Simply put, there is no place like New Jersey. It has been the home to some of the world’s most famous entertainers, including Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Whitney Houston, Meryl Streep, Peter Dinklage and Jack Nicholson. Countless landmark television and film projects have been filmed there, including The Sopranos, Garden State, American Hustle and many Kevin Smith movies. As one of America’s 13 original colonies, Jersey has also been the site of hundreds of years of American history. However, the state is just as notable for its beautiful beaches, boardwalks and resorts.
Although many towns in New Jersey are thought of as “beach towns,” a lot of spots along the Jersey Shore are full of world-class dining options, historical destinations, and boutique hotels. In order words, lots of The Garden State is ripe for year-round tourism, no matter the weather. To prove this, I spoke to a variety of people to learn about what keeps them loyal to their home state:
- The Marilyn Schlossbach Group’s Marilyn Schlossbach, who owns the Asbury Park Boardwalk spots Langosta Lounge, Pop’s Garage, and Asbury Park Yacht Club
- The Morris County Tourism Board’s Carol Anton
- Ocean County Business Development & Tourism’s Dana Lancellotti
- John Siciliano, Executive Director and CFO of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority
- Dan MacElrevey, Doo Wop Preservation League President, Wildwood Downtown Development Corporation Vice President, and the Greater Wildwood Hotel and Motel Association Vice President
- Patrick Rosenello, Mayor of North Wildwood
- Morey’s Piers owner Jack Morey
How would you describe your destination to someone who hasn’t yet been there?
Marilyn Schlossbach, The Marilyn Schlossbach Group: A creative city by the sea. Asbury [Park] is a unique place that has both a beach culture and an urban music and art culture. A rarity in America.
Carol Anton, Morris County Tourism Bureau: Morris County is located in the northern region of New Jersey, about 25 miles from New York City. The most recent census reported that we were the sixth wealthiest county in the U.S. Morris County offers the perfect combination of downtowns with a city feel, surrounded by stunning parks and mountains. There are enough historic, cultural and recreational opportunities to keep residents and visitors alike busy all year round. The county is home to many fine and diverse restaurants, comfortable inns and hotels, and excellent attractions.
Dana Lancellotti, Ocean County Business Development & Tourism: Ocean County is a destination that is filled with unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary experiences. With our 44 miles of sugar sand beaches, 42 miles of the bountiful Barnegat Bay, watersheds, lakes and estuaries…We are a water lover’s playground! Beyond the deep-rooted maritime and baymen’s aquaculture is our great Pinelands region, which offers camping, hiking, nature tours and outdoor wonders. You can kayak on streams through pine forests where wildlife and plant life, folklore and “piney culture” will exhilarate the explorer inside you. Our farmland is bursting with berries, Jersey Fresh tomatoes, corn and a vineyard which is a scenic delight. Known for our premier attractions, such as Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari, Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, Seaside Heights and Long Beach Island, these destinations draw millions of visitors each year.
Speaking of Six Flags and Jenks, we have giraffes and penguins all in one county! Families can take the Wild Safari tour at Great Adventure, marvel at elephants, lions, bears and so much more, and then just 40 minutes away they can visit Jenkinson’s Aquarium on the Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach to see penguins, sharks, sea lions and other aquatic creatures, plus monkeys and tropical birds! Ocean County offers exciting festivals and events all year long to keep people on their toes. We are never bored at the Jersey Shore!
John Siciliano, Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority: The Wildwoods are three separate communities on one five-mile barrier island at the southern-most tip of New Jersey boasting over nine million visitors each year, making it the most visited family vacation destination at the Jersey Shore. The Wildwoods have over 8,000 hotel/motel rooms and 3,000 vacation rentals, plus beautiful white sand beaches, 2.5 mile world-famous boardwalk with over 100-rides and attractions, three amusement piers, three beachfront waterparks, arcades, carnival-style games, shops and over 300 eateries.
Dan MacElrevey, Wildwood Downtown Development Corporation: A true resort with one of the finest boardwalk and amusement areas. Certainly the finest beach on the East Coast. A fun place that people have been enjoying for the last century.
Patrick Rosenello, Mayor of North Wildwood: From the Wildwoods Boardwalk, where you experience sensory overload, to the serene beaches and bay front, the island offers a near perfect summer family vacation destination.
Jack Morey, Morey’s Piers: The Wildwoods and Morey’s Piers are NOT for everybody, but they are for anybody. Think of a more classy Coney Island with no gangs, but just as many freaks. Morey’s Piers and Waterparks are super-clean, super-friendly, super safe, and generally speaking, just super-duper.
