Although I may be slightly biased from growing up there and all, I believe that New Jersey is one of America’s hidden gems in terms of vacation spots. Being so close to New York and Philadelphia, New Jersey often falls second to the better vacation spots people feel are offered, and despite the popularity of the MTV show “Jersey Shore,” the state is still relatively underrated. If you’re looking to try something new this summer, you should give Jersey a whirl, and not just the shore, the whole damn state. Here’s why.
The Shore. Ok, I know I said not just the shore, but I didn’t mean don’t go there at all. The Jersey Shore is a state staple and has been for much longer than MTV has even been alive for. There is such a unique atmosphere throughout NJ’s famous beach towns, I guarantee you’ll want to go back for more. Ocean City, Belmar and Point Pleasant are some of my personal favorites, but they’re all great in their own distinct ways.
The Food. New Jersey has some of the greatest food around, and although it often falls second to claims from the big city (New York City, that is), Jersey will always hold their own claims that we make it best. And we do. NJ bagels are the greatest in the country, and probably the world considering the rest of the world doesn’t really make bagels, so you have to give them a try during your visit. Ask for a pork roll, egg and cheese on an everything bagel, and when the employee asks, “Salt, pepper, ketchup?” be sure to say yes. If you don’t know what pork roll is, don’t worry and eat it anyway, it will change your life. Our pizza is pretty damn good too, if you’re looking for a nice thin slice. If you’re visiting in August, make sure to get yourself a piece, or two or ten, of sweet Jersey corn. The corn belt may feel threatened by us (I find people from that region feel the need to argue with me about corn), but within the state it’s famous and you’re missing out if you don’t eat it. And if you can’t decide amongst these delicious food items? Don’t worry, try a diner. We have them everywhere and they serve just about everything for under $20. You can’t go wrong.
Six Flags. If you happen to travel near or around Jackson, NJ, Six Flags Great Adventure is a day trip you should absolutely take. Get a Coca-Cola can that offers $5 off a day ticket on the side and head on over to ride the tallest roller coaster in America.
Weird NJ. If you’re going to be hanging around for a while and are looking for a little cheap fun and adventure, start by buying yourself a copy of Weird NJ or looking it up online. Whenever you get bored, hop in the car and head out to one of the places listed in the magazine. They’re claimed to be some of NJ’s most local legends and best kept secrets, but make sure you’re mentally prepared because some really strange things have been said to happen during some people’s investigations.
Mt. Carmel Italian Festival. One of the oldest Italian Festival’s in the country, Mt. Carmel Italian Festival is sure to please. Located in Berkeley Heights, NJ, the festival puts on fireworks every July 16th after dark. And these aren’t just any fireworks, they’re the fireworks. Locals and tourists from all around hold this summer night as sacred as people from all walks of life join together in a massive field to drink, party and watch some good quality fireworks. Since they usually last about an hour and the amount of spectators requires you to get there exceptionally early in order for a good seat, make sure you’re prepared for a long but worthwhile night.
New Hope. No, this small shopping town is not in New Jersey, but being right across the border in Pennsylvania, the trip is worth it. On a warm summer day you will find this place bustling with shoppers and hippies alike. Everything from small boutiques to outdoor restaurants to coffee houses and a glass blowing shop can be found in this twisted town. Here, you can be just as easily entertained shopping as you are people watching- an inevitable habit you’ll pick up for the day.
The City. When I say this at school, people often ask me, “Which city?” to which I roll my eyes. New York City, of course. There is no other The City. As anyone who’s been there knows, a day in the city can be absolutely exhausting, not to mention expensive. So when the long day of walking, shopping, and perhaps seeing a Broadway show comes to an end, head back over the river to NJ where we’ll happily let you stay for half the price of down town.
Concerts. New Jersey has an ample amount of concert venues, which gives concert goers like myself plenty of options. You’ll find the big names playing summer shows at MetLife stadium for a decent price, but if you’re looking to take the cheaper route, try looking at line ups at the Susquehanna Bank Center or PNC Arts Center. These venues offer shows with rising artists, and even some big names every now and again, for much cheaper. A seat on the lawn will only cost you around $30 but you have all the freedom to move about and sing and dance the night away with good friends and better music. And if you look hard enough, you might be able to find a concert or two on the beach.
The Liberty Science Center. If the NJ heat is just too much for you to handle on any one day, or perhaps it is raining, the Liberty Science Center is where you should be headed. A zoo, aquarium and museum all in one, this place really has it all. While you’re there, check out the fan-favorite “Touch Tunnel,” a pitch black winding, turning maze that requires you to crawl through on hands and knees. It’s more fun than it sounds, trust me, or don’t, but give it a try anyways.
The Delaware River. Although the name may be deceiving, the Delaware River serves as the border between NJ and Pennsylvania. For the adventurous or George Washington wannabe’s, the Delaware offers a variety of activities including tubing, kayaking and canoeing. Rent a tube for a few hours, hop in and float and fall your way to the end. Bring a couple of friends with you and make sure to hold hands, the ride may get a little bumpy.