The birthplace of Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen and Whitney Houston…of the pork roll, the Italian-style hotdog and saltwater taffy…of the Jersey Shore and, um Jersey Shore…of the phonograph, the movie camera and the light bulb. Call it the Diner State, the Turnpike State, the Sandwich State, or the Exit State. Whatever you call it, New Jersey is a state that defies expectations.
The Garden State is known for many things…mostly not gardens. While New Jersey’s reputation often precedes it, what you think you know about the state may not align with what it’s really like. Its 130 miles of coastline, educational system and quality of life are just three reasons New Jersey’s been named one of the top five states to live in for two years running.
Located in the center of the Boston-New York City-Philadelphia-Washington, D.C. corridor, New Jersey is a state of connectivity, with easy access to major cities, airports and ports on the East Coast.
One of the main sources of connection in the state is the New Jersey Turnpike. Where residents of other states might obsess over which high school you went to or whether you say soda or pop, New Jerseyans will demand to know, “What exit are you?” Answer carefully. This question is loaded. But the Turnpike does more than connect (or, perhaps, divide) its citizens: it connects everyone to commerce, making goods flow and traffic snarl.
As one of the original 13 colonies, New Jersey has a deep cultural history and a diverse population that keeps the state energized, varied, and alive with food, arts, shopping and sports. You’ll find everything you need to know about moving to New Jersey below.
If you’re thinking of moving to New Jersey, get a moving quote from United Van Lines.
Living in New Jersey
The job market in New Jersey is fairly strong right now, with an unemployment rate of 3.3% — just below the national average. The state gained 123,000 jobs in 2022. Occupations in the healthcare sector topped the annual average salary chart (above $150k) and technology was a close second (at $146k). Looking for a job in New Jersey? See what careers are available when you move to the Garden State.
The cost of living index in New Jersey is 114 — lower than in New York, but higher than in either Pennsylvania or Delaware. Single-family homes average $475,000 across the state, and the townhouse-condo market isn’t much better, averaging $341,000. Income levels in New Jersey vary widely across the state and across counties, with inland counties and urban centers generally being more affordable.
New Jersey is a vital transit hub in America, owing to its proximity to the ports and the highway infrastructure to distribute goods in this massive population center. So it’s not surprising that one of the state’s top employers is Amazon, which provides jobs to 50,000 New Jerseyans. Other major employers in the state include Wakefern Food Corp. (parent company to ShopRite and other supermarkets), Walmart, UPS, PSEG, Bank of America, Caesar’s Entertainment and Tata Consultancy Services (hi-tech services). New Jersey is also home to 15 fortune 500 companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Prudential Financial, Merck, ADP, PDB Energy and Quest Diagnostics.
New Jersey has been ranked one of the best states to live in and raise a family. Ranked the #1 state for education by US News & World Report, New Jersey is known for its robust preK-12 public schools, including High Technology High School in Lincroft — a pre-engineering academy and the #1 STEM high school in the nation — and Bergen County Academies, one of the top magnet schools in the New York-New Jersey region. Princeton University has been rated the top school in the country for the 11th consecutive year.
With four distinct seasons, New Jersey has entertaining and educational experiences for the whole family, year-round. The annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival is the triumph of spring, capped off by Bloomfest, which features live performances, a crafter’s marketplace and children’s activities. Ice hockey fans will enjoy cheering on the New Jersey Devils, who play at the Prudential Center in Newark. If arts and culture are more your thing, the Montclair Art Museum in northern New Jersey has significant holdings of American and Native American works. And, if history is your jam, you’ve moved to the right state! The Morristown National Historical Park, part of the National Park system, commemorates the winter encampment of George Washington and the Continental Army during the record-breaking cold weather in the 1779-1780 winter.
Weather in New Jersey
Because of New Jersey’s midway between the Equator and the North Pole, residents are treated to highly variable weather, which can mean thunderstorms in spring and summer, nor’easters and hurricanes in the fall, and measurable snow and ice in the coldest months.
Winters in New Jersey are not for the faint of heart. The four seasons of New Jersey are distinct, and each has something to recommend it. (And something that might make you re-think moving to New Jersey!)
