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Top 5 Places in New Jersey that Prove that the State is Worth Visiting

Updated on March 24, 2013

There are many reasons why people bash my birth state. They complain about how congested the primary toll road they have to drive on and how stinky it is (although not all of it smells bad). If they want to go to the beaches, they have to traverse the other toll road known as the Garden State Parkway just to face more traffic. They think that all the state's locale consists of Italian mobsters, big-haired mother-foolers, and machos.

Worst of all, they think that there are not many places in New Jersey, the state in question, worth visiting.

People, there are more places in my state far beyond the New Jersey Turnpike and chemical plants. Thus, here are the top 5 places you should check out and see if you want to visit my native state or not!

Note: if you are commenting on the list, please keep it clean and free of profanity, racism, or anything that can induce flames. You may dislike New Jersey, but I suggest that you keep the hatred to yourself.

#5: The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark

New Jersey is noted for having a strong Catholic heritage, and what better way to celebrate it than visiting the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart? Located in Newark, it's worth going to if you are just getting off Newark Liberty International Airport to meet friends in the state.

The church itself is more than just a typical, Gothic Revival church - its architecture is extraordinary. It received notable acclaim as a National Historic Site in 1976 and the late Pope John Paul II elevated to the minor basilica known nowadays in 1995 (when he held a Mass there).

If you are a sacred music fanatic, take the time to linger in the cathedral for a while until you either hear chant or something even better: either one of the two Schantz pipe organs. (The other pipe organ by Rosales, Abbott, and Sieker in the Chapel of Our Lady of Grace is another story.) If you either want to go beyond the stupendous Masses or are a non-Catholic who loves the glory of church music, stop by for the Cathedral Concert series.

Although I have yet to go to the cathedral in person, I recommend it for devout Catholics, history buffs, and pipe organ fanatics alike.

Sounds Like Fun?

#4: The New Jersey Children's Museum, Paramus

Have kids and traveling to NJ? Take them to the New Jersey Children's Museum in Paramus and let them have fun! This location features various exhibits that make them squeal and laugh! They include an authentic 1954 Ahrens Open Cab Fire Truck, a medieval castle for the young princesses and princes, and a huge Lite-Brite-like Mosaic Board to arrange colored pegs to form pictures.

I went there once with my classmates from my elementary alma mater, the Forum School (a school just for special needs students, including autistics like me). One of my favorites was the Ballet Studio, because I fostered my love for ballet. It's also a great birthday party location - just book your spot and let them do the work for you!

#3: The Land of Make Believe & Pirate's Cove, Hope

How I love when my thoughts run
To the land of make believe,
Where everything is fun

- Chuck Mangione

Nestled in the wooded Jenny Jump Mountains of northwestern New Jersey, the Land of Make Believe provides family fun at an affordable price. Since 1954, this lovely amusement park offers a lot for all ages. Take a train ride on a Civil War-era locomotive. Ride their custom-made Tilt-A-Whirl until you puke. Visit the Enchanted Christmas Village for a bit of Christmas in July.

For water park fans, head to Pirate's Cove. The double-tube slide, The Black Hole, is first rate and the Sidewinder is (as boasted by the park) the first half-pipe slide in the state! For the younger set, Blackbeard's Pirate's Fort and the Wading Pool (boasted as the largest in the US) are delightful.

I for one have been to the amusement park a few times, and I fondly remembered going there for my cousin's 8th birthday. But real thrill-seekers won't be able to see a real roller coaster in the park, but they still can relax in the picnic areas!

Skull Mountain

Summer 1996
Summer 1996

El Toro!!!

#2: Six Flags Great Adventure and Wild Safari (with Hurricane Harbor), Jackson

A lot of people outside the state think that New Jerseyans drive the oft-maligned New Jersey Turnpike for that one and only purpose: to get off it.

Well, here's another reason to drive down the road, even if it kills you. Six Flags Great Adventure and Wild Safari, with its Hurricane Harbor, is located minutes from there, a few minutes off Interstate 195.

