6 Thrilling Destinations In New Jersey

From centers inspiring the next generation of artists, to heritage sites allowing visitors the opportunity to experience early American history, New Jersey is home to a varied array of immersive destinations. In no particular order, here are some unique and unforgettable experiences offered within the Garden State.

Kicking off the list at #1 is WheatonArts. Located in Millville, this arts community includes the Down Jersey Folklife Center and the Museum of American Glass, home to the world's largest hand-blown glass bottle. The community's governing body, Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center, is a nonprofit with a mission to engage makers and audiences in an evolving exploration of creativity. This is accomplished through the interpretation of collections and exhibitions, as well as through education initiatives and culturally diverse public programs.

As the foundation of the program, the Museum of American Glass houses one of the nation’s largest collections of artistic glass, encompassing some of the earliest examples made in the country, from 18th-century pieces to contemporary works. Meanwhile, the Down Jersey Folklife Center offers programs, performances, and temporary exhibitions related to the folk traditions and cultural diversity of southern New Jersey, while also highlighting the region’s many ethnic groups and art forms.

In at #2, the Van Vleck House & Gardens originated as a 12-acre private estate in Montclair, when Joseph Van Vleck Sr. and his family moved to the area from Brooklyn in 1868. The original U-shaped Italianate villa remains, surrounded by private gardens, and is maintained by the Montclair Foundation's board of management. Visitors may enjoy all of the landscaped areas, while nonprofit groups can use the house as a center for meetings, retreats, and fundraisers.

Combining horticulture, education, music, and art, the Van Vleck House & Gardens hosts a variety of classes, concerts, and other special events for adults and families. Self-guided tours through the Outdoor Adventures program allow guests to explore the grounds and learn about selected topics with the help of informational displays, activity kits, and available Van Vleck educators. Adult-oriented programs include yoga, edible plant classes, and a tree planting series.

Entering the list at #3 is South Jersey. The region provides a wide array of attractions, museums, dining, and nightlife. From the shops Downtown, to miles of hiking trails through meadow, forest, and wetland habitats, the area offers activities suitable for everyone in the family. South Jersey has a historic past that began in colonial-era America. History lovers can discover places where escaped slaves traveled along the Underground Railroad, explore the first dinosaur dig site in the state, or stroll through a pre-industrial community nestled within a preserved forest.

Shoppers may explore the Downtown area, which features art galleries, bookshops, antique stores, and other boutiques. The region's farmers' markets, meanwhile, showcase thousands of items, including gardening gear, fresh produce, and Amish baked goods. Finally, the South Jersey Wine Region is an American Viticultural Area with more than 30 wineries and vineyards offering tours, tastings, and grape-stomping activities.

At #4, Cape May claims to be America's original seaside resort, encompassing pristine beaches, a promenade, and a variety of other amenities and attractions. Located at the tip of Southern New Jersey, the island is accessible by one of two bridges that cross the canal linking the Delaware Bay to the Atlantic Ocean. From the Cove to Poverty Beach, Cape May's seaside retreats are family friendly, close to food and nearby shopping, and offer many water sports and other excursions.

Cape May is home to the Washington Street Mall, an outdoor walking mall spanning three blocks, with brick pathways, decorative fountains, and wooden benches surrounding garden planters. Several shops specialize in unique keepsakes, like Queen May Estate Jewelry and the nautically inspired Sea Bags. Restaurants, such as Harry's Ocean Bar & Grille and SeaSalt, serve locally caught seafood in a beachfront atmosphere.

Coming in at #5 is Crossroads of the American Revolution. From the Palisades at Fort Lee to the shores of the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, this National Heritage Area lets visitors explore the impact of the American Revolution. The area encompasses approximately 2,155 square miles in New Jersey, and is home to dozens of former Revolutionary War headquarters established by General George Washington.

Crossroads maintains more than 200 historic houses, churches, museums, monuments, graveyards, and battle sites. Visitors may embark on one of the suggested tour itineraries, or use a Revolutionary story theme to create a unique route that follows such historical timelines as the Washington-Rochambeau Route or the Defense of the Hudson. In addition, the area hosts many yearly events, including musket firing demonstrations at Washington Crossing State Park and ghost hunts at White Hill Mansion.

Lastly, at #6 is the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. Located in Holmdel, the Memorial recognizes the valor of the state's veterans and the sacrifices of their families and communities. Committed to sharing the experiences of the Vietnam War era and its enduring legacy with future generations, the site tells the story of the 1,563 New Jerseyans who made the ultimate sacrifice during the War.

The Memorial is an open-air circular pavilion, 200 feet in diameter, surrounded by a black granite wall that displays veterans' names, listed according to the date each died. Visitors have the opportunity to take tours of the Memorial, guided by Vietnam War veterans. Meanwhile, the Vietnam Era Museum encourages learning by exploration through inclusive and object-oriented exhibitions.