Thanks to the state’s irregular shape — which almost mimics its roads’ famous “jughandles” — the weather varies greatly from the southern tip at Cape May (which is practically in Delaware), to the northern corner, in the, um, armpit of Pennsylvania and New York. The state has five distinct climatic regions: North, Central, Southwest, Pine Barrens and Coastal. Across the board, summer temperatures average between 80-90°F, but winter temperatures vary from 15°F in the north to 30°F on the coastline.
The northwest sees more precipitation, generally, and the statewide average is nearly 48 inches. That rainfall is important if the New Jersey wants to protect its reputation as the Garden State. Northern New Jersey can see 40-50” of snow in a year, but the coastal regions might only see 10”. The state usually experiences at least one significant coastal storm a year; none more fierce than 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, classified as a superstorm.
The best time to move to New Jersey is in late spring or early fall, when the temperatures are mild and the snow has either gone or not yet arrived.
Top Growing Cities in New Jersey
The population of New Jersey is now 9,267,130—up by nearly half a million since 2010.
You’ll find the highest cost of living in cities like Hoboken, Berkeley Heights, Millburn and Montgomery, where the average household income easily exceeds $100,000, and can be over $200,000 in some areas. Educational rates are also significantly higher, and poverty rates are a fraction of those in most of the state’s urban centers.
It will surprise no one that Princeton, New Jersey — home of Princeton University — has an off-the-charts educational rate. Over 97% of the city’s residents (pop. 30,872) have graduated from high school and the vast majority (84.5%) have also earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Median home values here top $870,000 — about average for the wealthiest areas in the state.
Only a 20-minute train ride to the Big Apple, Newark (pop. 307,220) is a growing tech hub whose population is on the rise, seeing an influx of over 30,000 new residents in the last ten years.
The city is home to impressive academic institutions like Rutgers University (founded in 1766), the top-ranking public university in the state, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), which opened in 1885. Both schools contribute greatly to the cultural fabric of the region, attracting top researchers and students from all over the world.
In addition to the universities based in Newark, the city’s largest employers include Panasonic, Prudential Financial and PSEG, a metropolitan energy provider.
Housing prices in Newark are slightly above the national average, with the median home value at $254,900 and rents averaging $1,116 per month. But incomes are far lower — the average household income in Newark is only $37,476 — nearly $30,000 less than the New Jersey and U.S. average. The poverty rate in Newark is also elevated: over 26%. But this city is also a cultural bastion. There’s Newark Symphony Hall, the New Kersey Performing Arts Center, the Newark Museum of Art (known for its Tibetan collection) and the Newark Riverfront Park, which has unforgettable orange walkways along the Passaic River.
Once known as the Silk City, the population of New Jersey’s third-largest city, Paterson, is now 157,794, an increase of over 10,000 people in the last decade.
The median income in Paterson — $45,141 — is higher than in Newark, but still far below the state and national averages. The median home value in Paterson is $257,700, and rents average $1,213 per month.
The city first put itself on the global map with its early manufacturing days: steam locomotives, airplane engines and cotton and silk fabrics were all made here. The city is still known for Paterson Great Falls, now a National Historic Park, which pays tribute to the city’s important industrial past and celebrates the natural beauty of this spectacular feature on the Passaic River.
Midway between New York and Pennsylvania lies Trenton, the New Jersey state capital. The city was established by Quakers in 1679. Its first real claim to fame, though, was the Battle of Trenton — President Washington’s first military victory against the Hessian troops Great Britain had hired from Germany. The event was immortalized in Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware, but you can also visit the Trenton Battle Monument commemorating the event as well as over 200 other historic houses, cemeteries and sites in town. Walking tours are a great way to experience the area.
Trenton has seen modest growth since 2010, with its population rising from 84,913 to 90,457. The cost of living in Trenton is low compared to state and national averages: the median home value is $97,000, rents average just under $1,100 a month and the average household income is $37,002. This historic city in the Delaware River Region has much to recommend it, culturally, including the New Jersey State Museum, which has its own planetarium and holds world-class collections of art, artifacts, and scientific specimens.
