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In New Jersey, scenic pastoral landscapes and coastlines meet rich cultural hubs. In the dense urban centers lining the Hudson River, the hustle of city life is met with the bustle of cultural enclaves from India Square in Jersey City to the Korean eats in Fort Lee. But drive out a little farther and the Garden State reveals itself, with mountain reserves, massive lakes, and even the second-largest waterfall in volume east of the Mississippi at Paterson’s Great Falls. Travel south and you’ll find the unparalleled beach towns on the Atlantic Coast, as well as the vast Pine Barrens — and anywhere you go in the state, you’re sure to run into charming towns, like Clinton, with its vintage Red Mill, or Lambertville along the Delaware River.
While it’s known as one of the three New York City-area airports, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) also serves as the main hub into New Jersey. If you’re heading to the southern part of the state, though, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), across the Delaware River, may be a better option. The state has its own public transportation system, NJ Transit, which runs trains (mostly in the northern part), light rail (between North Bergen and Bayonne and within Newark), and buses. But Jersey’s most famous transportation system comprises two main highways: the NJ Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. In fact, if you want to speak like a true New Jerseyan, identify yourself by your exit number.
With shores, mountains, small towns, and urban hubs, there’s a reason in every season to visit New Jersey. Beachgoers flock to the shore between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with June being the best bet, since July and August can bring stifling and humid heat. In the autumn, the Garden State shows off its color palette with peak fall foliage from late September in the north to early November in the south. Winters can be a mixed bag — snowy periods alternate with chilly sunny days. Spring brings back the garden views, especially at April’s Cherry Blossom Festival in Branch Brook Park, with 4,000 trees—surpassing Washington, D.C.’s collection in volume and variety.
The Statue of Liberty may call New York City home, but she stands much closer to Jersey at the 1,212-acre Liberty State Park. The wide-open Hudson River views, from Midtown Manhattan to the Verrazano Bridge, are best seen along the two-mile waterfront promenade walk. The park is home to the Liberty Science Center, with the Western Hemisphere’s biggest planetarium, and the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal, where immigrants boarded trains to their new lives after arriving at Ellis Island. The park is also home to the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial, strategically placed to guide visitors to look at the skyline with the missing towers.
With 90 miles of white-sand beaches, the Jersey Shore has long lured visitors, and even invented the entire genre of boardwalk culture when the first was built in Atlantic City in 1870. From the family-friendly beach towns on Long Beach Island to the historic Victorian homes in Cape May — plus a 65-foot tall elephant named Lucy in Margate — the state’s Atlantic coast line is a centerpiece of American beach-going.
Reality and art blend at this outdoor sculpture garden where dramatic steam rises from some pieces, and others are so lifelike, you might find yourself striking up a conversation. Perhaps the most notable works are the 3-D takes on famous paintings.