Welcome Blog Around the Worlders and my lovely regular readers! Today’s tour stop is the wonderful Garden State of New Jersey! Woo-hoo! Aren’t you excited? Now tell me, when you think of New Jersey, do you think of any of these things?
A Little About Our Little State
I found the following description of New Jersey on Wikipedia, and I think it sums up our state fairly well:
New Jersey is sandwiched between two large cities — New York City in the northeast and Philadelphia in the southwest. Benjamin Franklin called her “a barrel tapped at both ends.” South Jersey is the area within the Philadelphia sphere of influence, whereas North Jersey is the area within New York City’s influence.
I live in South Jersey, which is pretty much a suburb of Philadelphia but with Atlantic City and parts of the Jersey Shore included. Somewhere to the north of us is the murkily defined “Central Jersey” and then you get to North Jersey.
I am not going to presume to speak like an expert about the state, and I don’t think you want to hear me toss around facts and factoids like our state bird is the goldfinch, our state animal is the horse, and our state dance is the square dance. (Really???? I knew the goldfinch but was surprised to learn the others. Did you know New Jersey has a state dinosaur and a state soil but no state song? That is really weird. If you haven’t, you should look up stuff about your own state/country like this; it was kind of interesting.) Anyway, I feel like I’m writing a school book report so I am going to abandon the format I was originally going to use and just interview myself about being from South Jersey. This is probably easier for me to do and will most likely be more bearable for you.
So why the heck do you live in South Jersey?
I know all the flack that New Jersey gets, so why live here?
Because you can easily travel to big cities like Philadelphia, New York City, Baltimore or Washington DC without having many of the hassles but all of the cultural and historical goodies.
Because I can live in an “old fashioned” neighborhood with tall trees, kids riding bikes, neighbors who leave their doors unlocked (not us, of course) and people who leave their cars running with the keys in it while they run into Wawa (again, not us).
Because you can pop over to Atlantic City for some “real” gambling (albeit nowhere near as glamorous as Vegas) or have old-fashioned family fun at the Jersey Shore.
Because we have real nature in the Pine Barrens (home of the Jersey Devil) and the Delaware Water Gap. (I mean really, how many states have their own mythical creature lurking in their woods?)
Because we have wonderful Jersey-grown fresh fruit and vegetables in the summer. There are tons of “pick your own” farms around us, and it has been quite a thrill to pick peaches, corn, strawberries, blueberries, apples, pumpkins and more with the Little One.
Because we have easy access to amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, children’s museums, old-fashioned villages (along the lines of Williamsburg), art museums, major sporting events, concerts, mountains (Poconos), beach, ethnic restaurants, shopping, parks and historical sites.
Because we get four seasons and don’t have problems with earthquakes.
Basically, I like the diversity of New Jersey and that you can get to so many different types of places easily. Living in South Jersey, I could easily spend the morning at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, take a short hike in the Pine Barrens, and then spend my night gambling in Atlantic City. There is pretty much something to fulfill anyone’s interests.
The Pine Barrens with the Atlantic City skyline in the background
Photo from Phillyskyline.com
Atlantic City Shoreline
Photo from Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority
Blueberries from Hammonton, NJ – “The Blueberry Capital of the World”
Photo from Atlantic Blueberry Company
Boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ
Photo from VisitUSA.com
What are the down sides of South Jersey?
Property taxes, auto insurance costs and traffic.
A funny thing about the traffic. When my brother visited from Montana, he asked me directions to all kinds of places he wanted to see. I kept saying “Oh…that is about 20 minutes away.” “That place is about an hour away.” He said “But how many miles is it?” I told him it didn’t matter how many MILES something was — a place could be about 5 miles away and take you 45 minutes to get to at certain times. In New Jersey, you give directions in terms of driving time, not miles.
Is it true that South Jersey is pretty much a suburb of Philadelphia?
I think the “big counties” of South Jersey (Burlington, Camden, Gloucester) are pretty much a suburb of Philadelphia. You are pretty much raised to root for the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers and Flyers, and your diet must include Philly soft pretzels and cheesesteaks (and we know how to order them too). Many people (my husband included) commute into Philly for work.
The other thing about these three counties is that all the towns pretty much blend into each other. A visitor would pretty much have no idea when they left Pennsauken and entered Merchantville or departed Haddonfield and entered Barrington but someone living here would. And let me tell you, although there are no real physical breaks between different towns, each “town” has its own — how do we say this nicely? –persona.
This excerpt from Wikipedia breaks it down nicely:
In 2005, Money magazine named Moorestown the “best place to live” in the United States, although they stated that a number of adjacent municipalities (particularly Mount Laurel, Haddonfield, Medford, Marlton, Cherry Hill and Voorhees) could have just as easily been given the distinction. New Jersey’s population density, as well as the geographic limitations of such a populous state, make disparities between adjoining or neighboring towns readily evident. For example, Maple Shade, which abuts Moorestown, is a township of working class and middle income families.
It is very odd to me how everything blends together but is so distinct economically. On my husband’s train ride to Philadelphia, he passes through Haddonfield (which is a pretty wealthy, chi chi little town with million dollar plus homes) and then two stops later is in Camden, which as recently as 2004 was named “most dangerous city in America.” The standard of living changes so dramatically in just a few train stops that I seriously marvel that there are not riots around here.
Photo from SJ Magazine
Photo from FreeRepublic.com
So what famous people are from South Jersey?
Am I shallow or what? But Kelly Ripa and Ali Larter are two well-known folks who hailed from right around here. Actually, there are tons of well-known people from New Jersey, but these two are from actual towns I know and go through on a regular basis.
So what else can you tell me about New Jersey?
Well why don’t I let you hear from some other New Jersey bloggers — each of whom have their own unique perspective about this state of ours? I’ve shared a little bit about where I live, so now I want to toss it to these lovely ladies: