Tips for Europeans in Northern New Jersey
Sure enough, these are my personal impressions and favorites. I got the impression that they reflect some kind of European taste, so of course you need to reflect them a bit and decide for yourself what you are interested in.
- http://www.mapquest.com/ is vital for all navigation - unless you have your own GPS ;-)
- Official pages
- The page of the state of New Jersey: http://www.state.nj.us/
- The page of the state of New York: http://www.state.ny.us/
- The page of the state of Pennsylvania: http://www.state.pa.us/
- Hanging out in Woodstock, NY
- This is a great place to hang out on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
It is the Woodstock people think of as the place where the famous Woodstock music festival took place in 1968.
It is not the place though. The original plan was to have it there, but it was finally moved to a place 50 miles South of Woodstock.
The name was kept though because it was established already.
Woodstock still lives, there are no chain stores there and you can meet very interesting and friendly people.
When we were there on a Saturday afternoon, we sat for two hours in a "drumming for peace" session. People passing by just joined in and it was big fun.
If you get bored, there are nice hills in the surrounding area that you can walk up, typically an hour or so to walk (one way).
- It is good advice to go to Woodstock on a weekend day, as even hippies seem to pursue some activities during the week.
- Franklin D. Rosevelt's home
- Not too far from Woodstock, roughly 2 hours north of
NYC in Hyde Park, NY (take route 9 North to Hyde Park). Basically it's just he house the family lived in, but it contains a good exhibition and you get to learn a bit more about the WWII times and one of the most famous American presidents.
- Hiking on the Appalachian Trail
- The Appalachian Trail stretches from Atlanta, GA to Maine, several thousand miles along the East coast. There is a very nice stretch in the Pocono mountains, along the Delaware at the border of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York state. Go to the Delaware water gap, coming from the East take the last exit off of route 80 before you go into Pennsylvania. Keep going on the right-hand side of the Delaware until you reach the park visitor center. They have maps. The Appalachian trail is on the ridge on the other side of the visitor center, maybe 300 feet (100 meters) higher up than the road.
- Canoeing on the Delaware
- ... is dead easy. Just go some place along the Delaware,
typically into New York state, and stop at a canoe rental place. They bring you to the start or pick you up. The Delaware is a very big and very gently flowing river, if you paddle a bit, you can easily come to a standstill in the middle of the river.
- New Jersey Swamps
- In case you didn't know that most of New Jersey is swamp land (largely hidden below the concrete), it's about time to get to see it. There are a couple of nice hiking trails, mostly on boardwalks, in the Chatham area. They are very nice in winter and in summer, in summer you should have insect repellent with you. Go in the late afternoon for some wildlife watching, including birds, deer, turtles, and the New Jersey state animal, the moskito.
- Two good starts are:
- The New Jersey Swamp Educational Center hiking trail. From
Chatham Main St. go onto Fairmount Ave (close to the train
station). Keep going for about 1.8 miles until you see signs
to the "Great Swamp" at a traffic light intersection. Follow
the sign by taking a right (road goes slightly downhill). It
is then on the left-hand side.
- If you keep going straight at that crossing, take a right
after another 1.8 miles (two roads to the right) onto
Meyersville Road. Follow the sign into Meyersville (2.6
miles). At the circular traffic
exit to the right onto New Vernon Road. After 1.8 miles the
parking lot is on the left.
- House hunting
- There's another interesting Sunday afternoon activity:
joining the house hunters. If you drive around in a
neighborhood, you will see signs in front yards announcing
that this particular real estate is for sale. Very often it
will also tell you that there is an open house on Sunday from
1pm to 5pm. There would be the owner or, much more frequently,
a real estate agent, prepared to show people around in the
house. Don't be shy, the people are prepared to show strangers
around in the houses. Don't tell them though that you are just
a tourist curious to get to see an American home.
Looking at houses is very interesting, in particular if you are from good
old Europe and haven't seen that many wooden houses yet. You
can engage owners in conversations about the heating system or
gardening, and you can inquire about termite problems
(remember, it's all wood). Brick houses are very rare. If you
notice bricks on the outside of a house, chances are they are
just mounted on the interior wood.
Don't you confuse the Jets with the Nets or the Mets! I found that a pro(fessional) game, let it be basketball, baseball, football, or hockey, is mostly less fun and more expensive than college events. College sport is a big thing in the US, and the crowd is more supportive as the teams are local. In the East, there is the "Big East" conference that organizes all the big events.
If you are in Northern New Jersey, Rutgers for example is a big college. They can draw several tens of thousand spectators. Close to Morristown is Seton Hall, for example for women's basketball, with up to 2,000 spectators.
- Sports seasons
- Football season is roughly from August to early next year, ending with the Superbowl pro final
- Basketball season is roughly from late summer to spring.
- Baseball season is almost all through the year with almost daily games
- Big East
- Big East, college football, basketball, baseball, and soccer
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights College Football
- The Crossings Factory Stores in Pennsylvania is a great place. Outlet malls from good quality stores with great discounts. Check their web page http://www.thecrossings.com/ for details on what stores there are. The place is in Tannersville, just a little bit East of Stroudsburg, PA, on route 80 (exit 299).