If you want something that goes beyond the almost-all kiddie wonderland of Hope's Land of Make Believe or dare to spend more for family fun, this location is for you. Yes, there are rides for the young-uns in your travel parties (Heck, I've been there at least once!), but it offers a wider variety of rides for older kids and daring adults alike.

The Six Flags park features many top-notch roller coasters, from the mild to the uber-wild. Providing that you are not a craven chicken, try going on Kingda Ka, which is the tallest coaster in the whole wide world. Take a spin on Nitro, a steel hypercoaster that features seven breathtaking drops.

For the woodie-crazed nut, I recommend El Toro, which drops you more than 75 degrees on the first drop! For the more traditional wooden coaster lover, race each other on the dual-track Rolling Thunder.

If you are not into coasters or are an animal lover, check out the Wild Safari. Take a drive through an auto trail that cuts to a wildlife preserve and watch for animals as they approach up-close and personal. Be forewarned - it costs additional admission to drive through it!

If you want something more than just pint-sized Pirate's Cove, check out the mega-water park Hurricane Harbor. Youngsters will love Discovery Bay with kid-sized slides, buckets, and more of that kiddie fun. Thrill buffs can try either one of the three enclosed tube slides in a set aptly named Bada Bing, Bada Bang, Bada Boom! Got a family? Have them pick between twisting Reef Runner or the jaw-dropping Big Bambu, both raft slides! For the adventurous party, I dare you guys to check out the Tornado!

If you happen to have a really fat wallet and your driving down that turnpike, get thee to Six Flags and discover what's beyond that road.

(Note: You can drive there from another often-bashed road, the Garden State Parkway, to Interstate 195 west!)

Blue Army Shrine

Circa Fall 1993
Circa Fall 1993

#1: National Blue Army Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Washington Township

Want to know my number 1 spot on the list?

The National Blue Army Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is more than just a series of small chapels and an open-air church for those who want serenity; it's a great Catholic hotspot. It overlooks the beautiful Muscontecong Valley as well as serves thousands of devout Catholic pilgrims local and worldwide annually. It's one of the first shrines Our Lady of Fatima in the USA and its headquarters of the World Apostolate of Fatima.

The shrine complex features three lovely chapels: an exact replica of the Capelinha of Fatima, Portugal, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel with its Fatima Apparition Shrine, and the Holy House USA, with the mortar from the stones of the original Holy House in Italy. The Rosary Gardens provides you with a meditative setting that is perfect for prayer.

If you are thinking why a Catholic place of interest is number on on my countdown, consider this. I grew up making a pilgrimage to the shrine as a Catholic myself. I first visited this gem as a child in between two sessions on the day I received the auditory aspect of sensory integration therapy (I'm autistic). I remembered going there with my grandmother and my parents, but the highlight of all pilgrimages was the one with my ex-cousins when they visited my house.

If you want a serene place to go in New Jersey or are a Catholic, this is the place to visit!

If you think that New Jersey is all chemical plants, oil refineries, pollutions, and tollways, think again. It may be tiny and crowded as the state's population density has it. But look at places in what people ignorantly call the "armpit of America" - a lot of them are beautiful and/or interesting to look at!

I hope those places would be something to reconsider that thought that New Jersey is a stinky, all-tollway state.

See the Real New Jersey...

...not just the road that you define the state marked with a green-and-white hexagon sign!
...not just the road that you define the state marked with a green-and-white hexagon sign! | Source

Would you consider visiting any place in New Jersey if you have the chance?

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    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 7 years ago from New York

      Great hub. I love New Jersey (or is it New Joisy?) joking. Hey New Jersey is my neighbor, I live in NY. Viva New Jersey!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

      Hi Talfonso,

      This was an awesome, refreshing hub about New Jersey, which is also my own home state.

      Thanks for sharing information about some great places to visit.