Places to Visit When in New Jersey
New Jersey, the Garden State, the land of Jersey Shore and Atlantic City, has so much more to offer its visitors. A myriad of activities ranging from family friendly locations to scenic drives will keep you entertained when you leave the metropolitan areas. Hop in the car (or your Colonial Airstream or RV) and get ready to explore the countryside as well as the coast. You’ll see some historic parks and buildings, and maybe even a giant elephant, so be ready to be impressed. Don’t worry, there are plenty of fun places to stop to eat and recharge as you go on your way!
Northlandz, “Home of the Great American Railway,” where 135 locomotives pulling thousands of railroad cars run over eight miles of track and cross bridges more than 40 feet in length, is the biggest model railroad on the planet, and by many accounts a true wonder of the world.
Yankee Doodle Tap Room
If you find yourself in Princeton, stop in at the historic Nassau Inn if only just for a drink at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room. This historic tavern first opened its doors in 1756, and has continued to honor its English pub style traditions. It’s a favorite for locals and visitors alike.
Try any of the 19 beers on tap; they offer excellent craft beer and food selections. Also, be sure to check out the large Norman Rockwell mural, which is 13 feet wide and is one of the highlights of the bar. Kick back in the solid oak booths and catch a music performance while you are there, if you can. It’s a perfect corner of the world for relaxation, good food and drink.
Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital
The first public health hospital in the United States exists as a haunting shadow of its former self. Paint peels from the walls, and a floor trod upon by more than one million immigrants lies buried beneath grime and debris.
Lucy the Elephant
Lucy, the world’s largest “elephant,” celebrated her 137th birthday in 2018 in her hometown of Margate City, New Jersey. Built of tin and wood in 1882 by James V. Lafferty as a publicity stunt, Lucy was modeled after Jumbo, P.T. Barnum’s real life “Largest Elephant on Earth.” Lucy is much larger then Jumbo was and stands 65 feet high, 60 feet long, 18 feet wide, is made of nearly one million pieces of wood, and weighs about 90 tons.
Located in Pilesgrove and Woodstown is the longest running weekly rodeo in the US – who would have thought?! It was founded in 1929 and has continued to entertain generations ever since. What are you waiting for? Grab those cowboy boots and head out the door.
You don’t have to go to the South to indulge in those western fantasies. Grant Harris’ family has provided entertainment much closer to home. Check out the greatest cowboys and cowgirls in the nation as they compete for 2 hours weekly. The Wild West is closer than ever!
Buttermilk Falls State Park
Buttermilk Falls is a hidden nature-filled gem tucked away in northern New Jersey. It is the tallest waterfall in the state and an excellent location for hiking and bird watching. Put on those hiking boots and get ready to get back in touch with Mother Nature.
Hike up to the falls, take some photos and enjoy the bird watching opportunities. If you continue, you can see Hemlock Pond or Crater Lake. Buttermilk Falls is easily accessible from the parking lot, but continue on for a more challenging and fun hike – you can also ascend to see the Hidden Falls. Take the chance to get away from the city and explore!
Papa’s Tomato Pies
Papa’s Tomato Pies is famous for being the oldest family-owned pizza restaurant in the United States! It was first opened in 1912 and has since been featured on the cooking channel! This restaurant is full of authentic, homey charm that you won’t find elsewhere, and after over 100 years of practice, you can be certain they’ve perfected the pizza.
Try any of their famous pies – still made by descendants of the original owner, Giuseppe Papa, who was originally from Naples. The family has kept the recipes and essence of the owners alive, even in the third and fourth generations! It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that can feed both your stomach and your soul, so stop in and talk to any of the friendly staff or the family who still are the only ones to touch the pies.
Paranormal Museum & Bookstore
Since 2008 this mini-museum has curated a collection of oddities including the Hand of Glory (a candle holder supposedly made from a severed hand), some “haunted” dolls, and the jewel in their crown — a skull thought to be that of the Jersey Devil, the creature rumored to wander the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The origins and characteristics of the Devil vary depending on who you ask, but judging from the skull and the drawing at the Museum (which originally appeared in an early 20th century newspaper) it looks like someone put a couple of farm animals and a dragon in a blender and came up with something to scare the bejeezus out of little kids.
Silverball Museum Arcade
A retro hub of flashing bulbs, mechanical bells, and cartoon figures shines brightly on the Asbury Park boardwalk. The Silverball Museum Arcade is home to 180+ functioning pinball and arcade machines that transport the beach-goer to a 1960s diner.
For $10, the pinball wizard enters Rob Ilvento’s vintage collection of 1960s to modern arcade games. The pinball museum (one of only three in the world according to its owner) provides an entertaining and interactive journey through pinball history. Well-placed placards describe how to navigate the levers, knobs, and slides of each game and also honor the high-scorers who have conquered the game.
Diggerland is not your average amusement park, ladies and gentlemen. It is actually the only construction themed park in the United States, and chock full of inventive rides. Instead of bumper cars, why not try driving construction vehicles and enjoying a whole new interpretation of what makes an amusement parks.
Take a spin on the Spin Dizzy, which is a 20-ton excavator modified to carry passengers for a spin-tastic experience. If you happen to be in West Berlin in October, they offer “Diggerfest”, a family-friendly festival. Take a hay ride or race the mazes, or check out the stunt shows. You might never go back to standard amusement parks after this hidden amusement park gem!
Thomas Edison National Historical Park
Thomas Edison’s home and laboratory are a step back in time, when machines were run by belts and pulleys and music was played on phonographs. Where to the passerby, the buildings betray little evidence of the industries they once started. Discover where America’s greatest inventor changed our world forever.
Birthplace of Baseball Monument
In the decentralized and iterative transformation of the playground game of rounders into the modern game of baseball, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to point to one place and say “This is where it all began.” Given the thorough debunking of the myth of Cooperstown, however, Hoboken now has a stronger claim than most.
This is thanks to Alexander Cartwright, who, in 1845, formed the Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New York. The Knickerbockers were to play baseball according to a set of rules determined by Cartwright. Though celebrated at the Baseball Hall of Fame as the “Father of Modern Base Ball,” it seems that Cartwright may have simply codified a number of innovative rules floating around New York ball clubs at the time, rather creating them himself (with the possible exception of the three-out inning). What does seem clear, however, is that the game the Knickerbockers played was, in every significant aspect, what we would recognize as baseball. Perhaps most importantly, their games were recorded.
Elsie’s — Home of the Pickle Sandwich
Grounds For Sculpture
Originally part of the New Jersey State Fairgrounds, Grounds for Sculpture is a 42-acre sculpture park and the brainchild of contemporary artist and philanthropist J. Seward Johnson II. Opened in 1992, the park draws visitors for both its sculpture collection and its exquisitely landscaped site, complete with more than 2,000 rose bushes, 1,000 trees, and other flower beds and shrubbery. So far, it’s living up to its mission to promote a wide appreciation for and understanding of contemporary sculpture.
Fluorescent Rocks of Sterling Hill Mine
Formerly pale, flat, unlit rocks and minerals turn vibrant orange, pink, and green when the overhead lights are turned out and the black-light turned on. They streak with red or develop otherworldly glowing veins of light that were definitely not visible before.
These are the glowing, fluorescent rocks of the Sterling Hill Mining Museum, and the museum has hundreds of them, making it home to the largest publicly displayed collection of fluorescent rocks in the world.
Information credit: Atlas Obscura