Growing up in Long Valley, a small, one-traffic-light town in northwestern New Jersey, I had a real penchant for sleeping out.
No, not like that, but it seemed like in a effort to quell my boredom and my discomfort with being in yet another new home (and one that was constantly in jeopardy as that one sat on the market for years), I would often sleep at friends’ houses, where I felt more comfortable and more at peace than I did in my own bed.
When you’re living in your childhood bedroom as a 24-year-old and basically using a 12 x 9 space as your entire living area, you start to get a little wacky. This is only accentuated by a one-and-half-hour-plus traffic-ridden commute and a mind-numbing office job. You start to dream – big.
Throughout my time living in northern New Jersey, Morristown was always the place to be. Even though we hadn’t been to many of the restaurants and bars there, we knew they were cool. We knew that there, in what seemed to be an alternate universe 45 minutes away, there were people our age who had cool jobs, modern apartments, new cars, tons of boyfriends and always had something to do on a weekend night.
Thus, once I saved some money, ran out of sanity and secured a roommate, I was out. I was going to Morristown.
One year later, I’m not sad that I did. Even though I sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy when friends who live with their parents tell me how much money they’ve saved and the awesome meals that their mom cooks for them, I know that’s not what my life at home was like and I’m pretty psyched with what I created – a new life in a small city with a cool job, a short commute and a nice apartment.
However, to no fault of its own, Morristown didn’t crack out to all I hoped it would be. The restaurants aren’t as good, the bars aren’t as fun and I don’t have a ton of new friends as originally planned. Thus, when my roommate heads off to graduate school next year, I will probably venture somewhere else.
Throughout the last 25 years of my life, my real estate mogul father has endlessly harassed me to buckle down, save some cash, make a commitment and actually purchase a home. With the promise of impossible rents ahead of me, I finally thought about it – maybe I would actually purchase my very first abode.
However, not in Morristown. Instead, nearby small cities with better restaurants, better bars and more things to do are luring me in. I didn’t anticipate my father’s reaction, a helicopter dad who lives only a few minutes from Morristown.
“Dad, I think I’m going to try and save money to buy a house soon.”
“Really?! That’s awesome! I’m so excited. I can help you fix it up, and I’ll give you my realtor’s number, and – ”
“Well, I don’t really want to live around here. I was thinking of a place maybe 45-minutes or so away.”
Dad wasn’t thrilled. He went on a tangent about how I just can’t go that far away, and where I was thinking was a crappy area, and if I did venture that far, he wouldn’t be able to help me fix anything up. (Side note – my three-years-younger-sister moved to North Carolina about a year ago).
At first, I was SO ANGRY. Deanna moved to North Carolina and no one said a word! Where I wanted to go wasn’t even far away, and is very up-and-coming! How could I possibly do all this work on my own! And Dad, why are you still texting me real estate listing of houses in your neighborhood!
But then I stopped. And I thought about it. And I came to a very strange realization.
I am an adult. (A 25-year-old adult trapped in a 16-year-old’s body). And I can figure out how to do any work myself, or pay someone to do it like a normal person. And I can live wherever I want. Just like I chose to move to Morristown one year ago, I can choose to go somewhere else, and if I feel like it, then I can go somewhere else still.
Whether it’s an Ocean Avenue full of beach rats, Seaside Heights full of rowdy teenagers or supposed dirty beaches, many have something bad to say about the famous coastline ruling the East Coast.
However, when we think of some of the biggest town names of the Shore — Wildwood, Belmar, Atlantic City — one place that tends to escape the list is Cape May.
For the same reasons that Cape May is set apart from the “typical” Shore town, it’s also an ideal Shore spot to bring mom as Mother’s Day creeps up on us this weekend and spring is in full bloom.
Walk Victorians that line streets
Unbeknownst to most weekend beachgoers, the entirety of Cape May is designated as a National Historic Landmark because of the concentration of Victorian buildings in the three-square-mile city. Instead of being roped off from tourists with entrance fees tacked on, people live in these 600-or-so homes and they make it count.
You can live in these homes for a brief time, too — take advantage of more than 30 antiquated bed-and-breakfasts in the Victorian district that ooze regality and charm. The historic bed-and-breakfasts often offer antique furnishings, gourmet breakfasts, afternoon tea and period features, bringing a stay not equated with most other lodgings on the Jersey Shore from about $125 a night.
