New Jersey is actually the fourth smallest state in the U.S., which you would never have guessed just by visiting it. Despite its small 8,700 square-mile frame, New Jersey is embarrassingly rich with treasures; you’ll find hundreds of miles of green parklands, farmland lined with fields of blueberries, cranberries, peaches, tomatoes, and pumpkins, a rolling countryside filled with meadows and flowers, over 800 lakes, creeks, and ponds, and more than 1,400 miles of trout-infested river streams that crisscross through wooded forests. And then there are the gorgeous beaches along New Jersey’s Atlantic; they stretch from Cape May to Sandy Hook and are considered one of the most beautiful set of sands in the East Coast.
While New Jersey is dominated by nature, it is also a commercialized and industrialized state – that’s what you get for sharing a border with New York! The cities just a few miles away from the Big Apple, like Newark and Elizabeth, are lined with factories spewing industrial smoke. This image is perhaps one of the reasons why so many people associate New Jersey with industrial cities full of factories, chemical plants, oil refineries, and pharmaceutical laboratories. But if you venture beyond the New Jersey Turnpike corridor, you’ll find a beautiful state that lives up to its license plate slogan as the “Garden State”.
New Jersey was originally inhabited by the Lenape Indians who farmed the land for corn and hunted and gathered along the Delaware and Hudson River. After the Dutch arrived in the early 17th century, followed later by the British, the Lenape began branching away from farming and hunting; they embraced business with the Europeans through the trading of fur.
By 1664, all of the Dutch colonies and territories in New Jersey were handed over to the British as a result of conquest. During the Revolutionary War, New Jersey joined the other thirteen colonies in their fight against the British. Four of the bloodiest and most significant battles of the war took place in New Jersey, including the Battle of Trenton, the Second Battle of Trenton, the Battle of Monmouth, and the successful surprise attack launched by General George Washington in the Battle of Princeton. New Jersey’s pivotal role during the war has earned the state the nickname “Crossroads of the Revolution”.
Although New Jersey abolished slavery in 1804, it was the last of the northern states to do so. During the Civil War, none of the battles took place in New Jersey. After the Civil war, the state flourished during the industrial revolution, serving as a major manufacturing base for commodities like silk and textiles. New Jersey resident Thomas Edison who patented more than a thousand inventions had many of them manufactured at factories in Menlo Park and West Orange.
During the 20th century, New Jersey was a center for war production. During both world wars and the Cold War, the state produced battleships, destroyers, nuclear-powered ships, and aircraft carriers for the military.
Today, New Jersey continues to be an industrial machine with its factories, plants, refineries, and laboratories, but it also fosters a very productive agricultural sector.
New Jersey offers a multitude of attractions, including historic ones. Morristown, for example, is home to the Morristown National Historic Park where General George Washington spent the winter of 1777 after his successful campaign in the Battle of Trenton. The museum preserves the former President’s memories of the Battle of Trenton.
History buffs may also be interested in the Menlo Park Museum, which is dedicated to the inventions of Thomas Edison. Menlo Park was one of the factories that manufactured many of Edison’s creations.
Asbury Park is another historic destination, and not because it is the hometown of Bruce Springsteen. In its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th century, Asbury Park was a seaside retreat that regularly welcomed a million visitors every summer. In recent years, Asbury has undergone major revitalization and restoration efforts with the rehabilitation of old historic buildings like the Steinbach Department Store, the old boardwalk and casino, the Convention Hall, and the historic Berkeley-Carteret Hotel.
New Jersey also offers opportunities for outdoor activities. The majestic Palisades, for instance, are a set of cliffs that rise as high as 500 feet and are perfect for hikes and strolls, especially if you like being rewarded with spectacular views of New York City. The coast from Sandy Hook to Cape May offers beautiful sands for beachcombers and ocean waters for swimming and ocean fishing. If you prefer lakes, Lake Hopatcong provides the same swimming and boating fun. Along the Delaware River, you’ll find numerous spots where you can angle, fish, and raft. Skiers can head up to the Mountain Creek resort, while thrill seekers can check out the Six Flags Great Adventure and its rollercoaster rides in Jackson Township.
Probably the biggest attraction in New Jersey is the gambling that goes on at Atlantic City. Its beach boardwalk is often packed during the summer, and is a nice romantic stroll in the evenings. The gambling in Atlantic is considered second in the nation to Las Vegas. You can check out glamorous joints like the Trump Taj Mahal, the Tropicana, Bally’s Atlantic City, and the Borgata, among others.