Although the holiday season is synonymous with gifts, gatherings with friends and family and the excitement of ringing in the New Year, there’s another less-pleasant activity that also comes along with it – driving.
We’re all used to packing up the car and heading up and down the state to see our loved ones – stuck in traffic, crammed into seats with others, battling unfortunate weather.
However, by stopping at some of these roadside attractions – and curiosities – in Central Jersey, you may be able to make your trek a little more interesting.
The Edison Light Tower, based at the Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park at 37 Christie St. in Edison, marks the location of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory. Rising 131 feet above the tower’s terrace, the tower’s top is meant to represent an incandescent light bulb and originally included an audio system which could be heard from two miles away.
Today, the bulb shines nightly from the tower, which was constructed in 1937 from three tons of steel and 1200 barrels of cement. Recently refurbished and rededicated, the tower is listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
For more information, visit menloparkmuseum.org or call 732-549-3299.
The Flagship, which was originally commissioned as a luxury cruise nightclub in 1938, now serves as a P.C. Richard and Son – which takes up an entire block as it forever “sails” from 2264 Route 22 in Union.
Four years after its building, it was destroyed by a fire, but locals weren’t ready to see their ‘ship in the harbor’ go. After World War II, it was rebuilt and hosted many of the celebrities of the day, including Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Jackie Gleason. Later and into today, it’s been the home of various retail stores.
“Greek’s Playland,” or Garden Falls and the Stone Museum, which is at 608 Spotswood Englishtown Road in Monroe, isn’t exactly a Disney World or a Universal Studios. In its 87 acres of attractions, ranging from a Cobra helicopter to a 30-foot tall brightly painted clown constructed from an old oil tank, there is no apparent theme.
Spiro Drakoulakous, or ‘The Greek’s,’ imagination is the source of Greek’s Playland attractions. He told Weird NJ that he built the playland for handicapped children to come and have a fun day just like any other child. Today, entrance is free for those coming from state- and locally-sponsored groups.
For more information, visit gardenfalls.com or call 732-656-3333.
Northlandz, called “a fantasy journey” by the Travel Channel and a “breathtaking beauty” by the Discovery Channel, is Flemington’s own wonder of the world, located at 495 Route 202. The world’s largest train museum, the mile-walk through self-guided tour includes hundreds of exhibits containing scenes such as a Civil War battle display, the world’s only toothpick farm and a plane crash site.
A doll museum and 2,000-pipe organ are also in the museum, which is filled with items handmade by Bruce Williams Zaccagnino of Flemington, the owner and founder. The museum has two new wings planned, including exhibits of the Himalayas, the Rockies and Hoover Dam.
For more information, visit northlandz.com or call 908-782-4022.
The Mercedes Benz Tombstone, located on the north end of the Rosedale and Rosehill Cemetery at 355 E. Linden Ave. in Linden, belongs to Ray Tse, Jr., who couldn’t wait to get his driver’s license and own a Mercedes Benz. But he died in 1981 when he was 15 years old.
His millionaire brother, David, commissioned a 36-ton granite memorial sculpted to resemble a full-size 1982 Mercedes Benz 2400 Diesel limousine in his honor, which reportedly cost $250,000. The vanity license plates read “RAY TSE,” although the hood ornament and side view mirrors are missing.
The 1938 Martian Landing Site Monument, located at Van Nest Park on Cranbury Road. in Princeton Junction, depicts a heated Orson Welles announcing the “live news broadcast” that an attack from Mars was underway, a hoax that occurred as an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds in 1938. Of the 12 million people that listened to the broadcast, many believed it to be true.
The plaque also depicts a 1930s family as they cower near their radio, beneath a tentacled flying saucer. The location of the plaque is no accident – the Martian landings were centered on Grover’s Mill, near Princeton.
Trekking your way back-and-forth during the holidays can take the seasonal cheer out of anyone’s day. However, stop for a pit-stop at one of these Central Jersey roadside attractions, and you just may miss some traffic and have an interesting story to bring to your next party.