The 8 Best Commuter Towns to NYC
We’ve all seen the headlines. People are moving out of New York for greener pastures, whether as a result of the pandemic and more flexible work situations, a general need for more space, oh, and lot’s of millennial-aged folks are finally settling down roots and looking to own their first homes, too.
While it may be a hard pill to swallow for some New Yorkers, the suburbs are increasingly becoming cool (yep, we said it) with many offering cultural activities, restaurant and shopping scenes you might otherwise expect to find in some of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods.
These are just some of the most charming commuter towns near NYC to look into as you start your search, whether you’re gung-ho on moving quickly or just want to check some of these places out, ya know, for the future.
Editor’s note: While there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, please remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is still going on and so certain restrictions may be in place if you visit these towns or open houses in the area. Additionally, some mentioned events may be scaled down or virtual until further notice. Stay smart, mask up, social distance and protect yourself and others.
1. Tarrytown, NY
Commute time to/from Midtown: 1 hour or less
If you or your significant other already do the reverse commute thing right now, Tarrytown might be the ideal place to lay down roots. Located at the convergence of Routes 287 & 87, it’s just minutes from the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge—previously known as The Tappan Zee—meaning that points well into New York, Connecticut and New Jersey are all easily accessible from this Hudson River town. A Metro North train stop also quickly serves rail commuters into Grand Central.
But beyond the ease of getting to the office, many are drawn to Tarrytown and neighboring Sleepy Hollow—which are technically separate towns but feel interconnected and even share a school district—for the historic architecture, charm and natural beauty paired with picturesque Hudson River views. The aforementioned views are on full display at Lyndhurst Mansion, a grandiose Gothic Revival country home steeped in history that sits in a park beside the river.
Submerged and surrounded by rocks in the river, Tarrytown Lighthouse is a dreamy and highly Instagrammable moment. In fact, the more you explore this utopian town and environs, the more you’ll understand why famous fams like the Goulds, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts were drawn here early on and made it the spot of their sprawling country estates. These wealthy New York families were also notable benefactors of the Tarrytown Music Hall, the oldest theater in Westchester County, not to mention one of the few theaters in the U.S. built before 1900. Did we mention it's gorg?
The schools: Pleasant, brick-faced buildings you might expect to see in a movie or TV show are what the schools in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow actually look like. The regional district further charms potential residents with an A+ education, according to Niche.
The shopping & restaurant scene: For locals, the quaint and compact downtowns of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow make running errands a breeze, and the unique shopping keeps them coming back. Highlights include The Swan’s House, a vintage-furniture-meets-gift-meets-stationary shop run by a local couple. More gems, including gifts and jewelry, can be found at Pretty Funny Vintage, which bills itself as a place for finding “old and new curious goods.”
For eats, look into RiverMarket Bar and Kitchen, Sweet Grass Grill, Bistro12, Tarry Tavern, Mint, and Lefteris Gyro, but do not pass go before booking a table at Goosefeather. The seriously stunning restaurant and modern Chinese cuisine served up here by celeb chef Dale Talde are even worth a trip up from the city if you’re not looking to settle into the area.
2. Maplewood, NJ
Commute time to/from Midtown: 35 to 45 minutes
Tucked away and more under-the-radar than neighboring Montclair, Maplewood’s popularity—and real estate values—have grown significantly over the last few years, even prior to the pandemic. This is, in part, thanks to super quick commutes by NJ Transit trains and the adorable allures of downtown Maplewood Village, a small walkable area idyllic for shopping, eating and congregating with family or friends. Springfield Avenue, another shopping district, houses the town’s farmer’s market, an art’s center, chain and unique restaurant offerings, plus a growing list of shops, including General Store Cooperative—a marketplace and café that aims to highlight products from local creators and entrepreneurs.
The schools: A regional school district serves pupils from Maplewood and its neighbor, South Orange, another commuter town in New Jersey showing growth in desirability. Niche rates the district an A- overall.
The shopping & restaurant scene: The highly-celebrated artisanal pizza at Arturo’s, craft cocktails at Coda Kitchen & Bar, pub fare and brews at St. James Gate, the slurp-worthy ramen at Ani Ramen, and pristine, French technical execution of dishes at Lorena's—which recently moved to a larger space—are all a big draw for commuters that want to live nearby to seriously quality grub.
Book worms will be pleased to discover the award-winning [words] Bookstore, while Perch Home, Kokoro and No. 165 are notable shops in town known for selling everything from gifts and home items to décor and clothing.
3. Port Washington, NY
Commute time to/from Midtown: 50 minutes
“Movie and literature buffs should know all about this hamlet that is tucked along the shoreline of the Long Island Sound and offers its residents spectacular waterfront sunsets all year round,” says Shaughnessy Dusling, licensed real estate salesperson with EXP Realty and long-time Long Island resident, who notes that many families here live in single family homes with a median sales price of $899,500*. “With three yacht clubs and a marina, boating is a summertime staple,” she says. “Blumenfeld Family Park is a great place to visit with the kids, so they can enjoy a splash pad and a sprayground.”
