New Jersey Holiday Planning Guide
Often overshadowed by its legendary neighbor, New York, New Jersey holds its own as a land of thriving industrial cities, sprawling farmland, and lively coastal towns. Called the Garden State, New Jersey is a hub of entertainment and cultural attractions for the East Coast, from the famous sandy beaches and carnival-like atmosphere of the Jersey Shore to alluring Atlantic City, the Las Vegas of the east. New Jersey also boasts a wealth of historical places to visit, including battle sites and memorials, such as George Washington's Revolutionary War headquarters.
Places to Visit in New JerseyJersey Shore
: Home to bustling boardwalks, sandy beaches, and multiple amusement parks, the Jersey Shore is all about carefree vacation fun. Atlantic City
: Though some of its glamor may have faded, Atlantic City remains the East Coast's gambling capital. Cape May
: Showcasing a more relaxed side of the Jersey Shore, Cape May was the United States' first seaside resort and is home to some fine Victorian architecture.Princeton
: Best known for its prestigious Ivy League school, the small town of Princeton centers around the university's beautiful campus.Toms River
: The pretty beaches of this seaside town aren't its only draw, with downtown hiding a number of historical sites.Hoboken
: A short hop across the Hudson River from New York City, Hoboken features charming historical buildings and a lively waterfront area. Newark
: The state's largest city, Newark boasts a wide assortment of cultural attractions.
Things to Do in New Jersey
Popular New Jersey Tourist AttractionsSix Flags Great Adventure
: One of the world's biggest amusement parks, Six Flags Great Adventure includes over 100 rides, an animal park, and a variety of family-friendly shows.Atlantic City Boardwalk
: The beating heart of this seaside town, the Atlantic City Boardwalk is the oldest of its kind in the country and plays host to many of the region's most famous casinos, hotels, and restaurants.Princeton University
: Established in 1746, Princeton University is one of the oldest educational establishments in the U.S. Its 200-hectare (500-acre) campus features fine historical architecture. Wildwood Boardwalk
: A lively neon-lit promenade, Wildwood Boardwalk's retro motels and diners give it a 1950s vibe.Grounds For Sculpture
: Grounds for Sculpture houses over 270 contemporary sculptures by international artists. Liberty State Park
: One of Jersey City's true gems, Liberty State Park plays host to a number of top New Jersey tourist attractions, and offers views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.The Playground at Caesars
: This luxury shopping mall encompasses stores, restaurants, bars, and an indoor beach area.Cape May County Park & Zoo
: Cape May County Park & Zoo provides a safe home for over 250 different animals as well as hosting fishing ponds and a disc-golf course.Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum
: Housed in a 1940s military hangar, this museum's collection includes aircraft from World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War.Cape May Lighthouse
: The Cape May Lighthouse provides a superb view of the surrounding area, though you'll have to climb up 199 steps to enjoy it.
Planning a New Jersey Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in New Jersey with Kids
New Jersey's bustling cities and miles of shoreline make it a fun and exciting place to visit with kids. The Jersey Shore
, with its plentiful amusement parks and endless sandy beaches, is an obvious choice for your New Jersey family holiday, but it can get crowded. If you don't mind the bustle, Wildwood
and its boardwalk
are packed full of kid-friendly activities. Ocean City
provides a mellower vibe. Away from the shore and up in the hills, Vernon
is the perfect choice for thrill-seeking families, who should check out Mountain Creek. Though they offer a handful of excellent museums, the state's largest cities lack many activities for those with young children.
Things to Do in New Jersey with Kids
You'll find no shortage of things to do on New Jersey's plentiful boardwalks, which offer rollercoasters, miniature golf courses, arcades, and more. Splash Zone
is particularly popular among the Garden State's younger visitors, offering 12 water slides and other attractions and games. For an educational experience with your little ones, include Liberty Science Center
on your New Jersey itinerary. If you have small children who need to blow off some steam, look no further than Kidz Village
, a multi-level indoor playground. Alternatively, get the whole family moving with a trip to Wharton State Forest
, where you can kayak, hike, and cycle.