- Short Hills Mall. Fairly pricy with shops like Sharper Image, Timberland's, and more. Good quality for good money. At route 24 in Short Hills.
- Jersey Gardens, the biggest outlet mall in New Jersey at I95 a bit south of Newark airport. Free shuttle from Newark International Airport at Airtrain Station P4.
Eating and Drinking
- No way around Zagat's restaurant guide. Restaurants by area, by type of cuisine, price, whatever you like. If you go to New York City, enter the area you are in and get a selection of restaurants with price levels and very appropriate descriptions. More than worth the $15 subscription per year.
- Shanghai Jazz, Madison Main St. Great place with live jazz (not the hard core stuff, a bit more mainstream) and excellent food, moderatly priced. Reservation is a good idea.
- Food chains
- If you like Mexican/American food, Chilly's and Bennigan's are good bets. Very good food, reasonably priced. Try the margueritas at Chilly's and if you haven't ever tried Buffalo chicken wings with blue cheese dressing, then this is the time.
- For the East Hanover/Chatham/Morristown area, there's a Chilly's on route 10, across the road from Novartis. Bennigan's is in Morristown in the Headquarter's Plaza (the only skyscraper in town) and on Columbia Turnpike (510) and Ridgedale, close to the Florham Park shopping square (a bit West of it on Columbia Turnpike).
- How about brew pubs where they brew their own beer?
- The Brew Pub Zone
- New Jersey Brew Pubs
- Switchboard Brew Pubs
- Finding events online
- Daily Record, local newspaper
- Star Ledger, local newspaper, events by zip code
- Finding tickets online
- Ticketmaster, probably the no 1 resource
- ebay, if you want tickets for a sold out event
- Cultural events
- American Theater Web, great resource for the entire US
- Paper Mill, State Theatre of New Jersey in Millburn
- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Morristown
Greater New Jersey
- Big but not overwhelmingly many attactions. The art museum is big and great and seemingly most famous for the movie scene in Rocky where Sylvester Stallone runs up the stairs.
- Washington DC
- Now that's a place worth visiting. Sure there are the standard attractions that are well worth a visit, the White House (no more tours as of summer 2003), the Lincoln Memorial, and the Capitol (tours and admission all days except Sundays). The Washington Monument is nice from the outside but there's not that much to see from the top. If there's a line outside (typically you need to get a ticket for the tour in 4 hours or so), it's not worth it.
- There are other interesting places that are less crowded, for example Mount Vernon, George Washington's home place (a large property and a small house with some historical facts, really nice though for a stroll on a large property on a nice day), the Arlington National Cemetery (just across the Potomac from the Lincoln Memorial), and of course the many many phantastic museums, all along the mall.
- The most spectacular museum is probably the air and space museum with a whole lot of original space flight "hardware" like rockets, satellites, moon landing equipment, and a good semi-scientific bookstore.
- The American history museum is much less for getting to know about American history, it's more about selective pieces of culture. That's the place to go to if you want to see Michael Jordan's original sweaty shirt or Mr. Spock's original phaser.
- I found the Holocaust Museum very impressive (it's not directly at the mall). Also not too much of education (as you would find in Europe), but very well set up. In particular the children's section that displays the story of a Jewish boy is most impressive. Notice the subtle messages that underlie the entire story: you simply can not tell others what to think and believe - if a country is free.
- The Hirschhorn art museum is also worth a visit, and probably an insider tip (the masses stand in line at the air and space museum).
- The best of it all is that all museums in DC are free of charge.
- Amish Country
- You might have heard of the Amish. They are people that follow a conservative religion and old traditions. They still live without electricity and modern transport vehicles like cars, but they use horse carriages instead. There are tours in summer, and just driving there is interesting. Make sure you stop by at a good restaurant place for very good home cooking. For more details go to http://www.yahoo.com/ and punch in "Amish."
- There are two large agglomerations of Amish people. There is one patch in Pennsylvania (about 3 hours from NYC, take route 30 and then drive from Intercourse (that's what the town is called, you can buy t-shirts "I love Intercourse" there) to Bird in Hand. The second place is about an 8 hour drive from NYC in Ohio (Ashland, Holmes, Wayne, Stark and Tuscarawas counties).
- Niagara Falls
- ... is about an 8 hour drive away from NYC. If you go, you might want to stop over at FDR's home or in Woodstock (see above).
- National Public Radio. NPR is an organization that creates the program and sells it on to local radio stations. In the New York City/Northern New Jersey area, the local station is WNYC on 93.9.
- This is the only station that broadcasts a lot of news, commentaries, discussion, and the like. It contains a significant amount of BBC material. News and information in the morning roughly from 6 to 12, in the afternoon from maybe 4 to 7 pm (the afternoon show is currently called "all things considered").
- For the ones who prefer information to music.
- In other parts of the country, you need to tune in to other stations broadcasting NPR material. They are typically all between 89 and 92 MHz.
- As is typical for the US, you need to tune into another radio stations every 50 miles or so.
- Car Talk
- One of my favorite radio shows, broadcast via NPR. On WNYC on Saturday from 11 to 12am. See also http://www.cartalk.com/.
- A whole lot of fun around cars.
- Nothing useful detected yet
- Maybe with the exception of the NJ Network and the science/history/health channel
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