I often get asked about the differences between two very good choices in towns which are bedroom communities of NYC–Maplewood and Montclair.
Here is the cliff note version I advise to future residents:
From where I sit, Maplewood is more “quaint” and while it has 3 business areas, the downtown village is traditionally the most popular with 14 restaurants that cover virtually every food type. Maplewood’s claim to fame is having the only downtown in NJ without a traffic light and it prides itself on having a focus on independent businesses rather than national chains. If you want Starbucks, you need to drive to neighboring Millburn or South Orange. Because Maplewood is quaint, its events are centrally located http://lovetoliveinmaplewood.blogspot.com/2011/06/top-10-things-you-can-do-in-maplewood.html
As for another difference, with the exception of one Magnet elementary school you can apply to in Maplewood, the rest of our elementary schools are neighborhood specific; whereas, in Montclair all the elementary schools are magnet and you will need to apply to them (scroll down to the schools section of this site to get a resident’s description: http://www.montclairnjopenhouses.com/ )
Lastly, Maplewood has one train station, although there are a few trains that residents will try to take from neighboring South Orange that have differing times. Montclair has many more stations, but they have noticeably fewer trains during weekdays and half the scheduled trains that Maplewood does on weekends. Montclair makes up for this with have access to multiple express bus service stops to NYC.
When it comes to Museums: each have their own small exhibits, but Montclair is home to a wonderful art museum that I frequent.
I highly recommend you come out on a few weekends, drive around and check out some Open Houses if you are out on Sundays: www.maplewoodnjopenhouses.com and www.montclairnjopenhouses.com will help make this a more focused effort and don’t require any sign ins. These sites also have a good deal of town specific info to help you learn more.
Ironically, I closed 2 deals this past week, one in Montclair and one in Maplewood, so I am equal opportunity realtor!