Pack a picnic and some Champagne and visit the nearby Sands Point Preserve, the inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. “There you’ll see the opulent and luxury estates built in the early 20th century,” Dusling tells us.
The schools: With an average SAT rate of 1300 and an average graduation rate of 92 percent, schools in Port Washington are top notch, with the district earning that coveted A+ rating from Niche.
The shopping & restaurant scene: Commercial areas with shopping and dining are staggered across town but concentrate around Main St. Top-rated restaurants in the area include Italian crowd pleasers La Piccola Liguria Restaurant, DiMaggio's Trattoria and Bosphorus Cafe Grill for casual, Turkish delights.
Vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike should make it a point to try the food at Wild Honey on Main. They offer daily specials, and fun themes like a weekly taco night.
4. Weehawken, NJ
Commute Time to/from Midtown: 30 minutes, or under
With sweeping, panoramic views over Manhattan, Weehawken is quickly becoming one of New Jersey’s most coveted addresses for New York City commuters.
In this charming, waterfront town, contemporary condo and apartment buildings line the Hudson River waterfront, most of them steps from the ferries at Port Imperial and Lincoln Harbor, which are able to whisk commuters across the Hudson River and into Midtown Manhattan in less than 10 minutes. Reachable by foot for residents, commuters can also jump on frequent NJ Transit buses at various bus stops around town, and depending on traffic, be in Port Authority in roughly 20 minutes.
The Palisades cut this town in half, and up the cliff, larger, single-family homes—many with small-but-ample backyards—can be found in a variety of sizes and architecture styles, from modest brick townhomes to charming Tudor and Victorian-influenced dwellings; there are even many sprawling, villa-like mansions. The big draw for families in this town, especially for those who left New York for more space but want so-close-you-can-see-it proximity, are the many parks. There’s Hamilton Park, named for Alexander Hamilton who died in Weehawken during that famous duel, Weehawken Waterfront Park, which is currently being expanded with a public pool, splash park and ice rink, and Weehawken Pier—which juts directly into the Hudson River on concrete pilings for dramatic effect.
The shopping & restaurant scene: Celeb chef Marcus Samulesson recently added his name to a Jersey outpost in Weehawken. Called Marcus at NoHu Rooftop and located on the roof of the Envue Hotel directly across from the Port Imperial ferry, it’s the ideal place for al fresco dining with unparalleled views over Manhattan. Porter is another new restaurant in town serving up tasty wood-fired pizzas, like a unique cacio e pepe version, plus small plates (baked oysters “casino”, focaccia, charred octopus) and coal-fired entrees. Meanwhile, the long-standing Charrito’s, a favorite in the area, has been serving up authentic, Oaxacan-inspired Mexican grub with jaw-dropping views for decades.
Park Avenue, the town’s thoroughfare which shares many businesses with neighboring Union City, has many major services and is home to a popular bagel shop, crepe restaurant, and juice bar. Local grocery stores in Weehawken include fan favorites Whole Foods and Lidl.
5. Huntington, NY
Commute time to/from Midtown: 1 hour
If that 60 minute mark is your threshold for commuting—and it tends to be for a lot of New Yorker’s on the move—Huntington is a town you’ll want to get familiar with, and quickly. “Huntington offers a robust downtown area with many locally owned restaurants, bars and boutique shopping. Minutes away is also the Walt Whitman Mall, filled with your favorite luxury brands,” Dusling tells us.
The median sales price in Huntington is roughly the same as New York City ($634,100* vs. $652,012, respectively, according to Zillow), but what you’ll get for that money is completely different, like this fully renovated charmer with a nice-sized yard.
One little part of the city you can take with you here? Huntington is notable for embracing diversity and hosts an annual Gay Pride Parade that’s well attended, Dusling says.
The schools: A very competitive Long Island public school district, roughly 4,500 students in Huntington’s district are receiving a top-notch education (i.e., a A grade), according to Niche.
The restaurant & shopping scene: Shops we love in Huntington include Sedoni Gallery, a jewelry, gift and decor store; Scensational, which does custom fragrances and sells skin and body care products; and Main Street Nursery, which has a top notch selection of plants, flowers and things that will make your new garden beautiful.
Dining in Huntington is always delicious, and highlights include Honu Kitchen, a tapas restaurant with international flavors and some of the best cocktails in town. At Besito, we could give the margaritas a big kiss, and the fresh, tableside guacamole is always a good idea. Meanwhile, elevated versions of American classics are dreamt up in a casual, contemporary space at The Shed. “After dinner, you can check out a concert or fight night at the Paramount, Huntington’s live entertainment venue,” Dusling adds.
