So you’re thinking about moving to New Jersey, but you’re still somewhat on the fence about it. Well, friend, you're in the right place—we've pored over facts, trivia and even the Encyclopedia Britannica in an effort to give you a brief, but hopefully mega-informative, insider's guide to all things New Jersey.
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New Jersey in a Nutshell
Also known as The Garden State or just Jersey, this is the only state in the country to have all of its counties considered "urban" by the Census Bureau—how nuts is that?
Though it's the fourth smallest state by landmass (at just 8,721 square miles), New Jersey is the most population-dense state in the country. It’s home to a whopping 9,032,872 people— heck, 27,228 moved there in 2017 alone. That alone must tell you there have got to be plenty of good reasons to live here—but we’re not gonna stop there.
For starters, New Jersey has more than 500 towns with more diners and shopping malls than any other state in the country. Additionally, local hotspot Atlantic City is home to the longest boardwalk in the world with some pretty incredible casinos and nightlife as well.
Now, as much as you love population info and boardwalks, there’s plenty more that makes New Jersey such a great place to live, so let’s start with the job scene.
Knowing that this is the most population-dense state in the country, you might be having a panic attack about finding a decent job here. But let's not get too carried away just yet, because the state’s unemployment rate of 4.6% is a half-point higher than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Now, some of the state's fastest-growing jobs are in the fields of home health care, operations, physical therapy, nursing, occupational therapy, optometry and diagnostic imagery. New Jersey’s minimum wage currently sits at $8.60/hour, according to minimum-wage.org, which is considerably higher than the federal minimum, and there jobs in high-paying fields are on the rise.
Among the highest in take-home pay are orthodontists, psychiatrists, anesthesiologists, CEOs, surgeons, petroleum engineers and marketing managers. Are you one of those? If not, you could be.
Unless you plan on sleeping on The Shore, which is Jersey-speak for the beach, you’re probably gonna need a place to live. But with a metric ton of people in the state, what does that mean for housing availability? Well, let's dive into the housing market stats and find out.
To start off, the current median home value for the state is $318,300, which is up 8.7% from last year. Homes listed currently on the market are up for an average of $334,900 with average sales prices at $273,900. But if you’re just looking to rent a house, you can expect to pay around $2,000/month.
Now, when it comes to renting an apartment, you can expect to pay anywhere from $880/month in Camden to $1,024/month in Newark for a 1-bedroom. However, in Jersey City, you'll be shelling out an average of—we hope you’re sitting down—$2,590/month for a one-bedroom.
Fans of older houses can rejoice, there are plenty of properties available with historic charm intact. However, those who argue that creaky floors aren't their thing can rest assured that they'll have little or no problem snatching up a brand spankin' new home.
There is TONS of new home construction happening in The Garden State these days, as shown by a lovely little map our friends at Zillow shared. The most seems to be going on in the southeastern part of the state, in and around the wild life of Atlantic City. There's also plenty further northwest, in and around Camden, and a huge amount still even further north, in and around Elizabeth and Newark. So if new is your thing, you’re in luck here.
Culture and Natives
According to New Jerseyites, they’re population is very diverse. Each town feels very different from the next. There's even a state-wide joke about Northern Jersey vs. Southern Jersey, and how they're basically different worlds.
New Jerseyans do have a reputation for being kind of "in your face," and locals tend to agree. Residents say that people in this state are "opinionated and argumentative" and even "loud, obnoxious and full of themselves." So, if you're going to hang out with the locals, expect a bit of 'tude. Some of it stems from their fierce state pride—they are "profoundly patriotic" and are quick to get very defensive about their homeland.
If you’re looking to experience some of that world-renowned Jersey spirit for yourself, just call their state "Joisey" (no one in the state pronounces it like that). Or compare them to the cast of Jersey Shore—locals waste no time arguing that most of the show’s cast was not from The Garden State.
Residents also say that New Jerseyans are "well educated," "respectful" and "fairly cosmopolitan," and that their home state has "people from every religion and creed." There's apparently a huge divide between the very rich and very poor counties, and the people you find on either side are also quite different from each other.
There's also diversity in terms of terrain in the state. New Jersey’s home to everything from beaches (remember to refer to it the as The Shore) and big cities to forests and camping grounds. Locals speak with pride of their home state's boardwalks, and insist that they have the best restaurants around, too.
