LIFE IN NEW JERSEY: Are you planning on moving to New Jersey sometime soon? If so, and you are an Australian, or expat from elsewhere, you may not know much about this little US state. New Jersey is not as famous as some other big-name American states such as California, Texas and New York.
Outside the US, NJ is possibly known for the Jersey Shore reality program or the Sopranos TV series. For prospective newcomers, it’s important to understand these images are not reflective of the majority of the state. There is so much more to see and know about NJ than this. After eight years of living here, I can honestly say that the best parts of NJ are hardly even known about. So here are my top reasons to visit or live in this under-rated location:
- It’s greener than green: NJ is not called the Garden State for nothing! There are endless state parks, reserves and green patches everywhere; and lots and lots of trees. Sure, in fall season there’s a bit of raking up to do but the effect of so many trees in beautifying much of the state is awesome. Even the drive to work along tree-lined highways is dazzling. Despite being the most densely populated state in the US, it doesn’t feel like one big urban spread due to the widespread presence of conifers, maples and other beautiful foliage trees. With a regular rainfall during most of the year, the greenery is very luxuriant and pretty.
- The fall season is breathtaking: There are lots of deciduous trees amongst the local flora, which start to change color from September onwards. The foliage show is superb with all sorts of reds, yellows, oranges and browns, amongst the green. While many visitors go to the Northeast USA to view this panorama of color, NJ has its own grand show which can be seen in numerous places. These include the Palisades Interstate Park, the Great Swamp, Hopatcong Lake or even just driving around on local roads.
- The Weather has everything here: What can you say about a place that has both hot, sunny weather and cold and snowy periods during winter, all in the same place? It’s miraculous. It’s not often that you can enjoy a climate where you can go skiing or snow-tubing one part of the year and then six months later, be off to the beach to work on your suntan. The seasons are not too extreme either.
- There is a bucket load of things to do here: Aside from the obvious winter sports that come with snow and cold weather, there are enough things here to keep anyone occupied. If outdoor activities are your thing, with so many natural reserves and parks, you can go hiking or biking, as well as rock-climbing, kayaking, ballooning and tubing. As an important historic location in America’s early settlement, New Jersey has a number of important sites and old historic buildings that make great subjects for photography.
If arts and culture is your thing, you can’t beat the NJPAC in Newark, the Liberty Science Museum or several regional arts centers that host music performances from big name artists. New Jersey hosts more festivals that I could fit into a single blog post – there is always something on to attend. Locals are big sports lovers that follow their favourite teams in football and baseball passionately. Sports games at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford draw very large crowds, with this venue playing host to the 2014 SuperBowl.
- New Jersey is just next door to New York City: Since NYC is only a train ride away for most New Jerseyans, the attractions of the Big Apple are all there: museums, Central Park, Broadway theatres, shopping, eating out and much more. Contrary to what New Yorkers say about NJ, the lifestyle here is far better than New York and yet there is still easy access to New York’s offerings.
- Easy access to many beautiful coastal areas: Aside from the Jersey Shore, which many local people here use as a regular summer holiday place, there are other more scenic places you can get to for a holiday. This includes the beautiful historic town of Cape May. Found at the southern tip of the Jersey Coast, it is a haven for all sorts of wildlife. Migrations of birds and butterflies are just two of the draw cards that attract visitors here frequently.
Other locations within a day’s drive are the Hamptons in New York State and even Cape Cod, which is a popular destination for summer holidays for many New Jerseyans. The Cape has an array of historic and natural landscapes to visit, as well as the famous destinations of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
- New Jersey is in the center of North East business centers: Aside from New York, New Jersey is quite close to Philadelphia, as well as other major East Coast cities. Washington DC and Boston, both large business centers and holiday destinations, are both accessible via train, plane or by driving.
- There is a huge network of interconnecting freeways and highways: Considering this is one of the smallest states in the USA, New Jersey has an amazing road system. You can get wherever you want to go through the interstate roads and highways that crisscross the entire state. Although traffic jams do occur, there are nearly always alternative routes to get from A to B, via a good quality road system. The infrastructure here makes Sydney look a bit backwards. You will however, need a GPS, as sometimes these roads can be rather bewildering until you get used to them.
- You never have to pump your own gas (petrol) in Jersey: Unbelievably, this state is the only place I have been in a civilized world where someone else fills your car up with gas. It is illegal to do it yourself in NJ and a couple of other states. I’m so used to pumping my own gas, it took me a little while to get used to this odd luxury. So you can drive up, sit in your car comfortably and all you have to do is wind down the window to pay. Amazing in this day and age, where nearly everything is self-service.
- You can shop till you drop: While New York offers some of the best shopping in the world, you don’t have to go far to find a shopping mall in New Jersey. These offer the best of everything from New York including Macys, Bloomingdales, Lord and Taylor, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Neiman Marcus, Sears, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. Malls range from the glamorous Short Hills through to the Jersey Gardens discount mall in Elizabeth NJ.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what New Jersey is like, wonder no more. Summer and fall are the best times to visit or move here, so maybe you should start planning now.