Where the Gypsy Angels Go
May 19, 2008 1:39 PM   Subscribe

New Jersey-Filter: Two questions. First, can you recommend any great B&Bs in Monmouth County? Second, if you had the aim of introducing two close friends to summer in the Garden State, with the ulterior motive of disabusing them of anti-Jersey stereotypes, where would you take them and what would you do?
posted by Miko to Travel & Transportation around New Jersey (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if this will work for anyone else, but I was disabused of my anti-Joisey stereotypes when I made a friend whose parents had a house on the Shore (I know! I know!). The house was in Lavallette; at the time, it was still a not-fancy part of the Shore, mostly made up of people who (like my friends' parents) had bought their places in the 60s and never done much renovating or fancifying. The town was pretty blue-collar and not very yuppified. I found the beaches really beautiful, and much fun to hang out on and the water was great for swimming and bodysurfing.

To get to the Shore from where I lived (in DC), I had to drive through the Pine Barrens, which astonished me with how weird and beautiful they are. I was surprised in general at how rural much of New Jersey is (Garden State, yeah, hi!).
posted by rtha at 1:53 PM on May 19, 2008

There are lots of beautiful parts of Hunterdon County. Stockton is right on the Delaware River, and has the Stockton Inn (good food) and the Prallsville Mill. Plus you can walk along the towpath there, which is very scenic. Lambertville is also attractive, with good restaurants. The traffic can get to be a bit much on weekends, though, but nowhere near as bad as in New Hope, right across the river.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 2:01 PM on May 19, 2008

Would you mind clarifying what you mean by anti-Jersey stereotypes? i.e. Sopranos? Or overly tanned teenagers driving SUVs with too much product in their hair and on their face and wearing pants that say JUICY on the butt?

I grew up in Bergen County and went to school at Rutgers. I was lucky to avoid this. I was actually exposed to it when watching things like Super Sweet 16 and other MTV guilty pleasures.
posted by spec80 at 2:07 PM on May 19, 2008

No idea on the first question, I lived most of my life in NJ so I never had to stay at a B&B. To negate those stereotypes, my first thought is to take them to Princeton, a very lovely town, as far away from guidos as you can get. One of the great things about NJ is it's extremely nice and clean beaches. But don't call it a beach, 'cause its the shore dammit. If you want to avoid the stereotypes, go to a nice quiet beach like Spring Lake. Family oriented, no boardwalk, but no meatheads either.

On preview, definitely anywhere in Hunterdon County, as thats where I'm from originally. Round Valley Reservoir, Spruce Run, Deer Hill Park, basically any of the winding paths along the south branch of the Raritan River, and for some shopping, Liberty Village in Flemington, are all really nice places.
posted by Mach5 at 2:11 PM on May 19, 2008

I would take them hiking in the Delaware Water Gap and camp that night at the Lakota Wolf Preserve. 2nding the Pine Barrens too (go blueberry picking there!)
posted by headnsouth at 2:18 PM on May 19, 2008

Cape May. 'nuff said.

But, I really liked Sleazeside as a teenager, although that will only reinforce stereotypes... Stay outta North Jersey because you'll just be followed and arrested.
posted by valentinepig at 2:23 PM on May 19, 2008

I'd start with blindfolding them after they get off the plane if they're flying into Newark. The Turnpike just strengthens the stereotypes of NJ as one big Superfund site.

Your best bet for Monmouth County area B&B's will probably be Red Bank, Spring Lake, or Spring Lake Heights. I have family nearby, so I've never had to stay in a B&B there.

- There are lots of lovely walkable downtowns in NJ. Lambertville is nice, but I'm also a fan of Red Bank, Princeton, Frenchtown, Montclair, and Clinton.

- Take them to the boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, play some skeeball, walk the beach (My husband says it's too touristy and crowded - I think it's a quintessential Jersey experience - I grew up in Brick, he grew up in the Beach :)

- Catch a minor league baseball game at any one of a number of places. Go for the Lakewood Blue Claws if you're sticking close to Monmouth County. I'm partial to the Somerset Patriots in Bridgewater, and it could fit in with a Hunterdon County day trip.

