It’s the most densely populated state in the country, so there must be reasons why so many people choose to live in New Jersey. One of the most obvious is its proximity to major metropolitan areas like New York City; Philadelphia; Wilmington, DE; and Baltimore. All four are drivable from anywhere in the state, plus there’s extensive public transportation and international airports available.
Along its east coast, there are miles of beach towns, from the southernmost Victorian-themed Cape May to Sandy Hook (and both have ocean and bay beachfronts). There’s more to the Jersey outdoor scene than beaches and boardwalks though, as the Garden State is studded with parks, lakes, rivers, forests, and recreation areas like Allaire State Park and the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area.
Jersey was settled by English and Dutch immigrants in the 1600s, and it also played a part in the Revolutionary War. Some of its best known historical landmarks include Princeton Battlefield State Park, where George Washington and his Continental Army defeated the British in 1777. Nearby Princeton University is one of the top educational institutions in the country, and it also saw action during this battle.
Morristown National Historical Park commemorates an encampment by that same army from December 1779 through June 1780. It now features the Washington Headquarters Museum plus 27 miles of hiking trails. Trenton’s Old Barracks Museum was built in 1758 for barracks in the French and Indian Wars, and it’s now a museum with galleries and special events like lectures, tours, and demonstrations.
A Bit of Culture
For those who like art, theatre, or shopping, New Jersey doesn’t disappoint. From top to bottom, there are options to experience paintings, sculptures, performances, and designer duds. One of the best in the state is Grounds for Sculpture, which offers 42 acres of old and new sculptures, an arboretum, a museum, and a fine restaurant not far from Princeton. And then there’s Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank. Here, you can take in Broadway shows, comedies, and concerts by jazz greats like Buddy Guy.
New Jersey is a paradise for shopaholics, with 28 shopping malls and even more strip malls and discount centers everywhere you look. Its highly-rated, humungous Garden State Plaza in Westfield has department stores, specialty shops, restaurants, and movies. Also no slouch, The Mall at Short Hills in North Jersey appeals to upscale tastes and sophisticated palates.
More Indoor and Outdoor Fun
There are hundreds of public and private golf courses in New Jersey, and many offer online tee time bookings, dining options, and other amenities. Elegant clubs like the PGA Championship course Baltusrol in Springfield have considerable membership fees, while Ramblewood Country Club in Mount Laurel is more affordable and offers a family-friendly outdoor swimming pool area.
Another major site for indoor and outdoor action (and decadence for some) is Atlantic City, which underwent revitalization in recent years. Newer casino hotels like the Hard Rock and Ocean Resort compete with established properties like Borgata and other resorts with gaming, fine dining, concerts, conventions, and in the warmer months, beaches and boardwalks.
When it’s time to drink up, residents head to any one of Jersey’s many wineries and breweries. The Garden State Wine Grower’s Association is an excellent resource for locating the best that the state has to offer, including Four Sisters in Belvidere, Hopewell Valley Vineyards in Pennington, and Amalthea Cellars in Atco. Look to the New Jersey Craft Beer Association’s website to find all of the up-and-coming and mainstay craft breweries worth visiting.
Small Town Lore… and Love
Those big cities we mentioned earlier don’t outshine New Jersey’s charming small towns that warrant day and weekend visits. With antique shops, one-of-a-kind boutiques, family-owned businesses, restaurants, special attractions, and year-round events like the Cape May Restaurant Weekend or Vernon’s Great Pumpkin Festival, these towns are a big draw for active adults. Here are some of our favorites:
The woodsy South Jersey hamlet of Medford blends scenic natural beauty with suburban living, and it boasts a charming downtown with small shops, excellent restaurants, and a brewery. Haddonfield has a desirable zip code, Victorian homes, an artsy shopping district, and crowd-pleasing events like the annual juried craft show and a Candlelight Shopping Event every winter.
Moving to the northwest, Lambertville hugs the banks of the Delaware River across from New Hope, PA, and it offers visitors eclectic galleries, outstanding eateries, and antique shops. Cranbury is about 17 miles east of Trenton, and its picturesque and historic downtown attractions are a big draw for locals and visitors.
Up in Monmouth County, you’ll find the lovely town of Spring Lake, which has beautiful residences, pristine beaches, a community theater, great restaurants, and an intriguing little downtown shopping area. Close to the top of the state is the town of Belvidere, which also meets the Delaware River. Known for its excellent trout fishing, it’s also a haven for boating, antique shopping, and the historic Van Nest-Hoff-Vannatta Farmstead.
Can There Be More?
In a word: Yes! During the winter months, New Jersey’s ski resorts come to life, and fans of all ages flock to spots like Mountain Creek in Vernon and Campgaw Mountain Ski Resort in Mahwah. There are also opportunities for cross-country skiing, ice skating, hiking, and mountain biking throughout the state’s 21 counties.
Grandparents can enjoy quality time with their little ones (and bigger ones) at family-friendly places like Adventure Aquarium in Camden, Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, and if everyone is up for it, a day at Six Flags Amusement Park in Jackson.
There are endless ways to get out there and enjoy life in New Jersey, and you may now have a better understanding as to why so many people call it home. Whether you prefer to fly solo, with a significant other, or with friends and family, there’s enough to do here to keep you busy year-round—day and night.