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?

Five Tips to Surviving Coronavirus – Jersey Style

So we’ve all been hearing about the expansion of the Coronavirus around the world on a minute-by-minute basis. A lot of people are in quarantine – either by choice or government mandate; others are following curfews. We are all social distancing and every school in New Jersey has been switched to remote learning.

For the next few weeks (or longer, possibly), what are we going to do? Here are five suggestions on how to survive Coronavirus with a Jersey flair.

  1. Binge Watch: There are plenty of great Jersey movies and television shows to watch while you are cooped up in the house. Need some suggestions? How about some of my favorite shows and movies with a Jersey theme:
    1. The Sopranos (I mean, do I really need to explain this one?)
    2. Cop Land (a great movie starring Sly Stallone)
    3. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (when you need a good laugh)
    4. Eddie and the Cruisers (think Bruce in a movie)
    5. Garden State (a home-grown cult classic from Jersey’s own Zach Braff)
  2. Tick-Tock

    Coffee at the Tick Tock

    Grab a Bite: Even though we are no longer allowed to go to our favorite diner, you can still enjoy disco fries – just at home. Place an order to go bring home a hamburger deluxe or a TEC (that’s taylor ham, egg, and cheese for you non-North Jersey folks). Not only will you avoid cooking one night, you’ll be supporting small business owners in your community that need your help so they will still be there when life gets back to normal. My favorites? The Jefferson Diner in Jefferson, the Tick Tock in Clifton, and the Roxbury Diner in Roxbury.

  3. Go for a Walk: There’s going to come a point when we all need to get out for some fresh air. While some towns are closing down their parks, the Morris County Parks Commission still offers plenty of great locations to get out, stretch your legs, and clear your mind. They are keeping their website up to date with what parks are available.
  4. Turn off the News and Grab a Beer: While I appreciate the media working to keep us up to date on all the latest updates, over time it can really get on your last nerve (I know it is for me). Turn off the television and try and to get it off your mind. Enjoy a brew of the deck instead. I suggest picking up some Angry Erik.
  5. Be Jersey Tough: At the end of the day, let’s face it. There’s no one tougher than people from New Jersey. We need to put up with traffic on the Turnpike and corruption from our politicians. Not to mention all the abuse from residents of other states who think they know what New Jersey is all about. But remember, we know better. Just hang tough. It will all be over soon.

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.

Ramblin’ Around: Jersey Events this Weekend

In the fall there are plenty of weekend festivals. It seems like the third weekend of October are always full of great events. There are three specific festivals I would like to share with you.

StLucysThe Feast of St. Gerard: Saint Lucy’s Church on Seventh Avenue in Newark is the home of the National Shrine of St. Gerard. He was born in Muro, a small town in the South of Italy on April 6, 1726 and is the patron saint of expectant mothers. In the second half of 1890s, the predominant immigrant groups in the First Ward were coming from the Province of Avellino. They came with a sense religious life deeply expressed in a love for St. Gerard, who lived in the Province of Avellino during eighteenth-century. In 1899, immigrants from Caposele, Italy introduced the annual feast in honor of St. Gerard, who died October 16, 1755. In 1977, St. Gerard’s chapel in St. Lucy’s Church was dedicated as a national shrine.

Members of my family, like thousands of other families who trace their heritage through Italy, pay homage to St. Gerard each October during the Church’s multi-day feast. I remember fondly the first feast I attended with my cousin and Goddaughter. No matter where those families move, they all come back the weekend of October 16th to pray and pay respect.

If you have never been to St. Lucy’s or the Feast of St. Gerard, I highly recommend a visit. Sit quietly in the church. Take in the beautiful statues. Light a candle for your loved ones. And grab a sausage and pepper sandwich before you head home.

welcomepiratessign-smSeton Hall University Weekend: From the moment I walked onto the campus of Seton Hall University my senior year, I felt like I was home. And every time I’m on the campus since then, the feeling is still the same. I’ve written about Seton Hall Weekend before. It is a great event. I love sitting on the green, meeting the current students, and shopping in the bookstore. The last time I went to Seton Hall Weekend, I met current sorority sisters from Alpha Gamma Delta. I had a great time chatting with them in the library. There are a variety of events that take place during the multi-day event, including an art exhibit at Walsh Library, music performances, and carnival games.

Chester Harvest Celebration: The two-day Chester Harvest Celebration is currently in its 36th year. Originally know as Black River, Chester pre-dates the birth of our nation. Many of the original buildings are still on the main street and are now home to wonderful shops and restaurants. The Chester Harvest Celebration includes demonstrations of the way things used to be, including a blacksmith demonstration and apple pressing.

These are just three examples of all the great events that are taking place around the state. Check out many others on the New Jersey Monthly website.

Forget The Met – Find Culture in Jersey!

Recently The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City put in place a mandatory entrance fee of $25 for non-New York residents. Up until now, The Met’s entrance fee was by “suggested donation,” which made it accessible for all. Now it will be far from that for many.  It is worth mentioning, if you are a student in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, you are still able to pay a suggested donation. If you are a Member, Patron, and a child under 12, your admission is free.