Speaking of food, residents here are crazy about it—especially carbs. Bagels and pizza are huge staples of The Garden State diet, and locals will argue that they produce the best in the country. Also big here are Disco fries—fries smothered in gravy and cheese. We’re sold.
Garden State Trivia
Now it’s time for some rapid-fire facts about New Jersey that are super-useful at parties and Jeopardy tryouts. New Jersey was the first state to establish an Indian reservation, and the first to sign the Bill of Rights. And if there’s one thing you won't find a lot of in this state, it’s left turns. That's right, New Jersey has "jughandles," which are basically big loops coming off of right-hand turns that swoop you around to the left...eventually. So NASCAR drivers beware.
There are quite a few famous people who hail from New Jersey, including Frank Sinatra, Jason Alexander, Jon Bon Jovi, Danny Devito, Michael Douglas, Supreme Court Justices William Brennan and Samuel Alito, and of course the Soprano family.
Just know that residents swear their state isn’t the mafia-packed crime den many envision thanks to HBO. But perhaps the biggest name worth mentioning—and one that locals would go absolutely berserk about if we forgot—is Bruce Springsteen, who hails from Long Branch. Yep, born in New Jersey, USA.
Locals love to spend a lot of their time outdoors. When they're not "down the shore," hiking or camping, they're checking out one of the state's many national parks. Thomas Edison National Historical Park is located in West Orange. Here, Thomas Edison's laboratory and personal home have been preserved for visitors. See, New Jerseyans weren't lying about being super-smart and well educated—their state is home to one of the nation's greatest inventors of all time.
Not to be a bummer, but the Gallup poll of the 10 Most Stressed Out States in America ranked New Jersey at number three. The two main reasons were the ridiculous amount of people packed into the space, and the ridiculously high property taxes. If you're planning on moving to New Jersey, it might benefit you to take up some deep breathing, stress-busting practices, and maybe light a scented candle or two.
Can't-Miss New Jersey Fun + Activities
No matter if you're excited to scarf down some pizza and bagels or you're just itchin' to go "down the shore", The Garden State has plenty of goodies to keep you entertained, like:
- Cape May: This 18th century trendy resort town is located on Delaware Bay. You'll find huge Victorian-style homes (AKA "McMansions"), beaches, and an impressive lighthouse. This area was packed with the super-rich back in the day, and since then six US presidents have had vacation homes here.
- Sterling Hill Mining Museum: Opened in 1793, this zinc mine was one of the oldest in the US when it was closed down in 1990. Today it houses the largest collection in the world of fluorescent rocks that glow like a warehouse rave under black light. This rockin’ tour lets you get a closer look at minerals, fossils, crystals, glass, fabric and concrete.
- Grounds for Sculpture: This 42-acre sculpture park in Hamilton Township is home to 300 bronze sculptures of people in "everyday situations." You'll find them stationed throughout the park—playing chess, sitting on benches, reading, dining at an outdoor cafe, and more.
- Hindenburg Crash Site: In 1937, 35 people died when the Hindenburg, a big blimp you might know from Led Zeppelin’s debut album cover, caught fire and was almost instantly engulfed in a raging fireball at Lakehurst National Air Station. Today, this historic landmark in Lakehurst features a memorial to the crash site, with an outline of where the Hindenburg fell to Earth.
- South Mountain Fairy Trail: In Milburn, along a stretch of the South Mountain Reservation hiking trail, you'll see a mystical community of very detailed fairy houses. Yes, fairy houses. The homes include all the trimmings of human homes, like furniture and supplies—all impressively handcrafted to be tiny enough for fairies. A local artist created the project to give tiny little surprises to curious explorers and it's quite the adorable little scavenger hunt.
Pros and Cons of Living in The Garden State
Now, before you go changing your address and retracing the footsteps of Bruce Springsteen himself, why not take a minute to listen to the words of real-life New Jerseyans about the pros and cons of their home state.
PROs, as voted on by residents:
- Close proximity to NYC: It’ so dang close to Manhattan. Locals can enjoy day trips to the big city and return to their less hectic hometown to unwind. And with rent in New Jersey being dramatically lower, many who work in NYC live in The Garden State and commute daily. Residents refer to New Jersey as a "small sanctuary when needed" to get away from the hustle and bustle of NYC.
