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What's to Love About New Jersey?

Updated on May 29, 2014

The Garden State of the Mid-Atlantic

New Jersey - Home to Millions of Tourists Every Year

Those living west and south of New Jersey are mystified by the appeal this Mid-Atlantic state has for millions of tourists. New Jersey is to tourists what a Christmas tree is to a small child. The glow and sparkle of the treasure trove New Jersey emits captures the imagination and desire to open the many gifts it truly is.

According to a 2011 tally by state officials, New Jersey averages approximately 13 million tourists each year. In a state with barely 9 million year round residents, New Jerseyans become accustomed to congested roads and crowded tourist spots. From north to south, New Jersey has something for everyone if you do your homework and look for the numerous highlights to add to your itinerary.

New Jersey History

New Jersey is physically a peninsula banded by the Atlantic Ocean on the eastern coast and the Delaware River on the western coast. The first white man to sail along the coast of New Jersey was a Florentine navigator, Giovanni da Verrazano, for whom the Verrazano Bridge that connects New Jersey to New York City is named. Giovanni da Verrazano anchored his ship off the coast of New Jersey in 1524. One hundred years later, Henry Hudson, in 1609, landed his ship the Half Moon to strengthen the Dutch claim to the area. Hudson's voyage log outlines his exploration of the entire eastern coast north of Delaware Bay with stops in the Raritan and Newark bays and sailing on past to the Palisades. Hudson's men encountered the native New Jersey Lenni Lenape part of the Delaware tribe of Indians who inhabited this region. Their encounter with the largely peaceful Lenni Lenape erupted into violence on several occasions. The Lenni Lenape population declined due to the introduction of white man's illnesses and disease. The few that remained in the colony of New Jersey in 1758 gathered together at Indian Mill in Burlington County, New Jersey, at the site of the first Indian reservation in the country.

New Jersey's First Settlers

New Jersey in 46th in land mass and 8th in population. It's No. 1 in population density per square mile and often compared to the population density of Hong Kong. The Dutch first settled New Jersey in the 1620s when they established a trading post at Bergen (now Jersey City). Another was established with a fortress at what is now Camden, New Jersey. The Dutch claims to the area were challenged by Swedes and Finns in 1638 who settled on the west bank of the Delaware River (near what is now Wilmington Delaware). Conflicts erupted between the Dutch, Swedes and Finns, though neither had sufficient troops to realize victory.

In 1664, King Charless II granted domain to his brother, James, Duke of York. The Duke, in turn, granted Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret a portion of New Jersey between the Hudson and the Delaware Rivers. Trenton, was not designated New Jersey's capital until 1790 when New Jersey entered statehood.

Wars Fought in New Jersey

As British restrictions imposed severity on commerce and trade in New Jersey, the state became involved in the Revolutionary War prior to entering statehood. Approximately 100 military actions of the Revolutionary War too place on New Jersey soil. For Revolutionary war historians, New Jersey offers a wealth of information and sites where battles were fought. After surprising the Hessian garrison at Trenton December 26, 1776, Washington defeated a British force at Princeton January 3, 1777. Washington's army wintered that year at Morristown. New Jersey's most famous battle was at Monmouth. General Charles Lee's treachery prevented an American victory at Monmouth. Lee was considered a traitor who refused to follow Washington's orders at the Battle of Middletown Heights.

The Civil War sharply divided New Jersey in its sympathies. Although anti-slavery was accepted by the populace, economic factors provoked much opposition to the Union cause. Newark industrialists, in particular, opposed the war because of the excellent markets in the South. A strong Democratic Pary kept the state in constant turmoil with outspoken criticism in the state legislature and some outright Copperhead activities in the north. There was strong opposition to Lincoln which didn't impede support for the Union cause. Approximately 90,000 New Jersey men entered into the service on the Union side before the Civil War ended. New Jersey industries hastened to convert to full war production and found military markets.