Tips for a Family Vacation in New Jersey
Though New Jersey is one of the U.S.'s smallest states, its notorious traffic can make car journeys long and boring for kids. This is particularly the case on weekends, when it feels like everyone is heading down to the shore. It's a good idea to pack plenty of snacks and games for the drive to keep your youngest passengers occupied.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in New Jersey
Cuisine of New Jersey
The Garden State has a reputation for delicious fresh produce. Its blueberries, corn, cranberries, and peaches are renowned, while its plentiful tomatoes are second to none. These prized tomatoes feature heavily in New Jersey's thriving Italian food scene, a product of its large Italian-American community. Pizza is particularly popular, and Trenton
is well known for its twist on the Italian classic, the tomato pie, in which the tomato sauce is spread on top of the other toppings, rather than beneath them.
Along with pizza, New Jersey eateries serve up a number of other Italian dishes. The Italian hot dog is one of the state's most famous fast-food snacks, and is particularly prominent in Essex County. A sausage is cooked in hot oil and topped with sauteed onions, peppers, potatoes, and mustard and served on a round roll of pizza bread in cut in half (for a double order) or into quarters (for a single order). The ripper is another much-loved Jersey hot dog, where the sausage is deep fried in oil until its casing bursts.
When hunger strikes on your New Jersey trip, you can rest assured that you're never far from a diner. Jersey has more diners per capita than any other state in the country. Disco fries--french fries with cheese melted on top and covered with brown gravy--are a diner staple. Along with classic American fare, you may also find Greek items on the menu, as many diners are run by Greek families.
If you're in need of a sweet treat, look no further than salt water taffy. Though it is now found up and down the coasts of the United States and Canada, this chewy candy originates from Atlantic City
and is a boardwalk staple of the Jersey Shore
Shopping in New Jersey
There's a whole heap of shopping opportunities packed into this pint-sized state, ranging from luxury mega malls to quirky flea markets. The Playground at Caesars
is perhaps Jersey's best known mall, but is on the pricey side. If you're interested in designer goods but can't afford the designer price tag, consider a trip to one of the state's discount outlets. Jersey Shore Premium Outlets
offers over 120 designer labels at discounts that range from 25 to 65 percent. What's more, there's no sales tax on clothing or shoes in the state of New Jersey. West End Garage, Cape May
is the perfect place to pick up a few New Jersey holiday souvenirs, with antiques, candles, artworks, and more on sale.
Foodies should make a Saturday stop in Collingswood
to check out its popular farmers market. Stall holders sell a range of local produce and handmade goods while musicians entertain the crowds.Wine aficionados shouldn't miss the opportunity to pick up a bottle from Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery
and perhaps take a tour.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to New Jersey
History of New Jersey
The land now known as New Jersey was inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. When the two cultures first made contact, Lenape tribes were dominant. The Lenape existed in numerous autonomous groups that practiced maize agriculture, hunting, and gathering. Giovanni de Verrazzano was the first European to explore the region, sailing in the service of France in 1524. Take a tour of New Jersey State Museum
to see some Native American artifacts from this period.
The Dutch and Swedes arrived in the 17th century, both struggling to control the land. The Dutch succeeded in ousting the Swedes, creating the colony of New Netherlands, but failed to hold on to their new acquisition for long. It was annexed by the English in 1664 with little Dutch resistance, perhaps due to mismanagement of the region, an unpopular governor, and conflicts with the indigenous population. Under English control, the area became known as the Province of New Jersey, named after the Channel Island. Include Old Barracks Museum
on your New Jersey itinerary to learn more about colonial times.
New Jersey was one of the thirteen colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution, beginning in 1775. During the conflict, both British and American armies crossed New Jersey several times, and numerous significant battles took place here, earning New Jersey the title "Crossroads of the Revolution." The winter quarters of the American revolutionary army
were established twice in Morristown
by George Washington. In 1783, the colonies secured their independence and founded the United States of America. Trenton Battle Monument
commemorates the battle of Trenton, an important victory for the Continental forces.