- No tax on clothes: If you're feeling the need to totally revamp your wardrobe, you might as well do it in New Jersey—you won't be charged any sales tax on clothing purchases. Make sure to grab yourself some new swimsuits for all your upcoming trips to The Shore while you're at it.
- Foodies: No state is complete without its foodies, and New Jerseyans are some of the most loyal ones out there. Between the bagels, pizza, Disco fries and something called Taylor Ham (also called pork roll), no mouth will go unsatisfied on this turf. You can have yourself a Jersey Breakfast, which typically consists of Taylor Ham, s’more breakfast meats and cheese on a toasted bagel. You'll never go hungry.
- It's famous!: So, everyone's heard of the infamous Jersey Shore—but the reality TV world has no shortage of love for the Jersey lifestyle. There's also Jerseylicious (set in a salon), Cake Boss (set in a cake shop), Jersey Couture (set in a family-run dress shop) and the infamous Real Housewives of New Jersey (set in an alternate universe altogether). And that’s a lot to be proud of.
CONs, as voted on by residents:
- "Abominable" traffic: We borrowed this adjective from a resident New Jerseyan. The Garden State is essentially a conduit between NYC and Philadelphia, so naturally there's a boatload of traffic. It's so bad, in fact, that the intersection of Interstate 95 and Route 4 in Fort Lee has been named the "second most congested bottleneck in the nation," making it the "nation's second worst traffic nightmare." Yikes. Pack some audiobooks—you’ll need ‘em.
- Crazy-insane taxes: Property taxes in The Garden State are said to be worse than any other US state. So high, in fact, that The Tax Foundation named it as having the "highest overall tax burden" in the country—with a higher cost of living "in every category"—from groceries, to transportation, to utilities and beyond. Luckily there are no taxes on clothes, or else they’d all be running around wearing even less than they already do..
- Weather: Residents complain that the weather here is rarely perfect, or even tolerable for that matter, and is "almost always too hot or too cold.” New Jersey has higher humidity than most other states—making for muggy, smoldering summers and precipitation-happy winters. Combined with its lower-than-average number of sun days, it’s tough to be optimistic about the day’s weather.
- Crime: Camden has consistently been voted one of the most dangerous cities in America. In fact, two New Jersey cities ranked on the list of 15 Murder Capitals of America from NeighborhoodScout: Camden, which came in at #3, and Newark, at #15. In the year 2016 alone, there were 47 murders in the town of Camden, which has a population of about 74,000—that's a lot.
Facts are fun and all, but we all know you came here for the weird stuff. That's why we've compiled a short list of some of the most bizarre and huh?-inducing laws still in existence in The Garden State.
- No frowning in Bernards Township. It's illegal to be unhappy here—literally. So you better smile, unless you want to end up in jail!
- No more custom license plates for you, if you're convicted of a DUI. Those caught driving under the influence will face the usual legal ramifications with an added punishment—no more custom license plates. If you want to pay homage to one of your favorite movies, TV shows or bands, you'd better drive while sober (...which you really should be doing anyway, y'know).
- No offering alcohol or tobacco to zoo animals in Manville. We're not sure why this one had to become a law, but we have to admit that we're curious about the backstory. Stick to the peanuts and seeds when you want to offer the animals a treat during your visit.
- No pickles in Trenton on Sunday. Apparently, you're not allowed to act on your love of gherkins in the state's capital on the "day of rest." Pickle-haters may not care, but the lovers out there may think this is a pretty big dill.
Next Stop: New Jersey!
So there you have it, folks - our insider's guide to all of the strange, cool and statistical details about The Garden State, brought to you with a side of Disco fries (extra gravy, please). Though it's pretty much impossible for us to address every single concern you may have, it's our goal to leave you more New Jersey-informed than when we found you. And maybe even closer to your decision on relocating here.
Now then, friend, it's up to you to decide if you'd like to become a New Jerseyite. Considering the fun times you could have "down the shore," carbo-loading, avoiding sales tax, visiting historical sites and searching for fairies, you may be packing your bags as we speak.
Good luck—and make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.