While this  can make for a costly day, why not forget The Met and find some culture in Jersey instead! No matter what your interest, New Jersey has a museum that will educate and entertain. Here are some suggestions:

Newark Museum: The Newark Museum is the state’s largest museum and is a wonder to behold. The museum was founded in 1909 by librarian and reformer John Cotton Dana. As the charter described it, the purpose was “to establish in the City of Newark, New Jersey, a museum for the reception and exhibition of articles of art, science, history and technology, and for the encouragement of the study of the arts and sciences.” It was originally established within the walls of the Newark Library, it quickly deserved its own building. The museum offers plenty of special programs and even kids programs during the summer!

 

Carlos Dorrien-The Nine Muses

Carlos Dorrien, ‘The Nine Muses’, 1990-97
Courtesy of the Sculpture Foundation, Inc. Photo by David W. Steele

Grounds for Sculpture: Located in Hamilton Township, the Grounds for Sculpture is the perfect place to visit on a warm summer day.  Opened to the public in 1992, this 42-acre sculpture park, museum, and arboretum founded on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. The Grounds presents and conserves an exceptional collection of contemporary sculpture, offers outstanding programming for all ages, and provides seasonally rotating exhibitions in six indoor galleries.

 

Museum of American Glass: The Museum of American Glass celebrates the creativity and craftsmanship of American glass. One of only eight museums in the state of New Jersey to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, it offers over 18,000 square feet of exhibition space, a collection over 20,000 pieces strong, as well as a research library and archives.

METC

Museum of Early Trades & Crafts Building

Museum of Early Trades & Crafts: This is a personal favorite of mine. Located in Madison, The Museum of Early Trades & Crafts focuses on the life and stories of 18th- and 19th- century craftsmen and artisans. They offer hands-on programs for all ages. As a crocheter, weaver, and yarn spinner, and a fan of old-school printing, I just love all the “technology” of the day they display. This will make for a great visit for the entire family.

These are just of few of the museums available in the great state of New Jersey. For a complete list, check out the museum page on the official New Jersey website. Trust me, there’s something for everyone! So feel free to avoid the schlep all the way into the City and forget The Met. You can get plenty of Culture right here at home in Jersey!

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!

Memorial Day Events 2017

MemorialDayMemorial Day weekend is upon us. While everyone enjoys an extra day off and barbecues, it is important to remember what the day is really about – remembering those who paid for our freedom with their lives. There are a number of events throughout the state where you can pay respect to these men and women we should never forget.

Memorial Day Ceremony at NJ Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial:
The annual ceremony will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Monday. In addition to honoring our Veterans, five Vietnam Veterans will be inducted into the “In Memory Program.” Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno will be the Keynote Speaker and musical entertainment by Sandra Ward. The Museum will remain open until 2:00 PM following the ceremony.

Fleet Week at Liberty State Park:
May 28, 2017; 10:00 AM until 05:00 PM
1 Audrey Zapp Dr.
Liberty State Park
Jersey City, NJ
Event is free and open to the public.
This family event features performances by the U.S. Coast Guard Silent Drill Team, the U.S. Navy Band and the U.S. Marine Corps band.  Attendees will also get to experience parachute, helicopter, and search and rescue demonstrations by the Navy and Coast Guard. Military tactical vehicles, a U.S. Navy dive tank. More exhibits will also be on display throughout the day along with kids activities, and more.

Bedminster Memorial Day Parade:
The parade will begin at 10am at the old Bedminster school on the corner of Elm St & Lamington Rd. A parade will follow down Lamington Rd, a ½ mile to the Far Hills ceremony which will take place at approximately 10:45 at the municipal building on the corner of Prospect St & Peapack Rd. (across from the fairgrounds). After the ceremony we will be serving hot dogs and refreshments in the fairgrounds.

Livingston Memorial Day Parade:
This year’s Memorial Day services will start at 9:30 am, Monday, May 29, 2017 with a ceremonial service at the Oval to commemorate those who have died defending the United States. At 10:00 am, after the ceremony, the parade will start on S. Livingston Avenue and will end at Congressional Way. In the event of inclement weather the Ceremonial Service will be held at the LHS Auditorium.

Oakland Memorial Day Parade:
The annual Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony, sponsored by the American Legion and the Borough of Oakland, will be held on Sunday, May 28th, 2017 beginning at 1:00 PM at Grove Street and Ramapo Valley Road. The parade will close with a ceremony in Veterans Park. Complimentary food and refreshments will be served at the American Legion Post at 65 Oak Street immediately following the parade.

Memorial Day Weekend Fireworks:
Sunday, May 28, 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Asbury Park Boardwalk
Ocean Avenue Between Asbury and Sunset Avenue
Asbury Park, New Jersey
For viewers who want to get in on a private viewing, The Mezzanine Room & Balcony of the iconic Paramount Theatre will be open to the public for a special birds-eye-view of the 2017 Memorial Day Fireworks, complete with music provided by a favorite Asbury Park DJ. Doors open at 8:00 p.m. and fireworks will begin at approximately 9:00 p.m. There will be a cash bar for guests 21 & up. All ages are welcome, (please note that children must be accompanied by an adult). Standing room only. This event will take place weather permitting. Full refunds will be issued if the event is cancelled due to weather.

NNJ Veterans Memorial Cemetery:
Memorial Day Service
Monday, May 29
11:00 a.m.
75 North Church Road, Sparta