6. Greenwich, CT
Commute time to/from Midtown: Roughly 1 hour
Greenwich—you’ve certainly heard of it before and it’s totally a thing, and for good reason. The affluent, Connecticut town sits on the Long Island Sound and borders New York State with a Metro North commute that’s sub-one hour from Grand Central Station. Prospective residents here have the luxury of deciding on a home in the many different parts of town that speak to their personality, whether that’s within walking distance of the train station and all the shopping and dining Greenwich Avenue has to offer, or is further afoot in a more private, bucolic part of town, or perhaps positioned within close proximity to the water. Those looking to be right on the Sound in the desirable Old Greenwich, Riverside, Cos Cob, or Belle Haven neighborhoods will certainly pay a premium to do so, but if you’re going to splurge on a family home, these kinds of locations makes the average $1.4M price tag in town somewhat tolerable when you consider you're also getting a beach house in the process.
The schools: Families escaping the Manhattan and Brooklyn private school systems move to Greenwich just for the education. And there are many options based on your little’s needs, including 11 public elementary schools and three middle schools. Niche gives the overall school district here an A+.
The shopping & restaurant scene: Shopping in Greenwich on “The Avenue” is a treat; the bustling downtown area filled with restaurants and shops has a cosmopolitan flair, even if it’s all housed in the footprint of a small, charming historic town. RH, Tiffany & Co., Hermes, J.Crew, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lululemon, Club Monaco and Aesop are just a few of the familiar retailers you’ll find, but there are plenty more, scattered between coffee shops with exposed brick like CFCF Coffee Roasters, not to mention every kind of restaurant from fine dining to stylish eateries and even fast casual and pizza joints. L’escale, a restaurant on the waterfront and a stone’s throw from Greenwich Avenue, has become an institution during the warmer months when patrons take in the French fare on a beautiful patio overlooking the water.
7. Sayville, NY
Commute time to/from Midtown: 1.5 hours
If you don’t mind a slightly longer commute, Sayville, NY is packed with value. “A small community, only 140 homes sold in town in the past year, with the median sales price of $490,000*,” Dusling tells us. The Long Island village on the South Shore is packed with well kept, historic and ranch style homes, and feels worlds away from the City, even if it is drawing commuters, thanks in part to its coastal, maritime vibe. A starting point for ferries heading to Fire Island, many residents of Sayville keep boats in the marinas themselves, and Dusling notes that several playgrounds, mini golf, a tiny movie theatre and the beach will keep families busy in the summer. In non-pandemic times, there’s also a costume-friendly Pirate Festival, which you should *probably* get involved in whether you choose to live here or not.
The schools: With an average graduation rate of 97 percent and average SAT score of 1230, Niche gives Sayville Union Free School District the solid A rating it deserves.
The shopping & restaurant scene: For a smaller Main Street area, Sayville packs a lot of desirability—a sushi shop, a healthy eatery dedicated to açai bowls and breakfast bowls, a chocolate shop, a pet supply shop and a highly-rated comic book store. There are many distinct restaurants in town, including Italian at Butera’s, Asian fusion at T.O.A., and American grub in a historic setting—that was also a haunt of Teddy Roosevelt—at The Sayville Inn. “Waterfront dining can be had at Kingston’s Clam Bar. Located in West Sayville, they have outdoor dining and spectacular and fresh seafood. If you’re looking for a great dive, enjoy darts and some quick grub at Station Pub,” Dusling tells us.
8. Cranford, NJ
Commute time to/from Midtown: 45-50 minutes
This evolving community is already a slice of the American suburban dream, and is seeing a further boom thanks to incentives from transit-oriented development projects and grants. The town’s NJ Transit stop cuts right through the center of the main commercial district, which is filled with charming shops, restaurants and a plaza where a handsome, free standing clock keeps commuters on-time.
In Cranford, you can expect lots of appeal by the way of friendly parks (Lenape, Nomahegan, and Birchwood Park are all notable), plus cute gazebos and a variety of well-kept homes in various architecture styles—many packed with historical details. Current offerings, as of press time, include a classic colonial with charm for $585,000; a multi-family home (read: rental income) that will benefit from some minor cosmetic updates for $549,900; or, this turn-key new build at $859,000.
The schools: New Jersey’s public schools are regularly rated amongst the top in all of the U.S., and within the state itself, Cranford is ranked #11, according to Niche. It also awards the Cranford Public School District an A+ rating, so you can feel confident your kids are getting one of the best public educations in the country.
The shopping & restaurant scene: Dynamic shops filled with fine gifts, vintage treasures or dedicated to specialties like soaps and bath products, jewelry and even comics and collectibles can be found in Cranford.
When it comes to eating out, every dish at Garlic Rose—a local favorite—is a hit, as is the service. Track 5 is a music-themed coffee shop in town serving up specialty lattes, and the Thirsty Turtle not only has a great name, it also has great burgers and crowd-pleasing shareables.
*OneKey MLS data