New Jersey: A Local’s Guide to Food, Fun, History & More!

New Jersey is probably one of the most overlooked states in the US and being squished between two major and historical cities (NYC and Philly) it’s no wonder. Even people who fly into NJ airports quickly hop on a train or into a car and head across state borders. But, these people are hugely missing out. Unfortunately only seeing the downtrodden areas that airports lie in and not much else people tend to form a notion that all of NJ must be the same way. In addition the list of bad “reality” shows and run of jokes on the state in movies (although funny) are wildly inaccurate. 

So, I am here to expose the real Jersey to you. Hidden gems from hiking state parks, pick-your-own farms, quintessential coastal towns, mini road trips, foodie finds (from classic NJ diners and pizza joints to international cuisine), renowned museums and art galleries, suburban lake communities and so much more. Get ready to learn why we are called The Garden State.


NJ is a foodie haven. Not only do we as part of the tri-state area have some of the best pizza, bagels and classic diners in the country, but we have large immigrant communities from various parts of the world blessing us with a huge diversity of cousine as well. Here are some favorites across the state:

Classic NJ: 

  1. Tops Diner – Newark
  2. Joe’s Rotisseria – Roselle Park
  3. Bagel’s on the Hill – Landing
  4. Star Tavern Pizza – Orange
  5. White Mana Diner – Jersey City

Boozy spots:

  1. Ironbound Cidery – Asbury 
  2. Fort Nonsense Brewery – Denville 
  3. Old York Cellars Winery – Ringoes 
  4. Czig Meister Brewery – Hackettstown 
  5. Ralston Cider Mill / Sammy’s – Mendham


  1. Chinese: Hunan Taste – Denville / Montclair 
  2. Filipino: Manila Cafe – Mt. Laurel 
  3. Malaysian: Coco Asian Cuisine – Edison
  4. Vietnamese: Pho Binh Duong – Parsippany
  5. Korean: Eden Korean – Cherry Hill


*Not including Italian because there’s an Italian restaurant on every corner in NJ lol 😉

  1. Irish: The Quiet Man – Dover
  2. Greek: Varka – Ramsey  
  3. Portugese/Spanish: Spain Rincon – Wharton
  4. Polish: Royal Warsaw – Elmwood Park
  5. German: The Black Forest – Stanhope


  1. Jamaican: Cafe Mobay – Bloomfield 
  2. Cuban: Cuba Nu – Raway 
  3. Haitian: Saveur Creole – Montclair 
  4. Dominican: Sol Sazon – Willingboro 
  5. Puerto Rican: Buen Provecho Cafe – Hamilton 


  1. Moroccan: Marrakech – Parsippany
  2. Ethiopean: Mesob – Montclair
  3. West African: Olaides Kitchen – Parlin
  4. Ethiopean: Dashen – New Brunswick 
  5. West African: Abuja – Union

Latin American:

  1. Brazilian: Samba – Montclair
  2. Colombian: Villa de Colombia – Hackensack 
  3. Costa Rican: Division Cafe – Somerville
  4. Salvadoran: Milly’s – Vineland 
  5. Peruvian: El Gordo – Jersey City 


NJ was also one of the original 13 states to be founded in the US and although most think to head to Philly or NYC we have our fair share of fascinating historic sites and museums worth a visit! Here are some of my favorite spots to satisfy the history buff in all of us:

  1. Thomas Edison National Historical Park – West Orange
  2. Morristown National Historical Park – Morristown 
  3. Passaic Falls Historical Park – Paterson
  4. Wildwood Aviation Museum – Wildwood 
  5. Waterloo Village – Stanhope


There is a large misconception that NJ is industrial, I am thinking this is because of our airport locations but I’m not entirely sure. Anyone who has actually explored the state knows that large portions of it are comprised of forest, marshes, lakes, countryside, farms and suburban communities. I grew up in a small lake community with forest behind my house and tons of wildlife from fox and deer to bear. NJ has a handful of National parks as well as over 50 state protected lands worth exploring on your visit, here are some of my favorites: 

  1. The Delaware Watergap
  2. The Pine Barrens
  3. Jenny Jump State Park
  4. Hacklebarney State Park
  5. Bamboo Brook/Willow wood Arboretum


  1. Alstede Farms – Chester 
  2. Blueberry Bills – Hammonton 
  3. Sussex Sunflower Maze – Sandyston
  4. Duke Farms – Hillsborough
  5. Donaldson Farms – Hackettstown


Of course we do have several cities scattered amongst the state as well! Some of these being small, quaint and historic and others with towering skyscrapers. Either way these are great spots for shopping, nightlife and the art scene. Starting with my favorite spots for art experiences and ending with my top 5 spots for shopping and nightlife.


  1. Grounds for Sculpture – Hamilton 
  2. Princeton University Art Museum – Princeton 
  3. NJ Performing Arts Center – Newark 
  4. Wheaton Arts/American of American Glass – Millville
  5. Montclair Art Museum – Montclair 

Best spots for nightlife and shopping:

  1. Jersey City
  2. Red Bank
  3. Hoboken
  4. Morristown
  5. Montclair


The NJ shore is the southern coast of NJ. A popular summer spot for not just New Jerseyeans but neighboring states as well it offers a wide variety of towns and vibes. Whether you want to lay on a beach, ride the ferris wheel on a historic boardwalk or a eat some salt water taffy there’s tons to see and do “down the shore”. Don’t let reality TV fool you, hidden in plain site you can find Victorean era seaside retreats and even a US national park brimming with wildlife. Here are some of my favorite shore points: 

  1. Wildwood
  2. Cape May
  3. Sandy Hook
  4. Long Beach Island 
  5. Asbury Park

If you find interest in all things weird and creepy NJ won’t let you down in this category either! For everything from the Jersey Devil to Shades of Death Road check out WEIRD NJ

Although things aren’t fully up and running currently NJ normally has tons of live shows, concerts and festivals every year as well that are worth keeping in mind for future visits!

I hope this inspires you to give NJ a chance on your next trip to the east coast and discover some of these gems (and many more) for yourself.    

New Jersey is probably one of the most overlooked states in the US and being squished between two major and historical cities (NYC and Philly) it’s no wonder. Even people who fly into NJ airports quickly hop on a train or into a car and head across state borders. But, these people are hugely missing…