If you wander through the shady, laid-back town, you’ll quickly notice that the colorful Victorian homes are adorned with elaborate gardens, eccentric details and people casually enjoying their tea on wrap-around porches. This makes the city feel very comfortable, lived in and real.
Don’t miss the Emlen Physick Estate on a leisurely walk, a Victorian house museum that will take you back to the era through the home’s architecture and décor throughout 15 restored rooms for $12 a person.
Lounge on some of best U.S. beaches
The city boasts the cleanest beaches around. It’s probably partially because the neat and tidy beaches, such as Higbee Beach or Poverty Beach, cost $6 a day, but nonetheless, the Natural Resource Defense Council has designated the 24 Cape May beaches one of its 38 cities of “Superstar Beaches” due to the quality of the water.
Although it may not be warm enough to swim during Mother’s Day weekend, the season doesn’t officially start until Memorial Day Weekend, meaning you can skip the $6 daily pass and simply enjoy the bright beaches and clean sand.
Also check out Cape May Point State Park, which is full of beaches, marshlands, an exhibit gallery as well as nature trails throughout its 235 acres. The park is also known as one of the best places in North America to view bird migration, making birding one of the most popular activities for outdoorsy visitors at the park.
You can also climb to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse for $8 a person at the park. Built in 1869, you’ll join the 100,000 people who hike the 199 steps to the top each year and get a stellar view of the end of the state, where Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Sample local food and wine
The Washington Street Mall, in the heart of the Victorian district in a walkable distance from the beach and most central bed-and-breakfasts, only contains shops that are privately or family owned and are a great stop for visitors to head to an ice cream parlor, café, restaurant or clothing boutique.
One of my favorite Washington Street Mall restaurants is A Ca Mia, which operates as a bakery, art gallery and Northern Italian restaurant inside a building constructed in 1872. Try the crab cake Italiano, oven-baked crabcakes with fresh crabmeat, peppers, spinach and pine nuts served with caper aioli and capellini in a tomato pesto sauce for $22 for one cake or $31 for two.
The Lobster House, on Cape May Harbor, is a great alternative to pricey seafood dining with the hometown, lazy feel of a boardwalk restaurant. With a modest price tag for outdoor seating, you can grab some menus, mark it up with friends and family, and head over to the bars to grab your crab cakes, clam chowder and oysters on the half shell at market price and enjoy them on the deck across the bay from million-dollar homes and yachts and plenty of gulls.
The Cape May Winery and Vineyard, about five miles from the tourist center of Cape May, can provide a $6 wine tasting cap to a seafood dinner from down the street. Sample wines throughout four vineyards from 70 acres of the property from one of the three tasting rooms or the wooden deck overlooking the vineyards.
With pastel Victorians and cool streets full of weeping willows, the city boasts wallet-friendly yet memorable family attractions that are ideal for a day trip or a long weekend by the beach to celebrate the number one woman in your life — mom.
CAPE MAY ATTRACTIONS
Emlen Physick Estate is a Victorian house museum which contains 15 renovated rooms that can be toured for 45 minutes for $12 a person at 1048 Washington Street and can be reached at 609-884-5404.
Bed-and-breakfasts in Cape May range from $160 to $400 a night for Mother’s Day weekend. Around 30 are throughout the city, most concentrated near the ocean and central Victorian district.
Although I’m a seasoned shore traveler, I truly had no idea where Ed was taking us as a stopping point on our way to Atlantic City. I was offered no clues to our destination besides a lined piece of paper with a meaningless address that was only titled “Middle Stop.”
Upon pulling up to a giant elephant parked facing the Margate beach, however, the dots connected to various Weird NJ pieces I had stumbled across in magazines. We were visiting Lucy the Elephant, a six-story gimmick of a tourist attraction that has been overlooking the Atlantic since 1881.
Lucy the Elephant was constructed with 90 tons of tin and wood by James Lafferty, who figured that a 65-foot tall elephant would be the perfect way to bring in tourists and sell some real estate. He got so excited about his idea that he also constructed two more elephants – the Elephantine Colossus of Coney Island and the Light of Asia of Cape May, neither of which survive today. Unfortunately, Lucy wasn’t enough to bring in buyers and Lafferty sold her after only six years.
