If you're anything like I was during my first year of college, you've already got a mental (or physical, if you're especially meticulous) list of everything you want to do once you're on campus. Of course, there are a few on-campus restaurants to try your meal plan with, famous University landmarks to see like Passion Puddle or the Kissing Bridge on Cook campus and great sites like the Rutgers Gardens to explore. But just as exciting are all the off-campus activities waiting for you in New Brunswick.
While it can be a bit intimidating to venture out into a new city, especially when starting your first year of college, New Brunswick has a lot to offer regarding culture, the arts and incredible restaurants. So don't be that first-year who spends their entire year in the confines of campus lines, and allow me to be your virtual New Brunswick tour guide.
The State Theater New Jersey hosts dozens of programs and shows, ranging from entirely affordable to pretty pricey. Last year, I saw "Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope" accompanied by a live orchestra, and this year, I'm seeing a similar event but with "Jurassic Park." Maybe I'm a bit of a movie score nerd, but this was truly the highlight of my year.
The theater also has a great ballet and classical music selection — last year, I saw the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine, which was a great experience and surprisingly affordable.
In my opinion, the theater's highlight is its Broadway series, where touring companies travel to New Brunswick to put on world-class performances. I've seen great musicals this way and can't wait for the upcoming season to see shows like "Chicago" and "Come From Away."
The only downside is that theater tickets these days can strain your wallet, but if you're OK sitting in the cheap seats, you can pay as low as $30 to attend! Just make sure you book in advance to get a proper selection.
If you're really into theater and prefer straight plays to musicals, the George Street Playhouse is right next to the theater and will put on plays like "The Pianist" and "Having Our Say" this fall.
In my opinion, grabbing dinner near George Street and then seeing a little live theater makes for the perfect parents' visit — as long as they're paying, of course.
The Zimmerli Art Museum
Alright, so technically, the Zimmerli Art Museum is on campus, but it's right on the edge, and walking inside can feel like escaping Rutgers into a world of art. If you're nervous about your first year on campus, visiting the museum is a great way to try something new while staying in your newly formed college comfort zone.
In my opinion, the Zimmerli isn't taken advantage of nearly as much by Rutgers' student body. Even I, an avid museum lover, have only been once. So, if you're an incoming first-year student, make taking this art field trip a priority.
The museum's collection is impressive, with the highlights being French, American, Russian and Soviet art, comprising a remarkable 60,000 works for such a small space.
The Zimmerli also hosts events called Spark Nights with exhibition tours, art-related workshops and wine for people 21 and older. The themes vary but are always interesting, and a food truck or two is usually parked outside.
The best part of the Zimmerli is that it's the cheapest activity on the list since it's completely free!
Stress Factory Comedy Club
Just off George Street on Church Street is the Stress Factory Comedy Club. Plenty of famous stand-up comedians have passed through New Brunswick with the Stress Factory being one of their stops, such as Brian Regan, Richard Lewis and even Chris Rock.
I personally have never been to the Stress Factory, but I've known plenty of people who have gone and loved it. This, again, is one of the pricier items on the list, but if you're a fan of stand-up comedy, it's totally worth the cash.
Easton Avenue eateries
While this isn't one specific activity, it can make for the perfect outing with friends, family or with your Hinge date. When I first got to campus, I remember all the restaurants that stood out to me — most of them were on George Street, but the number of eateries on or near Easton Avenue can't be beaten.
This stretch of street just behind the College Avenue campus is truly a foodie's paradise with establishments like Efes Mediterranean Grill, Barça City Cafe and Bar and the Rutgers classic, Stuff Yer Face. One of my regulars is a small Japanese restaurant just off Easton Avenue on Condict Street called Edo.
I recommend walking this street, searching the menus and picking a restaurant, then stopping at Thomas Sweet Ice Cream for some slightly, but charmingly, overpriced ice cream or Truly Yogurt if fro-yo is more your style. You can even finish the day with a bit of merch shopping at Scarlet Fever if you don't want to get completely ripped off at the Barnes and Noble at Rutgers.
While there's plenty to do on campus, the restaurants, arts and entertainment scene out in New Brunswick is truly impressive. As you're putting together your college bucket list or looking for something to do with visitors on campus, you can't go wrong with anything in this article. And, if you're a returning student coming back to campus who hasn't had the chance to explore much yet, take my advice and try something new!