New Brunswick: Recreation


New Brunswick preserves many historic buildings, including nineteenth-century rubber factories, churches with pre-Revolutionary cemeteries, Buccleuch Mansion (now operated

Historic buildings abound on the campus of Rutgers University, a popular destination for visitors.
Historic buildings abound on the campus of Rutgers University, a popular destination for visitors.
as a museum), and Henry S. Guest House, a stone structure built about 1760, renovated and exhibiting shawls, old lace, and Japanese items. The birthplace of Alfred Joyce Kilmer, now used as an office, contains period furniture and photos of the Kilmer family; tours are available by appointment. The historic "Town Clock" Church, built in 1812, also offers guided tours by appointment.

The multiple campuses of Rutgers University are a popular destination for visitors. Historic buildings there include Old Queens, a brownstone designed by the man responsible for New York's City Hall; it is now the university's administrative center. On campus can also be found art, geology, and history museums. The university's 50-acre Display Gardens are notable for specimens of American holly.

New Brunswick is the eastern terminus of the Delaware & Raritan Canal, built in the 1830s. The canal is now a state park, with headquarters at Somerset, just east of New Brunswick. Along its main and feeder canals may be seen the remains of the canal and the famous Camden & Amboy railroad, as well as restored homes and stations of lock and bridge tenders.

Arts and Culture

New Brunswick Cultural Center Inc., located downtown, provides year-round programming in the visual and performing arts. Its 1,800-seat, acoustically acclaimed State Theater, home to the American Repertory Ballet, hosts symphonies performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, jazz, dance, chamber music, children's programs, and other fare. Extensive renovations began on the historic building in December 2003 and were completed in late 2004, in an attempt to restore the theater as closely as possible to its original appearance while updating sound and lighting systems to rival that of any brand new facility. For theater-goers, new plays and musicals bound for Broadway are previewed at the 367-seat George Street Playhouse; the Playhouse also features several regional theatrical productions. Crossroads Theatre, an African American professional company, offers plays, musicals, and touring programs during a September-to-May season. The Rutgers Theater Company, based at Rutgers University, offers an academic-year Subscription Series of professional theater. Rutgers is also home to the renowned children's theater group, the Shoestring Players; unfortunately the group has been on hiatus since the 2004–2005 school year because of budget cutbacks, and its future is uncertain. New Brunswick is within easy reach of the vast cultural resources of New York and Philadelphia.

Museums of note in New Brunswick include Buccleuch Mansion, built in 1739 and displaying antiques in period rooms; Hungarian Heritage Center; New Jersey Museum of Agriculture, presenting historic farming tools, household items, toys, and photographs; and Rutgers University Geology Museum. Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, also at Rutgers, offers permanent and changing exhibits of paintings from the early sixteenth century through the present, with emphasis on the graphic arts. Considered one of the finest university museums in the country, the Zimmerli houses the university's collection of more than 35,000 art objects.

Nearby Piscataway offers East Jersey Olde Towne, a reconstructed colonial village, and the restored Cornelius Low House/Middlesex County Museum, a fine example of eighteenth-century Georgian architecture. The County Museum presents exhibits on the impact of New Jersey's people, products, and resources on American history and progress; many of these exhibits have won national awards for excellence. The Artists' League of Central New Jersey presents an annual tri-state exhibit of the works of visual artists, sculptors, and craftspeople at Cornelius Low House. At the East Brunswick Museum, fine art and historical exhibits showcase the talents of central New Jersey artists. Historic sites, museums, and theatrical performances are abundant throughout Middlesex County.

Festivals and Holidays

The annual Raritan River Festival joins New Brunswick with its cross-the-river neighbor, Highland Park, for food and fun on both sides of the Raritan. Water taxis, cabs, and buses transport participants to both cities during the festival. Boyd Park on the riverfront is the site of the annual Hispanic Riverfront Festival that celebrates the music, cuisine, and other entertainments of the city's Puerto Rican community. The annual Hungarian Festival, the first Saturday in June, features Hungarian dancing, food, crafts, and games, fencing demonstrations, a museum gift shop, and a twilight concert. The New Jersey International Film Festival, held each year in June and July, features screenings of independent, classic, international, and experimental films. October brings the Autumn in the Park Downtown Harvest Festival, with old-fashioned carriage rides, live music, and other family entertainment throughout Highland Park.

Taking place at the end of each school year, RutgersFest is an annual carnival and concert that has become a tradition for university students. A variety of musical performers, food vendors, and other amusements offer students a welcome break from exam preparation. East Brunswick presents the Middlesex County Fair during the second week in August. The holiday season is kicked off by the annual Holiday Lighting Spectacular, in which crowds fill Monument Square to see the lights come up on the city's 50-foot tree adorned with 3,200 lights. Holiday music fills the air as horse-drawn carriages take visitors for free rides on the brick-paved streets of the city.

Sports for the Spectator

Spectator sports in the region center around collegiate football and basketball competitions at Rutgers and Princeton universities. In 1869 Rutgers defeated Princeton in the world's first intercollegiate football game, held in New Brunswick. The actor Paul Robeson was a Rutgers graduate and an All-American football player there.

Middlesex County and its municipalities offer horse shows and amateur harness racing at various local parks. Year-round horse racing is also offered at nearby Meadowlands Sports Complex, home of the New Jersey Nets and Devils and host to the New York Giants and Jets.

Sports for the Participant

The New Brunswick Park System features 285 acres of parks, playgrounds, passive areas, athletic fields, facilities, lawns, and gardens. Boyd Park, located on New Brunswick's river front, was just reopened after an $11-million redevelopment. Home to numerous festivals and special events, the park now boasts views of the Raritan River and New Brunswick's skyline. The 15-acre Memorial Stadium park hosts sporting events with seating for 5,000 people. The 78-acre Buccleuch has many athletic fields, a cross country fitness trail, and sledding and skating in winter. The Colonial House, located at the park, is in the process of an historical renovation but is still open for tours on Sunday afternoons from June through October. The newly developed Alice Jennings Archibald Park includes 10.5 acres of athletic facilities for baseball, softball, soccer, football, tennis, basketball, and handball, as well as a playground and picnic area.

Also new is a 15-acre youth sports complex that hosts little league baseball and softball, as well as all youth soccer games. Still in the works at the park are a flowing brook, bridges, and picnic pavilions. Nearby is the HUB Teen Recreation Center. Scheduled for completion in 2005, the 17,000-square-foot center will offer young people the following: batting cage, golf learning center, internet cafe, computer lab, TV lounge and movie theater, dance studio, fitness gym with locker rooms, meeting rooms, game room, and a movie theater.

Recreation Information: New Brunswick Recreation Department, 65 Morris St., New Brunswick, NJ 08903; telephone (732)745-5125

Shopping and Dining

New Brunswick's major shopping areas include Albany Street Plaza, the Golden Triangle, Kilmer Square, Livingston Shopping Center, and Sears Plaza. New Jersey Designer Craftsmen, designated a resident company of the New Brunswick Cultural Center complex, displays the works of members in a gallery located there. Middlesex County is home to about 80 major shopping centers.

New Brunswick offers an array of dining establishments from the causal to the elegant. Ethnic cuisine runs the gamut from Italian to Mongolian, and includes Chinese, Japanese, Cajun, Mexican, and American fare. Several continental restaurants offer fine dining and have received both regional and national recognition in many well-known publications, such as Gourmet magazine and the New York Times.

Visitor Information: New Brunswick City Market, 120 Albany Street, 7th Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901; telephone (732)545-4849