A self proclaimed Nomad, I’ve never lived in one place long enough to call it a “hometown”. Excited about the opportunity to be a guest blogger for GotSaga, I immediately realized that living in New Jersey for 10 year can suffice as “hometown” for the purpose of this article.
Many friends and family have visited me in the northeast over the years, and I’ve successfully narrowed it down to 5 Must See places to take them. Since NJ is relatively small and neighbored with the states of New York and Pennsylvania, I have two sets of Top 5s: the “local” and the “not so local”. Enjoy!
The Local Sights
1. Hoboken/Exchange Place – I always take my friends here because a) it doesn’t cost me a trip to the city (NYC), b) yet has the feel and views of NY, c) plenty of trendy restaurants, bars, lounges to hang out in and d) can end the night by heading over to nearby Exchange Place where the NY skyline is clearly visible from this side of the Hudson. It also happens that the famous Carlo’s Bakery (from the show Cake Boss on TLC) is there. It’s always a fun night (any day of the week)!
2. Jersey Shore -Even before it became the title of a reality show, it’s always been worth taking a trip down to the shore when visiting NJ. There are quite a few beaches to choose from depending on your activity and crowd preference. However, Point Pleasant and Seaside Heights usually rank high because of its family friendly attribute: boardwalks.
3. Princeton/Grounds for Sculpture – Everyone who comes to New Jersey for the first time wants to check out Princeton University, and why not, it’s a beautiful campus! A little college town, the university is surrounded by fun eats and cute boutique stores. Beautiful place to stop by for coffee and wonder about the scholars who attended Princeton, grab a bite to eat (try PJ’s Pancakes – Yum!), and take some great photographs. And don’t forget to purchase your Princeton paraphernalia from one of the many bookstores.
Afterwards, head over to Grounds for Sculpture in nearby Hamilton, NJ to see some amazing contemporary sculptures outdoors on 35 acres of garden. $10 for entry or free if dining at their restaurant, Rats (don’t get taken back by the name, it’s nothing like it sounds). Whimsical and classy, it’s a great place for brunch (albeit a bit pricey).
4. Seasonal Sights: Six Flags’s Great Adventure – If traveling with kids then heading to Six Flags in the summer time is a great time pass. Located in Jackson, NJ this is a central hotspot for most people. For the adults who can’t do roller coasters, there is a shopping outlet nearby for you!
Mountain Creek - Another fun for all stop is Mountain Creek in Vernon, NJ. Skiing, snowboarding and tubing are all offered in the snow filled mountain in the winter, while its transformed into a fun waterpark for the summer. Versatile, fun, and relatively inexpensive! Perfect for family outings.
5. New Brunswick - A youthful college town (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey is here), New Brunswick is always a nice hang out spot. Plethora of restaurants (in both cuisine and price ranges) are filled in this town; you’ve got your choice of Thai, Italian, Mediterranean, Indian, Ethiopian, Sushi, etc. You name it, we will find it. Bars, lounges, shops make it a comfortable and fun place to take visitors. The close proximity of the university keeps the atmosphere lively every night.
The Not So Local Sights
1. New York City – 40 minutes from central NJ lies New York City and you can’t visit NJ and not head to NYC; it’s simply unheard of! Between the must see tourist sights and the local know how, NYC has something for everyone and every budget.
2. Atlantic City – On the other end of the state is our very own casino town. You can gamble, watch shows, experience fine dining, and/or hit the spas. In addition, AC offers plenty of boardwalk fun for the summer months and compensates with the AC Outlet Mall (open year round) during the winter months! Once you understand and accept that it’s not Vegas (I mean really, it’s not Vegas), you can have a great time.
3. Philadelphia – Another hot spot close to the garden state is Philly! Who doesn’t want to grab an amazingly delicious Philly cheesesteak from Gino’s or Pats? Stand in line to see the the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall? If you’ve come this far, you might as well hop on the train (NJ Transit and SEPTA) for an two hour ride into Philadelphia.
4. Poconos - Heading across the northwest border of NJ towards a different part of Pennsylvania is the Poconos Mountains. Beautiful and serene you can go hiking, visit a waterpark, raft in the summer months and ski, snowboard, and tube in the winter months. Just a short ride over the hill, its perfect for a day trips and long weekends alike.
5. Cape May - At the southernmost tip of New Jersey lies the beautiful and quaint town of Cape May. With gorgeous Victorian mansions everywhere, Cape May is one of America’s Historic Landmark cities. From whale watching, golfing, boating to wineries, horse carriage rides, and spa-ing, Cape May has tons to offer year round.
Hope to see you in NJ in the near future!