She then went on to serve as a restaurant, business office, cottage and even a bar (shut down by prohibition). However, even throughout all of her various occupations, it wasn’t enough to keep the elephant in business – she fell into disrepair and due to a new buyer interested in the land under her feet, she was scheduled for demolition in 1969 to make way for a condo complex.
Josephine Harron spotted the demolition signs outside of Lucy one day when she was at the beach and said to herself, “Someone should do something about that.”
Harron formed the Save Lucy Committee, which was given a mere 30 days to raise enough money to move Lucy or pay for her demolition. Volunteers fund-raised by going door-to-door, selling baked goods and enlisting local groups.
As you have probably guessed, the Save Lucy Committee miraculously raised the funds and she was moved 100 yards southwest and completely refurbished with the help of the only interested architect in the northeast area. The Committee’s efforts paid off in more ways than one – Lucy the Elephant was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
After paying $8 and hiking up the winding staircase inside Lucy, we emerged in the same area which Lafferty originally showcased his real estate parcels. Now, the cozy den houses whimsical paintings such as Lucy in Blue or The Gin Drinkers, fantastical paintings all featuring the celebrated Lucy the Elephant. We checked out the ocean through Lucy’s eyes and then further hiked up the staircase to Lucy’s summit, an Asian howdah carriage which is a replica of the original.
New Jersey is stuffed with oddball roadside attractions which seem to emerge in particular frequency at the Jersey Shore. At first glance, these curious sights seem not only peculiar, but pointless. And maybe they are – except for the fact that they house various degrees of history that can only be contained inside a cartoon, colorful elephant.
LUCY THE ELEPHANT
Where: 9200 Atlantic Ave in Margate City, New Jersey
Driving into Atlantic City on a bustling sunny Saturday afternoon, the air heavy with the promise of short dresses and tall drinks, there is an invisible cloud that hangs above. Although I know it lingers behind sad “cash for gold” signs, dark back alleys, and mahogany boardrooms with hopeful sellers, I don’t immediately see if beneath the flashing lights and well-dressed people shuffling from their cars and into the casinos; the indoor playgrounds.
I forget the uncertain future of the town that I often read about in local newspapers and instead, I feel an immediate jack in optimism as I walk through the double doors. Even at the tender time of 7:00 pm, still perfectly light in the summer, girls are hiked up in their high heels and boys are suited up, passing drinks. No one is stressed, overwhelmed or downtrodden and instead, they relish in the simple delight of being away, yet not too far away, in a place that is perpetually on vacation.
Without ever having to step into an airport, the entirety of the City is on holiday. All they had to do was fill up a backpack, stop at the liquor store, and get on the parkway. No matter how often or how little that we go, Atlantic City is our very own resort; in our very own backyards.
However, behind closed doors, the future is much uncertain. Within seven months, three casinos have turned off their last fluorescent light. Throughout the past eight years, profits have plunged by $2.34 billion dollars, having started 2006 making $5.2 billion, cutting revenue almost in half.
This is a sad story for the city that once ran the show against prohibition, where rules were negotiable and freedom was rampant during the 1920s in one Jersey locale. Gamblers and drinkers waved their hand to the conservative ruling and instead, threw around their glamour and glitz alongside their whiskey drinks and dancing women. Without the cloud of prohibition to ruin its weekends, Atlantic City quickly became “The World’sPlayground.”
However, as all tales, the golden days of the city came to an end around World War II and it quickly became overrun by poverty, crime, unemployment and corruption. Today, Atlantic City is no longer the hotspot of gambling that it once was, falling to competition from Pennsylvania and online casinos in New York and Maryland.
Unfortunately, at the time when this all is happening, Atlantic City doesn’t have much other industry to sustain it. It is still seen as solely a hub of gambling but without gamblers flocking to it as their number one, it is quickly dropping revenue, casinos and jobs.
