The Official Jersey Bucket List

As we all continue to wait to be paroled from Coronavirus jail, many of us are making plans of what we would like to do once we are free to go anywhere and do anything. Well, this had me start to make a “Jersey bucket list;” all the things Jersey-related someone should do at some point.

I hope you consider checking out some of these ideas once we are turned loose. Whether you are a foodie, a shopper extraordinaire, or someone who loves the outdoors, there is something on this list for everyone.

Visit High Point: At 1,803 feet above sea level, High Point State Park is the highest spot in the state. High Point is also the highest peak of the Kittatinny Mountains. The view is simply spectacular, as you can see New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The land for High Point State Park, donated by Colonel Anthony R. and Susie Dryden Kuser, was dedicated as a park in 1923. You can hike, swim, fish, and camp.

Hike the New Jersey Section of the Appalachian Trail: While you are checking out High Point, get on the Appalachian Trail. The “AT” as it is often referred to, is a non-governmental, independently managed recreation facility of the national park system and is the nation’s longest marked hiking trail at 2,180 miles. The AT runs from Maine all the way to Georgia. The New Jersey section is 74 miles long. If you are a serious hiker, many can complete the entire New Jersey section in less than a week. It can also be traversed in shorter day hikes. Hiking the Trail is a great way to see some of the most beautiful parts of the state.

Rutt's Hut

A typical meal at the Jersey famous Rutt’s Hut.

Complete the Hot Dog Trifecta: In Jersey we have opinions about EVERYTHING. Including who has the best hot dog. For many, it comes down to three: Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, Hirams in Fort Lee, and Hot Grill in Clifton. I know some who would argue River View East in Elmwood Park or Maui’s Dog House, North Wildwood. We certainly have a ton of great options!

Decide which is the Best Italian Hot Dog: Just like everyone has their favorite hot dog joint, there is always an argument as to who has the best Italian hot dogs. It comes down to two places: Dickie Dee’s in Newark and Jimmy Buff’s in West Orange. Try both and decide for yourself.

SunsetBeach

The rocks at Sunset Beach

Visit Sunset Beach in Cape May: This is one of my favorite places in the entire state. I could easily spend an entire day at Sunset Beach. Take the kids to play miniature golf, grab a bite to eat the The Grille, or do my favorite thing of all – dig for Cape May diamonds on the beach. The most touching moment of the day takes place as the sun sets. At the end of each day at Sunset Beach during the summer, make sure to stay and watch the flag ceremony. All of the flags flown at Sunset Beach are veterans’ casket flags that families bring with them from their loved one’s funeral. It is a truly moving event.

Shop the outlets in Atlantic City: As you leave Cape May, check out the great deals at the outlets in Atlantic City. From Calvin Klein, to Coach, to Cablea’s, there’s something for every member of your family. It is definitely worth the ride!

Visit Morristown National Historical Park: One of my first dates with my now husband was a visit to Jockey Hollow. It is a great place to see “where America survived.” The entire area is known as Morristown National Historical Park and includes multiple interesting places to explore and commemorates the sites of General Washington and the Continental army’s winter encampment of December 1779 to June 1780, where they survived through what would be the coldest winter on record.

Plan a Wine Tasting Event at One of Jersey’s Wineries: The Garden State is home to over 40 wineries. It’s history goes all the way back to 1758 when Great Britain’s Royal Society offered £100 to any colonist who would produce red or white wine “of acceptable quality,” meaning the wine was of the same caliber as that being purchased from France. While New Jersey’s wine history has experienced challenges, it is now flourishing!

Visit all of New Jersey’s Lighthouses: There are over 20 lighthouses still in existence in New Jersey and they are from the top of New Jersey to the bottom; not just down the shore. About half of those are open to the public.

Catch a Wild Brook Trout on a Dry Fly: When people talk about fly fishing they usually think of two things: Montana and the movie A River Runs Through It. What you might not know is that there’s plenty of great places to fly fish right in New Jersey. As someone who has been fly fishing for over two decades, there is nothing like catching a fish – any fish – on top water. To me, the most perfect catch is a native wild brook trout on a dry fly. For me that would be on one of four of my favorite dry flies: an Adams, a Royal Wulff, A Blue Wing Olive, or an Elk Hair Caddis. And not your standard 12 or 13 inch brook trout; a serious brookie. In case you didn’t know, the brook trout is the state’s official fish.

Go to Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart: One of the most beautiful churches in the state is the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. During Pope John Paul II’s visit to the United States in 1995, he celebrated evening prayer at the Cathedral. At this occasion, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was elevated to a minor basilica to become the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Enjoy Dinner at The Belmont: Growing up, I had two favorite restaurants: The Finish Line and The Belmont and I had favorite dishes at each place. At The Finish Line, I loved their zuppa di pesce. At The Belmont, I know many people go for Stretch’s “Famous” Chicken Savoy, but for me it was always their Scrod “Di Giacomo” Oreganato.  I haven’t been to The Belmont in a long time, and I am way overdue.

