Road Trip in New Jersey

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The Great American Road Trip: it's a dream that makes it on many bucket lists, and rightfully so. The country has few rivals when it comes to variety, whether in topography and climate or lifestyles and attractions.

It's for that exact reason that learning a bit about each state and area of the country before you visit it could be a wise idea, especially if you're going to be spending a lot of time on the road. Next stop on your journey: New Jersey, the Garden State.

Major New Jersey Roadways

New Jersey has a number of major highways that can take you nearly anywhere in the state you want to go—or at least get you most of the way there.

New Jersey Turnpike/Route 95

The Turnpike," as it's known, runs primarily north-south, spanning from the George Washington Bridge in the northeast to the Delaware Memorial Bridge in the southwest of New Jersey.

A toll road, the Turnpike merges with Interstate 95 for some stretches, especially north of Exit 6. In between, it passes a number of big NJ destinations, such as Metlife Stadium and Newark International Airport, and it also intersects with the Garden State Parkway and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Garden State Parkway

Known simply as “The Parkway," the road also runs north-south—from the New York Thruway to Cape May, respectively—but it's located much further east than the Turnpike, making it a reliable, if not traffic-clogged, route to the Jersey Shore and Atlantic City.

But be advised: the road has a lot of smaller toll plazas—most of which accept exact change only.

Route 1

The fabled highway runs through the heart of the Garden State, from the George Washington Bridge in the northeast to New Jersey's capital, Trenton, on its most southeastern point in the state.

A useful toll-free alternative to get to the George Washington Bridge (although traffic on the highway is usually heavy), Route 1 can also take you to several areas of interest, including:

  • Trenton.
  • Princeton.
  • Rutgers University.
  • Newark International Airport.

New Jersey Driving Laws

Now that you have a better idea of where you'll likely be driving in NJ, it might be helpful to focus on how to navigate those roads.

Check out our guide to safety laws in New Jersey for the rules regarding what goes on inside your vehicle—from cell phone usage to car seat safety. For other rules of the road that are exclusive to the Garden State, see below.

Uniquely New Jersey Rules

  • Jughandles.
    • You may be more familiar with it's colloquial nickname, the “Jersey Left."
    • To make a left-hand turn on a major roadway using a jughandle, you must counterintuitively stay in the right-hand lane. Look for signs reading “Left Hand/U-Turns" to indicate where your exit will be. Following it should take you on a small turn or ramp that leads to a stop light, which will allow you to cross the highway.
    • It is usually illegal to otherwise make a left-hand turn directly at stop lights on major roadways in New Jersey, so be vigilant for any jughandles.
  • Pumping gas.
    • It is illegal to pump your own gas in New Jersey. Instead, when you pull into the station, tell the attendant how much money you want to spend on which type of gas, then sit back and relax.

New Jersey Destinations

What New Jersey lacks in physical size, it makes up for in variety. If you have any interest in night life, nature, live music, living history, exquisite art, or unexplainable phenomena, you'll find something you like in the Garden State.

The Jersey Shore

New Jersey has many miles of coastline to love, each bit of it bringing a unique style and vibe. If you decide to visit this tourist-heavy destination, make sure to tell the locals you're going “down the shore" (the only officially-accepted local term for making the trip).

To name just a few worthwhile destinations along the route:

  • Sandy Hook.
    • A beautiful and largely undeveloped stretch in North Jersey that's great for hiking, biking, and—for those brave enough—visiting a ghostly, abandoned military fort and barracks.
  • Seaside Heights.
    • Yes, THAT Jersey Shore, complete with all the clubs, bars, boardwalk games, rides, fried food, giant pizza, and people-watching you could ask for.
  • Cape May.
    • Quaint, quiet, and beautiful, this romantic southern beach town is filled with Victorian homes and bed and breakfasts.

For the Nature Lovers

When in the Garden State, don't forget to visit the gardens! There are plenty of places to enjoy the great outdoors in New Jersey—from wineries to waterfalls. Below are some other major outdoor play areas.

  • The Delaware Water Gap.
    • A gorgeous national park in the northwest corner of the state, the Delaware Water Gap provides hundreds of miles of hiking and biking along scenic mountains, woods, and streams.
  • Duke Farms.
    • Lovely outdoor trails? Check. Historical significance? Double-check. Dedication to environmentalism and sustainability? Triple-check. A day trip here can include anything from a history lesson on the family (the same clan Duke University took its name from), a peek at the modern-day environmental preservation taking place on the grounds, or a bike ride or walk along the expansive property—which includes, among other sights, an exotic pet cemetery.

For the Historians

As one of the original colonies, there's plenty of history to go around in New Jersey.

  • Princeton.
    • Whatever your favorite era of American history, it's likely you'll find something—or somewhere—in Princeton that touched it directly. Whether you want to see where George Washington fought off the invading British forces, check out Albert Einstein's favorite place to get ice cream, or see what the future of academia holds, Princeton has the spot for you.
  • Trenton.
    • If it wasn't for what happened in this Central New Jersey city, we may all have British accents today. Trenton is not only home to a number of historical sites showcasing its importance in the Revolutionary War, but, as the state's capital, it also houses the state museum, planetarium, and any number of art museums.

For the Adventurers

Hate the beaten path? There are a number of locations in the Garden State unique not only to New Jersey, but to the world. They're so unusual, they've been actively archived by avid adventurers across the state and have come to be collectively known as Weird New Jersey sites.

Just be careful—a number of them are rumored to be haunted.

For the Art Lovers

New Jersey's large and diverse population, plus its easy access to New York and Philadelphia, make it a prime location for artistic expression and experimentation.

  • Lambertville.
    • This historic northern New Jersey town is a hotspot for all types of art, not only prominently featuring painting and photography galleries, but acting as the home for a number of street festivals, craft shops, and live music venues.
  • Grounds for Sculpture.
    • What began as the workshop of famed sculptor, Seward Johnson, has blossomed into a garden of three-dimensional art. Sculptures and statues of all shapes and sizes populate the well-manicured landscapes of this expansive Central New Jersey establishment.
    • If you come hungry, the park also houses an award-winning restaurant whose layout is designed after a Claude Monet painting.

For the Music Enthusiasts

Frank Sinatra. Bruce Springsteen. Whitney Houston. Paul Simon. New Jersey was home to them all—and continues to house a lively and diverse music scene. Just think: The next time you catch a band in NJ, you could be seeing the next Bon Jovi.

  • Hoboken.
    • The home of Old Blue Eyes himself, this town not only continues to offer stellar live music selections of all genres, but an even better view of New York City—for a fraction of the cost of visiting the Big Apple.
  • Stone Pony.
    • The venue that made Bruce Springsteen famous continues to showcase amazing up and coming bands and offer smaller shows for well established musical acts alike. Located in noted shore town Asbury Park, this locally-famous concert hall is just one of the many musical nightlife options in the area.