When was the last time you felt like a tourist in your nearest city, or discovered something really amazing in your own hometown? Either life gets ahead of us, or we simply overlook the hidden gems waiting for us just a few minutes away. As an avid traveler, I’m always looking for new places to discover, whether it’s a new country, or new restaurant. I’ve lived away for college in Rhode Island, spent sometime in Arizona, and aside from New York City, I’ve slightly lost sight of the great things to do near my hometown in New Jersey. So when I was approached by Turo (Formerly RelayRides) about getting out and uncovering a “Hometown Hidden Gem” I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to re-acquaint myself with my hometown.
Turo is a peer-to-peer car rental service, and with a shift to a sharing economy, and making their mark for a greener lifestyle in a really great way. Instead of having another car on the road, you can borrow someone else’s. They offer great deals for someone who simply needs the means to pick up a large piece of furniture, or is on a weekend getaway.The best part is that you’re getting to know the people in the community, and when in a new city, what’s better than forming a relationship with locals. Plus, they’ll know firsthand what hidden gems are worth the discovery!One of my hometown gems, and favorite towns, is Montclair. From museums, to great restaurants, boutique shops, and not to mention the amazing rows of homes, you’ll find so many lovely places in just one block. For a curious eye, like mine, anyone will enjoy a simple walk on the busy streets with shops and restaurants a plenty, and it’s where I’m often inspired. The first hometown gem I discovered in Montclair was the Van Vleck House and Gardens, and since then it has become one of my favorite places to spend a spring afternoon.
But on this day, the summer warmth still lingered, and the fall breeze wrestled the trees – it was the perfect morning, to take a walk on Church street, and explore all the new and old beauties of Montclair. With no plan, we popped into boutique clothing shops, art galleries, florists, and an antique shop, where I treated myself to a set of vintage tea napkins. With so many options to enjoy an al fresco lunch, we decided with the local favorite Raymond’s, and we came at the right time, grabbing the last little table outside. It’s a great location on busy Church Street, where you can catch up on what’s going on in town, or simply meet new friends. It has a lot of old-time charm, and offers great-tasting modern updates on classic dishes, and in my opinion they have the best tasting beet burger I’ve tasted, which topped a crisp kale salad.
My other highly recommended gem is the Montclair farmer’s market, where you are sure to come home with something new, like tiny crabapples, sour just like granny smiths or even see some spikey squashes. Aside from plenty of local farmers with high quality produce, there’s much to do than just picking up fruits and vegetables. There are local food truck favorites, unique variations of pickles from Pickle Licious, cheeses made the old-fashioned way, a live guitarist, and even a spot for our furry pawed friends to play. But the rainbows of tomatoes are my favorite, and I always walk away with large bagfuls that make the farmers question what I will be creating this week.
I would come to the farmer’s market even if I didn’t have to pick up produce, the people are just friendly, outgoing, and genially care about forming a community relationship with you. Who wouldn’t want to visit a town like that. I always stop by to take home the prettiest blooms from one of my new favorite florists, Everlasting Garden. A family owned garden I plan to visit next springtime when it blooms once again. Delicious crusty french breads and flaky chocolate croissants from Montclair Bread Company are worth the stop on an early morning.It’s been some time since I’d adventured and shared a “Traveling to” post, mostly in part of my injury but also because I haven’t been inspired in my own back yard, and I’m glad that I was able to rediscover a hometown hidden gem. I can’t wait to travel and find new treasures to share with you. Now what are you waiting for? Get out there, become part of a sharing community, and find the treasures that are waiting for you just outside your doorstep…