Uh, really? Yup! It's no joke! If you're not from the east coast, you might think that New Jersey is filled with nothing but industrial sites and toll roads. If you are from the east coast, particularly from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, you may only think of the state in the summertime when it means a tradition of heading to the Jersey Shore (not the TV show, but the more than 125 miles of beautiful New Jersey coastline). But did you know, there’s so much more to do in New Jersey than going to the beach? So, if you’re not a beach person, or are simply looking for something else to do, here are five super cool suggestions for things to do in “the Garden State”.
Population: about 9 million, making it the most densely populated state in the U.S.
Area: 8,204.37 square miles. 7,504.8 square miles of land; 699.57 square miles of water.
127 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean.
34,268 miles of highways and roads. Yeah, and we really do use the phrase, “what exit?” to help figure out what part of the state someone is referring to – north or south.
Nickname: The Garden State. Huh? I thought you said it was the most densely populated state!? Well it is, but it still has 720,000 acres of farmland! Yup, you read that right. The nickname “the Garden State” seems to have originated at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia on Jersey Day, August 24, 1876. Apparently, the name "The Garden State" was used in a speech comparing New Jersey to an “immense barrel, filled with good things to eat”. Later, the name came to refer New Jersey farm trucks that delivered produce to cities.
1. Go Picking
New Jersey’s nick name isn’t the “Garden State” for nothing! New Jersey has 9,000 farms covering 720,000 acres – crazy! (Nebraska has the most farmland at nearly 46 million acres) New Jersey ranks: 5th in blueberry production, 3rd in cranberry production, 3rd in spinach, 3rd in bell peppers, 4th in peach production. And of course, there's the famous Jersey Tomatoes (but, if you’re from the state it’s pronounced “Tah -MAY - tahs!) There are approximately 145 “you pick” farms (I know of a few more that weren’t on the New Jersey website), that offer everything from “you dig” flowers to Christmas trees to fruits and veggies. It’s a great way to see where food comes from and to be outside.
2. Go Wine Tasting
Did you know? New Jersey is the 7th largest wine producing state (1.5 million gallons)? Or that it has 45 licensed wineries?
The wine industry in New Jersey is still emerging so it’s finding its way. Remember France has been producing wine forever; California since about the 1880’s and New Jersey only since the 1980’s! Even so, there are some great values and good wines available!
Some of the grapes that are grown in New Jersey are Pinot Noir and Riesling, mostly in the northern part of the state. In the southern part of the state, Sangiovese and Barbera rule (Alberino and Tempranillo are two grapes that are starting to come onto the scene in South Jersey)
New Jersey has three AVA’s. An AVA (American Viticultural Area) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the U.S. distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. New Jersey's three are:
Central Delaware Valley AVA: in Central NJ, designated in 1984
Warren Hills AVA: designated in 1988 in NJ’s northwest Warren County
Outer Coastal Plain AVA: designated in 2007, making it the newest AVA – it includes the southeastern counties of Cumberland, Cape May, Atlantic and Ocean.
Check out the New Jersey Wine Growers Association to find a winery near you.
3. Go to a Park
A State or Federal one, that is. New Jersey has 50 State parks, forests, marinas, and recreation areas welcoming 17.8 million visitors annually (Yup - 17.8 MILLION!). New Jersey also has 9 Federal parks that welcomes 4.6 million annually. And just in case you thought going to a park was only about camping and picnicking - think again. On just one day, the calendar of events at various New Jersey parks include: an antique car show, craft programs, nature and bird walks, guided kayaking tours, botanical garden tours, observatory and telescope viewing tours! Who knew there was so much to see and do? Some events are totally free while others have a fee. To find out what’s going on at a park near you, go to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Parks and Forests website.
4. Go for a Bike Ride
New Jersey has hundreds of miles of cycling routes and many of them are listed on the NJ Department of Transportation website. On that site, go to the Recreation tab then Tour Guides, you can pull up maps and cues sheets (directions) for various rides throughout the state and a list of cycling clubs.
5. Go to a Festival
As I’ve written before, I’m a huge fan of festivals, and New Jersey has at least 150 throughout the year listed on its website (like with the fruit picking, there are even more that aren't listed online). Here are just a few:
Exit Zero Jazz Festival in Cape May
Hammonton’s Red, White and Blueberry Festival
New Jersey State Fair in Augusta
Quickchek Balloon Festival in Readington
In addition, there are tons of other food and music festivals, county 4-H fairs, craft fairs and beer and wine festivals. Here’s a pretty extensive list!
Betcha didn't know there was this much fun stuff to do, huh? So, go out and enjoy! Do you know of other things to do in the Garden State? Let me know on Facebook, or in our new comment area at the bottom of the page!