Growing up in New Jersey, I can be the first to say that in your formative teen years there isn’t a lot to do. It’s like being stuck in the awkward stage where you want to be mature and do grown up things but you aren’t legal yet and window shopping at the mall has lost it’s novelty. When I went through this, I turned to something weird for entertainment, Weird New Jersey to be exact. When walking along different paths and parts of town I’d find strange graffiti, abandoned warehouses and dirt paths that led into forests. The second my group of friends and I got our licenses, all we did was explore these houses, paths and factories in different towns. We would search online for cool spots, make mental notes of interesting things we passed on highways and soon carved out places that became special and uniquely ours.
Now legal and nearing the end of college, I look back at those days with fond memories and still visit the public places that remain beautiful and untouched by time. The places were still an escape but from a new in between stage. The in between of who I was and who I was becoming, but instead of charging me for a beer or entertainment these spots whispered a gentle reminder that so long as I had a horizon my eyes would never tire. However visiting these places also put me in a new state of mind. No longer did I think my group was particularly unique or different, instead I thought about all the teens who grew up in Jersey and how they most likely found places of their own.
Thus a survey was created, and in this survey I asked people to tell me where their own special place was and why it meant something. Some responses were silly, some straight to the point, and others revealed a tinge of what I myself searched and found as a teenager.
I sent out the survey through facebook and asked my New Jersey friends to fill it out, friends passed it on to their friends, people messaged me with pictures and details about the locations they chose. Those who saw the survey and chose to fill it out were eager to share their special locations and before I knew it I made a map with places I never heard of and to my surprise a few I had already discovered.
My personal favorite is on the map, Laurel Hill Park or “Snake Hill” in Secaucus. You can find this one in the Weird New Jersey books, but any weird or scary stories aside, you have a park that is smacked between a river and mountain. The mountain, if you are daring enough to climb, overlooks the meadowlands Secaucus is infamous for and if you linger near the river around sunset, you have a spectacular view.
Some of these locations are exceptionally close to Montclair, one person even mentions Montclair State as having one of the best views. Others who are further south in Jersey let us know back-story on why the location is special, “Cliffwood Beach is not particularly charming, but when I first moved to NJ from Brooklyn I became incredibly homesick. I discovered a path to the beach near my house and found a spot along the shoreline where I could see the Verrazano Bridge in plain sight. It was tiny but meant everything in the world to me.”
This map is to find new spots, the best spots, and the new horizons. Even with a little money you can still see new things without leaving your state. In the words of Mark Twain, “Explore, dream, discover.” Get out there in the garden state.
Montclair State | New Jersey