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Did You Know…?
- Motion pictures were born in West Orange, N.J., thanks to Thomas Edison (1893).
- Also, Fort Lee was the movie capital of the world in the early 1900s.
- Cowtown Rodeo is the longest-running Saturday-night rodeo (1955) in the U.S.
- In the 1780s, Princeton and Trenton served as temporary national capitals.
- The parts of Ellis Island that are landfill belong to New Jersey; the rest, to New York.
Of beaches and gardens
New Jersey is a populous northeastern U.S. state with a mix of urban and rural regions, a huge national wooded reserve, an Atlantic coastline with miles and miles of beaches, casinos and associated nightlife, and numerous sites linked to early American history.
The state, like New York, claims the Statue of Liberty as a symbol (Liberty Island is considerably closer to New Jersey than New York), but New Jersey is known as the Garden State because of its flower gardens, orchards and truck farms.
Vacationers flock to New Jersey but focus much of their attention on a well-defined and small part of the state, its 127-mile beach-lined Atlantic seaboard. The 50-plus resort cities and towns on the stretch include Atlantic City, Cape May and Ocean City. Beyond that, most potential visitors tend to think of New Jersey as an extension of New York City and Philadelphia.
But there is more. New Jersey was one of the original 13 colonies and the setting for a surprising amount of Revolutionary War action. The Morristown National Historic Park was the main encampment of the American Continental Army and headquarters of its commander-in-chief, Gen. George Washington. Combine visits to the park and a selection of the battlefields, perhaps in time for one or more historical reenactments, and the result is an itinerary built around a very American piece of history.
New Jersey boasts much natural beauty and not just at the shore. Besides its flowers and orchards, there is the Pinelands National Reserve encompassing 22% of the state including 56 communities and more than 700,000 residents.
The state is home to two old and revered universities, Princeton and Rutgers, and three of the world’s greatest scientists and inventors worked for many years in the state: Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Samuel F.B. Morse.
Nevertheless, the most popular place seems to be Atlantic City where gambling meets a busy boardwalk and the seashore. Other areas along the Jersey Shore draw positive comments for their relaxed atmosphere, nice beaches and boardwalks, and good restaurants. The Jersey Shore is a summer destination, but Atlantic City gets a year-round crowd.
Things to do for Venturers
- Enter the mud bogging competition (in your own 4WD) at the Warren County Farmer’s Fair. Take to the skies, too, in a hot-air balloon.
- Swim with sharks and stingrays, train and feed seals or scuba dive with the fish as part of the Aquarium Adventures program at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden.
- Go to court to see a reenactment of the trial of Bruno Hauptmann for the kidnapping and murder of the infant son of Charles Lindbergh. Famous Trials Theater presents “Lindbergh and Hauptmann: The Trial of The Century” each autumn in the Hunterdon County Courthouse in Flemington, the setting of the real 1935 trial. The theater company is expanding its brief with new productions based on true or fictional court cases.
- Try your skills at blowing a vase out of glass or shaping hot molten glass into a paperweight that is you. Do this at the Glass Studio in Millville.
- Participate in a wolf watch at the Lakota Wolf Preserve at Camp Taylor in Columbia. The fenced observation area is in the center of four packs and is open to visitors twice daily all days but Monday. The preserve protects arctic, timber and tundra wolves. Learn about the ways of the wolf. Be a sponsor to one of the animals. Reservations by phone — (877) 733-9653 — are required for weekday visits.
- Sample the local goods at more than a dozen brew pubs and microbreweries. Choose the Gaslight Brewery & Restaurant in South Orange on the night of its annual tribute to poet Robert Burns, and eat haggis.
Things to do for Centrics
- Attend horse shows, or go to the races at Meadowlands Racetrack or Monmouth Park.
- Make a wheel of cheese as part of a cheese making class at the Valley Shepherd Creamery in Long Valley.
- See the June reenactment of the Revolutionary War Battle of Monmouth at Monmouth Battlefield State Park, Manalapan. Hike the battlefield.
- Go canoeing and camping, or hiking and fishing, or bird-watching, in the Pinelands National Reserve.
- Attend the Sussex Pow Wow in Branchville in July.
- Sail on the A.J. Meerwald, New Jersey’s official tall ship, in Bivalve. Or, take an ecocruise by pontoon on the Hackensack River.
Things to do for Authentics
- Tour Glenmont in West Orange, home of Thomas Edison, and participate in any of several interpretive programs.
- Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from Liberty State Park in Jersey City.
- On Christmas Day, see the reenactment of George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware in 1776. Stay on for Trenton’s Patriots’ Week, full of other reenactments and events connected with the Revolution including the two Trenton battles. Alternatively, there are several other Revolutionary War reenactment events in the state through the year.
- See a reenactment of the famous gunfight at OK Corral, or see one of 21 other Wild West shows at Wild West City, a western heritage theme park in Netcong. Sure, it’s New Jersey, but you also can attend the Cowtown Rodeo near Woodstown on Saturday night.
- Be entertained, and even educated, by costumed interpreters at Historic Cold Spring Village, an Early American open-air living history museum in Cape May.
- Eat seafood and lots of it at the New Jersey Seafood Festival, held in June in Belmar. Or, sample gourmet foods at Cream Ridge Winery’s Harvestfest and Pig Roast Festival, a September event.
For more information, consult the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism at www.visitnj.org