montclair nj day trip

Local Explorer: Montclair, NJ

Montclair: a place I frequent and love visiting that's (literally) close to home with plenty to offer. With a depth of history and culture, this bustling town brings it all to the table with an art museum, over 150 acres of public green space, and not to mention more restaurants than can be named. 

The small town feel and appreciation of the arts are just part of why I love it. Many of the activities change seasonally, but this day trip is one that can be done year round. So for those less familiar or just wanting to see something new, here's a list of things to do, eat, and see in a day in Montclair.

Pancakes from The Corner, Montclair, NJ

Pancakes from The Corner!

Deviled eggs and micro-greens from The Corner

Deviled eggs and micro-greens

Breakfast at The Corner

We started the day off at The Corner, the self described "epicurean cafe" is located at the corner of Walnut and Grove Street and opened in 2015 with the "vision of part cafe and part restaurant, combining a downtown feel with the casual nature of a neighborhood eatery." As a coffee drinker I was first pleased by their La Colombe coffee, a selection of which is on tap, but their are plenty of options for both a cup and kettle of tea. Their menu is full of savory and sweet plates, pastries, and made to order juices which includes flavors like "Glow" with pineapple, beet and cucumber.

I ordered the Fresh Berry Pancakes, half-inch thick fluffy circles of goodness with strawberries, bluberries and poached apricots, vanilla syrup, and fresh cream. (They tasted even better than they look!) Angel had the Croque Madame from the specials which served up a plate of rustic toast, smoked ham, bechamel, gruyere, and sunny side up eggs, pictured above. We shared some Truffled Deviled Eggs with micro greens that were creamy and delicious. After all was said and done, the bill came to $37, and if what I hear is true, I will be back for their monkey bread!

Tip: If you're coming here, try a weekday as the weekends tend to be quite busy and the wait can be over 35 minutes. With metered street parking maxing out at an hour, it was worth the wait but might be too much for some.

Main Garden with Chinese Wysteria behind the Van Vleck House

Main Garden with Chinese Wysteria behind the Van Vleck House

Van Vleck House and Gardens
Van Vleck House and Gardens

Van Vleck House & Gardens

​Just a short drive (or walk) away is the Van Vleck House and Gardens, a beautifully maintained property nearly 6 acres in size. Free of charge and open to the public from dawn to dusk, this building and surrounding space served as a private home nearly 140 years ago to the Van Vleck family. Howard Van Vleck, an architect and amateur horticulturist created a landscape of envy that we now can enjoy. On the property you can take plenty of photos or just take in the view, but in each garden you'll find a plaque with a number for its respective place on the free audio guide.

Now operating as a non-profit, the space is used as an educational center and offices to several other non-profits. In the main garden and throughout, you can see the many varieties of rhododendrons and hybrids that Van Vleck created after leaving his architectural practice to purse his passions. 

Montclair Art Museum

Children recreating Nick Cave's Soundsuit on view for "Inspired by Matisse".

Nick Cave's "Soundsuit" on view at the MAM.

The Montclair Museum of Art

A five minute walk from the gardens is the Montclair Museum of Art, a small, private museum that has been a staple to the community since 1914 when founded. We drove over, so we found a spot in the free lot and made our way inside.

During my visit, I was mostly excited to see the retrospective Matisse exhibition, but they have a large evolving selection of American and Native American art on view year round. The admission fee for non-member adults is $12, but visit on the first Thursday of the month for free admission! 

In addition to the art on display, you can also take a class! Check the schedule for upcoming programs and events.

Ani Ramen bowl Montclair NJ

A bowl of Ani Ramen with a soft boiled egg and an "umami bomb", a mixture of chili, spices, and miso.

Lunch at Ani Ramen

One of the greatest things about this town is the diversity of food you'll find on just Bloomfield Ave alone, but today I was craving a bowl of ramen. We found parking Glenridge Ave and walked down to our destination, Ani Ramen.

I could tell you how much I love ramen, but my rewards card speaks for itself. Three years ago, they opened their Bloomfield Ave location and recently opened a second location with a full bar, bringing their take on the classic dish to Jersey City, NJ.

Due to some antiquated liquor licensing laws, this and most of the restaurants are BYOB. They have gone a step further even with the addition of their own rule: BYOC or Bring Your Own Container. If you have leftovers, which I doubt you would, they don't supply to-go containers. For a beer or wine, walk across the street to Montclair Wine Cellar, up the block to Romany Liquor Shop.

There are six variations of ramen, but they often have specials like Spare Rib Ramen or Kimchi Ramen (my absolute fave). For lunch I ordered myself a bowl of the Ani Ramen with a soft boiled egg (called tamago) and an Umami bomb, a mixture of miso, chili and spices. I'm by no means a food writer, but I will say, this place is fire.

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