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Passaic County: Your Guide to the Garden State Gem

Passaic County: A Brief History

In 1837, Passaic County was officially established, separating from Essex and Bergen counties. The early 19th century saw industry take hold, with textile mills, silk mills, and manufacturing plants emerging along the Passaic River. This industrialization led to a population boom, attracting immigrant workers from Europe.

Many landmarks were built during this era, including the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, showcasing one of the first industrial cities in the U.S. Another icon is the Lambert Castle in Paterson, a 19th-century mansion housing historical artifacts. For nature lovers, there’s the Garret Mountain Reservation with stunning views and the Great Falls of the Passaic, a spectacular 77-foot waterfall.

Through the early 20th century, Passaic County became increasingly suburban. Today, it’s home to over 500,000 residents in 16 municipalities, from gritty cities to affluent suburbs.

Though much has changed, the beauty of Passaic County remains. From the Ramapo Mountains to the fertile farmland, from the impressive Great Falls to historic landmarks, Passaic County offers a glimpse into the history of New Jersey and the makings of America. Discover this garden gem for yourself!

Top 5 Things to Do in Passaic County

Passaic County has so much to offer for a fun day out. Here are the top 5 things you should do:

Visit Garret Mountain Reservation

Spanning over 500 acres, this county park is a nature lover’s paradise. Go hiking or biking along miles of trails, check out the scenic views from the top of the mountain, or go boating on the lake. The park even has an adventure course with zip lines and rope climbing for thrill-seekers.

Explore Downtown Paterson

Paterson’s historic downtown district has beautiful architecture, shops, restaurants, and galleries along the Great Falls National Historical Park. Walk across the scenic “Bridge Street Bridge” for panoramic views of the 77-foot Great Falls waterfall.

See a Show at Mayo Performing Arts Center

This elegant theater in Morristown hosts Broadway shows, live music, comedy and more. Their diverse lineup has something for everyone. Catch a big name act or check out an up and coming performer.

Visit the Paterson Museum

Learn about the history of Paterson, once known as the “Silk City of the World.” This Smithsonian-affiliated museum displays historic silk mill equipment, art, and artifacts from Paterson’s past. It’s a great way to gain insight into the area’s rich industrial heritage.

Shop and Dine in Westfield

The charming downtown of Westfield features upscale shops, boutiques, restaurants, and cafes along cobblestone streets. Spend an afternoon browsing clothing stores, gourmet food shops, and home décor retailers. When you get hungry, there are lots of options for a delicious bite to eat, from casual pub fare to fine dining.

Living in Passaic County: Pros and Cons

Living in Passaic County offers both advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the main pros and cons to consider:

Pros:

Passaic County has a relatively low cost of living compared to other areas of New Jersey and nearby New York. Housing costs and rents are lower, as are costs for goods and services. There are also no county or municipal income taxes for residents.

The county has a mix of rural, suburban and urban areas with lots of open space, parks and recreational activities. You have access to attractions like Garret Mountain Reservation, Ringwood State Park and Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. There’s something for people who enjoy an active lifestyle.

Passaic County has a diverse population with a rich cultural heritage. You’ll find opportunities to experience music, food, festivals and events representing many ethnic groups.

Cons:

Parts of Passaic County struggle economically, with higher unemployment and poverty rates. Job opportunities are limited in some areas. Many residents commute to jobs in nearby counties or New York City.

While housing costs are lower relative to the region, property taxes in New Jersey are among the highest in the U.S. The state income tax rate is also above average.

Some urban and suburban areas of the county have higher crime rates, especially property crimes. Check crime statistics for any location you’re considering to make sure you feel safe.

Traffic and congestion can be problematic, especially for commuters and around major highways like Interstates 80, 95 and 287. Public transit options are limited in most of the county.

The climate brings very cold winters, hot and humid summers, and the potential for severe weather like nor’easters, blizzards, flooding and hurricanes. Make sure you’re prepared to handle temperature extremes.

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