.

But Lambertville/New Hope may be the closest to the Seattle kind of culture you're looking for.
posted by rich at 11:06 AM on August 25, 2011

Princeton seems like a viable option - an *excellent* public library that runs frequent events, a walkable downtown, the perks of a major university & all the smart people it brings to town, a wonderful bookstore (Labyrinth), and a tiny movie theater that doesn't feel like a chain. The natural foods store is a bit of a walk from downtown "proper" but is certainly doable. I grew up in NJ (about half an hour north of Princeton), and it comes closest to the perks you describe in Seattle.

So far as public transit, you have to take a ~5-minute connector train from downtown/uni area of Princeton to the major train station (this would be Princeton Junction). From there, you can get to Philly and NYC as well as some decent places around Jersey (New Brunswick, for example). Check out njtransit.org for more details.

It looks like Ringoes is about half an hour away from Princeton. Traffic in NJ can be terrible, so I'd research the route thoroughly and make sure you know what you're in for.

All of my Princeton-fangirling aside, IMHO central/northern NJ is suburbia defined: traffic, strip malls, a complete lack of urban/exurban planning. If you truly need a place even half as progressive, interesting, and arty as Seattle, you might want to reconsider the move. Again, just my personal highly biased-against-Jersey opinion.
posted by brackish.line at 11:14 AM on August 25, 2011

Response by poster: rich: I stopped in Lambertville for a quick lunch on the day of my interview and found it pretty charming. If my schedule and the weather were more agreeable that day, I would have checked it out more. Is the touristy vibe as strong there as I hear it to be in New Hope? As in, are the businesses set up for the folks that actually live there?

brackish.line: The "suburbia defined" aspect of the region is exactly what's holding us back right now. I wish the company wasn't enticing enough to make me realistically consider it (We want to move back east to be closer to our families, but we were thinking something more like... Boston).
I think I did hear some grumbling about the traffic between Princeton and Ringoes, but it does sound like it could be a viable option - thanks for the information!
posted by yukonho at 11:30 AM on August 25, 2011

I think Lambertville is a bit less 'touristy' than New Hope, but even then, Seattle is touristy. But if you're a local, you find the local places and then point and giggle at the tourists.

I do have to call out brackish.line, though - I agree with the Northern NJ charactization for it being clogged, and traffic ridden, and totally more expensive for the value than it should be. But Central Jersey can be very nice. Princeton and that corridor (295/95/195) has its traffic issues, though, as Princeton Junction or bus are the only mass transit options for a large population going to NYC and Philly.

Traffic along 202 and 179, when I've traveled out there, hasn't been bad, from what I remember, and there are a lot of small county roads through farmland and such that once you know, you can avoid the major bottlenecks.

I agree you won't find someplace as artsy, etc as Seattle, but you know South Jersey, so think of the Ringoes area as sort of the changing point from south to north.. north of the Raritan river / Rt. 78 I consider 'North Jersey'.

The Delaware River basin is really a pretty place, though. If I wasn't a such a ocean person (surfer) I wouldn't mind be out there (aside from it being a worse commute to NYC than from where I am, that is)
posted by rich at 11:47 AM on August 25, 2011

Princeton sucks, unless you *really* like snooty white people. And I say that as a snooty white person.
posted by kestrel251 at 12:31 PM on August 25, 2011

@Rich - Thanks for clarifying the specific traffic issues around Ringoes, which I don't know as well as the immediate North Brunswick area where I grew up. What I do know is that North Brunswick *is* suburbia defined. A peek at Google maps suggests that the immediate area around Ringoes is greener than NB. Perhaps this could make it more amenable to the OP.

@Yukohono - However it shakes out, good luck!
posted by brackish.line at 2:03 PM on August 25, 2011

I lived in Ringoes for a year and commuted to Somerville. The traffic in the area isn't bad so long as you find alternate routes. I generally avoided 202 just because there was always traffic but it was better than some of the other roads (e.g., 206).

With back roads the commute from Princeton wouldn't be very bad, and it would have more of the things you're looking for compared to some of the other towns.

