There is no doubt that I am a proud life-long resident of Southern New Jersey. Thus, I’m constantly finding myself getting into debates with, not only outsiders, but fellow Garden Staters when they say “There’s nothing to do in South Jersey.” Are you kidding me bro???
This is just not acceptable to me. We’re all familiar with the shore points, the miles of boardwalks and the tourist trap known as Atlantic City. But there’s so much more to do and see in our little section of New Jersey that very few are even aware of. So I’ve compiled a list of a few of my favorite “lesser known” South Jersey attractions for your viewing pleasure. Without further a due, I present to you: My Top Ten South Jersey “Hidden Gems”…
1. The Cohanzick Zoo: Yes, the grandiose Philadelphia Zoo is only a hop, skip and jump across the Schuykill River from South Jersey. However, for those of us that do not have a full eight-hour day available to tour the 42 acre zoo, the Cohanzick Zoo is a more quaint, less costly option. Nestled off an unpaved road in Bridgeton City Park, this 15 acre zoo immerses its guests into the animal’s natural habitat throughout its walking trails. One of Cohanzick’s most famous residents are their gorgeous white tigers, Esor and Erik. The zoo is open year round hosts numerous educational events for zoo-goers of all ages. I’ve been to this zoo countless times and each time I revisit, there is always something new to see or do.
2. Grounds for Sculpture: If contemporary art mixed with a hearty helping of nature is what you are looking for, Grounds for Sculpture is right up your alley. The 42 acre park boasts over 270 world famous sculptures, each strategically placed along its grassy hills and fields for optimal viewing pleasure. Set in the former location of The New Jersey State Fairgrounds, the park was founded in 1992 and opened to the public in 2000. Guests can dine at the park’s Monet-inspired Rat’s Restaurant, attend artist lectures and hands-on workshops or simply stroll the trails in search of inspiration. The artwork even spills out off-grounds alongside Hamilton’s streets. It’s especially difficult to not notice the life-like sculptures frozen in time or the gigantic tooth leading up to the train station.
3. The Pine Barrens: One of the most ideal locations for tourists in search of, not only nature, but history as well. The Pine Barrens, aka The Pinelands, is a federally protected densely wooded area spread across 7 counties. The Pine Barrens is home to all sorts of wildlife including deer, geese and the infamous Jersey Devil. Activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, and canoeing make the Pine Barrens an ideal family vacation destination.
4. Downtown Collingswood: A great place to spend a relaxing afternoon browsing the line up of antique trinket and book stores or, if you prefer, simply people watching from a cafe window while sipping on a hot Cup O’ Joe. There is just something about strolling down Haddon Avenue in Downtown Collingswood that really puts your mind and soul at ease. The atmosphere is upbeat, yet relaxed. Shop owners and patrons alike are friendly and very willing to stop and chat with those they meet. I’ll admit, I am quite partial to this area especially due to my love for food. Downtown Collingswood boasts over 50 restaurants serving almost every type of cuisine you could imagine!
5. Cowtown Rodeo: When most people think of New Jersey and its residents, rarely does a 10 gallon hat and steer roping come to mind. Surprisingly, South Jersey houses more than its fair share of cowboys and, of course cowgirls, who meet weekly at Cowtown Rodeo to show off their riding and roping talents. This action packed weekly spectacle showcases riders from all over the world barrel racing, bull riding, steer roping and much more. But wait, the fun doesn’t stop there! During the day on Tuesdays and Saturdays their HUGE farmers market is open to the public to shop local vendor’s wares or purchase a chicken or two at the livestock auction. Definitely a great family-friendly attraction worth checking out!