2012 Jersey Choice: The Best of NJ—Recreations and Attractions

In the warmer months, there are no shortage of recreation activities offered in NJ. Our readers have a few unique choices of their own...along with some staple favorites.

What started in 1890 as a mere promenade has evolved into Point Pleasant Beach’s family amusement staple. Jenkinson’s Boardwalk brims with rides, arcades, games, fun food, miniature golf—even a top-notch aquarium. Though geared toward the younger set, Lynn Kimmerie of Mendham still considers it a family favorite—even though her kids are grown. “We still make at least one visit every year for the skeeball and boardwalk french fries.” (300 Ocean Ave; 732-892-0600; jenkinsons.com)
Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Waterparks, Wildwood
iPlay America, Freehold

El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson combines all the thrills of a wooden coaster with the 70 mph smooth speed normally found in a steel ride. With a height of nearly 19 stories, El Toro features the steepest drop of any wooden roller coaster in the nation. The 2 minute-5 second ride features four fast-charging drops, multiple highly banked turns and a monstrous twister finale. (1 Six Flags Blvd; 732-928-1821; sixflags.com/greatadventure)
Kingda Ka (Six Flags Great Adventure), Jackson
iPA Speedway (iPlay America), Freehold

Although it’s hard to go wrong picking any one of our state’s magnificent beaches, Wildwood seems to be our readers’ favorite destination. The combination of shopping, entertainment, food and generous beach space qualifies Wildwood as a must-visit site along the Jersey Shore. Of course, the presense of Morey’s Piers and beachfront waterparks play a significant role in drawing beachgoers and fun-seekers to this particular portion of Cape May County.
RUNNERS-UP: Point Pleasant Beach; Long Beach Island

Housed in a restored 1883 Queen Anne Victorian, The Tower Cottage Inn in Point Pleasant is a visit to yesteryear—with today’s amenities: luxury linens, gas fireplaces, flat-screen TVs, whirlpools and WiFi. “It’s the baby Ritz Carlton,” says reader Danielle M. Set two blocks from the boardwalk and beach, the inn is walking distance to shops, restaurants and the rail station. Guests are treated to full gourmet breakfasts and the warm hospitality of owners Anthony and Maureen Haddad. “This is the best B&B I’ve ever stayed in,” says reader David French. “It’s the attention to detail in all they do…from the moldings, the luxury draperies, the furniture, and those fabulous sheets to Maureen’s breakfast and Tony’s jokes.” (203 Forman Ave; 877-766-2693; thetowercottage.com)
RUNNERS-UP: Angel of the Sea, Cape May; Queen Victoria, Cape May

Though it dates to 1890, the Point Pleasant Beach Boardwalk has no trouble keeping current. From the northern end of the boardwalk, you can also watch the boats at the Manasquan Inlet. Later sip a cocktail at Martell’s Tiki Bar and dance till late at Jenkinson’s nightclub.
WINNER: Point Pleasant Beach
RUNNERS-UP: Wildwood; Asbury Park

Bungalow is a chic getaway in Long Branch’s Pier Village, a hot spot of restaurants, shopping and nightclubs steps from the Atlantic. The hotel’s 24 guest rooms feature colorful accents, king beds, flat-screen TVs, kitchenettes and fireplaces. A lobby café offers light fare and cocktails. Opened since 2009, Bungalow already has a high volume of return visitors, according to general manager Greg Williams. “Some dates for this summer are already sold out,” he says. (50 Laird St; Long Branch, 732-229-3700; bungalowhotel.net)
The Chelsea, Atlantic City
Hotel Tides, Asbury Park