Lemonade and a Cheese Steak at The Midway: Like many others, I have great memories of going “down the shore.” I’ve learned your shore stop has a lot to do with you age. When I was a teenager, like many others, my stop was Seaside. A favorite practice of mine was to grab a cheese steak and lemonade at The Midway, sit on one of the many benches, and people watch. It was always fascinating. Sadly, Sandy and the boardwalk fire took away the “shore of my youth” as Governor Christie put it. What hasn’t changed is the opportunity for cheese steak and lemonade at The Midway while people watching.

Visit the Pine Barrens: The Pinelands is the largest remaining example of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecosystem, stretching across more than seven counties of New Jersey. Congress created the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, the country’s first National Reserve, to protect the area under the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. The reserve contains Wharton State Forest, Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, Bass River State Forest, and Penn State Forest. It is approximately 1.1 million acres and spans portions of seven counties. The reserve occupies 22% of New Jersey’s land area and it is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond and Boston. The Pinelands was designated a U.S. Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1983 and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1988. It is also known as the home of the legend of The Jersey Devil.

I’m sure there’s a lot I am missing. What is on your Jersey bucket list?

The Jersey Shore, the Red Knot, and the Horseshoe Crab

While we have all been under lock and key for the last two months, something amazing has been happening outside. Nature has taken over.

Air pollution has decreased dramatically in the Northeast. Nests of the Leatherback Turtles in Thailand are at their highest levels for 20 years. Ocean life has increased due to the lack of global shipping activity. And depending on what you read, there has been an increase in red knot and horseshoe crab activity off the coast of New Jersey.

A recent article on Forbes.com reports that horseshoe crab and red knot populations have stabilized during the important spawning season for the crabs and the migration period for the red knots. Meanwhile, another article, this one from the public media outlet in Philadelphia, has reported numbers of horseshoe crabs and red knots have dropped precipitously this year.

I have not been to the Jersey Shore this year, so I can’t say which is accurate. It is important to remember, however, that the red knot and the horseshoe crabs are both important parts of the New Jersey ecosystem and the two species are intertwine at the Jersey Shore.

RedKnot

A red knot at the Jersey Shore. source: NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife

In 1999, the red knot was listed as a threatened species in New Jersey under the New Jersey Threatened Species Act. As a result of the Red Knot Status Assessment in fall 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the red knot as a candidate for federal listing and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada recommended listing the red knot as endangered in April 2007.

Each spring, red knots migrate from wintering areas as far south as the southern tip of South America, to breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic; 20,000 miles round trip. The red knot is one of the longest-distance migrants spending over six months of the year migrating back and forth between wintering and breeding areas.

The Delaware Bay is an essential part of the red knot’s spring migration because it is the center of the Western Hemisphere’s only population of horseshoe crabs. Horseshoe crab eggs are quickly metabolized into fat by the red knots. That fat store allows these small birds to double their body weight in approximately two or three weeks.

The Delaware Bay is the last stop before they make their way to their arctic breeding grounds. The fat they add to their body mass by filling up on the eggs of the horseshoe crabs allow red knots to survive, continue courtship, mating, and egg laying until food becomes available.  Without a sufficient fat reserve, their survival is at risk.

So if you head to the Jersey Shore and see a red knot, consider yourself lucky. If you see a horseshoe crab, make sure it isn’t on its back. What is most important is that you enjoy them from afar whenever possible and know you are witnessing a unique relationship that only happens at the Jersey Shore.

Get Ready for Small Business Saturday

Small Business SaturdayThis week officially kicks off the holiday season. Thanksgiving on Thursday, then Black Friday, and finally Small Business Saturday. I have never participated on Black Friday. Think about it – people get up at the crack of dawn to fight each other for a deal on a big screen television the day after they gave thanks for what they have.

Small business Saturday, however, is definitely something worth remembering. Do the big box stores sponsor your child’s softball team? Probably not. The local bagel shop, however, takes what happens in the community to heart. These business owners are our neighbors and friends. They deserve our support.

Every neighborhood and town offers great small business. I hope you will consider patronizing them as well during this holiday season:

Respectrum Books: Thankfully, independently-owned book stores are making a HUGE comeback. Respectrum Books is a great book shop in the town of Sussex that offers  new, used, and rare books covering a variety of subjects to inspire and inform. A carefully selected book is a wonderful gift!

Trinity Thrift Shop: I absolutely love going to thrift shops. And there are few thrift shops that are better than Trinity Thrift in Hackettstown. Run by Trinity Church, the shop offers a wide variety of unique items. I have picked up antique cameras there as well as Lenox china. Some may not thing shopping in a thrift shop is proper, but if you are looking for something specific or special, check out Trinity Thrift.

