It's our second edition of Gothamist's travel content, Gothamist Getaways. Four times a year, we'll have a week of posts featuring looks at travel, food, products and tips—near and far—for making your trips more enjoyable. So sit back, dream of your next journey and let us know if you have any hints for us—email firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Jersey is home to beaches, casinos, Great Adventure and a million other good reasons to visit our neighboring state. Here are five places NJ natives might not know exist in New Jersey.
From the oldest weekly running rodeo to a zoo for exotic animals that were taken from abusive homes, these are more obscure tourist destinations in New Jersey. And I bet you never knew they existed, did you?
The oldest weekly running rodeo is in New Jersey and this year the rodeo celebrates the 60th season. Every Saturday night at 7:30 until September 27th, you can watch cowboys and/or cowgirls barrel race, steer wrestling, Saddle Bronc riding and many other rodeo competitions. It’s fifteen-dollar admission, and you can bring your own food or pick up some peanuts and enjoy the show. And yes, you can pick up a cowboy hat at the Cowtown Outfitters Rodeo Store.
Silver Ball Museum (Kevin A./Foursquare)
Silver Ball Museum
Are you the pinball wizard? You can find out at this Asbury Park pinball museum, where you can take an extremely interactive tour of the history of the pinball machine, by playing machines from various time periods. All machines are set to free play, it’s $7.50 for ½ hr, $10 an hr and $20 for day. The museum has over 180 machines and its open until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights. If you need a break, order a lobster roll at the Silverball Café.
Wild West City (Facebook)
Wild West City
Who knew you could still be robbed on a stagecoach in New Jersey? For over fifty years, folks have been panning for gold and watching Can Can Girls dance at this Wild West theme park. Enjoy a show of live western music at the Golden Nugget Saloon or a Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. On July 26th, celebrate National Cowboy Day at the park. It’s sixteen dollars for admission Wild West City.
Circus Drive-In (Frank A./Foursquare)
Circus Drive-In Restaurant
Eating at the Circus Drive in makes you feel like you’re back in the 1950’s when a uniformed carhop asks you for your order. For 60 years, this New Jersey Drive-In restaurant has been serving up burgers, hot dogs, onion rings (order them!), shakes and other goodies. The Drive-In offers curbside wait service, but if you’re worried about getting ketchup on the seat of your Zipcar, get a table inside. The restaurant, designed to look like a big top circus, has a festive vibe and good eats.
Kya the tiger during the winter (Popcorn Park Zoo Facebook)
Popcorn Park Zoo
Since 1977, Popcorn Park Zoo has been providing a refuge for wildlife. For example, Kya, a white Bengal tiger, was originally at a Maryland zoo when she slowly became blind. The Maryland zoo was unable to continue to care for her, and one of Popcorn Park's veterinarians arranged for her to come to Popcorn Park Zoo.
The zoo has over two hundred animals. Walk around and read about the stories behind the bears, monkeys, mountain lions, a camel and other animals that live on the seven-acre zoo. It’s open daily from 11am-5pm or 11am-2pm on holidays and admission is five dollars.
Alison Lowenstein, Gothamist Getaways editor, is the author of NYC guidebooks, and travel articles for National Geographic Traveler, Newsday, NY Daily News, Travelandleisure.com, etc. When she isn’t planning trips, she enjoys jogging around the streets of NYC. Despite her athletic pursuits, her favorite food is the donut. You can find her on Twitter at @cityweekendsnyc.