From bowling and burlesque to tater tots and tofu, Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park has it all. The gem-of-a-joint bowling alley and bar boasts retro ’50s décor, a lounge with an art gallery and a stage smack in the middle of its 20 bowling lanes. Live performances range from punk to blues; the venue also hosts flea markets, art shows, record fairs and vintage car shows. The snack bar features an extensive veggie-friendly selection, and the drinks are strong. Just be prepared to tally up your own bowling scores—you won’t find any electronic monitors here. (209 4th Ave; 732-776-6160; asburylanes.com)
RUNNERS-UP: Plaza Lanes, Madison; Ocean Lanes, Lakewood

A visit to the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City is no gamble. Opened in 2003, this all-in-one entertainment destination is a sure thing. It features a 161,000-square-foot gaming floor; a 54,000-square-foot spa; boutiques; and more than a dozen restaurants, including Izakaya, a Japanese-style pub, and Bobby Flay Steak. There’s plenty of nightlife, from dance venues to cocktail lounges to big-name entertainment. Accommodations boast amenities such as marbled baths, showers for two and floor-to-ceiling windows. (1 Borgata Way; 609-317-1000; theborgata.com)
Harrah’s, Atlantic City
Tropicana, Atlantic City

The Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed Hominy Hill in Colts Neck beckons golfers from around the state with its pastoral grounds and challenging play. Challenges include the 138 bunkers scattered throughout the course, and the water that comes into play on four holes. (92 Mercer Rd; 732-462-9222; www.monmouthcountyparks.com)
Ballyowen, Hamburg
Knob Hill Golf Course, Manalapan


Step back in time at Allaire State Park in Farmingdale. The 19th-century iron-bog village known as the Howell Works Company in the 1830s was restored in the 1950s to preserve Jersey’s past. Today, the town and buildings host more than 40 programs and events annually, including living-history events, antique and craft shows, flea markets and a wine festival. (4265 Atlantic Ave; 732-919-3500; allairevillage.org)
Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook Gateway Park
Edison National Historic Park,
West Orange

Since opening its doors in 1975, Mennen Arena in Morristown has shepherded countless young skaters through the process of learning to glide across the ice. The arena’s exceptional learn-to-skate programs and extensive public skating hours have made it an epicenter of skating in northern New Jersey. The facility has three rinks, a full snack bar, pro shop and private party rooms. (161 East Hanover Ave., 973-326-7651, morrisparks.net)
Red Bank Armory, Red Bank
Codey Arena, West Orange

What’s better than karaoke? Karaoke with a live band. The Downtown in Red Bank has been hosting Rock ’n‘ Roll Karaoke every Thursday for the past three years. For wannabe rock stars who need a little liquid courage, the Downtown offers daily drink specials. Karaoke night runs from 10 pm to 1 am, but be sure to get there early—space fills up fast.  (10 West Front St; 732-741-2828; thedowntownnj.com)
Langosta Lounge, Asbury Park
Lee’s Hawaiian Islander, Lyndhurst

In this high-tech age, Liberty Science Center in Jersey City is a beacon of hope, dedicated to engaging children in science education. Visitors learn through hands-on exhibits, like the upcoming “In the Dark”—which will allow children to explore cool, dark and mysterious ecosystems like caves, forests and the ocean floor by sense of touch. Plus, the new film Space Junk is coming to the IMAX Dome Theater. The film explores the global challenge of clearing our mechanical litter from space. (222 Jersey City Blvd; 201-200-1000; lsc.org)
Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, Point Pleasant
Hot Sand Glass Blowing Studio, Asbury Park

Nestled in the mountains of North Jersey, Lake Hopatcong is a recreational gem. At the state’s largest freshwater body, you can swim at two public beaches, cast a line for trout and bass, or camp at the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation. The lake’s many coves offer pristine settings for any water sport—from wakeboarding to windsurfing to tubing. And you can dine al fresco at one of the lake’s many restaurants accessible by water. (Mt. Arlington; lakehopatcong.com)
Spring Lake, Spring Lake
Lake Mohawk, Sparta

