There are still days I can hear the waves lapping against the shore in my sleep.
I spent the first eighteen years of my life living 1.6 miles from the Atlantic Ocean in a small New Jersey beach town.
In the mornings, especially before a storm, the air always carried the crisp, fresh scent of salt water and seaweed with it, and everything seemed to have the faint aftertaste of zinc oxide.
From nights spent wasting our allowances at Jenks boardwalk, to sneaking into local bars from Belmar to Seaside, “Shore Kids” grew up leaving a trail of powdery white sand behind them.
With over 130 miles of coastline, the Shore was more of a religion than a physical destination to those who grew up in the Garden State.
From a young age, we were all born into a vacation-style life – bred with a blinding love for New Jersey.
It wasn’t until I moved out of state for college that I began to understand that most places in the world didn’t share my affinity for Jersey.
From MTV’s Jersey Shore to the Soprano’s, years of (poorly reflective) television shows birthed the “Dirty Jerz” image that has followed me every day since leaving home.
Truth is, most people who didn’t grow up here see it in one of two ways:
- They’re driving through it on the Turnpike or Parkway – a major artery for people going up or down the coast. No matter which state you drive through, major highways are surrounded by truck stops, gas stations, rest stops and are rarely beautiful. For people passing through the state (that’s all they see. Just endless miles of concrete and asphalt stretching ahead of them, the not-so-faint stench of gasoline and littered roadways clogging their pores.
- They see something like Jersey Shore and think it’s an accurate representation of New Jersians. Orange-colored, sex-craved “guidos” screaming about pork roll, our hair and getting our nails done.
I won’t sit here and claim that I come from the most magical place on earth. New Jersey and its inhabitants don’t come without their own faults. As the most densely populated state in the union, our streets are overcrowded, our tempers run high, and our mouths run often.
Coming to Maryland, I’ve hesitated to introduce myself as a “Jersey Girl” to strangers.
Not because I’m ashamed.
It’s because I can’t stop myself from physically cringing at “Oh, you’re from the Dirty Jerz?” or “I’m sorry. They don’t call it the “Armpit of America” for nothing,” anymore.
Even some of my closest friends still like to take a jab at me sometimes because they know how heated it gets me.
It’s hard to share the beauty of New Jersey to those who have never spent enough time in the state to experience it.
This pint-sized state is packed with beautiful, hidden gems.
From Passaic River Great Falls – one of the largest waterfalls in the United States.
To Troy Meadows – a breathtaking freshwater marsh that covers 3,100 acre.
To the stunning architecture and character you can find in Asbury Park…
To endless miles of costal beauty…
New Jersey has everything from breathtaking cityscapes, to miles of farmland and breathtaking mountains views.
We’ve produced greats like Yogi Berra, Bruce Springsteen, Junot Diaz and Meryl Streep.
And carry titles like “unsung hero of American eating,” for our 24-hour diners and for never failing to celebrate food in any way we can…
NJ Food Festivals I’m Headed to in 2017:
- 7th Annual Great Beer Expo, Meadowlands
- “Truckerton” Food Truck Festival, Tuckerton Seaport
- Allaire BBQ & Brew Fest, Farmingdale
- Red Bank International Beer, Wine and Food Fest, Red Bank
- New Jersey Seafood Festival, Belmar
- Hoboken Irish Festival, Hoboken
- Blues & BBQ Festival, Cape May Courthouse
- JerseyFest Food Truck Mash-up, East Rutherford
- NJ BaconFest, Tuckerton Seaport
- New Jersey State BBQ Championship, Wildwood
- The 4th Annual Pork Roll Festival, Trenton
From our saltwater taffy, to dancing with lady luck in Atlantic City, to the seemingly endless beauty of the pine barrens, the Garden State is an unrecognized travel destination smothered in bad stigma and PR.
Truth is, New Jersey is a resilient, strong-willed place with distinct character which isn’t for everyone.
But even after jet-setting to different parts of the world, my home state is still an emotional anchor in my life – and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
So next time you want to plan a weekend getaway or summer vacation, make sure to think twice before writing off this hidden gem.
Until Next Time,