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Branch Brook Park, Newark

4.5
#5 of 16 in Things to do in Newark
Park · Hidden Gem · Nature / Park
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Branch Brook Park is a county park of Essex County, New Jersey in the United States, located in the North Ward of Newark, between the neighborhoods of Forest Hill and Roseville. A portion of the park is also located within the Township of Belleville. At 360 acres (150 ha), Branch Brook Park is the largest public park in the city of Newark. The park is noted for the largest collection of cherry blossom trees in the United States, having over 5,000 in more than eighteen different varieties collectively called Cherryblossomland, as well as its spectacular Cherry Blossom Festival each April.
The park was formally created in 1895 by the newly created Essex County Parks Commission, making it the nation's first county park. The area had served as an Army training ground during the American Civil War. At the time, the northern portion of the area had been a marsh known as Old Blue Jay Swamp. In 1898, a public appropriation financed the conversion of the swamp into a landscaped lake. The initial park was only 60 acres (24 ha) in size but grew in the 1920s through private donations from prominent Newark families, such as the Ballantines, eventually reaching the city limit with Belleville and becoming one of the largest urban parks in the United States. The Morris Canal originally ran on the park's west side, until its old bed was turned into the Newark City Subway, providing access to the park from Downtown Newark.

The first designs of the park, based largely on romantic garden themes, were proposed in 1895 and 1898, after the Parks Commission hired several architectural firms to plan the park. In 1900, the commission hired the Olmsted Brothers firm to redesign the park. The result was the park's current naturalistic look and feel, with acres of meadows and forests, in a manner similar to their father's earlier designs of Central Park and Prospect Park.

The park is home to many architecturally significant structures, including bridges, buildings, gates, and sculptures. Many of these were designed by the beaux-arts architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings headed by John Merven Carrère and Thomas Hastings. The pair designed two Subway Bridges now referred to as Subway 1, East and Subway 2, West.
The famous cherry trees were the result of a 1927 gift from Caroline Bamberger Fuld, sister of department store magnate Louis Bamberger and widow of the store's vice president. The Cherry Blossom Festival attracts approximately 10,000 visitors each April. Branch Brook Park also features a lake and a pond.

During World War II, the park's grounds served a tent city for recruits, as well as a landing strip for airplanes of the United States Postal Service.

The neighborhood on the east side of the park, Forest Hill, is Newark's most affluent. Also on the east side of the park is the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Basilica, one of the largest cathedrals in the United States.

It has been placed on both the New Jersey (1980) and National (1981) Registers of Historic Places.

In 1999 Branch Brook Park began a $25 million ten-year restoration program. In 2004, the Park Avenue bridge was repaired, as were the baseball fields in the center of the park. In 2007, a plan was created to provide for more than 5,000 cherry trees in the park and renovate and rename the Welcome Center. The plan uses a $650,000 grant from the Essex County Recreation and the Open Space Trust Fund from 2006 and private donations.
In 2012, statues dedicated to sports figures Althea Gibson and Roberto Clemente were unveiled in the park. In 2013 the park was in the final phase of the restoration plan.
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Branch Brook Park reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
248 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • Happened to steal away here during peak cherry blossom season. It was a fairly cloudy day; it was just a joy to be able to be among the blossoms. There are circular paths that you can take... 
    Happened to steal away here during peak cherry blossom season. It was a fairly cloudy day; it was just a joy to be able to be among the blossoms. There are circular paths that you can take...  more »
  • We went for the cherry blossoms 🌸 festival. It's from April 2-10 th, 2022. Great place for having a picnic with family and lots of people brought their pets. Clean park. Cherry trees are in bloom... 
    We went for the cherry blossoms 🌸 festival. It's from April 2-10 th, 2022. Great place for having a picnic with family and lots of people brought their pets. Clean park. Cherry trees are in bloom...  more »
Google
  • To echo many of the other positive reviews, I’ve been frequenting this park regularly over the last year and a half and I’m glad I found out about it! It’s easily the most beautiful urban park of NJ, if not the planet! I’m a little biased because I fell in love here, but it’s truly a gem, particularly in the spring and fall, and a relaxing place where you can walk for at least a couple hours admiring the native plants and the abundant squirrels. I love the extensive soft “track” path. Many sports fields, trees for hammocks, benches, clean bathroom facilities (open from spring to fall) and port-o-potties make this an all around 5-star park that offers something for everyone. Many thanks to the volunteers and caretakers for keeping it beautiful!
  • Branch Brook Park is a great place to relax on the beautiful grass or a quiet walk around the park on the new rubberized walkways. Its a great place for one to meditate on life while gazing at the beautiful trees to absorb all that nature has to offer. Its a place where I go to let go of the past and regroup to continue moving forward. Whether your alone, with love ones, or just friends, Branch brook Park offers a unique experience for all to enjoy.

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