- Seconding Hunterdon County for pretty driving and scenic views. For casual yet fine dining in that area (read: tasty and expensive), go to Orvieto in Flemington or Limestone Cafe in Peapack-Gladstone.

- A day in New Brunswick could include a visit to the Zimmerli Art Museum, a show at State Theater, and dinner at any one of a number of places. Princeton offers similarly artsy choices without as many good dinner options in the area.

- They're not my thing, but NJ has plenty of historic sites. Hit the NJ Dept. of Tourism website for info.

- My husband (calling out suggestions from across the room) recommends hiking up in the Sussex County area and visiting Island Beach State Park.

A lot of this depends on what your friends are into, and what will change their opinion.
posted by booksherpa at 2:26 PM on May 19, 2008

Off the top of my head I'd say, Princeton, Lambertville and the Pine Barrens.
posted by ob at 2:37 PM on May 19, 2008

Response by poster: Some great reminders here. Minor league ball is a nifty suggestion; maybe Monmouth Park for racing, too.

Just to clarify: I grew up in NJ, I'm from Red Bank, and I've never needed a B&B because when I visit I just visit family. This time there are too many people to crash on floors, and we want a 'vacationy' experience.

The main stereotype I'm combating is the one about NJ being a giant industrial pollution pit - the usual shallow impression people get driving through Port Elizabeth on the Turnpike. But I would also be happy to round out the Sopranos-influenced picture to show them how diverse and interesting the population of the state is.

So the basic idea is to take them to Red Bank, show them where I grew up, have some real pizza, then to a watering hole somewhere. We'll visit Sandy Hook and Twin Lights for historic/maritime interest. Then head down the beach road for looks at Asbury, Ocean Grove, and Seaside. We'll probably then skip down to the Ocean City area, Brigantine, visit Lucy, then camp in the south and do some Pine Barrens canoeing so they can be amazed at the vast expanses of wildness, as well. Cape May if there's time.

Just want to be sure I'm not missing any classic experiences. We won't be visiting the Western part of the state, either South or North, for time reasons, though I've done lots of hiking in the northwest and Princeton /Lambertville are indeed pretty.

But don't call it a beach, 'cause its the shore dammit

I always have to nitpick this - not quite! The Shore is a region, but a beach is the sandy waterfront once you're in that region. You go to the Shore to go to the beach. When you grow up at the Shore, you go to the beach - you don't get up in the morning, look down the block at the ocean and say "let's go to the Shore today!" When people live a couple hours away, they tend to say "let's go to the Shore." Growing up on the Shore, we'd say "I'm from the Shore," but never "All I want to do this summer is hang out at the shore." We were already there. We'd "hang out at the beach."

I will store away the non-shorey suggestions for another Round 2 trip, the mountains and Del. Water Gap!
posted by Miko at 3:49 PM on May 19, 2008

So the basic idea is to take them to Red Bank, show them where I grew up, have some real pizza, then to a watering hole somewhere

Fail not in checking out the antique/used goods shops.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:21 PM on May 19, 2008

I loved canoing down the Wading River in the Pine Barrens.
posted by plinth at 5:29 PM on May 19, 2008

I was going to suggest Asbury Park. The Ironbound in Newark is good for the diversity aspect.

But mostly I want to query this "to the Shore" thing. Yes, it's a place, but we never went to the Shore, we went "down the Shore." As in "this weekend, we're going down the Shore so we can go to the beach." Do real New Jerseyans say that, or was that just a Pennsylvania (Philadelphia area) thing?
posted by yarrow at 7:08 PM on May 19, 2008

Response by poster: "down the Shore" was an extremely out-of-towner thing to say when I was growing up. However, it's spread to old-time Jerseyans who now say it for fun, and also because a lot of the people who used to live in those outlying areas and would come in to go "down the Shore" have now relocated and live at the Shore.
posted by Miko at 7:21 PM on May 19, 2008

Yeah, "down the shore" is a non-native thing to say - at least, in the part of Jersey where I grew up, which sounds close to Miko. (I was in Little Silver and Rumson, but spent most of my misspent teenage years bumming around Red Bank.) Maybe other parts of Jersey actually say "down the Shore" in an un-ironic fashion?