Gallery D’May: Whenever we head down the shore, we always make sure to stop in Gallery D’May. It is a favorite place for all things shore art. I have a piece we purchased them in my office. It reminds me every day of the beauty of Cape May.

Surprises in Store: From candles, to platters, to hostess gifts, Surprises in Store in Denville is one of my favorite and unique shops. They offer lovely and unique gifts for the hard to purchase individual on your list.

These are just a few of the many wonderful individually-owned shops throughout New Jersey. I hope you will considering “shopping small” this Saturday.

Fall Festivals: Jersey Style

Van Ripers Farm

10/22/1975 Woodcliff Lake. The witches, ghosts, and goblins are making a return visit at Van Riper’s Farm in Woodcliff Lake as Holloween draws near. Photo Credit: Peter Monsees

Many people look forward to fall. The turning of the leaves. Picking pumpkins. Apple cider donuts. It helps make the thought of the cold winter on the way much more tolerable. As a child, I fondly remember going to Van Ryper Farms in Woodcliff Lake, carefully passing the scary witch, to pick the perfect family pumpkin and bring home a bag of hot cider donuts. Sadly, as Joni Mitchell laments, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

Thankfully, there are still many great fall festivals up and down the Garden State. From the food and drink to pumpkins and cider, New Jersey has something for everyone! Here are some to wonderful events for everyone in the family.

Fall Fest Food Truck and Music Festival, Wildwood

Many times I have shared stories about my love of Wildwood and Wildwood Crest. Well, the fun “down the shore” doesn’t end on Labor Day. The Fall Fest Food Truck and Music Festival takes place on September 21st. This years Fall Fest will take place in Fox Park, from 11am – 4pm. There is a “kids zone” for the little ones and plenty of great food and music!

Fall Festival & Classic Car Show, Union

Enjoy some chili while checking out beautiful classic cars at the Fall Festival & Classic Car Show in Union. This is a relatively new event and takes place at Stuyvesant Ave from Vauxhall Rd. to the Cannon and it sounds like a lot of fun!

Cranberry Fest 2019, Bordentown City

The history of cranberries is older than the recorded history of America. Long before the first European settlers arrived, the Indians not only ate cranberries, but also used them as medicine and clothing dye. New Jersey is one of the top farming locations in the country for our this little tart berry. The Cranberry Fest in Bordentown City is in its 30th year and offers over 150 crafters, artists and vendors, and 40,000 visitors annually.

Bloomfield 2019 Harvest Fest

Right nearby my beloved home town of Belleville is the Bloomfield 2019 Harvest Fest. This wonderful event includes the best food from local restaurants, rides, and even a petting zoo for the kids!

So what are your favorite festivals?

 

 

Shop Small Jersey Style

While many are out today on Black Friday shopping on major department stores like Target and Best Buy, I find Small Business Saturday much more important.

Small Business SaturdayStarted in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday is meant to encourage consumers to shop at locally-owned stores in their communities. Small businesses generate the majority of jobs in the United States. According to reports from the U.S. Small Business Administration small companies accounted for 64% of new jobs created in the U.S. between 1993 and 2011.

Whenever possible, I make a point to “shop small.” I have found the quality of merchandise is better and the customer service is always great!

I would like to share a few different shops I frequent. They are all wonderful places to shop and I encourage my readers to do the same.

Whitewater Flies, Lafayette: Business owner Greg runs a great fly shop in Sussex County. If you need a gift for your favorite fly angler, I highly suggest you check out Whitewater Flies. He is very knowledgeable and can help you find the perfect gift.

Fiber Arts Yarn Shop, Cape May: Whenever my husband and I head “down the shore,” we visit the Fiber Arts Yarn Shop. It is a wonderful shop that offers a wide variety of yarns, buttons, crochet hooks, knitting needles, and more. A great gift might even be a gift certificate to an upcoming class!

Sergio’s, Denville: I absolutely love shopping the main street of Denville. Just about every shop is a locally-owned business. Sergio’s offers delicious imported Italian specialties. How about making a gift basket full of Italian goodies? Sounds like a perfect gift to me!

Kevin’s Fine Jewelry, Totowa: My husband and I have shopped at Kevin’s Fine Jewelry several times. Kevin and his staff are both knowledgeable and pleasant. If you need something special this is the place to go! Kevin and his team can even create a custom piece if you would like!

PhotoZone, Parsippany: Whether you are looking for a basic digital camera or a high end SLR, PhotoZone can help you. PhotoZone is a second-generation owned photography shop with unparalleled knowledge about photography. You can find PhotoZone inside SoundWaves; another great small business focused on home and auto audio electronics.

