New Jersey: A State of Culture, Recreation and Natural Splendor

It is called the Garden State for good reason, with a nice quality of life, natural beauty and plenty of attractions to offer its residents and visitors.

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Underpinning New Jersey's attraction as a place to invest and grow a business is the unparalleled diversity the state offers as a place to live.

The state boasts world-class arts and culture, big-city entertainment, professional and collegiate sports, natural beauty, boundless outdoor opportunity and some of the nation's best beaches.

New Jersey ranked seventh among states for quality of life on Business Facilities magazine's 2010 rankings report and four New Jersey communities – Franklin, Middleton, Piscataway and Wayne – were on's Best Places to Live list in 2010.

With all its advantages, attractions and lifestyle options, it's no surprise that a 2010 poll by Rutgers University found that a majority of residents rated New Jersey as an excellent place to live. The major attributes listed included beaches, overall natural environment and a diversity of attractions.

The Arts and Culture Scene
In a state that has a highly diverse population, it's no surprise that New Jersey offers a highly diverse cultural menu that includes world-class art galleries, museums and performance centers. The New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark is a showcase for 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.

A centerpiece of downtown Newark's renaissance are the 80 galleries of the Newark Museum, which include permanent collections of African, American, Asian and Classical works, as well as an 1885 Victorian-era home that is one the National Register of Historic Places, natural science exhibits and a planetarium. The museum anchors a vibrant downtown arts district that features galleries, performance venues and live theater, such as the African Globe Theatre Works, an independent company that stages productions by and about people of African descent.

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 holds 60,000 works and is the third-largest university art collection in the world. Princeton University includes an art museum and a performance hall that hosts some 200 events a year, including the renowned Westminster Choir.

Each summer, the Metropolitan Opera stages a series of free outdoor park performances in Montclair and Pennsauken. If musical theater suits you, enjoy the Papermill Playhouse in Milburn. If the play is more your thing, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey draws audiences of more than 100,000 adults and children annually to see productions of the Bard's classic masterworks on its main stage in madison and its outdoor stage in Convent Station.

In its 200,000-square-foot home in Camden, the Adventure Aquarium allows visitors to “explore” a West African river that features hippopotamuses, crocodiles, porcupines, see more than 20 species of African birds in a free-flight aviary, and be surrounded by sharks in a suspended 40-foot walk-through tunnel.

The sporting life is in high form in New Jersey, home to the Giants and Jets of the National Football League, who play their home games in the $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford. The Nets of the National Basketball Association and the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League also call the state home, and major college sports includes the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers, who play football in the Big East Conference.

As would be expected from a state that attracts people from all over the world, New Jersey is a smorgasbord of cultural cuisine, from Italian to Portuguese to to Mexican to South American to Caribbean to African, and often in the same neighborhood. The state has more than 23,000 restaurants, including 500 diners, making it the diner capital of America.

The Shore and the Outdoors
New Jersey is know for a number of things, but perhaps most famously for its beaches – 130 miles of coastline and fabled beach communities such as Ocean Grove, Point Pleasant Beach and Wildwood, and gems such as Cape May – the oldest resort community in the country. The entire city is a National Historic District with neighborhoods lined with restored federal townhouses and Victorian homes.

At the other end of the state, the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area draws more than 2 million visitors annually to enjoy its historic landmarks, natural areas and ocean and bay beaches for swimming, fishing, scuba diving, surfing, wind surfing and bicycling.

Asbury Park, the beach community where Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and other rock luminaries first gained fame, has undergone a major transformation, from the Boardwalk to the center city, that includes more than $170 million in new development, new restaurants and shops, public attractions and development of upscale condominiums.

The storied Stone Pony and Wonder Bar entertainment spots now book more than 400 shows a year, and the historic Paramount Theater has undergone an extensive renovation and hosts numerous musical and entertainment acts. Asbury Park even has its own smartphone app, giving users a 365-day calendar for local events and listings.

Peace and Quiet
Away from the urban areas, New Jersey's smaller communities offer an unparalleled quality of life set among some beautiful natural landscapes. Lambertville in central New Jersey traces its roots to 1705 and its neighborhoods are lined with gorgeous old homes as well as antique shops, art galleries and locally owned eateries.

Montclair in northern New Jersey is home to the 246-acre campus of Montclair State University along with 175 acres of park and 20 arts organizations that include Montclair Art Museum.

Away from major cities and the surf, New Jersey offers an abundance of opportunities to experience nature and the outdoors. The 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area offers 100 miles of scenic hiking trails, including more than 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail and a range of activities from kayaking and swimming to fishing and nature watching.

Though it is a bustling state of more than 8.7 million people, New Jersey also offers plenty of elbow room. More than a third of the state is rural and sparsely populated, and known for its scenic splendor. The Pine Barrens, for example, is a heavily forested area stretching across southern New Jersey that encompasses 1.1 million acres – an amazing 22 percent of New Jersey’s land area.

New Jersey's nickname, the Garden State, is believed to have been coined in the 1870s to refer to its vast agriculture resources. Given all it has to offer, it's no stretch to say the Garden State blossoms with opportunities to enjoy life to the fullest.


Melanie Hill is an independent writer, editor and public relations specialist based out of Franklin, Tenn. She began writing for Journal Communications in 2003, shortly after reloc... more

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Fri, 10/27/2017 - 19:55