A New Jersey lifer, Jamie offers expertise on places to go within the state.
New Jersey is a unique state because of its location. It is in between two major metropolitan cities, New York and Philadelphia. Many people do not know this, but New Jersey is made up of beaches, cities, and in some areas, a lot of farmland. If you have seen the Sopranos, you have heard what people call the New Jersey accent, but I can assure you that not everyone has one. Living just ten minutes from Seaside Heights, New Jersey, my entire life, I can also assure you that the cast of Jersey Shore is not a good portrayal of the types of people you might see around.
5 Must-See Places in New Jersey
I'm definitely not an expert, but I was born and raised in New Jersey and currently still here. If you are contemplating visiting New Jersey at all for a vacation, here are some places that I would recommend to you in no particular order.
1. Island Beach State Park
There are so many beaches to visit in New Jersey, but I have to warn you that New Jersey, sadly, charges you to go on its beaches. Sometimes, the prices can be as high as $10 a person, and if you have a family of five, that's a lot of money per day that you are shelling out!
Island Beach State Park is the place that the locals go to. It is a state park, and they charge you by the carload, not by the person. It is also a cleaner beach and has facilities on it such as bathrooms, showers, changing rooms, and also a food stand. If you are planning on going to the beach for at least a few days, this is definitely the way to go. They also have more than one beach, so keep driving past the first one so you don't go to a really overcrowded area.
2. Cape May
Cape May is a wonderful place to visit. It is a beach area in the southern part of New Jersey that I would consider to be a town where you can walk pretty much everywhere or can ride a bike around. Cape May can get extremely crowded during the summer months, so it becomes unusually difficult to drive anywhere.
If you are ever looking for something romantic to do in New Jersey, Cape May is definitely the spot to go. It is a town that has many Bed and Breakfasts to stay in and an area within it that has really great restaurants and shops that most people visit at night once they've showered from being at the beach all day. They have horse carriages that give you some history about the area, and even tell you some interesting facts about places that have been known to have been haunted.
If you have children, make sure to visit the Cape May Zoo, which does not charge you to visit but accepts donations. It's truly wonderful to go to for a nice family day trip. They have picnic tables just outside of the zoo so your family can pack a lunch and not have to worry about going broke feeding everyone.
3. Asbury Park
I'm sure most people have heard of Asbury Park just from being Bruce Springsteen fans. Asbury Park is also a beach area, and within the past few years, has become a very popular destination because there have been a lot of additions of restaurants and nice places to visit along the boardwalk. I have two places that I personally recommend for this area, but please research the area before going because there is so much to do there.
If you happen to have a rainy day on your vacation, please go to the Silverball Pinball Museum, which is located directly on the boardwalk. You pay by the hour to play here. I would say that two hours is probably the perfect amount of time to be here. This place is called a museum, but it's actually equivalent to an arcade in that you can play all kinds of vintage pinball machines. They also have skee ball and other vintage arcade type games like Centipede and Pac Man. The idea is you pay by the hour and get to play whatever machines you want to in that time. It's a fun, casual place where you can go back in time and take a step away from technology for a while.
If you are into Biergarten's, you must visit the Asbury Park Festhalle & Biergarten. It's a great place to go with friends and family. They even have food there so you get an authentic experience; it feels like you've stepped away from New Jersey and have flown to Germany for Oktoberfest. They also have live bands that play there a lot, so be sure to check them out.
4. Six Flags Great Adventure Theme Park (Jackson, New Jersey)
Although the location of this theme park is not located near a major tourist area in New Jersey, it makes for a great day trip no matter how far north or south you are staying. The prices are expensive; however, this is a place where you can actually spend an entire day, unlike some other parks I have visited in the past.
This park offers something for everyone. They have family rides, children's rides, thrill rides and entertainment, like daily shows and fireworks on certain nights of the year.
A few years ago, this theme park took its safari where travelers would drive through to see the animals in their personal cars and instead made it into a big attraction in which large safari cars of the park take you to see the many animals. The animals you can see range anywhere from giraffes to zebras.
My one suggestion is that if you are on vacation for an entire week, make sure to visit the park on a weekday, especially a Monday or Tuesday. In having a season pass within the past few years, I tried going at different times and days, and those two days were the best and least crowded.
Also, make sure to buy your tickets online prior to going to the park. The lines in the summer to buy tickets can be extremely long, and this will at least save you some time that you could be using to go on rides.
If you are wondering what else there is to do in the area, there are outlets down the road called the Jackson Premium Outlets, and there are some fast food places if you are interested in saving some money on food before entering the park.
5. Point Pleasant Boardwalk
I've been to other states where they say that they have a boardwalk, and it is literally just boards that you can walk on along the water. But in New Jersey, boardwalks are so much more than that. Our boardwalks have food stands, rides, and endless stands where you can play different games to try to win for prizes. Picture a carnival, but a hundred times better!
I chose Point Pleasant boardwalk because it is the most family-friendly boardwalk that we have in the state, in my opinion. Yes, there is Seaside Heights Boardwalk, and there is Wildwood Boardwalk, but over the past few years, these boardwalks have become more for adults and less for families.
Point Pleasant is definitely on the smaller side, but it is the place where you can feel safe and good taking your family there. They have a small aquarium right on the boardwalk itself called Jenkinson's Aquarium. It's a great little place if your children aren't looking to be amazed by large sea creatures. (For that, visit Adventure Aquarium.) They also have an area with rides that are suited for smaller and larger children. If you get hit by rain on your vacation, this is a great place to go.
If you have a really nice day and are looking for a family-friendly activity that everyone can enjoy, there is also a mini-golf course that you can enter from the boardwalk. If you don't have any children, the Tiki Bar and Jenk's are where you can drink your day away overlooking the ocean.
Now, let's get right to the treats. Kohr's Frozen Custard is an absolute must. It's on all of the boardwalks in New Jersey. They are a soft-serve ice cream place, and one of the most popular flavors is the creamsicle swirl. My personal go-to is the mint swirl; it's mint ice cream and vanilla ice cream. I am telling you now that once you try it, you will want to go back once more before you leave.
Boardwalk fries are also a must. They will forever be the ones that you compare all of your other French fries to. The potatoes are fresh cut there, so you won't be finding any terrible, frozen ones on the boardwalk.
Lastly, no matter what boardwalk you go to, you must try the pizza. Let me remind you that we are just a couple of hours from New York, so we are definitely competitors. If you go to Seaside Heights Boardwalk, by any chance, you must go to the Sawmill. The only word to say is huge. They are known for their insanely large pizzas, and it tends to be a stopping point for most once they see the size of it.
© 2019 Jamie
Liz Westwood from UK on April 10, 2019:
This gives an interesting insight into New Jersey.