As bleak as this all sounds for the city, it’s actually not all bad. This is occurring in part simply because there are too many casinos. Unfortunately, these are all sad effects of the realistic ending that the market needs to correct itself and adjust to the true number of gamblers that are flocking to betting centers. Plus, as the gambling industry is continuing to change, Atlantic City is seeing that it needs some other attractions going around to keep families headed to the Shore spot, an effort they are pursuing incessantly.
Even if one day, Atlantic City becomes the new Point Pleasant and Jerseyans get on the Atlantic City Expressway just to hang out on the boardwalk with their toddlers, to me, it’ll always be the charmingly seedy town where I booked ghetto motels to save cash but ended up in suites at the Borgata. It’s where I danced in the House of the Blues, snuck into the Pool After Dark, and struggled home on that three-hour drive back north. I’m glad for industry, economic prosperity and employment coming to Atlantic City, but I’m glad to always have fond memories of blurry nights out, constantly full glasses and the opportunity to be on vacation at only a drive away.
When Jerseyans plan their trips for those long weekends at the shore crammed in teeny summer bungalows with barely functioning AC units, they tend to choose the same cities over and over again for the same reasons they have been biding on for the last 20 years – they go to Atlantic City when they want to gamble, Cape May when they need to relax, Point Pleasant when they’re looking for fun for the family, and Seaside Heights when all they’re asking for is a cold drink.
This is what’s actually pretty cool about the Jersey Shore – each beach-side city has its own personality, quirks, upsides and downsides – no city is exactly like the next, even if it is only one more exit down the Parkway. If each city is its own character, Asbury Park is the laid back beach rat, Red Bank is the up-and-coming fashionista, and Ocean City is the responsible boardwalk mom.
But then… there’s Wildwood.
Wildwood, which goes back to the doo-wop days of the 50’s and 60’s, can’t really be boxed into one category but instead, sits finely in the middle, conveniently close to loud-mouthed Atlantic City, quiet Cape May, and family-oriented Ocean City. So what does this make Wildwood?
What’s so cool about Wildwood is that it doesn’t need to fit into a box, because it has such a hodgepodge to offer anyway that there’s no reason not to visit. If you haven’t crossed Wildwood off your summer hit list yet, here’s all the reasons why this is one Shore city can fit into every beach check box and what you can do during your long weekend stay.
1. Bike the Wildwoods Boardwalk
Joining three municipalities to make up the Wildwoods (North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest) the boardwalk itself stretches for two miles (which is where you’ll find the four piers equipped with boardwalk games and rides) but then extends both directions onto sand to the north and pavement to the south. This makes it ideal for an hour-long bike ride, if you’re moving along at a decent pace and looking to extend beyond the boards in both directions. The ride will include the quiet tourism of Wildwood Crest as well as the local friendliness of North Wildwood, while also getting the insanity of Wildwood on the boards themselves until 11:00 am on weekdays and 10:30 am on weekends. You can rent a pretty nice bike (with parking) for one hour for $6 at Sportland Bike Rental, located just a block off the boardwalk.
2. Grab Dinner Specials at The Boathouse
If you can get seated between 4:00 pm and 5:30 pm, you can pick up a Sunset Special, or two entrees for $25 any night of the week at this classy establishment on West Rio Grande Avenue with a view of the Marina. Even if you don’t nab the specials, you can still get some killer seafood at The Boathouse – especially the broiled crab cake, hot clams casino, steamed mussels, stuffed flounder, or twin lobster tails. This is also one of my favorite five picks of the top waterside restaurants on the Jersey Shore.
3. Visit the Original Fudge Kitchen
All over Wildwood and Shore towns alike, you’ll spot various shops sporting fudge in all shapes, sizes and colors. Don’t do it. Just go to the Original Fudge Kitchen, located on the north end of the Wildwood boardwalk right before the boards end and the sand begins. Even though the imaginary “special” (“Buy two pounds of our creamy fudge and get a box of our homemade salt water taffy”) actually runs every single day of the year (which they will remind you of… each and everyday) the place is worth a visit during your Wildwood stay, even if you’re just picking up one their widely distributed samples. For $11.50 per pound, it runs a little pricey… but a sweet piece in the hot sun (one quarter pound) is worth it, especially for the vanilla marshmallow.
