New Jersey doesn’t have the most glowing reputation among coastal states in the U.S. Part of this is because it’s in the shadow of New York City, part of it’s because it’s a little too far north to compete with the southern states as a beach destination, and part of it is because of the nonstop stream of bad press that seems to follow urban areas like Atlantic City and Trenton. I’m not here to dispel any of this. New Jersey is not the best U.S. state to visit, and some of its more noteworthy cities have had a lot of problems. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a weekend there. Looking a little bit beneath the surface, New Jersey is a surprisingly beautiful state that offers plenty of fun things to do.
These, in no order, are some of the highlights you might want to keep in mind.
Stay At Cape May
A lot of people more or less discount the seaside areas in New Jersey as trashy, because of the “Jersey Shore” reputation, as well as because, as mentioned, there just aren’t as many great beaches as you can find further south. But the town of Cape May is something else altogether, somewhere in between the idyllic coastal stretches of Maine and some of the old colonial towns in the Southeast. Believed to be America’s oldest seaside resort, it’s a Victorian beachside paradise, lovely in just about every way. There’s not a lot of specific stuff to do there, but if you rent a property on the cape you’ll be happy with it.
You might think of college tours as a thing of the past, and for the most part that should probably be the case. There are some examples of schools that people tour just because they’re beautiful and interesting, however: Oxford in the UK, Harvard in Boston, etc. And Princeton belongs on that list. It’s a gorgeous and historic campus that makes for a nice tour the same way you might like walking through a garden or park in any great city. Plus, if you happen to be around when there’s a major sporting event, you can always work your way into the crowd and enjoy the unique phenomenon that is college sports in America.
Check Out Atlantic City
I mentioned Atlantic City above as one reason people don’t love the idea of traveling to New Jersey, and it’s true that the city has had its problems. Many actually hold Donald Trump responsible for virtually bankrupting half the city via the casino district, and that same district may have struggled given that there are so many options available in the online gaming sector in New Jersey. Despite online gaming thriving, however, and the city having fallen on hard times, the boardwalk by the beach is still a lot of fun, and the casino resorts remain active. If you’re just looking for some entertainment, Atlantic City is still the closest thing there is to a Vegas East.
Hang Outdoors At The Delaware Water Gap
I also mentioned that New Jersey is a surprisingly beautiful state, and nowhere is that more clearly on display than at the Delaware Water Gap (even though it’s named for another state). This is basically a massive natural area surrounding the Delaware River on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border., and it’s probably the best place in the state for hiking, kayaking, and even swimming. Hanging out here will be a blast for anyone who enjoys the outdoors, and it’ll give you an entirely different perspective on New Jersey.
See The Northlandz
You can always count on Atlas Obscura to point out something cool in a given state or city that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. For New Jersey, it’s the Northlandz, Basically it’s the biggest model train set you ever imagined, and it’s just the sort of quirky attraction a lot of people like to find when really exploring the United States. It’s a fairly quick stop, but it’s still something you’ll remember seeing.