What is it like living in Somerville, NJ?

Somerville in a Nutshell

Surrounded by the larger township of Bridgewater, Somerville combines upscale in-town and suburban living with easy proximity to shopping, entertainment, and cultural attractions, all within a larger landscape of rolling countryside. The school district has been steadily improving, and there are various private schools in the area.

The mid-sized, fully walkable downtown, with ample food shopping (including a large ShopRite), a wide selection of restaurants, and a NJ Transit train station (Raritan Valley Line) to NYC or Newark—along with affordable homes and many jobs springing from the healthy corporate development in the region—provides a perfect backdrop for the millennial lifestyle. And millennials are indeed flocking here, causing a shift from a mid-20th-century retail focus to a more diverse center for young and mid-career urban/suburban professionals, with shopping, fitness and sports facilities, and most significantly a multitude of new luxury and semi-luxury apartments and condos to satisfy the increasing demand. Along the seven blocks of Main Street, these new apartments and shopping centers mix with older storefront design. Since Somerville is the County seat of Somerset County, you’ll also find on Main Street the Classical Revival–style Somerset County Courthouse, surrounded by numerous governmental and law offices. 

Wegman’s, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s are all within a 10-minute drive. Numerous retail shopping and other services can be found at the Bridgewater Commons Mall and other shopping centers within the same 10-minute driving radius. Stadiums hosting professional sports teams like the Giants, NJ Devils, and MLS Red Bulls are all less than an hour’s drive away. The Robert Wood Johnson/Barnabas Health Center is just outside of the town center.


Somerville’s public schools have been improving academically, with one school for elementary including pre-kindergarten (Van Derveer, with about 800 students), one middle school (Somerville, with about 400), and Somerville High (with about 1,100 students), which is regionalized with nearby Branchburg.  

Well-regarded private schools in the area include the Pingry School, Rutgers Preparatory, Gill St. Bernards, and the Willow School. Local parochial schools include Immaculate Conception (up to 8th), Immaculata High School, St. Ann’s (in Raritan; pre-K to 8th), and Christ the King (in Manville; pre-K to 8th).

College students can live at home and commute to Rutgers University, Raritan Valley Community College, Kean University, or Montclair State University. 

The Somerville Public Library is part of the larger Somerset County Library System which has its main branch in Bridgewater. A convenient mobile app allows you to search the SCLS collection for books, films, music and more, place items on hold, and indicate the branch where you prefer to pick up your hold items.

Parks and Recreation

Numerous small parks dot the town, including some with athletic fields, like Exchange Field, and others like the Peters Brook Greenway with paved or gravel trails that weave from one edge of town to the Raritan River. Several town parks include playgrounds, public swimming pools, and splash parks. Parks and open spaces offering a range of recreational experiences are found throughout Somerset County. A notable example is the beautiful Duke Farms in Hillsborough, which has both paved and unpaved walking trails, an orchid greenhouse, bicycle rentals, a community garden, a farm-to-table cafe, and numerous environmental education classes for all ages as well as other family-friendly events. Other nearby parks include Duke Island Park, North Branch Park, Washington Valley Park, and Washington Rock State Park, a scenic outlook where General George Washington observed the movement of British troops during the Revolutionary War. Round Valley Reservoir, Hacklebarney State Park, the Delaware Water Gap, the Pine Barrens, and Gateway National Recreation Area are within a 1- to 2-hour drive and offer picnicking, camping, hiking, fishing, boating, and other outdoor experiences.  

If you’ve only seen the TV show, the Jersey Shore is a punchline, but it’s revered by native New Jerseyans. Within a 1- to 1.5-hour drive are towns like Point Pleasant, whose boardwalk amusements cater to families; Asbury Park, which draws the hipster crowd with more sophisticated restaurants and concert venues; and Sandy Hook and Island Beach State Park, which offer a more unspoiled, nature-based experience.  

On the western side of the state, about a 45-minute drive from Somerville, are the quaint Delaware River towns of Frenchtown, Lambertville, and New Hope, PA. These towns have vibrant arts and dining scenes and are great places to shop for antiques and other unique novelties at the wide range of family-owned gift stores, bookstores, record stores, and clothing stores before hitting the bars and brew pubs.