4. Watch the Sun Disappear at Sunset Lake
Sunset Lake, located on the bayside in Wildwood Crest, is a force to be reckoned with once 8:00 pm comes along. Get here about a half an hour to an hour before the sun actually goes down and you can watch the sun disappear behind the lake among the various waterfowl, gazebos and boats scattered about this clean area. Bring along some beers, a blanket and relax on one of the nearby benches. No one’s going to bother you and it’s a quiet way to end the evening before beginning your pilgrimage back home on Sunday.
5. Gaze at the Fireworks on Wildwood Beach
You could stay home and watch the fireworks from your local high school or a nearby park… but why do that when you can watch them on Wildwood Beach to start your vacation? Every Friday in the summer, the city shoots off fireworks to declare the weekend at 10:00 pm at Pine Avenue, visible from most outposts in the area. If it’s too rainy on Friday, then they are shot off on Sundays at 9:00 pm. Plus, since the Wildwood beach is like four miles just to get to the ocean, there’s always room for everyone.
6. Ride the Rickety Rides at Morey’s Piers
Similar to most shoreside amusement parks, rides at Morey’s Piers run pretty expensive – the best value for a casual rider is probably the Super Value Package which includes 65 tickets for $55 (with rides ranging from 5 tickets to 12 tickets depending on the type of ride). This is a great package because you can hit only the best rides when it fits throughout your stay with no time limit. You can’t hang out on the piers and resist on going on just a few rides, especially the Zoom Phloom log flume decorated in outfit doo-wop theme, the giant swings and “IT,” a cheesy yet stomach-dropping carnival ride which looks lame but is a worthy opponent to even the bravest coaster-dweller.
7. Snap a Photo by the Iconic ‘Wildwoods’ Sign
This famous sign marks the center of Wildwood Crest in the popular district where you can get some lame photos of you and your crew posing behind some oversized letters or beach balls – a great stop for when you’re biking the boardwalk and on your way back to grab your daily fudge fix. Be prepared, though – y0u’re not the only tourist, and if someone’s going to take a picture of you, be prepared to take several of them… and their seven kids.
8. Laze Around on the Beaches
Here’s another great reason to visit Wildwood – the beaches are free. No beach pass, no cash. There is a catch, however… you will need to survive the long hike from “under the boardwalk” to the five mile stretch of beach on the other side, though the powdery white sand awaiting you is worth it. Throughout the season, Wildwood beaches are the hosts to various activities including including championship soccer, lacrosse and hockey tournaments, the National Marbles Championships, Monster Truck Races, Motocross Races, Sand Sculpting Festivals, headline concerts, and the Wildwoods International Kite Festival.
9. Sway Your Way Down Old New Jersey Avenue
Wildwood isn’t known for its insane nightlife, especially compared to nearby Atlantic City or Seaside Heights, however it does have a few bars and clubs worth checking out including Keenan’s Irish Pub, a large indoor and outdoor casual bar similar to Bar Anticipation in Belmar and Echo’s, a cheesy yet sweaty indoor dance club and Flip-Flopz, a bar, club and grill which also features live music on Saturdays. Luckily, these three bars are neighbors, saving you lengthy cab rides as you bar-hop on Saturday night.
10. Hop on the Ferris Wheel by Nightfall
Even though the line gets hefty, it’s for a good reason – checking out the sights and sounds of the Wildwoods from high above in your Giant Wheel cart in Morey’s Piers is worth the wait. Built in 1985 and standing at 150 feet tall, the iconic and oversized wheel is a romantic and relaxing way to end a summer weekend trip to Wildwood… that is, if you’re not afraid of heights.
Whether it’s an Ocean Avenue full of bennies, Seaside Heights full of rowdy, drunken teenagers, or Asbury Park’s dirty, needle-ridden beaches, everyone has something bad to say about the famous coastline ruling the East Coast. However, when we think of the biggest cities of the Shore – Wildwood, Belmar, Atlantic City – one place that tends to escape the list is Cape May.
Why is this? Probably because Cape May doesn’t really fit the mold of the typical Jersey Shore beach town. There’s no insane florescent-lighted clubs, bungalows stuffed full of wild college kids or action-packed boardwalks. But this isn’t a reason to avoid the town – hell, if you want those things you can save yourself some Parkway driving and stay more north. However, if you’re bored of the typical dirty Shore beach (not that they aren’t wonderful) then get comfortable in the driver’s seat and find out why Cape May stands apart from every other boardwalked beach on the coast.
