7 Hidden Gems in New Jersey That We Bet You’ve Never Heard Of

Growing up in New Jersey is kind of like dating a sweet and sensitive guy with a rough exterior. You don’t need the rest of the world to understand your love, and in fact, that’s part of what makes it so special. When people have negative things to say about my boyfriend home state, I don’t pay much attention to it because I know that a bad rep helps maintain New Jersey’s best kept secrets.

And look, I get it. When I was a kid, I was always looking out of my window and imagining living my life in the Big Apple. I always had one foot out the door. But then once I actually got to the city, I’d find myself thinking of Jersey. I developed a sweet spot for its oddities and came to appreciate the many beaches, mountains, restaurants, movie theaters, malls and everything in between. Now I know that the Garden State truly has so much to offer. Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of some hidden gems that make New Jersey such a special place to visit. 

The 17 Most Beautiful Places in the Garden State

1. Luna Parc

This magical home is located in Sandyston Township, New Jersey and is kind of like Alice in Wonderland meets Tim Burton, set against a lush forest backdrop. Purchased in 1989, multimedia artist Richard "Ricky" Boscarino has adored the home with thousands of common objects and original art including over one million mosaic tiles, each set by hand. And twice a year, Boscarino opens his private residence to the public in for a three weekdays of wonder. The admission is only $5 and provides hours of intrigue. Be sure to watch the Luna Parc website for the next open house and mark your calendar.

2. Kings Spa

This Korean spa in Palisades Park, New Jersey (the largest one on the East Coast, NBD) is a fully immersive experience and the best way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. It has multiple floors of saunas and lounging areas, plus an incredible restaurant and just about every spa treatment you can think of. Two of my favorite ones are the ice sauna (which feels like chilling in an igloo) and the 24k gold Egyptian pyramid sauna room that is oh-so luxurious. Spending the day here is a fun experience that offers a perfect balance of serenity and novelty. Psst: This one makes a great group activity, too.

3. Udelco

Located in Hawthorne, New Jersey, Udelco is a treasure trove for vintage finds. This giant warehouse is filled with a ridiculous number of cardboard boxes containing recycled clothing organized by decade and style. It’s the perfect place if you’re looking for something very specific (say, 70s bell bottoms or a concert tee), but will also do the trick if you’re in the mood to just graze for some unique finds. Come with plenty of cash, patience to dig through huge boxes of goods (items are well sorted but there’s a lot on display) and an appreciation for decades of iconic fashion. Oh, and the best part? All items are priced at $20 or less.

4. Madam Marie’s Temple Of Knowledge

This tiny fortune telling booth on Asbury Park’s Boardwalk has been immortalized in Bruce Springsteen’s song “Sandy” but is worth checking out even if you’re not fans of The Boss. Opened in 1932 by Marie Castello, the “Gypsy Queen of the Boardwalk,” she told fortunes here until her passing in 2008. Today, the booth is run by Marie’s granddaughter, Dainzie Costell, under the same business name. While Springsteen popularized it, Madam Marie’s has long been a favorite with performers playing the Convention Hall on the Boardwalk—Judy Garland, Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra have all paid her a visit, to name a few. Readings are reasonably priced and reviewers say they’re surprisingly accurate (just remember that what you hear should be always taken with a grain of salt sand).

5. White Manna

You can’t really write a list about New Jersey gems without mentioning White Manna. Opened in 1946 in Hackensack, this tiny burger spot has been featured on Diner Drive-Ins & Dives, Best Thing I Ever Ate and Anthony Bourdain’s (a NJ native) No Reservations. Consistently named one of America’s favorite burgers, the distinctive look of the restaurant and taste of its sliders make this magical eatery a one of a kind experience. There’s a Jersey City location, too, which is good, but I’d recommend Hackensack first. The line is usually long, but it is so worth the wait. And while you’re there, don’t forget to order some crinkle cut fries and an old fashioned shake.

6. The Pine Barrens

Infamous as a setting for a pretty brutal Sopranos episode and for being the home of the mythological New Jersey Devil, the Pine Barrens are actually a surprisingly serene and beautiful place to connect with nature. Between kayaking, hiking and nature tours, there are plenty of opportunities to forget the folklore and enjoy a relaxing day on the water. Stretching across more than seven counties of New Jersey, there’s enough to explore here for a great weekend getaway and it’s perfect for day trippers too.

7. Paterson Great Falls

This hidden natural wonder is located in an unlikely location—Paterson, New Jersey. Home to one of the nation’s largest waterfalls, the Great Falls are locally known as the Garden State’s own Niagara. The views here are endless and the footbridge near Falls George is especially beautiful. You also might remember the Paterson Falls view from the Sopranos pilot episode, the 2016 Jim Jarmusch film Paterson, and the poetry of William Carlos Williams.

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Freelance PureWow Editor