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The Places Where We Live – New Jersey

by Brenna B. (demiducky25)


Lately the first thing that people tend to think of when they hear the words “New Jersey” is the MTV show Jersey Shore.  Personally, I’ve never seen more than 5 seconds of the show so I cannot attest to the accuracy of how they present life in the Garden State (heck, I’m not a beach person and I’ve only been “down the shore,” as we say, a handful of times so I really cannot speak to life along the actual Jersey Shore at all).  Whether you love or loathe Jersey Shore, I hope that reading my entry about my home state will give you new insight and perhaps bring new images to mind besides Snooki going crazy. 🙂

In terms of size, New Jersey can be described a number of ways.  It is one of the smallest states in terms of land area (only Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware are smaller).  In terms of total population, New Jersey is currently the 11th most populous state, and for as long as I can remember it is the most densely populated state (my 4th grade social studies textbook had a map of the United States showing the size of each state in terms of population density, and I recall being amazed at how little NJ was suddenly the largest one on that type of map projection).  Yet what it lacks in size, New Jersey makes up for with presence and style!

Nicknamed “The Garden State,” New Jersey has had a very interesting and colorful history.  Prior to the American Revolution, the area that would later become New Jersey was originally a Dutch colony and was later acquired by the British, making it one of the original 13 colonies.  As with New York and Pennsylvania, the colony of New Jersey became a popular location for immigrants, making it a fairly ethnically and religiously diverse colony.  During the Revolutionary War, New Jersey was the site of several battles and winter encampments, earning it the nickname “The Crossroads of the Revolution.”  In fact, the commemorative state quarter for NJ showcases George Washington crossing the Delaware River to surprise the Hessian soldiers at the Battle of Trenton (though the image on the quarter, as well as the original painting, isn’t exactly accurate, but that’s a story for another time).

Fast-forward past the Revolutionary War and New Jersey kept its pulse on the changing landscape of American culture.  Despite the “Garden State” moniker, NJ became a booming center of factories and production during the Industrial Revolution and beyond.  Although the silk mills are no more, I grew up hearing stories about them and how nearby Paterson was once one of the biggest silk producers in the world.

As with the Industrial Revolution, modern New Jersey is still doing its best to keep up with the times.  The educational systems in New Jersey, from K-12 all the way to our many colleges and universities, are top-notch, thus preparing young minds for the future challenges our country will face.  Other ways New Jersey stays current with the times is in terms of entertainment.   Perhaps that has a bit to do with Thomas Edison (originally from Ohio, but I think NJ claims him anyway due to his work being done in Menlo Park, NJ) and his entertainment contributions of the motion picture projector and the phonograph (and of course the light bulb which would make our form of entertainment, reading, a bit more challenging without it).  In terms of professional sports, New Jersey has the Devils (hockey), the Nets (basketball, but I’ve heard that they might be moving to New York), and both the New York Giants and the New York Jets football teams actually play in New Jersey even though they are considered New York teams (personally I never really considered that fair, but that’s just me).   We also have a number of minor league baseball teams as well.  Besides sports, New Jersey is also home to other forms of entertainment.   There have been a number of entertainers, past and present, who have been proud to call NJ home (in fact, some of them appear on the list at the end of this piece).  How different the world would be without the impact of some of these great performers!  New Jersey has also been the setting, filming location, or both for many TV shows and movies: The Sopranos, Ed, Jersey Shore, House, Cake Boss, and The Adventures of Pete & Pete are just a few shows that fall into those categories.  Movies like Lean on Me, In & Out, Be Kind Rewind, Coneheads, and pretty much anything by Kevin Smith were all either about NJ, filmed scenes in NJ, or both.  I’m sorry if the movie list consisted of films mostly about or filmed in northern NJ, but those are the ones I’m familiar with.

That last sentence about northern NJ reminds me of something else that seems fairly unique to New Jersey.  Ever since I can remember, there has always been this strange rivalry between North NJ, South NJ, and the possible existence of Central NJ (some people argue that there is no Central NJ and that there is a clear dividing line between North and South, others see Central NJ as its own entity separate from North and South NJ).  I never really thought much about it until college when I lived with roommates from other parts of the state.  Apparently we all had a different dividing line depending on where we lived, and we also had different words for certain terms depending on where we lived.  The two biggest  examples are the night before Halloween (Goosey Night,  Mischief Night, and Cabbage Night seemed to be the top ones, though I never knew it as anything other than Goosey Night.  Our international roommate always found this argument hysterical because she never called the night before Halloween anything at all).  Also for a very long sandwich the terms “sub,” “hoagie,” and “hero” were deemed equally acceptable depending on which part of the state you were from (as someone from north NJ I went to elementary school where we had “hoagie days” then moved a few towns over and suddenly they were “subs” so that might not even be a “North vs South” thing).  For such a small state it is certainly strange that New Jersey has a number of different terms for the same thing!

One final set of quirks that I couldn’t seem to fit anywhere else (and I really can’t prove this one), but I feel like there are more malls (and sizable ones) and dinners (especially 24 hour ones or what is the point, hehe) in at least my little patch of New Jersey than anywhere else!  From where I sit now, I could get into my car and drive to at least 3 different malls in 5 minutes, and there are two 24 hour dinners walking distance from my house.  My international roommate, who has since moved back to her home country, has stated on Facebook before that the diners are probably one of the things she misses the most about New Jersey.