From Garden State to Garden of Industry State

New Jersey's apple farmers were among the first of the major eastern seaboard industries in the 1600s. Interestingly, apples were shipped from local New Jersey farms along various rivers and streams out to coastal New Jersey ports where they were then shipped to other states. With ample supplies of water and raw materials, New Jersey quickly became an industrial hub for manufacturing of chemicals, electrical machinery, metal products, stone, clay, lumber, glass, paper, rubber, leather and plastic in addition to tobacco and the famous Jersey Tomatoes. Much of the clay manufactured into bricks originated from the clay beds along the Raritan River Bay and Cheesequake River in central New Jersey. Thomas Edison is numbered among the famous New Jersey inventors. His original laboratory is visited every year by tourists in Edison, New Jersey. Fishing is also a large part of New Jersey's industrial base. Nearly 2,000 boats engage in commercial fishing in New Jersey. In terms of transportation, New Jersey is the crossroad to the north-south coastal traffic. Today, New Jersey ranks 2nd in the country in hi-tech industries located along "Hi-Tech Corridor" near South Brunswick and Princeton on State Highway No. 1.

Down the Shore - Tourists' Delight

The number of beaches along New Jersey's coast account for the annual influx of tourists to this state. There's Island Beach State Park, Sandy Hook, Point Pleasant, Long Branch, Asbury Park, Atlantic City and the Victorian darling, Cape May. New Jersey beaches, unlike others along the eastern seaboard, offer a full compliment of amusements for adults and children. For example, Atlantic City's casino keep adults entertained while children can enjoy the many amusement park rides. Salt water taffy is a New Jersey shore specialty along with cotton candy, freshly prepared sausage and pepper sandwiches and homemade custard ice cream made on the boardwalks. The Boardwalk at Atlantic City sports one other feature: a wax museum. But, New Jersey isn't just a trip down the shore. In Camden, the state aquarium is a regular item on tourists' itineraries. New Jersey is also home to Turtleback Zoo. In Cape May, stroll along and enjoy afternoon high tea Victorian style at any of the gracefully appointed inns.

New Jersey's lighthouses are often captured by photography hobbyists. Fishermen peruse Northern and Southern New Jersey lakes for trout, bass and other fresh water fish. For railroad fans, New Jersey hosts some of the most architecturally interesting train stations and railroad museums like the full scale train museum in Whippany. The Fanwood Train Station is the delight of railroad history buffs with its romantic tale of how it earned its name.

Although it's presently under renovation, the old Helme Tobacco Factory in Helmetta is another structure worth photographing. Many of the early Robber Baron mansions are still standing in New Jersey like the old George Jay Gould mansion that's now Georgian Court College or the Golf House of John D. Rockefeller. Camden is the former home of poet Walt Whitman, while Matawan is the former home of French poet, Philip Freneau.

For the younger generation, down the shore means beach night clubs where they can hear music and dance. New Jersey has spawned many of the most recognized athletes, actors, actresses, singers and dancers like Queen Latifah, the late James Gandolfini, tap dance genius, Savion Glover, Football greats, Drew Pearson and Joe Theismann, Martha Stewart and Meryl Streep, to name just a few. Two other New Jerseyans sit on the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Former New Jersey governor, Woodrow Wilson became president of Princeton University and the 28th president of the United States.

New Jersey's Watchung mountains offer campers and hikers the opportunity to try out their outdoor skills. In northern New Jersey, winter time offers sking and snowboarding. Along the Raritan Canal near the town of Kingston settled in 1501, there's canoeing and fishing. Hope, New Jersey is home to the religious Mennonite sect. Along the way, antique hunters can find their treasures tucked along roadside.

In Southern New Jersey, acres and acres of farmland sport roadside vegetable stands where buyers find Jersey tomatoes, corn, peaches, cranberries and blueberries freshly picked.

New Jersey's landscape and affinity for constant progress and mobility fulfills the line in the national anthem, "From sea to shining sea."

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