Newark is a city whose time has come. New Jersey’s largest city has become a destination for tourists, families, foodies, sports fans and artists. Add in a busy business scene, along with some top-notch hotels, and Newark is the perfect destination for business meetings and events.
Part of Newark’s appeal is its proximity to New York City. Lauren Hall, director of marketing and communications for the Greater Newark Convention & Visitors Bureau, notes that people coming into Newark from New York can choose from trains, a subway, buses or several major thoroughfares. For people flying in, there’s Newark Liberty International Airport. “Newark offers meeting and event planners big-city fun at a fraction of the price,” Hall says.
And after a busy day of working in Newark, there are plenty of things to see and places to go. Hall says Newark’s popularity has stemmed from its history as well as a growing arts and entertainment scene. It’s also a destination for sports fans, as the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and Seton Hall’s men’s basketball team both play at the Prudential Center.
“Today the city has a vibrant creative community with dozens of indie art galleries,” Hall says. “The influx of artists has resulted in a myriad of cool events likeGuard D’Avant music festival, poetry slams, pop up shops and printmaking parties, all adding to Newark’s reputation of being a happening place. Lastly, Newark is home to many big-ticket events and attractions drawing huge crowds nightly.”
Where to Stay
The Hotel Indigo Newark is home to 108 modern guest rooms that offer spa-style showers, iPads with docking stations, free Wi-Fi and Keurig coffee brewers. Food options include the Alva Tavern, a full-service restaurant; The Workshop, a lobby café; and Skylab, a rooftop bar with its breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline. Business travelers can take advantage of a complimentary airport shuttle, a free business center and a fitness studio. Meetings space in the Indigo can accommodate groups of up to 150 people. “At the Hotel Indigo Newark Downtown Hotel, you’ll notice a unique connection between our boutique hotel and the neighborhood,” says Erich D. Gordon, general manager. “Our building was erected in 1912 and designed by Cass Gilbert as the National State Bank; we still honor these roots today with a front desk created from reclaimed teller desks and by integrating the original bank vault into our restaurant’s design. With exposed brick, beautiful windows and unique loft configurations, our refreshing guest rooms all feature décor and artwork that reflect the neighborhood’s spirit of innovation and invention.”
The Newark Downtown Courtyard promises guests spacious rooms that combine comfort and functionality, with plush beds and ergonomic work spaces. Its location brings visitors close to shopping, dining and entertainment options. The hotel is also a milestone in Newark’s rebirth—its opening in September of 2012 marked the first time a new hotel opened in the city in 40 years. The Downtown Courtyard has 4,500 feet of flexible meeting space and an on-site meeting planner. “We truly value our business travelers and provide services to make their stay both productive and enjoyable,” says Craig Kepple, general manager, adding that in addition to work areas in rooms, the hotel also has a business center and offers transportation to Newark Liberty Airport.
Element Harrison-Newark is an extendedstay hotel with proximity to Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark’s business district and is within walking distance to Path trains to Manhattan. It has 138 guest rooms, each with a fully equipped kitchen. It also has a 24-hour fitness center and 1,377 square feet of meeting space. “We reimagined the extended-stay experience through the Element brand by focusing on whole living and achieving balance while on the road,” says Brian McGuinness, global brand leader for Element Hotels and Specialty Select Brands at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “We provide healthy food offerings, distinct eco-design and bike share programs.”
Where to Eat
Nico Kitchen + Bar opened in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Downtown Newark in 2011, and has been a dining destination ever since. “We are an ‘Italian Without Borders’ concept of chef Ryan DePersio,” says Rose Watts, catering sales manager. “We feature hugely appealing, high-energy shared plates—think tapas with contemporary American and Italian leanings. We host dining services in conjunction with NJPAC performances and offer a valuepriced, three-course, more traditional prix fixe menu on performance nights and matinees. This menu changes every three weeks, and is designed to come out of the kitchen quickly so guests can make their curtain if they arrive 90 minutes prior to show time.” The restaurant offers semiprivate and private spaces for groups of 10 to 200.
People looking for a true New York-style meal will want to head to Hobby’s Delicatessen for such classics as matzoh ball soup, pastrami, corned beef and tongue sandwiches, burgers, turkey pot pie and much more. Healthy eaters can choose from a wide selection of salads and vegetarian meals. “It’s great food and a menu that’s delicatessen based, but also has a lot of vegetarian items,” says Michael Brummer, who owns Hobby’s with his brother, Marc. “We change with the times. We’ve added a lot of salads, a lot of vegetarian items. My brother likes to say we’re a Jewish deli at our soul, but we are a lot more than just that.” The restaurant can accommodate five to 100 people for meetings and events.
Duke’s Southern Table offers southern food and hospitality. Owned and operated by well-known New Jersey restaurateur and chef Vonda McPherson,Duke’s menu includes a sharing plates option with items such as fried green tomato B.L.T. sliders; burnt rib tips and jerk chicken lettuce wraps. Entrées include fried cornmeal North Carolina catfish, fired red snapper, sautéed jump lump crab jambalaya and shrimp and grits. Duke’s has a private VIP room ideal for groups up to 30. The room has a 55-inch TV and can be set for familystyle or buffet-style dining experiences. The entire restaurant, which is available for rent, can accommodate up to 100 people seated and up to 200 for a standing networking event.
“Since every meeting and event is different, we work with the customer to design a unique event experience,” says McPherson, who also has a catering service, Vonda K’s Catering & Events. “We help them customize a menu that fits their needs, we offer assistance with items such as linens, centerpieces, decorations and signature drinks to accent the theme of their event. If a band or a DJ is needed, we will help provide the entertainment. Our goal is to help the customer create the perfect atmosphere that will make their event successful.”
What to Do
Military Park, in the center of Newark’s downtown business district, is a place to learn about history, take in some natural beauty or simply relax. Complimentary yoga (mats provided), tai chi, Zumba and salsa classes are held from spring through fall, while other activities include a farmers market, author events, poetry readings, music and outdoor movies. A reading room offers books, magazines and newspapers. Another room lets gamers try their hand at chess, board games and pingpong, with tables available even in the winter. The park also has Wi-Fi and outlets, while a restaurant and Newark-themed carousel are scheduled to open in the fall. “The park itself has been a meeting place in Newark since the late 1600s, when it first served as a training ground for the militia,” says Karen Horton, program coordinator for Military Park. “Over the years it became a true park and today is considered the most significant historic park in downtown Newark. Once seen as a symbol of urban decay, it reopened in June 2014 after a year spent revitalizing, replanting and transforming. Today, it is a stunning, popular and well-populated park welcoming residents and visitors alike.”
Essex County Branch Brook Park was the United States’ first county park, and was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park. While many people travel to Washington D.C. in the spring to see cherry blossoms, Branch Brook Park has the largest collection of cherry blossom trees, with more than 5,000 trees in 16 different varieties. According to Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., the park’s cherry blossoms draw hundreds of thousands of people to Branch Brook Break each spring. “Branch Brook Park is the place where special memories are created for families, whether it’s playing with friends, picnicking with parents or taking photos every spring in the cherry blossom groves,” DiVincenzo says. “Generations of people who grew up in the park feel a real connection to it and return again and again to enjoy the open spaces.”
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center opened in 1993 in Downtown Newark, and hosts performances by well-known artists in classical music, pop, rock, jazz, comedy and more. The venue has a community space that can accommodate 50 people, with other spaces that can accommodate up to 250. The entire venue can be rented out, and can accommodate 1,200, using both theaters and the lobby space. “NJPAC offers rental accommodations for every taste, from the grandeur of Prudential Hall to an intimate nightclub setting—complete with skyline view—in the Chase Room,” says Donna Walker- Kuhne, vice president of community engagement. “Our facilities are acclaimed for their beauty, spaciousness, and high-performance audio and video equipment.”