Dining and Nightlife 

Somerville is a regional destination for dining, with a wide range of family-owned restaurants. Dining options along Main Street include Greek, Italian, Thai, sushi, seafood, steak house, Irish pub, Chinese, Costa Rican, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, New American, pizzerias, delis, bakeries, coffee shops, ice cream shops, and a new brewery. Several Jersey-style 24-hour diners are right outside of town. The Bridgewater Commons Mall has a food court and a number of full-service restaurants. 

Arts and Culture

Cultural events can be found in the area at the Raritan Valley Community College Theater (10 minutes), Princeton’s McCarter Theater (30 minutes), and State Theatre New Jersey and George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick (20 minutes). Princeton and Rutgers Universities offer museums, concert halls, theaters, film screenings, and collegiate sports. NJPAC (Newark), Mayo Performing Arts Center (Morristown), and PNC Bank Arts Center (Holmdel) host concerts and events. Several community theaters and playhouses are found within a 30-minute drive of town. 

Downtown Somerville hosts the renowned Memorial Day Tour of Somerville bicycle race, attracting hundreds of riders and spectators from afar. Central Jersey Jazz Festival in September is a popular annual event, along with a local Arts & Crafts Festival in April, a Street Fair & Craft Show and a Craft Beer Festival in June, multiple family-friendly events during the holiday season, and classic car-cruise nights every Friday evening between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Running perpendicular to Main Street in the downtown area, Division Street has been converted to a pedestrian walkway and event space, with shops and restaurants, outdoor seating, and periodic free comedy shows, concerts, and kid-friendly outdoor movies during the summer. Fourth of July fireworks are held close by at Bridgewater’s North Branch Park and the Somerset Patriots minor league baseball stadium, both within a 5- to 10-minute drive. 

Farmers markets spring to life each summer and fall in the surrounding towns, selling famous Jersey fresh corn, tomatoes, and peaches, with larger markets in Chester and Oldwick (within a 30-minute drive from Somerville). Each August, Somerset County 4H Fair, a traditional agricultural fair, comes to neighboring Bridgewater’s North Branch Park. Agritourism is increasing, with seasonal corn, peach, and apple festivals at Terhune Orchards and Alstede Farms, a 30-minute drive from Somerville.  

Housing Stock

Demand for single-family homes and condos throughout Somerset County has been high, particularly so in Somerville itself over the last few years. Houses run from smaller 2- and 3-bedroom homes dating to the mid-20th century to large Victorian homes (sometimes multi-family) running along Cliff and High Streets, only a few blocks from Main Street’s amenities and shopping. The larger Victorians, typically around 100 years old, have often been modernized inside and beautifully restored outside. Somerville’s property taxes are on the higher end for the central region of NJ, but are reasonable compared to rates in NJ and NY suburbs closer to NYC. 

The recent apartment building boom provides modern luxury living opportunities at about half the rental price of similar studios and 1- and 2-bedrooms in Brooklyn and Jersey City. Parking is accessible and affordable, especially compared to suburbs closer to NYC. Within about a ten-minute walk of the train station and downtown are Cobalt Apartments (on Veterans Memorial Drive near the train station) and The Edge at Main luxury apartments. SOMA apartments on South Bridge Street are complete, as is Station HouseSomerset Station Transit Village plans to open in 2023 with 370 apartments, 156 townhomes, two parking garages, 4,000 sq.ft. of retail, and a 4,000-sq.-ft. community center—the largest mixed-use development in the town’s history. 

The Commute

The train trip on the Raritan Valley line from Somerville’s NJ Transit station to NYC usually requires a transfer at Newark Penn Station, although some trains go straight into NYC during rush hour (one-way $15.25, monthly pass $445). Commuter station parking is $3 a day or $105/for three months; weekends are free. Construction is underway to increase parking capacity. A second train station on this line, in Bridgewater, has a large parking lot: Daily and permit parking here is $4 a day, $150 for 3 months, $275 per half year or $500 per year. While the shortest time by rail into NYC is 78 minutes, the shortest trip back from NYC is only 67 minutes. In response to complaints about long commutes and delays, many proposals are on the table to improve rail service in and out of the city—like building a new tunnel under the Hudson and adding more trains capable of the full trip into Manhattan—promising faster, more reliable service. Buses go to NYC but take longer than the train (express buses are available at park and ride lots outside of town). 

Major highways near Somerville include Routes 287, 78, 202, 206, and 22. Driving your car into NYC takes at least 50 minutes, and of course there are pricey tolls. Driving to Newark Liberty International Airport takes about 35 minutes with no traffic.