Do you have a favorite feature or amenity of your community?
Marilyn Schlossbach, The Marilyn Schlossbach Group: Personally I am a beach girl and I love the ability to come off the beach, eat in a fun restaurant and go see some great music or art all in day and one outfit!
Carol Anton, Morris County Tourism Bureau: Most visitors to Morris County enjoy the heritage sites; the county is home to four national landmarks. The county is home to America’s first national historical park, which tells the story of the area’s role and contributions during the Revolutionary War. Morristown National Historical Park, founded in 1933, is comprised of many locations; my favorite one is Washington’s Headquarters: the Ford Mansion. This is probably the best-preserved Revolutionary War structure in New Jersey, once Washington’s quarters and base of operations during two winters of the Revolution.
Dana Lancellotti, Ocean County Business Development & Tourism: Variety and access to everything.
John Siciliano, Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority: That would have to be the beautiful beach and ocean, where one can relax and let the sounds of the waves crashing on shore sooth all your tensions away.
Dan MacElrevey, Wildwood Downtown Development Corporation: The beaches and the time you can spend enjoy the beach and ocean.
Patrick Rosenello, Mayor of North Wildwood: I love early morning bike rides the length of the island and walks on the Anglesea Sea Wall anytime of day.
Jack Morey, Morey’s Piers: My Top 5:
1) Great White old fashioned wooden roller coaster
2) Ocean Oasis and Raging Waters Water Parks (both are actually on the beach)
3) Stubborn Brothers Beach Bar — enjoy a Pirate’s Punch, named after me, while gazing at all thing summer
4) Joe’s Fish Co. — go to the upper deck that floats over the rides, a great spot for Friday night fireworks and drinks
5) Curley’s Fries — Best on the planet…..seriously!
What do you wish more people knew about the overall area?
Marilyn Schlossbach, The Marilyn Schlossbach Group: Jersey gets a bad rap. I believe that we have been under the stigma of 90’s TV shows portraying us as suburban partiers. When you come out of the airport, you see refineries and garbage dumps. But when you travel a short distance south, the coast opens up to a beautiful coastline with diverse communities and amenities.
Carol Anton, Morris County Tourism Bureau: As I said, Morris County is home to four National Landmarks; they are Morristown National Historical Park, Villa Fontana (former home of political cartoonist Thomas Nast), The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms (former home of Gustav Stickley, a leading figure in the American Arts & Crafts movement), and Historic Speedwell Village (where the first electromagnetic telegraph was perfected in 1838).
Dana Lancellotti, Ocean County Business Development & Tourism: That there is such an abundance of choices to make a perfect vacation. Quiet, serene, romantic getaways, where within minutes you can jaunt off to thrill rides, live concerts, a minor league baseball game or set sail on a charter boat to watch fireworks along the shoreline.
John Siciliano, Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority: That it has some of the finest restaurants anywhere on the East Coast. You can get fresh-caught seafood while dining on outdoor decks overlooking the ocean or back bays as well as any other cuisine you may desire. It is a foodie’s paradise.
Dan MacElrevey, Wildwood Downtown Development Corporation: The scope of what is here and the quality of it. The overall family atmosphere that has created multi-generational vacations.
Patrick Rosenello, Mayor of North Wildwood: The incredible diversity of things to do. From historic Cape May to our breweries and wineries, to the excitement of the Wildwoods Boardwalk, to the Norman Rockwell-like appearance of 96th street in Stone Harbor, the Jersey Cape offers an amazing diversity of things to do.
Jack Morey, Morey’s Piers: The southern Jersey Shore — or Cape May Peninsula, as we prefer to say — is home to farms, breweries, wineries, distilleries, salt marshes, boating, fishing, museums, Victorian Cape May…Last but not least, it is the greatest remaining piece of Americana and honky-tonk known as the Wildwood Boardwalk, which is also home to Morey’s Piers.
When did you first experience the Jersey Shore?
Marilyn Schlossbach, The Marilyn Schlossbach Group: I was born and raised in Belmar. When I was 16 I started traveling every year searching for waves, warm water and great food! Every winter I would go to places like the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Central America, and Brazil. When I opened my first restaurant in Avon — Oshin, a French-Japanese sushi bar — with my brother and some dear friends in 1982. I was just a kid who wanted to be inspired and have fun. It grew from there.
Carol Anton, Morris County Tourism Bureau: As a child, my family would go to Sandy Hook, and then later as a young adult I’d go with my girlfriends to Long Beach Island. The shore was very different then, not as built up. Now I visit the shore with my family and still go to Long Beach Island. One summer we did not vacation at the Jersey Shore, and it just did not feel like summer that year.
