New Jersey couldn’t be farther from California
in location and culture, but there’s one thing that these states having in common. If you’re living of visiting New Jersey, the first question that pops to mind for people learning about your stay there will always be: “North or South?”. California has San Francisco
in the north and Los Angeles
in the south. For New Jersey, the split is between New York
in the north and Philadelphia
in the south. Of course, there are places to visit in each state that don’t fall into these two categories, but nevertheless, you can usually define your travels by either your proximately to New York or your proximate to Philadelphia.
North New Jersey (or just “North Jersey” to those familiar with the area) loosely includes Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties. Some people also include Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Somerset counties in this definition, since they are officially part of the New York City metro area. Still others define North Jersey as everything north of Interstate 195 or everything north of the mouth of the Raritan River. When you’re in North Jersey and hear reference to “The City,” people are most likely talking about New York City. Many of the residents of North Jersey, in fact, commute to New York City for work every day.
One of the premier destinations in North Jersey is the New Jersey Botanical Gardens at Skylands, which is located in Ringwood. In the mind-1980s, one of the area’s historical Tudor manors and almost 100 acres of land were designated by the government as the State’s official gardens. This is a hot spot during the summer, especially on Friday nights with the gardens hosts their free summer concert series.
If you enjoy historical architecture just as found at the Botantical Gardens’ house, you might also enjoy the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, located just a short drive away in Sandy Hook. New Jersey is actually home to quite a number of lighthouses, but this is the older lighthouse still in operations in the entire United States.
If amusement parks and zoos are more your style, you can try visiting Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, Casino Pier and Breakwater beach in Seaside Heights, Keansburg Amusement Park in Keansburg, or Bowcraft Amusement Park in Scotch Plains. Remember, in North Jersey, you’re also not far from New York City, so you can very well take the train in for the day to visit the Bronx Zoo of the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn.
Before you leave North Jersey, some other popular destinations are total must-sees! In Stanhope, you have go to Waterloo Village, where you can travel back in time to see a colonial town as well as learn about the Native Americans that once lived in this area. Travel over to Netcong, and you can visit the Wild West City, a reconstructed frontier town, as well. Kids of all ages will also enjoy Northlandz in Flemington, NJ, where you can find a huge model train exhibit and doll museum.
South New Jersey is more closely connected to a different city—Philadelphia. Most people consider Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties as those counties that are part of “South Jersey,” although, again, others consider certain roads or waterways the lines. Ocean County is sometimes includes as part of South Jersey, although it is officially a part of the Greater New York City Metropolitan Area.
In South Jersey, the Beach is king. Some of South Jersey’s most prominent beach communities includes Avalon, Cape May and Cape May Point, Longport, Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Stone Harbor, Wildwood, and Ventnor. Actually, if you drive up of down the coat, almost all areas have beautiful beaches. Atlantic City is a very popular destination, as gambling here is completely legal and their casinos are beginning to rival those found in Las Vegas.
As you travel inland from the coast, the primary focus of this area is less on tourism and more on residential. Like many residents of North Jersey commute to New York City for work on a daily basis, South Jersey is home to many, many people who work in Philadelphia and commute there every day. Some of these residential areas are historically “good” places to live. Morristown, for example, was honored as one of the best places to live in the United States in 2005. However, areas like Camden are known for their high crime rate.
There are no shortages of fun things to do in South Jersey, however. Some interesting and popular attractions include the Garden State Discovery Museum in Cherry Hill where kids can really go wild and the Three Forts Ferry, where you can ride from Fort Mott to Fort Delaware. Older children and adults may also enjoy the Burlington County Prison Museum, a spooky historical site that features tours of old cells and dungeons. And, if you enjoy historical locations, you can also visit the Old Barracks in Trenton of the Batsto Village and Wharton State Forest in Hammonton.
Also popular in South Jersey is the Walt Whitman and His Invincible City tour, a planned tour of Camden in the surrounding areas where Whitman once lives and wrote. This is a two-hour tour via motorcoach and includes visits to the Walt Whitman House, Cooper Street, and Harleigh Cemetery. If you enjoy Whitman’s writings, you’ll be in awe to see some of the places that actually really inspired some of his best poetry.
Although there is a bit of rivalry between North and South New Jersey, you’ll find that the state as a whole is a great place to visit. Whether you want to spend your days at the beach, travel back in time, or visit New York City or Philadelphia for a bit of culture and shopping, New Jersey is a great stop on your next vacation. And who knows…you might love it so much that you decide to live there!