A Sneak Peek Inside NJ Hall of Fame’s New Learning Center

Visitors can soon get up close and personal with Jersey royalty and artifacts via simulations, holograms, virtual reality and more.

Entertainment and Learning Center
The New Jersey Hall of Fame's Entertainment and Learning Center is slated to open in the American Dream mall by the end of the month. Photo: Courtesy of NJHOF

Ever think about hosting a late-night talk show? Singing on stage beside iconic hitmakers? Flying to the moon? Well, soon you can—holographically—at the New Jersey Hall of Fame’s (NJHOF) Entertainment and Learning Center, opening at the end of June.

Located in East Rutherford’s American Dream mall, just across from the Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park and DreamWorks Water Park, the new 10,000-square-foot center highlights people in our state who have made extraordinary contributions to New Jersey and society (just like the actual Hall of Fame does). Filled with a lot of interactive exhibits, the Entertainment and Learning Center is intended to inspire and engage people of all ages—because “everyone needs a hero,” as NJHOF’s slogan declares.

In May, New Jersey Monthly got a behind-the-scenes tour of the new center. At the time of our visit, the NJHOF team was still hard at work, busy perfecting the final details—but the space was already glistening with Jersey magic.

Since 2008, NJHOF, a nonprofit organization, has honored more than 230 inductees, including actors, musicians, athletes, scientists and politicians. The Hall of Fame also spearheaded the rest stop program that in recent years renamed service areas for famous New Jerseyans like James Gandolfini, Jon Bon Jovi, Judy Blume and Whitney Houston and created mini exhibits about each of the stars.

“New Jersey really has exported more greatness than just about any other state,” says Hall of Fame president Steve Edwards.

You’re greeted by these Jersey greats the moment you walk into the center. A large screen displays various inspirational quotes and video clips of Hall of Fame inductees; another screen plays videos of other smiling celebs with Jersey ties.

Also upfront? One of the center’s most precious artifacts: the exact Ford Model T that Henry Ford gifted Jersey transplant Thomas Edison. (There’s also an entire corner dedicated to Edison, designed to be a visual replica of his West Orange laboratory.) You can take an 8-minute, action-packed ride in a simulation of the Ford Model T, in which you’ll travel to the moon and meet holographic icons, including Edison, and hear Hoboken native Frank Sinatra sing “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Entertainment and Learning Center Karaoke Stage

Sing karaoke next to holograms of Jersey icons like Gloria Gaynor and Frankie Valli. Photo: Courtesy of NJHOF

Other interactive exhibits let you get up close and personal with Jersey inductees, too. At the karaoke stage, which takes inspiration from Sweden’s ABBA Museum, you can belt out tunes beside holograms of Jersey singers, like Newark natives Gloria Gaynor and Frankie Valli.

At Late Night Jersey TV, sharpen your interview skills by asking questions to holograms of Danny DeVito or journalist Connie Chung. The interactions are recorded and can be sent to you to keep.

Late Night Jersey TV at the Entertainment and Learning Center

Interview holograms of Jersey celebrities at the Late Night Jersey TV exhibit. Photo: Courtesy of NJHOF

In the middle of the center, a Wall of Fame features small plaques for all inductees, surrounding a screen that plays excerpts from their induction speeches.

And while the center mainly spotlights formal inductees, NJHOF acknowledges that they aren’t the only heroes the state has to offer. Adjacent to the Wall of Fame, the Everyday Heroes Wall encourages New Jerseyans to think about the heroes within their own lives. They can even nominate them to be featured on the wall’s screen.

“Heroes are not just rock stars and athletes,” says Edwards. “I love them dearly, but heroes are firemen and police and educators: People that make New Jersey go round. And we want to showcase them in this exhibit permanently.”

Other fun exhibits include a small movie theater, a selfie station, a virtual-reality ride in a replica of Jon Bon Jovi’s Chevelle convertible, and much more.

For out-of-staters, ticket prices are $24.99 for adults and $20.99 for children. New Jersey residents get a discount: $19.99 for adults and $15.99 for children—just be sure to bring valid forms of ID. Talk about some Jersey edge!

For more information and updates, visit the Entertainment and Learning Center’s website.

No one knows New Jersey like we do. Sign up for one of our free newsletters here. Want a print magazine mailed to you? Purchase an issue from our online store.

Read more Arts & Entertainment, News articles.