Traffic jams, diners, and Jersey Shore are a few things we instantly associate with New Jersey, but besides these, what is New Jersey famous for?
Located in the Mid-Atlantic and northeastern regions, New Jersey shares borders with New York (north and east), Delaware (Southwest), and Pennsylvania (West). New Jersey is one of the smallest states in the union (5th), but it has a large population (more than 9 million), making it the most densely populated state in America.
Besides being densely populated, New Jersey is also a very urban state, with about 90% of the people living in urban areas. Curiously, most of these people live in suburban areas of metropolitan areas of other states – New York and Philadelphia. New Jersey was nicknamed the garden state after Abraham Browning stated, “our Garden State is an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat and open at both ends, with Pennsylvanians grabbing from one end and New Yorkers from the other.”
So, without more delays, let’s explore what is New Jersey famous for!
10 Things New Jersey is famous for
New York Metro
One of the things New Jersey is known for is for being part of the New York metropolitan area, at least in the northern part of the state. When people think of New Jersey, they immediately think of the cities and counties that border New York City, like Jersey City, Elizabeth, and Newark.
With 4,669.0 sq mi (12,093 km2), the New York Metropolitan area is the largest metro area in the world by landmass and one of the most populous in the world. Besides New York City and a few others in New York State, it includes the five largest cities in New Jersey, Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, and Edison.
According to the Metropolitan Statistical Area, the New York metro area is the most populous in the USA, with more than 20 Million residents in 2020. It is home to 6% of the US population and the world’s 10th largest urban area (by population). Besides its importance in culture, media, tourism, and the economy.
In almost any metric we choose, it is clearly one of the powerhouses of the USA and the world. It is a major center of finance, international trade, media and entertainment, fashion, law, technology, etc. Though, the easiest way to demonstrate its size and importance is by reminding us that if New York Metropolitan Area were a country, it would have the eighth largest economy in the world.
Although a bit reductive, thinking of NJ as part of New York is not wrong and definitely not an offense. In fact, New Jersey plays a big part in making New York as great and significant as it is. Yet, this takes us to the next thing New Jersey is known for… the Jokes!
All the jokes
Q: Why is New Jersey called the Garden State?
A: Because Oil, Petrolium, Nuclear, Land Fill, & Toxic Waste State wouldn’t fit on a license plate!
New Jersey is famous for many things, but this is one of the most curious… the Jokes! New Jersey takes a lot of ribbing, particularly from New Yorkers. No one is really sure how this started, but the jokes usually imply how ugly, smelly, and industrial New Jersey is. Or how it is not as cool and hip as New York (city).
This faulty idea of New Jersey has probably to do with the fact that most people only see the suburban and industrial side of New Jersey, the NJ Turnpike, Newark Airport, and Port Elizabeth. People tend to ignore the other side of New Jersey, the beautiful countryside, the beaches, the excellent school system, and one of the richest states in the union.
But there’s a silver lining… Some of New Jersey’s main cities are closer to manhattan than New York’s boroughs themselves – both in distance and time – which, together with the lower rents, helps explain why it is so popular to live.
Anyway, New Jersey has one final comeback: “It’s better to live in New Jersey and have Manhattan’s skyline as a view than live in Manhattan and have New Jersey as a view… ” Oh, maybe that’s not as nice a comeback as I thought…
New Jersey has one of the most traffic in the country, and it is well-known for it among New Jerseyans and anyone who crosses the state. The average commute time in New Jersey is more than 30 minutes, 25% higher than in the rest of the US. Though, even in New Jersey, there are counties much worse than others. The northeastern counties have particularly bad traffic.
Even during the Pandemic, New Jersey was the most congested stretch of road in America. Fewer vehicles were everywhere, but those who traveled along Interstate 95 and George Washington Bridge still got the largest traffic jams in America. According to studies, more than 40% of NY’s roads are near or exceeding capacity. The roadways are more crowded and congested for a longer period of time.
Putting aside all the New York-related things, when someone asks what New Jersey is known for, Diners is one of the prime answers. New Jersey diners are so iconic that it is called the diners capital of the world. With more than 500, it has more diners than any other part of the world.
The American diner’s distinct design, menu, and ambiance is a cultural mark and one of the famous things about the USA. Still, it is particularly characteristic of the state of New Jersey. The original diners used to have a distinct architecture with a long narrow structure looking like shiny rail cars with eye-catching neons and lightning.
Diners typically serve juicy burgers, hot coffee, milkshakes, chicken wings, and other delicious but, most importantly, fast and comfort food. They were the perfect answer to the need of truck drivers and other people on the road, whether they were visiting or just crossing through the garden state.
Plus, going to a diner is one of the finest experiences to have in New Jersey.
What is New Jersey famous for? Many people will say casinos, boardwalks, and resort towns. They are all correct, and all three converge in Atlantic City.
