The Top 4 Performing Arts Centers in Northern New Jersey


South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC)


From Victoria Carter:

Are you looking for something cultural, inspiring, and fun to do with the whole family?

If you live in northern New Jersey along the Midtown Direct train line, you’re in the right place. With a vibrant, thriving arts culture, there is no shortage of concerts, shows, and theatre productions for residents to enjoy in our northern NJ communities. Supported by visionaries like former New Jersey Governor Thomas H. Kean Sr., a number of world-class performing arts centers are located in New Jersey just outside New York City and consistently attract dynamic performers, artistic directors, and musical directors.

Skip the tolls and the drive into New York City, and take some time to explore the diverse array of entertainment at these four amazing performing arts centers in northern New Jersey.

Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ

Despite being a relatively small regional theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse gives theatergoers a premier experience. The recipient of the 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award, the venue remains committed to delivering best-in-class, family-friendly performances and musical theatre. Several Paper Mill productions have moved on to the Broadway stage, toured nationally, and produced original cast recordings. One recent example is Disney’s Newsies which premiered at the Paper Mill in September 2011 and went on to Broadway in March the following year.

The shows at the Paper Mill Playhouse delight audiences of all ages with a variety of musical theatre selections, stunning set designs, and talented cast and crew members. For families who wish to make it a full day out, they can enjoy a delightful meal at the adjacent Carriage House Restaurant before the show.

The Color Purple, Paper Mill Playhouse (photo Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, NJ

Located on the beautiful Passaic River waterfront in downtown Newark, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) is a world-class cultural center inspired by the city of Newark’s industrial heritage. As one of the largest performing arts venues in the U.S., NJPAC offers something for everyone. Notable events include the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival that hosts readings and discussions for poetry enthusiasts, the New Jersey Speaker Series featuring speakers like Jay Leno and Gloria Steinem, and the signature annual jazz festival to honor local legend, James Moody. During the warm summer months, families can enjoy free outdoor performances as part of the Horizon Foundation Sounds of the City musical festival.

NJPAC is the essence of New Jersey culture with several shows making appearances on PBS’ Great Performances. This performing arts center has the feel of a big hall with a strong foothold in the local community. Located in Downtown Newark, theatergoers can take advantage of great nearby restaurants and ample parking plus there’s easy access to a light rail.

NJPAC Theater

NJPAC Theater. (Courtesy of Prana MMR)

South Orange Performing Arts Center  (SOPAC) in South Orange, NJ

Nestled in the heart of South Orange, the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) is known for its unique architecture and spectacular acoustics. This performing arts center is located near several restaurants spanning the surrounding blocks which provide a great selection for dining before or after a show. Audience members that sit in the quaint 439-seat theatre say that attending a performance at SOPAC feels like watching a show in the comfort of their own living room. SOPAC also has the Loft just above the main theatre area where visitors can enjoy live acoustic and jazz performances.

In addition to viewing wonderful performances, people can explore the Herb and Milly Iris Gallery, which celebrates the local community by showcasing artwork from emerging contemporary artists. Families can also catch the latest films at the Bow Tie Cinemas–complete with popcorn and slushies–located directly next to the arts center.

Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) in Morristown, NJ

The Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) provides an assortment of programs and shows for children and families. This theatre is situated in Morristown, near a variety of great bars and restaurants including the well-known J&K Steakhouse. The shows at Mayo are remarkable, complete with impressive technology and the finesse of a full orchestra. Bring the family and take in children’s and young adult shows. The parking here is convenient, quick, and easily accessible plus there’s a shuttle service to and from a nearby parking lot and garage.

With over 200 different events ranging from classical musical and modern dance performances to popular theatre productions, MPAC brings some of the greatest entertainers to the stage each year. The arts center also offers a school-time field trip series for all grade levels that allows for an enriching learning experience outside the classroom. Upcoming must-see shows include The Nutcracker with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in December and Sing Along Grease in January.

Photo courtesy of Mayo Performing Arts Center

Interested in learning more about our northern New Jersey communities including the plethora of entertainment choices? I would love to assist you. Contact Victoria Carter at (973) 220-3050 or email victoria@victoriacarter.com.