The New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark is stunning to visit merely as a destination. The tiered lobby encourages people-watching over a drink, and for those more architecturally oriented, dancing lights in the floor (yes, in – not on.) and the the toe-to-tophat angles will hold ticket-holders’ attention until showtime. The recently renovated space is truly gorgeous, and the staff is enthusiastically proud of the outcome.
But the real entertainment is the stellar line-up that NJPAC offers year after year. Whether it’s by NJ Transit train or bus, or in the relative comfort of your car, getting to the jewel of Newark is an easy trip. Leaving the suburbs will reward you with a chance to see performances as varied as comedian and puppeteer Terry Fator, the Bernie Worrell Orchestra and Shaggy (both free!), and then there’s Sheila E. followed by Barry Manilow the next night! And how cool is this? The Legend of Zelda — Orchestra of the Goddesses. Great way to get the cynical pre-teens into real performances. Seriously, check out all the listings here: NJPAC’s 2013-14 Season!
For theater-goers, or for anyone interested in a classy and delicious meal, a pleasant surprise at NJPAC is the in-house restaurant, NICO. Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant has a special menu for tables throughout the landings of the theaters. Patrons can enjoy a drink and a delicious bite to eat while people-watching from the sidelines before a show.
I attended a wonderful lunch with some friends recently, and the eclectic and inspired menu is clearly influenced heavily by Chef Ryan DePersio. Take a look at this menu, and then read a fantastic New York Times review of NICO. The lunch menu especially is perfect for a visit with children. Even a picky eater will be thrilled with the polenta fries, margherita pizza, and fresh veggies. I loved the beet salad, the “just enough heat” feta and mushroom pizza, and I can’t even think about the fluffy chocolate-filled beignets without salivating.
For those planning on a special celebration, there are private function rooms where NICO can cater a party and then the entire gathering can enjoy a performance together. In addition, rooms can be booked for private performances ranging from small events to around 200 people.
Check out this flickr set from my NJPAC visit to see theaters, rooms, food, and more.
A version of this post first appeared on That Unique* Weblog.
Our group was given a tour of the facilities and treated to lunch by NJPAC and NICO.