Atlantic City is a coastal resort town famous for its huge boardwalk, casinos, and beaches. It also inspired the street names of the US version of the monopoly board game and has been home to the Miss America pageant since 1921.
Gambling has been legal in Atlantic City since 1976, and it is the only site in NJ where casinos are legal. Though, their success is relative, with several going bankrupt and closing. Today (2021), nine casinos employ thousands of people, receive millions of visitors, and make billions of dollars in revenue.
Opened in 1870, the Atlantic City boardwalk was the first boardwalk in the united states. It starts at Absecon Inlet in the north, goes along the beach to the city, and continues to Ventnor city. It is one of the most iconic landmarks in New Jersey and the most famous boardwalk in the USA. The Atlantic City Boardwalk passes through several casinos, many stores, restaurants, and other attractions.
Besides Atlantic city, which has some nice beaches but is much more famous for the boardwalk and casinos, there are many other wonderful beaches and resort towns along the New Jersey Shore.
With over 140 miles, the New Jersey shore goes from Perth Amboy to Cape May Point, crossing several counties and containing stunning beaches, unique attractions, boardwalks, water, and amusement parks. It is one of the main recreational areas of the Eastern coast and extremely popular among people living in the New York metro area.
There are over 50 resort towns on the Jersey Shore, including some of the most notorious, like Seaside Heights, Wildwood, Asbury Park, Cape May, and Atlantic City.
Besides all the attractions, resorts, and landmarks, the beaches attract people to the New Jersey shore. There are dozens of wonderful pristine beaches, but we need to mention some of the most popular:
- Point Pleasant Beach
- Cape May Beaches
- Ocean City beach
- Asbury Park Beach
- Belmar Beach
- 7 Mile Beach, Avalon
The other jersey shore
When you read “Jersey Shore,” you immediately think of something else, right? Well, that simply means that we have to include that Jersey shore in this list too…
Jersey Shore is an MTV reality tv show that ran from 2009 to 2012, following the lives of eight housemates at a vacation home in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. The show became a pop culture phenomenon, receiving several international adaptations and the cast members attending other tv-shows.
However, Jersey shore was as successful as it was controversial. Critics said it perpetuated stereotypes, portrayed Italian-Americans very poorly, used the terms Guido/guidette, and that the cast members weren’t from New Jersey. All of this is true, but… the show and its members still had huge success and became highly known celebrities.
Curiously, and despite all the criticism, polls and studies show that “59% of Americans who had seen Jersey Shore had a favorable view of New Jersey compared to only 44% of those that had not seen the show”. So, in fact, the show people love to hate may have had a positive impact on New Jersey.
Let’s go from a very controversial thing New Jersey is famous for to something New Jersey is proud of, Princeton University. Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, it was moved to its current location in Princeton in 1756. Though, it only became a university in 1896 when it consequently was renamed Princeton University.
Princeton University is a private Ivy League university and one of the oldest (4th) higher education institutions in the USA. It is also frequently considered one of the best universities in the USA. According to the US News ranking, it has been the number one University for 12 years in a row now.
With a total undergraduate enrollment of almost 5000 students, it has a student-faculty ratio of 4:1. The 600-acre campus is located in a suburban setting in the lovely town of Princeton. Princeton’s alumni, faculty members, and researchers include 74 Nobel laureates, 16 Fields Medalists, and 16 Turing Award winners.
Tomatoes are probably the most famous produce in New Jersey. Not because New Jersey produces more tomatoes than any other state (California and Florida produce much more) but because the tomatoes from New Jersey are famously delicious. Why?
Most of NJ’s tomatoes come from small, family-owned farms that sell the tomatoes at farm markets. They select and breed tomatoes to reach the best taste and not for durability and long-distance shipping.
The soil and weather conditions in New Jersey are ideal for the production of tomatoes, which, together with the care and time they remain on the vine to ripen, give New Jersey tomatoes their typical tenderness, juiciness, and rich flavor. And their flavor gave them the deserved notoriety.
Fun facts and curious records of New Jersey
Like any other state, New Jersey holds a plethora of records, and it is home to some unique and globally recognized fun facts. As one of the original colonies and the third state to join the Union, there are lots of historical facts. Let’s explore those and other New Jersey records:
- New Jersey is named after the Island of Jersey, located in the English Channel, very close to France.
- New Jersey is one of the wealthiest states in the union. In 2020 it had the 3rd highest household income, only after Maryland and Massachusetts.
- The densest highway and railway systems in the USA are located in New Jersey;
- New Jersey is the main producer of chemicals in America.
- The first organized baseball game was played in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1846.
- The light bulb and motion picture projector were invented by Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park laboratory in New Jersey;
- New Jersey is one of only two states without self-serve gas stations. The other is Oregon.
- The world’s tallest water tower is in Union, New Jersey.
- The first steam-powered ferry service in the United States operated between Hoboken and Manhattan.
- The statue of liberty is located in New York State, but it is an exclave, as it is surrounded by New Jersey territory.