In New Jersey, there is a great train service called the Midtown Direct Line. Depending on the community you choose to live in that this train services, you can be in Manhattan in 20 minutes. In some towns, like Montclair, you can walk to the station because this town has so many stops. If you have never looked at Montclair, it is a great town with Zagat rated restaurants, live theatre, art museums, parks,and lots of activities to offer. There's a Farmers Market on weekends and always something to do. The homes are not "cookie cutter"... not developments, like everyone thinks is all that New Jersey has. The schools are based on the magnet school concept.
If you have any other questions about this area of New Jersey, don't hesistate to contact me.
Good luck with your search.