These are just a few of the many great small businesses throughout the state of New Jersey. I hope my readers will shop small on Saturday!

“Down the Shore” – Part Four in a Series

caribbeanmotel_wildwoods1

The Caribbean Motel

My final post in my “Down the Shore” series is about the small beach community of Wildwood Crest. Noted for its independently owned “Doo Wop” motels with names like the Jolly Roger, Tangiers, and Blue Marlin of the mid twentieth century, The Crest is a favorite destination spot for families.

Wildwood Crest came into existence with the dawn of the twentieth century and its history  has more than its share of memorable happenings. The Baker Brothers, successful merchants from the farm community of Vineland, had visited the area known as Five Mile Beach on several occasions and were impressed by its natural beauty and expansive beaches. They were convinced of its potential as a resort and considered its development as a profitable business investment.¹

 

Now families love to visit the Doo Wop motels of Wildwood Crest. These motels were once in danger of being demolished and replaced with high-end condos. Thankfully, there has been a movement underway to save these special places as an important part of the area’s history. These motels have quirky decor that include fake palm trees, bridges over the center of their pools, and neon signs. Once the sun goes down it is a great fun to take a ride down Atlantic and Ocean Avenues and check out these motels all lit up.

Wildwood Crest is one of five municipalities in the state that offer free public access to

Wildwood Crest Beach

Wildwood Crest beach

oceanfront beaches monitored by lifeguards. And the beaches offer plenty of space for everyone!

A favorite event for visitors is riding the tram car on the boardwalk. For decades visitors have been reminded to “Watch the tram car, please.” It is a great way for families and the elderly to enjoy the boardwalk even though they may have issues walking. Take time to play skee-ball, eat a slice, and have some frozen custard.

I hope you have enjoyed my multi-part series of the Jersey Shore. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I hope you do!

Sources:

1: https://cresthistory.org/

“Down the Shore” – Part Three in a Series

If you enjoy Victorian architecture, beautiful sandy beaches, and not a franchise store in sight, I highly recommend you check out Cape May.  The entire city is designated the Cape May Historic District, a National Historic Landmark due to its concentration of Victorian buildings. You can enjoy a Kohr’s Brothers Frozen Custard while you check out the shops on the Washington Street Mall.

Henry Hudson, an English Sea Captain, first documented the peninsula that is now Cape May. It was 1609 and Captain Hudson was sailing his small yacht, the “Half Moon”, when he came upon a small peninsula situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay. It wasn’t until 1620 that Dutch Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey came upon the same peninsula while exploring the Delaware River. Captain Mey named the area Cape Mey after himself; the spelling was later changed to Cape May. ¹

Cape May has catered to visitors since the 1600’s when Native American tribes summered here, but a community didn’t form in the area until 1685. In 1688, Quakers formed the first government based on strict moral order and Quaker piety. At this time a large whaling industry was beginning and many families from New York and New England, as well as a few original Mayflower families, were migrating to the area.¹

SunsetBeach

The rocks at Sunset Beach

Often referred to as “exit zero” on the Garden State Parkway, Cape May is actually an island right at the end of the state. I especially love Sunset Beach, home of the famous “Cape May Diamonds.” What are they you might ask? Well, you may not know it, but Sunset Beach is home to piles of amazing rocks, including quartz, which are made clear by the constant motion of the water as they move down the Delaware River.

Sunset Beach is also home to the USS Atlantus – The Concrete

Atlantus

The USS Atlantus

Ship. Due to a critical shortage of steel, during World War I, the federal government turned to experimental design concrete ships. An emergency fleet of 38 concrete ships were planned, by the United States Sipping Board. Only 12 of the concrete ships were ever put into service.² In 1926, the Atlantus was towed to Cape May. A Baltimore firm was attempting to start a ferry service from Cape May to Lewes, Delaware. During a storm on June 8th, 1926, the Atlantus broke loose of her moorings during a storm and went aground. Several attempts were made to free the Atlantus to no avail. It now sits in the water off the beach and can be seen during low tide.

At the end of each day at Sunset Beach during the summer, make sure to stay and watch the flag ceremony. All of the flags flown at Sunset Beach are veterans’ casket flags that families bring with them from their loved one’s funeral. It is a truly moving event.

As you can tell, I love going to Sunset Beach, but there are plenty of other things to experience in Cape May. Walking through Cape May is like walking through a Norman Rockwell painting. There are charming shops with lovely artwork, wonderful restaurants, and of course just walk down any of the streets full of beautiful Victorian architecture. I promise you, a day in Cape May is a day in heaven.

Sources:

  1. https://www.capemayoceanclubhotel.com/about-cape-may.php
  2. http://www.sunsetbeachnj.com/Things-To-Do/#Concrete-Ship