1. The entire city is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Sound lame? Well, unlike the “historical landmarks” your parents dragged you to on the edge of your town to learn about how colonial people made bread or something, the entire city is designated as a National Historic Landmark because of the outrageous concentration of Victorian buildings. Instead of being roped off from tourists with entrance fees tacked on, people live in these 600-or-so homes and they make it count. Wandering through the shady, laid-back town, especially near Washington Street, you’ll quickly notice that these colorful Victorians are adorned with elaborate gardens, eccentric details and people casually enjoying their tea on wrap-around porches. This makes the city feel very comfortable, lived-in, and real.
Strolling down Beach Avenue
2. The Cape May Lighthouse, over 100 years old, stands noble and dignified. Climbing lighthouses always seems like an activity you do because your parents make you, but climbing the Cape May Lighthouse is a highlight of the city experience. At the top of the lighthouse, built in 1869, you have a great view overlooking the end of the state (and the beginning of the next) where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean and you can check out the surrounding marshlands, where outdoor fanatics bird watch.
View out of a 100+ year old porthole at the Cape May Lighthouse over the Atlantic
3. It’s a quiet, low-key and romantic beach town. There aren’t too many Jersey Shore towns that can call themselves “romantic” or “low-key” – instead, most are a little cheesy, equipped with their own theme songs, and are muddled with franchises and sticky kids. Cape May, however, with the quiet undertones of Savannah, Georgia or Charlotte, North Carolina, is a hotspot for stately weddings and, thankfully, is fit for adults. A town with pastel Victorians, quiet and cool streets, weeping willows and bed and breakfasts is made for romance. Embrace the sentimentality by going on a beach bike ride down Beach Avenue or going for a $6 wine tasting at the Cape May Winery.
An afternoon wander down Washington Street
4. The city boasts the cleanest beaches around. It’s probably in part because the neat and tidy beaches, such as Higbee Beach or Poverty Beach, cost $6 a day, but nonetheless, the Natural Resource Defense Council has designated the 24 Cape May beaches one of its 38 locations of “Superstar Beaches” due to the quality of the water. You won’t run into any plastic bags or trash on Cape May beaches and, a rarity on the Jersey Shore, you won’t have to worry about any gross contamination here. Cape May feels very clean, luxurious and exclusive not only due to the beautiful homes and hotels, but also because the star attractions of the town stay neat and tidy.
Cape May Point beach is one of the city’s most residential beaches
5. Cape May has got some great dining, shopping and staying. No need to rent a room at the Marriott around here – instead, take advantage of the many antiquated bed-and-breakfasts that ooze regality and charm. Most have their own legends, ghosts, themes and quirks. The same goes for Cape May restaurants in shops – you won’t find too many chains or franchises, but instead, lots of family-owned places that have been run by the same families for decades where you can find some interesting stuff and stellar seafood.
Lunch at A Ca Mia, Italian restaurant and bakery at the Washington Street Mall
When you travel and you are from New Jersey, a familiar feeling arises when someone asks you where you are from – which is that of dread. This is actually a little disheartening considering that New Jersey isn’t a half bad state at all – we have brilliant beaches, intoxicating cities, and quaint suburbs. However, one thing that non-Jerseyans are often surprised to hear (and normally don’t believe anyway, even though it’s on our license plates) is that New Jersey is a true garden state. We are surrounded by rolling hills and colossal forests that make for great weekend getaways when the city becomes too much to bear. Now that spring is on its way, take the plunge and visit some of these green destinations. Drive over to Jersey. I promise you won’t end up in the Hudson.
1. Hot air balloon over the hills. Hot air ballooning is pricey, but it’s a pretty cool way to glaze over the green Jersey landscape (even if you can only afford to do it once). Hitting between 500 and 2500 feet and lasting around an hour, you can take a look at the reservoirs, mountainsides, and even nearby New York City from your balloon. Per passenger, you can pay $215 at Balloons Aloft located in Pittstown, about a half an hour southeast from Easton, Pennsylvania.