And that’s what New Jersey is to me, a wonderfully strange yet cozy and comforting nook in the world.  I don’t pretend to be a traditional “Jersey Girl,” whatever that really is, but I am certainly proud of my home state.  It’s hard for me to imagine living anywhere else.  I’m sure I’m forgetting some other tidbits that should have been noted, but I did my best, and I hope you liked hearing about my corner of the universe, and feel free to check out some of the books below (I hope the links worked this time, it was giving me some difficulties so be warned):



Notable New Jerseyeans

Grover Cleveland (1837-1908)- only US president to serve non-consecutive terms (he was #22 and #24)

Thomas Edison (1847-1831)- inventor (from Ohio but did much of his world changing work in Menlo Park, NJ)

Bud Abbott (1895-1974)- actor/comedian

Lou Costello (1906-1959)- actor/comedian

Frank Sinatra (1915–1998)- singer/ actor

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (born 1930)- NASA, astronaut

Jack Nicholson (born 1937)- actor (born in New York City, grew up in Neptune City, NJ)

Debbie Harry (born 1945), singer/actress (born in Florida but raised in NJ)

Bruce Springsteen (born 1949), musician

Anthony Bourdain (born 1956) chef, author and television personality (born in New York City, grew up in Leonia, New Jersey)

Jon Bon Jovi (born 1962), musician

Kevin Smith (born 1970)- filmmaker

Lauryn Hill (born 1975), singer/rapper/songwriter

The Jonas Brothers (birth years vary depending on the brother)- boy band





1776 by David McCullough (provides a very detailed look at the American Revolution and highlights many of the events happening in NJ at that time)

It Came from New Jersey! My Life as an Artist by Tim Jacobus (the artist responsible for the covers of the Goosebumps books)


The Houseguest by Agnes Rossi (a novel about 1930s NJ)


The Lost Legends of New Jersey by Frederick Reiken (a novel about 1980s NJ)


Weird NJ:  Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Mark Moran, Mark Sceurman (highlights the wonderful and strange of the Garden State)












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7 Responses to “The Places Where We Live – New Jersey”

  1. Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty) says:

    Very well done Cheryl!

  2. Robin K. (jubead) says:

    Brenna, my family lived in NJ, but I don’t really remember much because I was 8 yrs old. When in 6th grade my parents moved us to Vermont. However, we would vacation at the Jersey shore every summer for the first 3 yrs we lived in VT. NJ is like a second home 🙂 Great piece.

  3. VOSTROMO says:

    And the reason I am not on your list of notable New Jerseyans is…?

  4. (Jerseygirltoo) says:

    Great post, Brenna. I’m a born and raised Jersey girl(as you can see by my nickname). How Jersey am I? When I browse through the “Weird NJ” book, I’m all, ‘been there, done that’! Not only have I been to most of the 24 hour diners, but I waitressed in several of them in my youth. Right now I live at the Jersey Shore, but I grew up in Ringwood, which is the northwestern corner of the state, in the Ramapo Mountains. So here’s my list of suggestions of places to visit:
    1. Ringwood Manor & Skylands Manor, both in Ringwood. Ringwood Manor dates back to the colonial era, and Skylands is the official state botanical garden, really gorgeous in the spring and summer, especially when the cherry trees bloom.
    2. The Great Falls in Paterson NJ-2nd biggest waterfall in the U.S., after Niagara Falls. Drive south on Main St. from there and you’re get to one of the biggest Middle Eastern neighborhoods on the East Coast, lots of ethnic groceries, bakeries and great, cheap restaurants.
    3. The Newark Museum and the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark. The museum is a hidden treasure, and the Ironbound is a wonderful Portuguese neighborhood with dozens of great restaurants to choose from. Paella heaven.
    4. Ocean Grove- a beautifully preserved Victorian town on the ocean in Monmouth County. It’s wonderful to wander around and look at the architecture, lovely beach and one of the biggest wooden auditoriums in the country. Right next door is Asbury Park, home of The Stone Pony where Bruce got his start.
    5. Seaside Heights boardwalk or Wildwood boardwalk, this is where you go at night for a taste of the really tacky “Jersey Shore” style, roller coasters, tattoo parlors, junk food, it’s all here.
    6. Cape May- another Victorian town at the southern tip of the state, somewhat bigger and more touristy than Ocean Grove.
    7. Paramus-this is the mall mecca of the state, if that’s your thing. Just don’t try it on Sunday, everything is closed.
    8. High Point State Park. Yes, NJ has mountains, and from the top of this one you can see views of the Delaware River, Pennsylvania and New York state. Beautiful in the fall.
    9. The Delaware Water Gap-great place for canoeing, tubing, hiking, or just have a picnic and enjoy the scenery.
    10. Princeton, NJ. The University campus is lovely, the art museum is free, & you can visit Einstein’s former home.
    11. Six Flags Great Adventure-it’s actually 3 parks in one-an amusement park with lot of great rides, Wild Safari wild animal park and Hurricane Harbor water park.
    This will give you a taste of the diversity of my state.

  5. (reacherfan1909) says:

    Don’t forget Jersey wieners – hot dogs fried in deep fat until their skins turn crisp. Fry them long enough and they split open to be called ‘rippers’. Always served with sauce that’s got stray bits of ground beef in a tomato and beef broth base with seasonings. Thin and a little runny. To have the full effect – ‘all the way’, the dog goes on a steamed bun, slap yellow mustard down, then raw diced onion, and slap the sauce on top. Heart attacks optional.

    And salt water Taffy started in Atlantic City. I remember the taffy shop in Asbury Park had the taffy puller in the window so you could watch it being made. Yum…….

  6. (reacherfan1909) says:


    My family vacationed there for years when my mom was a kid. I can remember taking my grandmother there during the summer so she would have 3 weeks down the shore at the Seaside Hotel. The entire town in now an historic landmark.

  7. Whitney (whitneyab) , says:

    So many memories… Count me in as another Jersey girl.

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