10Best Surprising Things You Probably Don't Know About New Jersey

From tomatoes to art to elephants, there's more to New Jersey than you might guess

Travel Expert


Whether you are planning a vacation to New Jersey – or you've never considered traveling to New Jersey – there's a lot about this unique state that you probably don't know. 

It's time to get to know New Jersey better. Here are 10 things about NJ that may surprise you: 

1. It's geographically unique.

Residents of the state often refer to their region as North Jersey, Central Jersey and South Jersey. All three of the state’s segments consider themselves unique. North Jersey follows the lead of the NYC metro market, Central Jersey boasts cute towns like Red Bank and sprawling equestrian estates in Hunterdon County, and South Jersey is considered part of Philadelphia’s metro market. 

2. The governor's mansion isn't in the capital. 

Although Trenton is the New Jersey’s capitol, the governor resides in the state’s official residence, Drumthwacket, which is located in Princeton. This beautiful mansion is open Wednesday for tours, excluding holidays and summer. There are also special tours during the holiday season.

3. It's an art-lovers' paradise.

The Nine Muses are among the hundreds of sculptures in New Jersey's Grounds For Sculpture — Photo courtesy of The Sculpture Foundation Inc./David W. Steele

For art lovers, the 42-acre Grounds For Sculpture, located in Hamilton Township, Mercer County, offers more than 250 large-scale contemporary sculptures from international and American artists. This outdoor attraction also is host to special events and holiday activities.

4. You can take a walking tour of Princeton.

Go on a walking tour of Princeton University, the state’s Ivy League gem. Special spots on the tour include the Princeton University Art Museum and the Gothic University Chapel. Carve out time for a stroll on Nassau Street to enjoy shops, eateries and bookstores.

5. It's home to Lucy the Elephant.

Lucy the Elephant is a six-story elephant structure in New Jersey — Photo courtesy of Lucy the Elephant

Margate City, a small beach town just a few miles from Atlantic City, is home to Lucy the Elephant, a life-size, six-story elephant structure that is a popular tourist attraction. Just steps from the beach, guided tours also invite visitors to climb the spiral staircase to enjoy views of the Atlantic Ocean. The impressive architecture will surely impress children.

6. Wildwoods beaches are free.

Some beaches in the state require badges; however, Wildwoods beaches are free. After a day in the sun, walk the 38-block boardwalk packed with novelty shops, entertainment piers, amusement parks, restaurants and yummy stands offering boardwalk favorites, including funnel cake, pizza, salt water taffy and more.

7. Jazz and wine festivals are popular in Cape May.

Located at the southern point of New Jersey, Cape May is a state treasure with Victorian-inspired bed and breakfasts, award-winning restaurants and art galleries. You can find jazz and wine festivals here throughout the year. Shoulder season prices may be a bit more affordable. 

8. A sub sandwich s not always a sub sandwich.

Sandwiches packed with meats, cheese or tuna salad are known as a hero, hoagie or sub, depending on where in the state one lives. The outlying areas of Philadelphia are generally hoagie eaters, while other regions split the use of sub and hero.

9. The Jersey tomato grows here.

Don't leave without sampling a Jersey tomato — Photo courtesy of the_ewan 

New Jersey is lovingly known as “the Garden State.” One of the state's best known garden picks is the “Jersey tomato.” Bright red and bountiful throughout the state, it’s a delicious favorite of residents. Farmers throughout New Jersey cultivate tomatoes.

10. There's no New Jersey State University.

There is no such thing as New Jersey State University or University of New Jersey. Rutgers University is the state's public university. Located in the center of New Jersey in New Brunswick, the school’s namesake is Col. Henry Rutgers. 

About Erica Lamberg

Erica Lamberg is a freelance writer in suburban Philadelphia. She lived in Central Jersey for over a decade and loves the Jersey shore.

Read more about Erica Lamberg here.

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