Image courtesy of USA Hot Air
2. Tube down the Delaware River. Get off the ground for a little bit by renting a tube, kayak, or canoe and sift on through the Delaware for an afternoon. You won’t have to be bogged by a guide and you can get out and swim (or sleep in the boat) as much as you like. It’s a pretty easy go too – no need to worry about trying to fight down some rapids. For between $26 and $51 per rider for a five to six mile trip (anywhere between 2.5 to four hours depending on your rental), you can visit Delaware River Tubing in Frenchtown, about 35 minutes southeast of Easton, Pennsylvania.
Image courtesy of NJ.com
3. Rent a cabin for non-camping. I don’t know about you, but my idea of camping is hanging out at the Hilton down the street with no pool access. However, there are alternatives. If you want to hang by the forest but aren’t too keen on sleeping in a tent (umm, there are animals and stuff out there) then consider renting a cabin, preferably one near actual stuff to do (and a pool). Check out the Countryside Cottages in Bartonsville, Pennsylvania which you can rent from $200 a night and stay close to the Tannersville Outlets, American Candle, tons of casinos, and Camelback Mountain Resort.
4. Horseback ride through the West. The West of New Jersey, that is. A great way to revamp your hiking habits is to ride a horse instead and get in touch with nature without ever having to touch the ground. For $40 for an hour ride and $180 for a day-long ride at Top View Riding Ranch, you can trek through the Paulinskill Trail and ramble through the river in Blairstown, about 25 minutes east of Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania.
5. Drink fine wines. New Jersey is literally littered with wineries, which isn’t particularly shocking considering the drinks we must consume to deal with the taxes in this state. Wineries are an awesome way to spend some time outside, drink something besides Barefoot, and eat some cheese. At Beneduce Vineyards in Pittstown, you pay $10 to sample several wines alongside cheeses and meats, get a glass to take home, and cruise the vineyard itself in a golf cart afterwards – unsupervised.
6. Dance with wolves. Zoos not really your thing? It’s cool. Check out the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, about 15 minutes southeast of East Stroudsberg, and get on a guided tour for $15 for an hour and a half to see and learn about four different packs of wolves. At the Preserve, you can also do a 1/2 mile hike or hang out in the observation area.
Image courtesy of Lakota Wolf Preserve
7. Zipline down the mountainside. If the amusement park is a bit of a hike for you this weekend, consider taking your thrills to the skies by ziplining this great state and getting some awesome views of the mountains and countryside. For $65 a person, hit the Mountain Creek Zipline Tour in Vernon (one hour from Paramus) with ziplines ranging from 200 feet to 1500 feet suspended above a mountaintop lake.
Image courtesy of Advertiser News South
8. Take a hike (and skip the gym). Hiking is the easiest and cheapest way to get in touch with nature, especially in New Jersey, a state that is flooded with parks and trails that are tempting to get lost on. As Carrie’s crazy ex-boyfriend in Sex and the City once so eloquently stated, “Here’s a secret… hiking… is walking.” Anyway, you can find great hidden-away trails in most Jersey cities you happen to be in, however one favorite is Tourne County Park in Denville, about 15 minutes from Morristown. With 550 acres, a climb to the top of the park boasts phenomenal views of New York City in the distance.
9. Get on your old bike. Got a crappy old mountain bike? Bring it to your local park for a nice ride around and you won’t care when it gets dirty (or destroyed). Once again, parks run rampant in New Jersey, but a great spot for mountain biking is Schooley’s Mountain County Park in Long Valley (thirty minutes from Morristown) which you can tour for road bikes or mountain bikes around the lake, fields, and up the mountain itself for a spectacular view of the countryside below.
Image courtesy of Flickr User
10. Bring home dinner. If you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon hanging out by the lake with a beer in one hand and a fishing pole in the other, New Jersey is the place to be, loaded with lakes and filled with fish. Lake Hopatcong in Hopatcong, near Jefferson and Sparta, is the largest freshwater lake in New Jersey and has tons of docking stations for boats, lakeside bars (check out the Jefferson House, a community favorite), and insane mansions to gander at as you attempt to catch dinner for the wife but end up stopping at ShopRite instead.
