New Jersey: Garden of Cultural, Recreational Delights

New Jersey offers residents many livability options, including several arts and cultural opportunities.

Melanie Hill
On Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 14:20


The Garden State is in full blossom with possibilities, from its cosmopolitan urban centers to historic towns to revitalized oceanfront communities.

"We believe quality of life is a major asset to living and working in New Jersey," says Tracye McDaniel, president and CEO of Choose New Jersey, an organization that promotes growth and investment in the state. "Living in New Jersey provides endless opportunities to take advantage of our strong and diverse cultural centers."

With a population of more than 8.8 million, New Jersey offers bustling cities and major municipalities, five with populations of more than 100,000, and primary access to the vast New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas.

It is a state of bright lights and big stars appearing at the resorts and casinos of Atlantic City, but also a state of open places and spectacular natural attractions, from its famous beaches to the forests and lakes in the1.1 million acres that are the Pinelands National Reserve to canoe and kayaking meccas such as the Delaware River and Round Valley Recreation Area in northwestern New Jersey.

Amazing Spaces

Among the more enduring and endearing images of New Jersey are its beaches, 130 miles of coastline in total and 11 historic lighthouses open to the public. Some of the most famous names of the oceanfront are in New Jersey, places like Ocean Grove, Point Pleasant and Seaside Heights romanticized in countless movies and songs, and revitalized and preserved with planning and care.

In southern New Jersey, the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area draws more than 2 million visitors annually to its historic sites, natural areas and ocean and bay beaches. The seven-mile run of oceanfront and bays is one of the state's many prime bird-watching locations, where more than 300 species of migratory birds.

The 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area has 100 miles of scenic hiking trails, including more than 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and activities that include kayaking, swimming, fishing and nature watching.

The Boardwalk experience along the beaches of Wildwood includes a two-mile stretch of amusements, waterparks, arcades, games, shops and restaurants, as well as the largest Ferris wheel on the East Coast. More than 180 free festivals and events are staged in Wildwood each year.

Asbury Park, the storied beach community that launched the career of Bruce Springsteen, has undergone a major transformation from the boardwalk to the center city that includes adding thousands of square feet of new retail and entertainment attractions to make the community a year-round destination.

Cape May, billed as the oldest resort community in the country, celebrated its 155th birthday in 2012. The entire city of Cape May is a National Historic District, its neighborhoods lined with restored Federal-style townhouses and 600 preserved Victorian buildings. Besides its beaches, Cape May includes the dozens of unique shops and restaurants on the Washington Mall and Cape May State Park, home to the storied Cape May lighthouse built in 1858.

In the Swing

Beyond its beaches, New Jersey offers some of the nation's best golfing opportunities. Pine Valley Golf Club was named the No. 2 course in the nation by Golf Digest. The storied Baltusrol Golf Club courses in Springfield have hosted seven U.S. Open championships.
The Atlantic City Country Club is frequently named on lists of the top courses in the nation open to the public.

Cultures Pearls

New Jersey showcases world-class art galleries, museums and performance centers. More than 700 different organizations in the state give full measure to every facet of the arts, from dance to music to cultural heritage.

In Newark, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center is a hotbed of performers, symphonies, dance troupes and theater acts of national and international stature, and is home to the New Jersey State Opera and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, led by renowned conductor Jacques Lacombe.

A centerpiece of Newark’s cultural nexus is the Newark Museum, the largest museum in the state. Its 80 galleries include permanent collections of African, American, Asian and classical works.
New Jersey’s universities offer more than high-quality education – they’re also major centers of art and culture.

At Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, the Zimmerli Art Museum's collection numbers 60,000 works and is the third-largest university art collection in the world. Princeton University maintains an art museum and a performance hall that hosts 200 events a year, including the renowned Westminster Choir.

World of Discovery

New Jersey's legacy as a center of innovation - it is the state where Thomas Edison launched his most important discoveries - is carried on through its network of science and nature-oriented attractions such as the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City and the Adventure Aquarium in Camden.

The Liberty Science Center, located in the 1,200-acre Liberty National Park, features an array of interactive exhibits such as a pitch-black maze that requires a high sense of touch to navigate, and a cityscape of towers that lets visitors discover what it takes to design and build the world's tallest skyscrapers. The center also includes the largest Imax Dome Theater in the nation.

On Camden's waterfront, the Adventure Aquarium brings nature up close with more than 8,500 creatures and billing as "America’s Most Touchable Aquarium." The aquarium includes nearly 200,000 square feet of space and more than 2 million gallons of water.

With its arts, culture, entertainment and natural attractions, New Jersey offers a world of opportunity and possibility to its residents that is as every bit as compelling as the advantages it offers as a place to work, invest and grow.



Melanie Hill is an independent writer, editor and public relations specialist based out of Franklin, Tenn.