A view of Downtown Newark, New Jersey's skyline at dusk

There’s plenty of natural beauty in Newark. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Newark, New Jersey, in 3 Days: Portuguese Food, Walks in the Park and Historic Homes

In New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, you’ll find the city of Newark — a cultural and culinary hot spot dotted with peaceful green spaces just waiting to be uncovered.

Tap into your inner foodie and check out the fresh seafood and meat dishes at the Portuguese restaurants in the Ironbound district. Stroll around the Forest Hill and Weequahic neighborhoods and get your fill of elegant, turn-of-the-century architecture.

Head downtown, where you’ll find a theater, hockey arena and museum with the largest collection of Tibetan art outside of Tibet. And live a bit like a local, perusing the independent boutiques and cafés on Lower Broadway.

Ready to enjoy this incredible mix of culture, art, entertainment and culinary delights? Follow this three-day guide. As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Head Downtown for Tibetan Art, Soul Food and a Show

A park and buildings in downtown Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in New Jersey. (Photo: Getty Images)

Start your day downtown. This hub has transformed tremendously over the years with the development of luxury apartments, entertainment arenas and chef-forward dining options. For your first meal, grab a latte and a pastry at the Black-owned café Black Swan Espresso for a light breakfast.

Your next stop, just a seven-minute walk away, is the Newark Museum of Art, which never fails to set the tone for a great afternoon with its 18th- and 19th-century American art on permanent display. The biggest highlight though? Pieces from the largest collection of Tibetan art outside of Tibet.

When hunger hits or you’re looking to give your legs a break, walk four minutes to Marcus B&P, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s soul-food spot for shrimp and grits, chicken wings and flaky biscuits. Alternatively, you can also experience one of the city’s institutions for lunch: Hobby’s Delicatessen & Restaurant. This old-fashioned Jewish deli has been run by the same family since 1962 and is beloved for its potato pancakes, lox and corned beef.

Then take a walk to the Harriet Tubman Monument, which is inscribed with stories about the Underground Railroad conductor’s life and the history of Newark’s Black liberation movement.

Ready for some more fresh air? Hop on the bus or take a car to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You really do feel like you’re walking back through time thanks to its Gothic gates and striking mausoleums — it’s an especially intriguing place to visit when the fall leaves are changing color.

For the last meal of the day, dip your toes into the Ironbound district (you’ll be back tomorrow) and catch an early dinner at Fornos of Spain so you’ll have time for a show or game afterward. This old-school restaurant specializes in steaks and seafood — so opt for the paella, stuffed salmon or shrimp in wine sauce.

Then visit at one of Newark’s noteworthy venues like the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, known locally as “NJPAC.” The center has hosted big-name performers like Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton — as well as occasional free concerts — and is open throughout the year. For a different kind of energy, you can catch a game, concert or comedy show at the Prudential Center. Check the calendar and lock down tickets before your trip.

For a post-show or post-game treat, take a car to Little Tijuana restaurant for margaritas at the rooftop bar.

Saturday: History, Portuguese Food and Ice Cream in the Ironbound

Aerial view of a river and the skyline of Newark, New Jersey
Newark is far more than New York City’s younger sibling. (Photo: Getty Images)

Approach your second day in Newark with a big appetite — you’re going to spend the morning back in the Ironbound, tasting its many flavors. Once an industrial neighborhood in the 19th and early 20th centuries, this area has long been home to a large population of Portuguese residents who have introduced their authentic cuisine to the East Coast city.

The Ironbound now has more than 200 restaurants to choose from, including dozens of Portuguese restaurants that line Ferry Street (also known as Portugal Avenue). Keep your breakfast and lunch plans loose, as you’ll want to stop in for a taste of anything and everything that speaks to you. But do look out for Nova Alianca Bakery, famous for its pastéis de nata, traditional egg-custard tarts.

For something heartier, Picnic BBQ serves up — you guessed it — barbecue (get the picanha, a cut of beef popular in Brazil and Portugal). And Adega Grill offers vegan fare, as well as Portuguese classics like beef skewers and grilled prawns.

Continue strolling along Ferry Street for on-trend fashions at Nadri Fashion, or catch pickup soccer and basketball games at Riverfront Park — it’s a friendly place, so join in if you feel inspired. It’s also common to see people practicing Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian form of martial arts that combines elements of dance and acrobatics.

Then take a 15-minute drive to Weequahic Park, which contains the oldest public golf course in the United States. The 311-acre area is a great place to get in a run or stroll or sit back and enjoy music at free concerts put on throughout the year. Plus, some of the stateliest homes in Newark can be found lining the park for your viewing pleasure.

For dinner, dig in to the seafood and churrasco dishes at Brasilia Grill, or chill out with strong cocktails (and live Spanish music on Saturdays) at Allegro Seafood Grill & Bar. No matter what you choose for dinner, you must stop into the highly coveted Nasto’s Old World Desserts, which has been serving desserts like gelato, tiramisu and ice cream cakes since 1939.

Sunday: Parks, Gothic Architecture and Tapas

Pink cherry blossoms in Branch Brook Park in Newark, New Jersey
Cherry blossoms paint the entire city come spring. (Photo: Getty Images)

Greet the day at Park Avenue and North Fifth Street, popping into the locally run Honduran Génesis 15 Bakery and Restaurant, where the flaky, freshly baked doughnuts are only $1 each.

From there, walk one block to the 360-acre Branch Brook Park, the oldest county park in the U.S. The park is home to the largest and most diverse collection of cherry trees in the nation, and each April hosts an annual festival to celebrate the blooms. Other activities on the park’s calendar include free yoga and Zumba classes and fishing in the trout-fed lakes.

Next to the park is the statuesque Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. This French Gothic Revival church built in 1899 is the seventh-largest cathedral in the nation and home to a pipe organ with nearly 10,000 pipes.

For lunch, head to a local favorite for Brazilian food: Bloomfield Avenue BBQ. You can even get a steak sandwich to go and enjoy it alfresco back in the park.

Afterward, plan on taking a little day trip to Jersey City. Twelve minutes away via the local PATH train (or 20 minutes by car), the city offers stunning waterside views of the New York City skyline from Liberty State Park and some solid pints at Departed Soles Brewing Company. There are plenty of board games to accompany the brewery’s creations, which include a variety of gluten-free beers and new releases each week. The space also hosts tours, so make sure to inquire about how the inventive brews are created.

The brewery doesn’t serve food, so head back to Newark and wrap up your trip with a meal at Mompou Tapas Bar & Restaurant, where the tapas and wine list are top-notch. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch some live music, too. Linger a while and grab a nightcap — it’s the best way to toast your trip.