Miko, sounds like you've pretty much got the quintessential experience for our area down. There's something to be said for adding in a bit of a proper skeeball experience, or a ferry ride, depending on how much time you've got to work with. I would take friends in Red Bank to one of the Jazz in the Park things, if they're still doing that in the summers, or failing that, at least for a wander through one or two of the riverfront parks.

I don't know about B&Bs, but I have a vague notion my parents who still live in the area may know one or two. I'll try to remember to ask and come back to this thread.
posted by Stacey at 7:48 PM on May 19, 2008

Isn't the state crowded enough without disabusing people of a carefully-cultivated image we natives have worked so hard to maintain?

No answer for the first, but for the second, Restaurant Nicholas perhaps? If they're foodies and have the cash and the desire, it will disabuse them of the stereotype of Jersey food. Not that there's anything wrong with Jersey Dogs.
posted by gentilknight at 8:23 PM on May 19, 2008

Response by poster: Isn't the state crowded enough

I know! I used to work harder at the disabusing mission until I realized that it wasn't a hard sell to the couple more million people who have settled there since I lived there.

Nicholas looks wonderful! I'm all for mixing high and low culture.

Good suggestions, Stacey. I'd forgotten about the jazz events at Marine Park.
posted by Miko at 8:30 PM on May 19, 2008

People in 1980s Edison said "down the shore" without irony--people whose families had been in New Jersey since the 1920s. fwiw
posted by HotToddy at 8:42 PM on May 19, 2008

Response by poster: yes, and Edison is "out of town" for people who live on the Shore.
posted by Miko at 8:58 PM on May 19, 2008

I don't have any shore suggestions other than avoiding Seaside.

But for your round 2, I really enjoyed tubing down the Delaware Water Gap as a kid, though as an adult, I'd probably prefer a canoe. Also, a trip to Rutgers to eat at the grease trucks and then have fudge and ice cream at Thomas Sweets.
posted by spec80 at 11:08 AM on May 20, 2008

Speaking of both high and low food culture, ever since I saw this thread yesterday I have been craving both a Max's hot dog and shake, and a trip to Doris & Ed's. Pity I'm not likely to be in Jersey again until the fall. Have fun with your friends, Miko!
posted by Stacey at 11:19 AM on May 20, 2008

Response by poster: Max's is totally on the list, Stacey!

Has Seaside changed a whole lot? Last time I was there was about 10 years ago. Sure it was a little sleazy, but sleazy in a good, Jersey-boardwalk way. I was thinking about dropping in there for the boardwalk only, daytime - avoiding the 'strip' of clubs. But if it's really gone seriously downhill maybe I'll give it a miss. What I always liked about Seaside was that as far as food goes, it's more of a North Jersey-ish, Italian-influenced boardwalk - pizza, sausage and peppers, ice cream - while Ocean City, though gorgeous, is more of a South Jersey, Philly-influenced boardwalk - water ice, cheesesteaks, crab cakes. When I was growing up the main boardwalks were Asbury (in its last days of being fun) and Long Branch, both more of that Northern/Italian variety - so even though I love OC, it always seems just a little bit "off," foodwise.

I'm no fan of Wildwood, which seems just skeevy. But is Seaside really so awful these days?
posted by Miko at 11:26 AM on May 20, 2008

Get a taylor ham, egg and cheese with salt and pepper catchup on a bagel in the morning and then a classic diner at night. Make sure you take them down the Turnpike near Newark airport so they understand why people say Jersey smells.

We have enough people here in Jersey. You don't need to convince more to come.
posted by thetenthstory at 11:26 AM on May 20, 2008

posted by thetenthstory at 11:36 AM on May 20, 2008

I admit I've never been there during the day. Now that I think about it, it probably is nice during the day. Besides, where else are you going to get your salt water taffy???
posted by spec80 at 1:20 PM on May 20, 2008

I go to seaside at least once a year, and yes, its still sleazy in that good jersey way. both piers have new rides run by the same shady eastern europeans, and lucky leos is still there with it's time crisis 3 goodness. oh, and funnel cake.

... and now i'm remembering how good the buffalo chicken cheesesteaks are at Steak and Hoagies, across from the sawmill. now i'm hungry :(
posted by Mach5 at 3:17 PM on May 20, 2008

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