Fun Things to Do in New Jersey
There are so many fun things for families to do in New Jersey!
The Adventure Aquarium — voted one of the top ten in the nation by USA Today — has the largest collection of sharks in the Northeast. For those looking to see eye to eye with the fearsome beasts, there is both a shark tunnel and a shark bridge — neither of which will be fun if you suffer from galeophobia (that’s the fear of sharks) — but both offer adventuresome viewing experiences for the not-so-faint-of-heart.
In Jersey City (near the Statue of Liberty), the Liberty Science Center offers 300,000 square feet of immersive learning fun, including live animal collections (100 species in all), hurricane and tornado wind simulators, aquaria, movies in the 3D theater and and live simulcast surgeries. Those who would prefer to look outward rather than inward can hang out instead at the center’s planetarium, which happens to be the largest in America. They even offer a show led by America’s favorite earthlings: Big Bird and Elmo.
In central New Jersey, Six Flags Great Adventure offers a full day of guaranteed good times. This location features a drive-thru safari, kid-friendly classics like a carousel, log flume and teacups, and totally intense thrill rides. The park’s Kingda Ka roller coaster is the world’s tallest and the fastest in North America. If your adrenaline levels are still low, strap into the Dare Devil Dive, which will send you plummeting toward the ground at 60 mph before jettisoning you skyward like a crazed bird.
Those who prefer to stick closer to the ground can enjoy a first-hand look at history aboard the USS New Jersey. The Battlefield New Jersey Museum & Memorial is a Philadelphia-area favorite, where visitors can climb and explore this historic craft that served the U.S. from WWII until the 1980s. You can sit in the Admiral’s chair and catch 40 winks in the sailor’s bunks and helm the gun turret (don’t worry, it’s not loaded).
If you are looking for some non-military historical wonderment, take the family to Thomas Edison National Historic Park, where you can see the inventor’s home and laboratory. Maybe come up with some ingenious ideas of your very own!
New Jersey sports fans can be divided a lot. In ice hockey, it’s easy — you root for the New Jersey Devils. In MLS, there’s consensus around the New York Red Bulls and the NWSL team the NJ/NY Gotham FC. But then it gets tricky. At MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, you can root for the NY Giants and the NY Jets, though many would argue you’re far better off as an Eagles fan. But what about baseball? The New Jersey Jackals are the state’s pro team, but without a major league team of their own, New Jersey fans have some hard choices to make. You’ll find a few die-hard Mets fans in northern Jersey and a solid showing of Phillies fans in the middle, but most New Jerseyans stick with the Yankees. It’s also possible that you’ll bump into a couple of Red Sox fans…literally just one or two…but no one that will actually own up to it on the street.
Outdoor Experiences in New Jersey
The Garden State’s reputation isn’t often staked on nature, but this state has so much to enjoy outdoors. From the New Jersey Pinelands to the Great Egg Harbor River, the state has numerous national parks and other natural wonders to explore. Check out United Van Lines’ guide to National Parks of the Northeast.
New Jersey is one of the states crossed by the Appalachian Trail, and you can’t go wrong with that as your hiking default. The Delaware Water Gap is a gorgeous spot for kayaking and offers inspiring, panoramic views for hikers, too. The Sourland Mountain Preserve, an idyllic spot for mountain biking and bouldering, is a breeding ground for several songbirds, including the elusive summer tanager.
In Vernon, the Mountain Creek Resort offers four seasons of outdoor excitement: skiing and boarding in the winter, a waterpark for the hot Jersey summers, and a bike park for two-wheeled thrills in the spring, summer and fall.
If the water beckons you, there are 130 miles of Jersey Shore to explore. The most popular travel destinations are packed with fun and tons of people.
In Atlantic City, casinos are the unsurprising lure, followed by the famous boardwalk that Hurricane Sandy took a giant bite of a decade ago. But the area also has its own ballet, African American Heritage Museum, aquarium and performing arts center. And, really, that’s what you came to Atlantic City for in the first place…you just bumped into that slot machine by accident, 1,000 quarters ago.
