New Jersey is best known as the gateway to New York City, but here’s a little secret: New Jersey has a whole lot to offer, from beaches to historic sites.
Bruce Springsteen could live anywhere, but he chooses to live in the state he describes in so many of his song lyrics. That’s because he’s in on the secret.
Here are some of New Jersey's best-kept secrets:
1. Hit the beach—or the boardwalk
Beaches and beach towns along New Jersey's 130-mile shoreline are found on its bridge-accessible barrier islands. Many feature boardwalks with shopping, dining, museums and amusement parks.
Ocean City (a 2.5-mile boardwalk with thrill rides), Point Pleasant Beach (rides and an excellent aquarium), Atlantic City (casinos and nightlife), Beach Haven (waterslides, dining and a maritime museum), and Wildwood (three amusement parks) all have bustling boardwalks.
Couples and families looking to relax on the sand and listen to seagulls should head to spacious beaches like Cape May (a barrier island with beaches and a historic district), Stone Harbor (bike and kayak rentals), Spring Lake (two miles of perfect sand), or Strathmore (dolphin and surfer watching).
2. Step into revolutionary history
As one of the 13 original colonies, New Jersey is brimming with history that can be absorbed in some of America’s oldest pre-Revolutionary War towns.
For example, Morristown was at the heart of the Revolution. Most Morristown National Historic Park sites, including the spot where Washington’s troops endured two long winters, are walking distance from the colonial-style Westin Governor Morris, Morristown. In Princeton, you can tour the Albert Einstein House and Princeton University, steps from The Westin Princeton at Forrestal Village. South Orange has two historic districts, plus Seton Hall University. Edison is the birthplace of the technological revolution, where you can see where the lightbulb was invented at the Edison Museum.
3. Frolic at a fun festival
The festival season in New Jersey lasts from mid-spring to mid-fall, with a burst of Fourth of July town festivals and parades in between.
The biggest upcoming festivals? First, fill your belly at the New Jersey Seafood Festival (May 19-21) in Belmar, one of New Jersey's liveliest shore towns. Chefs offer everything from shrimp specialties to sushi and alligator sausage, which you can wash down at the beer tent or wine garden while browsing the crafts fair or listening to live bands.
Next up is the 35th New Jersey Festival of Ballooning (July 28-30) at Readington’s Solberg Airport, America’s largest summer hot-air balloon celebration. Up to 100 balloons lift off twice daily during the festival, with on-the-ground performers including the Plain White T’s and Pat Benatar.
You can also fix your eyes on the sky during the Atlantic City Airshow on August 23, when an estimated half-million people watch USAF Thunderbirds and a squadron of vintage World War II planes perform acrobatic maneuvers. Watch from the beach, the boardwalk or a room at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel.
4. Hike, bike and surf
Hiking opportunities abound in New Jersey’s state parks and forests. The hilliest are in the northwestern corner, highlighted by High Point State Park with its Appalachian Trail segment. More trails also surround 1,803-foot High Point Mountain—the state’s highest point, topped by a 220-foot monument with views of the Catskills and Poconos. Hiking is also superb in southern New Jersey's sprawling Wharton and Belleplain State Forests.
New Jersey is a cyclist’s paradise, too, with back roads crisscrossing the interior and the D&R Canal path following the Delaware River from Trenton to Frenchtown in 48 flat, leafy miles.
On the state's ocean beaches, water sports include boating and some of the best surfing on the East Coast.
5. Stay in New Jersey, play in New York
Smart travelers to New York City spend the night just across the Hudson River in New Jersey. This lets you enjoy the dazzling view of the Manhattan skyline each night while avoiding the crowds and prices of the city—but they're still only minutes away by car, train or ferry. Try the W Hoboken, The Westin Jersey City Newport or Sheraton Lincoln Harbor Hotel.
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