Dana Lancellotti, Ocean County Business Development & Tourism: Born and raised here. First half of my life in Monmouth County and the past 23 years in Ocean County. I’m the real Jersey Shore girl.
Jack Morey, Morey’s Piers: I was born here, but left and then came back.
John Siciliano, Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority: I first visited the Jersey Shore as a small child with my family on our annual family vacation to our favorite shore spot. Those lasting family memories have stayed with me and made me want to permanently live the Jersey Shore lifestyle year-round.
Dan MacElrevey, Wildwood Downtown Development Corporation: Shortly after I was born, 1941.
Patrick Rosenello, Mayor of North Wildwood: My family came here every summer since I was born and then we moved here full-time when I was four years old. Which, by the way, still does not qualify me as a local! My younger sister, who was born in Cape May Court House, is the only one in my family who gets the title.
What is your favorite restaurant nearby?
Marilyn Schlossbach, The Marilyn Schlossbach Group: I know it’s mine but I love what we have created at Langosta Lounge. It embodies the traveling and diversity that my husband and I crave. When we want to get out of town we search for little ethnic restaurants with no frills. And we always have at least one meal a week at Frank’s Deli!
Carol Anton, Morris County Tourism Bureau: So hard to choose, they are all so great and unique in their own way, but if I had to choose, it would be Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen in Morristown.
Dana Lancellotti, Ocean County Business Development & Tourism: Can’t say a favorite. Martell’s Waters Edge in Berkeley Township is beautiful. Amazing views of the Bay and the food in their dining room is excellent. They also have a massive outdoor deck bar where boaters can dock to refresh, but the food on deck is not comparable to the food in the indoor dining room. Spicy’s Cantina in Seaside Heights is a fun, ocean-view, Mexican-style bar, with an open air atmosphere when you’re more interested in the drinks than fine dining. Atlantic Bar and Grill in Seaside Park has fabulous food, Charlie’s of Bay Head is a new shining star which is located on a lake with fabulous food and views and Jack Baker’s Wharfside in Point Pleasant is great cocktail fun with its outdoor deck and live music through the Summer.
John Siciliano, Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority: My favorite restaurant has to be Joey M’s La Piazza Cuccina. It is a great Italian family restaurant that has the experience of a Sunday dinner at an old-world Italian family’s house with all the relatives there. It reminds me of an old South Philly Italian Supper Club too, with live music playing the hits of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Dan MacElrevey, Wildwood Downtown Development Corporation: Colleens By the Sea.
Patrick Rosenello, Mayor of North Wildwood: Of course, the three I am involved with — Stewarts, Captn Jacks and Harbor Burger — are great. Other than them, I would say it is a tie between Piro’s and Duffenetti’s.
Jack Morey, Morey’s Piers: So darn many to choose from, but let’s go with Joe’s Fish Co. and Lobster House in Cape May.
Finally, what is it that keeps you in New Jersey? Why are you in New Jersey and not somewhere else?
Marilyn Schlossbach, The Marilyn Schlossbach Group: I have tried to leave so many times and I keep coming back. September at the shore is a wonderful place to be. The water is warm and the town is still alive without the crowds. We also have a restaurant in Normandy Beach which is like the Outer Banks compared to Asbury, so we get the best of what The Jersey Shore has to offer.
Carol Anton, Morris County Tourism Bureau: New Jersey has a lot to offer in all four seasons: the small and charming towns, the city and country feel, mountains, ocean shore points, history, culture, diversity, and plenty of open space.
Dana Lancellotti, Ocean County Business Development & Tourism: I have thought about…even dreamed about leaving, as I know many in Jersey do. It is a fast-paced, nonstop life here and the cost of living is overwhelming at times. With all of that said, we all fear that we will be bored to death somewhere else. It is a special, deeply heartfelt and soulful connection to the history, culture, nostalgia and energy of the Jersey Shore that makes those who live here stay and those who visit here come back time and time again.
John Siciliano, Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority: The beach, the ocean, the mild climate and beautiful landscape can’t be beat.
Dan MacElrevey, Wildwood Downtown Development Corporation: I find it more interesting in New Jersey. I find the environment in South Jersey interesting with the wetlands, woods, beaches and all the fun places to go. I also enjoy history and Wildwood is full of great history.
Patrick Rosenello, Mayor of North Wildwood: There is simply no other place I know of that provides the incredible beauty and excitement of the Jersey Shore, while also being so close to the major cities like D.C., Philadelphia and New York.
Jack Morey, Morey’s Piers: Can’t beat the beach, even in the winter, and access to Philly and New York City is great when you need to break away.