For the last few weeks, the already unpleasant East Coast has been experiencing a whole new animal of gelidity – the starkly named Polar Vortex. Each day, we bundle up with our thickest jackets and our heaviest mittens and stuff our faces inside our woolen scarves for the thirty-second walk to the car. We are now shoveling out our cars on a daily basis; illy equipped from our usually cushy lives on the couch.
However, to other remote parts of this icy, cruel world, thirty degrees is the height of summer and warrants a walk in the park (or alongside the frozen pond). And I am here to remind you that no, you do not live in Antartica, but this is just a small, cold phrase of an unusually stark winter (and the end of the world). So, check out the darkest, coldest, and remote regions of the world to make you feel a little better that your job still won’t call in a damn snow day.
1. Verkhoyansk, Russia somehow maintains its roughly 1500 residents in the average-temperatured -50 degrees Fahrenheit. Not surprisingly, it was also the home of political exiles between the 1850s and early 1900s. In 1892, residents recorded a record -90 degrees Fahrenheit which still holds its first-place title today.
2. Oymyakon, Russia is yet another Russian home of about 600 very cold people, who’s kids still go to school when the thermometer hits -52 degrees Fahrenheit. Sadly enough, the village is named after a local hot spring, which can be reached by locals when cracking through the ice. Believe it or not, a tourism board also sits on duty, which promotes their town as an extreme destination for adventurous travelers.
3. Hell, Norway is fittingly named as it is frozen over for about a third of each year; from December through March. Hell maintains its notoriety not only for its sub-artic average temperatures, but also for its clever name and attraction to tourists bored of the beach.
4. Barrow, Alaska doesn’t break freezing until June and even then, it stays barely at 40 degrees Fahrenheit before the sun sets in November and doesn’t reappear until the end of January. Probably for the best, it is only reachable by sea or air.
5. Antartica recently broke its own 30 year record by hitting -136 degrees Fahrenheit, which is colder than dry ice. The only beings that even exist there are organisms such as algae, bacteria, penguins, mites, and seals. There are no permanent human residents and even less survival resources. Feel better yet?
Following Super Storm Sandy and leading into the summer, most New Jersey beachgoers were hesitant about what the season would bring and what the aftermath of the storm would mean for all of those who call the shore home every single weekend from June to August (and probably September… and maybe October). And, even though that “Stronger than the Storm” song that always plays on the radio is especially annoying, the message remains just as relentless as New Jersey itself.
The world was trained to be New Jersey haters. I’m not exceptionally mad about it, mostly because I know that they’re jealous since we boast beautiful beaches, bustling city life, precious little hometowns, and picturesque mountain ranges. However, I am happy to see that following Sandy, the world stood by us and, like siblings, were the ones to have our backs when just weeks ago they were making fun of us for being a wee bit smelly. No biggie.
This past weekend, I hung out in Bay Head for a few days, making some pit stops in Seaside Heights and Island Beach State Park. Last week, I chilled in Asbury and Neptune for a little, and next week, I’ll be in Belmar and Long Branch. Finally, I’ll finish out this precious July in Wildwood and Cape May. When you love the beach, nothing can keep you away.
Throughout the trips to our shore I have been on during the past few months and my awesome time living there once again from January to May following my return from Italy, I have seen people wrought with disaster, their homes and lives in absolute shambles after a devastating storm. I have seen people living in hotels, applying for assistance each and every month, camping out at my own Monmouth University. However, the silver lining is that in New Jersey, you don’t see people crying and complaining about it. They take action. They rebuild. When driving down those streets still filled with rubbish, you’ll also see them filled with people collecting money for relief efforts, men at work repairing fallen homes, and people busy doing all they can to make their lives normal once more. The Jersey Shore Summer will never be diminished by a little rain.
People often complain about the East Coast’s fast-paced lifestyle, where we are constantly working, maybe a little too much. But when this comes to the threatening of our own lucky lives in this great state, we jump to the scene. We do all we can to help our neighbors, to report on what’s been done so far in recreating our lives, and rebuild the homes and places we had so many memories in before that slut Sandy tried to take them away.
So take that, Sandy. You picked the wrong state to try and squash. New Jersey: Stronger than the storm… and anything else that comes our way.
What are some of the stories you have heard or experienced about New Jerseyans rebuilding in the aftermath of Sandy?