The mystery of New Jersey is written somewhere between Thunder Road and 10th Avenue and the smoking spires of Jersey City and the rolling hills near the Pennsylvania line.
It’s more than New York’s kid brother, the home of the Boss and Bon Jovi, and reality show shenanigans meant to shock, surprise, and amuse. Sure, Hoboken might as well be Brooklyn, and Asbury Park could be any other beach town littering the mid-Atlantic coast.
However, the Garden State holds much more than meets the eye within its relatively tight boundaries. Inhabited by Native Tribes for thousands of years, later settled by the Dutch, Swedish, and then the British, this tiny state — the fifth smallest by land mass — possesses a massive arc in the story of America.
The site of many pivotal battles during the Revolutionary War, New Jersey was later the third state admitted into the freshly formed Union that would be the U.S. Following the Civil War.
It became a hub of the Industrial Revolution and the home of significant innovations and events throughout the 20th century:
- The first drive-in theater opened in Camden in 1933.
- The famed Hindenburg crash took place in Lakehurst.
- The first Miss America Pageant was held in Atlantic City in 1927.
Indeed, New Jersey has a long and fascinating story, which lives on in its incredible collection of state parks. Below are some must-visit spots that can’t be missed:
Stokes State Forest: One thing that may not spring to mind when thinking of New Jersey is its peaceful, pastoral natural beauty. Far from the hustle and bustle of the steaming city streets of Jersey City or Newark, this site offers visitors the chance to unplug, unwind, and soak in the magisterial grandeur of untouched nature. More than 63 trails snake through Stokes State Forest near Branchville, NJ, and its mountains and clear freshwater streams are the perfect getaways from the breakneck speed of city life. Hiking, fishing, biking, and camping are popular activities at the park in the shadow of Sunrise Mountain. Pack a bag, leash up the dog, and come down to this hidden gem of the mid-Atlantic region.
Princeton Battlefield State Park: The site is one of the most pivotal battles of the American Revolution, where Gen. George Washington roused his troops in a surprise defeat of the British in January 1777. Legend tells that Washington, soon to be the U.S.’s first president, rode his horse between the British and American lines to inspire his men to continue the fight. The Battle of Princeton marked the end of an essential and epic campaign in the area that began with Washington’s famous Christmas crossing of the Delaware River in 1776. Stop in to learn more about the famous battle and the men who fought and died here.
Fort Mott State Park: This 19th-century fort preserves a revolution in military design. It was as crucial to the defense of the Delaware River region as any since the state’s settlement. Boasting modern weaponry that could fire rounds up to seven and eight miles, it would be hard to overstate the importance of such a formidable battlement. Today the park is an educational reminder of the wilder, more dangerous days of a young country still growing into itself. Visitors can walk to Delaware just outside the walls, take in the surrounding scenery, and imagine what it must’ve been like here over a hundred years ago.