In February 1804, New Jersey became the last state in the north to abolish the slave trade, enacting legislation that would slowly phase out existing slavery. However, it was not until 1830 that most black people were free in the state. In 1861, growing tensions between the northern and southern states regarding the abolition of slavery erupted into the American Civil War. In the course of the war, over 88,000 New Jersey citizens enlisted in the northern army, but no battles were fought in the state. In 1865, the Union forces succeeded in securing a Southern surrender and the Confederate states began the process of rejoining the Union.
With the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, cities such as Camden
, and Trenton
saw the establishment of many factories, and the growth of their populations. Inventor Thomas Edison developed a number of his patents while working in New Jersey. His facilities in the state are some of the earliest research centers in the U.S. Visit Thomas Edison National Historical Park
on your New Jersey vacation for the opportunity to stand in the workspace where he created some of his most famous inventions.
In the twentieth century, New Jersey's factories became vital manufacturing centers during both World Wars. In the Cold War, 14 Nike missile stations were constructed in the state. You can explore one of the U.S.'s most important historical battleships at Battleship New Jersey
. New Jersey's location between Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., has helped to fuel its rapid growth. Today, it is the U.S.'s most densely populated state.
Landscape of New Jersey
Despite New Jersey's large population and small size, the state encompasses great swaths of pristine nature and a number of wildlife refuges, including Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
and Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
. The mountainous northwestern region and wooded southern interior are both quite rural and can provide a respite from the bustle on your New Jersey trip. The popular Jersey Shore, spreading from the central east to the southeast of the state, also includes areas of great beauty, but its tourist resorts and beach communities give it a much busier feel. All of southern New Jersey sits on the Atlantic Coastal Plain, granting it gentle sloping hills that are often covered by pine and oak forests. Northeastern New Jersey plays host to some of the state's largest metropolitan areas along with sprawling suburbs full of commuters.
Holidays & Festivals in New Jersey
Incorporating a holiday or festival into your New Jersey vacation is a great way to learn more about both the state and U.S. history and culture more generally. The New Jersey State Fair, or Sussex County Farm and Horse Show as it's sometimes known, showcases the agricultural heritage of the state and is the perfect place to sample some local ingredients. For more fine food, head to the Blues, Wine & BBQ festival in Long Valley
or the New Jersey State Chili & Salsa Festival in Toms River
, both held in May. New Jersey's annual Big Greek Festival in June also provides good eats, along with music, dancing, and crafts. Film buffs won't want to miss the renowned Garden State Film Festival, held in Atlantic City
during the spring, where over 150 independent films are shown.
New Jersey Travel Tips
Climate of New Jersey
New Jersey experiences a fairly moderate but humid climate, with significantly cooler temperatures in the northwest due to its higher elevation. Summers are typically hot and muggy--temperatures of 30 C (86 F) or higher are not uncommon. Winters are often cold, with lows of -5 C (23 F) felt across most of the state. In the northwest, these lows can fall to -18 C (0 F). Spring and fall are much harder to predict, with temperatures varying wildly but generally remaining mild. Thankfully, these seasons are much less humid than the summer and can provide more pleasant New Jersey sightseeing weather.
During winter and early spring, New Jersey has been known to experience "nor'easters" capable of causing blizzards or flooding. Though tropical storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes are rare, New Jersey suffered severe damage from Hurricane Sandy, which hit the state in October 2012.
Transportation in New Jersey
A comprehensive network of trains, buses, and ferry services covers much of eastern New Jersey. Many visitors find they don't need a car to explore this area, but they struggle without one in more rural areas.
Train services and long-distance buses run from New Jersey's major cities to New York and Philadelphia, making it easy to explore farther afield on your New Jersey tour. Heavily used highways also connect the regions; the double-decker George Washington Bridge, which links New Jersey with New York City, carries the heaviest load of motor vehicle traffic of any bridge in the world. If you do drive, bear in mind that it is unlawful to pump your own gasoline in New Jersey.