The surrounding towns that have more of the artsy things seemed to be geared more towards tourists rather than really living there. For example I liked visiting Lambertville, but I don't think that I'd want to live there. I don't remember there being necessities such as groceries nearby. Instead you would have to go over to New Hope, which isn't far away, but has a significant amount of weekend tourist traffic.

Feel free to MeMail me if you have any specific questions about the area.
posted by statsgirl at 5:56 PM on August 25, 2011

Aside from a year that I lived in Philadelphia, and the last couple months living in CA, I've spent all of my 30 years between Lawrenceville, directly south of Princeton, and Highland Park, about a half hour north. I spent countless afternoons as a child/teenager in New Hope and Lambertville as well, believe me on this one- Princeton and New Hope/Lambertville are your only options for a walkable downtown and some semblance of culture.

Princeton is of course, home to the University, which overshadows just about everything else. Because people from all over the world find themselves here looking for places to live on a shorter-term basis, rent is pretty high. They recently finished one high rise apartment building which I believe was in the 2-3k range for 1-2 bedrooms (I don't exactly recall but recall it being pretty ludicrous) and another condo building didn't have anything less than a million (for a CONDO). There are pretty funky parts of Princeton, such as around Witherspoon St, going towards where it meets back up with 206 to the north, where you likely would not want to live, especially for those kinds of prices. While Princeton DOES have a walkable downtown, it's not huge- and you'd still need a car to get to places like Target, Whole Foods and Trader Joes (There is a regular grocery store about a mile out of downtown but I never went). The restaurants in Princeton are all pretty mediocre, which is seriously amazing given the general classiness of the area, I mean you'd think there'd be just one world class restaurant. There's a very decent independent coffee place, and the best record/cd/dvd shop on the east coast. Parking downtown positively sucks and is expensive, and traffic is often annoyingly heavy for a 6 block or so downtown. There is a bus from Palmer Square to NYC, or you can take a train, via a connecting shuttle. This is very convenient if you would want to go to NY often, which you should because it's the best part of living in central Jersey. Aside from a couple Bar n Grill type places, Princeton is almost by statute a nightlife-free zone. It's definitely a nice place to live but you might tire of the prices and inconveniences. Oh, and that library, bookstore and movie theatre are NOTHING to write home about, sorry.

New Hope/Lambertville, which I will combine as they are essentially two halves of the same kind of town, has most of the parking and congestion problems of Princeton but is WAY WAY less snobby. New Hope DOES have bona fide nightlife with actual bars with live music and stuff like that. New Hope is very hippie friendly, and definitely is a big touristy destination. Both towns are very gay friendly and are the only places in the area that have that repuation (Princeton and Somerville as well, but the association is stronger with Lambertville/New Hope). The artiness of both places leans much more toward the crafty/kitschy Antiques/Country Art side of things than Art with a capital A. The towns have a few excellent restaurants and coffee places, a fairly decent used book shop, an extraordinary vegetarian restaurant, and last I checked, at least 3 witch shops. The towns approximate the Berkeley/SF vibe, IMO. In the winter, sans tourists, these towns are pretty dead quiet. Because of their proximity to the river, flooding can be a problem, and bugginess as well. The main problem with this area is that it's very remote to big shops and highways, and those twisty Bucks County roads can be a headache if they're part of your daily commute. Living there you'd likely venture to Philly much more often than New York, it's just how it seems to work with people I've known. Princeton would put you a bit more central to either (though in both cases Philly is closer and MUCH easier to get to). There are no public transit options in New Hope that I'm aware of.

There's also Hopewell, which isn't a bad little town. It's pretty affordable, it's nice, and it's close to Ringoes (not too bad to 95 either, which will take you elsewhere). It has a very small downtown with a couple blocks of restaurants, one coffee place, one of the best pizza places in the state, seriously, and the most hilarious library you've ever seen.

Feel free to mail me on here if you need any futher guidance or have any specific questions- more than happy to put in my 2 (or 200 cents).
posted by tremspeed at 11:36 PM on August 25, 2011

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