Things to do on a Layover Near Newark Airport
While a layover in Newark, New Jersey, can sound like torture at first look, New Jersey’s largest city has plenty of fun activities you can use to kill some time while you wait for your connecting flight. Known locally as “Brick City,” Newark has a rough-and-ready reputation owing to its historic immigrant populations and modest (at least compared to NYC) cultural imprint.
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While the no-frills vibe certainly still holds sway in Newark, there are numerous cultural and historic institutions, along with several scenic green spaces, that make this city a worthy place to explore. Sure, there’s no Times Square, but optimists (and the well-traveled) will find this to be a good thing. Very few attractions and parks are ever overcrowded, which anyone who has braved neighboring Midtown Manhattan will find refreshing. There is even an amazing (and woefully underrated) food scene to explore. But what to do?
Stop by a Newark Airport luggage storage before you head out exploring. That will make it a lot easier to get through all the following to do during a layover at Newark Airport:
Enjoy Some Time Outdoors
Branch Brook Park
Located just a short ride from the airport, Newark’s Branch Brook Park is one of the most beautiful places in the city to enjoy some fresh air. The space is full of leafy groves and miles of paths for walking, running, or cycling. The park is located near plenty of Newark’s best restaurants and markets, making this a great place to set up a picnic.
What’s the main draw at Branch Brook Park? The largest collection of Cherry Blossom Trees in the country. Visiting during the spring and summer (when the trees are in bloom) is the best way to experience this gorgeous place. There’s also the Cherry Blossom Festival every spring, but that’s pretty hard to plan a layover around.
Another beautiful green space located just southwest of Newark Airport, Weequahic Park is popular for its huge lake. Local bird watchers and fishing enthusiasts head to Weequahic all spring and summer to appreciate the surprising diversity of wildlife that make their home in this tranquil place.
Traveling with the whole family? First off, good luck navigating a layover with kids. Secondly, bring them to Weequahic Park’s playground to set them loose. It’s the perfect way to tire them out before your connecting flight.
This gorgeous building is located right in downtown Newark along historic Washington Street, which you can reach from the airport within 30 minutes. Newark Museum of Art is not only the largest museum in the state, but it houses one of the best collections in the northeast. You’ll find everything from contemporary to ancient art.
Highlights include the Tibetan galleries featuring many artifacts, including a Buddhist altar blessed by the Dalai Lama himself. A portion of the museum, named the Victoria Hall of Sciences, showcases thousands of wildlife specimens and even has a small planetarium. The wide variety of features makes this the perfect place for the whole family to visit.
49 Washington St, Newark, NJ 07102
Explore the Ironbound Neighborhood
Ironbound is probably the coolest neighborhood in the state of New Jersey, and this area’s cultural hotspots are clustered around Newark Airport. Ironbound is a traditional immigrant neighborhood that has turned into a trendy commuter outpost and cultural hotbed.
These days, you’ll find the best restaurants (over 150 of them) in the city setting up shop. A wide, wide, wide variety of cuisines are served here, ranging from southern BBQ to Brazilian and East Asian food. Some of them are trendy, and some of them are traditional. Either way, make sure to grab a bite to eat while you’re in the neighborhood. You will not regret it.
Enjoy some Artwork at PES Studios
PES Studios (short for Project for Empty Spaces) is the Newark arts scene’s epicenter. It was founded in 2012 as a pop-up exhibition and operated mostly on a temporary basis for years before becoming a permanent Newark fixture. The programming rotates throughout the year, but you can expect a variety of modern and classical artistic styles. There are residencies set up throughout the year showcasing primarily local talent, but international artists have been known to set up shop at PES Studios.
Being connected to Newark’s Penn Station, it’s a popular destination for both local art enthusiasts as well as curious Manhattanites looking for interesting art spaces in the area. The space is open to the public on weekday afternoons and evenings. The trek from Newark Airport is about 15-20 minutes, so you should be able to fit in a visit to the studio during a layover.
800 Broad St, Newark, NJ 07102
Grab a Drink at All Points West Distillery
Literally, no one has associated Newark or even New Jersey with distilleries until now. Newark’s premier spirits producer is located right in central Newark, less than 20 minutes from the airport. All Points West Distillery is one of the most popular places in the city to grab a drink, and their craft-distilled whiskey, rum, and gin have all won national and regional awards for quality.
The tasting room is a comfortable and social setting for sampling cocktails and spirits, and they even offer tours (you’ll have to book ahead). Just pace yourself, remember you’ll have to board a flight after….
73 Tichenor St, Newark, NJ 07105
Only the most expert travelers know how to turn an inconvenient layover into an unforgettable afternoon. Luckily, Newark is one of those places that is chock-full of superb activities. From art museums to sprawling parks, Brick City has a solid number of quick and fun options for killing a few hours. However you choose to spend a few hours in Newark, it’ll be a great time. All you need to do is resist the urge to take that unadvisable subway ride to Manhattan.