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 only 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?

Why I love New Jersey

My husband and I were watching a television show about real estate in Montana. One couple was planning a move from California to Montana. Now, when most people think of Big Sky Country, they imagine the open prairie, cowboys, and wood cabins. Instead of embracing the lifestyle, they were trying to shoehorn California living into their new house. They obviously shouldn’t have left California. That’s where their heart is.

That’s kind of like how I feel about New Jersey.

Frankford-Cemetery

Frankford Cemetery in black and white by Lisaann VanBlarcom Permunian.

I am often asked a simple question. “Why would you EVER want to stay in New Jersey?”

When my husband and I were married there very were few things that were non-negotiable. One of those non-negotiable items is that I would NEVER move out of New Jersey.

“Why?”

New Jersey is my home. I was born in Columbus Hospital in Newark and spent over 30 years in Belleville. When a move needed to take place, we stayed close by in Nutley until we could decide on our next move. While it may sound crazy, going to the next town over from Belleville was tough. I also felt like I had betrayed my beloved Belleville by moving to our rival town. Two years later, we moved again. Instead of town-to-town, we moved county-to-county. Again, I almost had a nervous breakdown.

As my regular readers know, I don’t deal well with change. I know people who have moved across the country and half-way around the world. Me? I move from Essex County to Morris County and I could barely handle it. I’m a Jersey Girl through and through. I would’ve been very happy to stay in my house on Irving Street for the rest of my life.

Where else can you be at an awesome beach and then the mountains within a two hour drive

Rutt's Hut

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

in the same state? Have the best REAL Italian and REAL Portuguese cooking in the same city? I can go fly fishing in Walpack or grab a cheese steak at Seaside Heights. You want a great deep fried hot dog? I know the place. Oh, and I don’t pump my own gas.

Some people see Newark Airport and the Turnpike. Me? I see important places that played key roles in the birth of our nation. We are tough. If you are from Jersey, you need to be tough to fight off all the stupid stereotypes from those horrible television shows which I will not name.

So will I travel? Sure. But I will always come home to my New Jersey.

Jersey Icon: Rutt’s Hut

As part of my blog, I am going to include posts about “Jersey icons.” These are locations that are of cultural, historical, and popular importance. Today’s Jersey Icon? Rutt’s Hut.

Rutt's Hut

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

There are lots of great hot dog joints in New Jersey. My favorite, by far, is Rutt’s Hut. Since 1928, Rutt’s Hut in Clifton has made what patrons call “rippers;” hot dogs deep fried until they split open. For generations, this place has a deep-fried spot in many a Jersey heart. They have a language all their own – if an order is to go, it is “travelin.” You want an order of fries? It is a “frenchie.”

Since I was a child, this was a usual spot. Most of the time, I would be on the “to go” side, picking up huge orders for everyone at the house on a Saturday night. Nowadays, my husband and I go to the “sit down” area since we don’t live nearby anymore. They have a menu, but no one I know has ever even looked at it. Your choices are:

  • Wellers (with their famous home-made relish)
  • Fries
  • Rings
  • Burgers
  • Birch soda
  • Chili (with or without beans)

If you are going there for anything else, you are missing the point. Needless to say if you are a vegetarian, watching your cholesterol, or focused on healthy eating, then this is not your place. If you do decide to go, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. This is true Jersey Icon.

What My New Jersey Is…

I love those “you know you’re from…” lists you see on sites like Facebook. Well, I came up with my own New Jersey list. I would love to hear if you think I missed anything!

  1. You’ve been seriously injured at Action Park (probably on the Alpine Slide).
  2. You know that the only people who call it “Joisey” are from New York (usually The Bronx) or Texas.
  3. You don’t think of citrus when people mention “The Oranges.”
  4. You know that it’s called “Great Adventure,” not “Six Flags.”
  5. Coffee and a buttered roll is a perfectly acceptable breakfast.
  6. You went to Seaside Heights for prom weekend.
  7. You know what a “jug handle” is and how to properly negotiate one.
  8. You go “down the shore” and not “to the beach.”
  9. Your school cafeteria made very good Italian subs.
  10. You know how to properly negotiate a Circle.
  11. You knew that the last question had to do with driving.
  12. You know where to get a freshly cooked taylor ham egg and cheese sandwich at 2 am.
  13. You don’t think “What exit” is very funny.
  14. Every year, you had at least two kids in your class named Tony, Michael, Vito, and Marie
  15. You know the location of every “clip” shown in the Sopranos opening credits.
  16. You know that “youse” is not a synonym for utilize but for y’all.
  17. You’ve never pumped your own gas.
  18. You can’t stand PA drivers.
  19. You know that there are bakeries which are not part of a supermarket, but actual individual stores.
  20. At least half the people you knew in high school went to Rutgers.
  21. You know that you cannot visit “the boards” in Seaside Heights without stopping by Midway for the best sausage, pepper and onion or cheese steak.
  22. You know that the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are IN New Jersey, NOT New York.
  23. It’s a sub, not a hoagie
  24. You call pizza without toppings “plain,” not “cheese” and you have at least one Uncle that calls it a “tomato pie.”
  25. You have paid a toll with a hook shot from the passenger side of the car.
  26. You know there are TWO Jerseys… North and South and they ARE very different.
  27. You don’t understand why people look at you funny when you order fries with mozzarella and brown gravy.
  28. You know what taylor ham is.
  29. There is an ongoing debate between your friends – Jimmy Buffs or Rutt’s Hut.
  30. You consider taking your car to inspection one of the traumatic events in an individual’s life.
  31. You know it’s pronounced “Nork,” not “New-ark” and how to properly pronounce Boonton.
  32. You don’t understand how people eat Sunday dinner after 3:00 p.m.
  33. You remember seeing concerts at the Capitol Theater.
  34. You felt that two of the best places to go were Pizza Town and the Short Stop.
  35. Everyone has an opinion on the best diner in Jersey.