Renowned for its distinguished alumni and large-scale shows, the Paper Mill Playhouse is a little piece of Broadway nestled in the heart of Millburn. Once On This Island, a musical written and scored by the creative team behind Ragtime, will be opening in May. “The show is beautiful,” says Shayne Miller, the Paper Mill’s director of press and public relations. “It’s a Caribbean re-telling of the Little Mermaid.” (22 Brookside Dr;  973-376-4343; papermill.org).
Two River Theatre, Red Bank
Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank

Next time you’re strolling down Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant, take a detour at Castaway Cove, the three-story extravaganza that combines miniature golf with adventure. Castaway Cove is the rare mini-golf course with a story line—that of a shipwrecked family who use what they find on the island, along with the remnants of their ship, to build not one but two challenging and entertaining 18-hole mini-golf courses.
WINNER: Castaway Cove, Point Pleasant Beach
RUNNERS-UP: Essex County Mini Golf Safari, West Orange
Asbury Eighteen, Asbury Park

The Rialto Theater in Westfield provides a classic movie-going experience while offering state-of-the-art digital technology. This six-screen, 950-seat independent theater dates back to the 1920s, but modern technology also allows it to offer special programming such as opera, ballet and live concerts.(250 East Broad St; 908-233-1288, digiplexdest.com)
Bradley Beach Cinema, Bradley Beach
The ShowRoom, Asbury Park

Even with its eight-building campus and panoply of treasures, The Newark Museum has maintained an enticing intimacy. “Its premier exhibits are world renowned, and at the same time, the ‘little’ museum is accessible and doable,” says Amy Timarco of West Orange. Located in downtown Newark, the Garden State’s largest museum includes 80 galleries, a planetarium, frequently changing exhibits, the 1885 Ballantine House (a national historic landmark) and the 300-seat Billy Johnson auditorium. (49 Washington St; 973-596-6550; newarkmuseum.org)
Liberty Science Center, Jersey City
Montclair Art Museum, Montclair

For more than eight decades, the Count Basie Theatre has served as a premier live music and performing-arts venue in Red Bank’s pulsing downtown. Structural renovations to the tune of $12 million in recent years have broadened the theater’s appeal and stature—and allowed it to provide even more types of entertainment. “It offers such a diverse choice of entertainment, catering to all ages,” says Cynthia Russo of Rumson.” (99 Monmouth St; 732-223-8778; countbasietheatre.org)
Wellmont Theatre, Montclair
Stone Pony, Asbury Park

New Jersey is teeming with natural wonders, but there’s one Garden State marvel that outshines all others: the Jersey Shore. In addition to its beloved beaches and boardwalks, the Shore has fabulous food, loads of entertainment and some of the most gorgeous views in the state. “Every season can be enjoyed at the Jersey Shore,” writes Karen Reap of Ramsey.
The Great Falls, Paterson
Delaware Water Gap

Grounds for Sculpture is the most unique, inspiring and endlessly fascinating place I’ve visited in New Jersey,” says reader Deanna Quinones of Morristown. The 35-acre park in Hamilton is peppered with 250 contemporary works—life-sized, oversized, realistic, fantastical, touching and, in many cases, touchable. “Wandering its paths on a gorgeous afternoon, you feel you’ve been transported to Paris or whisked down the rabbit hole,” says Quinones. “There is simply nothing like it.” (18 Fairgrounds Rd; 609-586-0616; groundsforsculpture.org)
Frelinghuysen Arboretum, Morristown
Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown

Turtle Back Zoo had a wild year. In addition to record-breaking attendance, the West Orange wildlife park recently opened a new exhibit: Big Cat Country. The 7,500-square-foot attraction is home to two jaguars and two cougars relocated from the zoo’s South Asia exhibit. “I am thrilled with all the improvements. Every few months there is something exciting announced,” says Carol LaRose of Maplewood. (560 Northfield Ave; 973-731-5800; turtlebackzoo.com)
Cape May Zoo, Cape May Court House
Adventure Aquarium, Camden

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