Ocean City is a popular destination for families on the Jersey Shore — hundreds of thousands of visitors make their way to the boardwalk here each year for the water park, the arcade, the mini golf, the tiki boats, and all the cotton candy your crew can possibly handle.
If you’re looking for a more natural experience of the New Jersey coast, check out Island Beach State Park, a barrier island along Barnegat Bay. The maritime forest is an ideal hideout for the island’s resident foxes and wildlife, and you may even spot some Ospreys catching their lunch as you take a dip in the ocean. Cape May Point State Park offers both natural and historic experiences. It’s a favorite spot for several migratory birds and monarch butterflies, but human visitors come in droves to see the view from the Cape May Lighthouse and the WWII Gun Battery.
At Liberty State Park, visitors can take in the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty as they explore the promenade, the nature center and even the historic terminal of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The Liberty Science Center (mentioned above) is also located within the park. At the northern end of the park is the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial, honoring the individuals with connections to New Jersey who lost their lives during the September 11th attacks.
One of the coolest outdoor experiences you can treat your family to that does not involve toweling off is a trip to Grounds for Sculpture, a 42-acre site for contemporary art. The organization has huge collection of artwork indoors and out — along with exceptional gardens — and regular performances and interactive experiences activate the art in unexpected and delightful ways.
Garden State Eats
New Jersey is known for many culinary delights, owing to its population’s rich and diverse heritage. From the humble hoagie and savory subs to pork roll sandwiches and, well, unique hot dog preparations, New Jerseyans know how to handle their way around a piece of meat.
The Italian-style hotdog originated at Jimmy Buff’s, where they fry the dogs in hot oil, tuck them into “pizza bread” and snug them up with sautéed onions, peppers and potatoes. At Rutt’s Hut, you can order yourself a “ripper,” where your dog will be deep fried until the skin blisters and rips down the center…a cruel but delicious fate. And, though you’re nowhere near the South, New Jersey is the place to get a “Hot Texas Weiner.” This point may be fiercely debated by native Texans.
At any of New Jersey’s many diners, you’ll be able to find the state’s other primary pork export: Taylor Ham, aka Pork Roll. Some describe it as New Jersey Spam, others as artisanal bologna (which may be a bit of a stretch), but by any name it is a versatile, salty-smoky slice equally at ease on your plate at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Much like sausage, it’s probably best not to know how the pork roll is made…only that you want it on your egg and cheese sandwich on Saturday morning.
If, after all this, you just want a regular sandwich, you’re out of luck. We’re pretty sure there is nothing regular about any of the sandwiches in New Jersey. So you might as well treat yourself to the best at The White House Sub Shop. Since 1946, they’ve been serving up the best meatball, Italian, and chicken parm subs in the state.
Is pizza a sandwich? Please debate amongst yourselves as you wait for a truly special pie from Razza in Jersey City. You’ll want a Guancia, which comes with crispy slices of pancetta’s cheeky cousin, guanciale, and the calabrese, with fermented chile paste.
One of New Jersey’s most distinct food districts is Oak Tree Road, the street connecting the towns of Edison and Iselin area. Located in Middlesex County in central New Jersey, this prominent South Asian community has established over fifty restaurants as well as specialty shops and markets here. Some places not to miss are Saravanaa Bhavan, Tabaq and Sri Dosa. For dessert, Kwality Ice Cream offers distinctly Indian flavors, like Kulfi Falooda (rose water and basil seeds), Topee Lychee, and Meetha Paan (papaya, fennel, and cardamom).
Cannoli is one of the best reasons to move to New Jersey, and one of the best places to get your RDA of cannoli is at Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken. Home of Cake Boss Buddy Valastro, this bake shop has been in operation since 1910.
New Jersey is also known as the birthplace of saltwater taffy. When a candy shop in Atlantic City flooded with seawater in 1883, the shop owner is rumored to have told a customer that all he had left was saltwater taffy! Much like taffy in your teeth, the name stuck.
The Garden State also made a name for itself in the wine industry — over 1500 acres are now dedicated to vineyards, making it one of the top wine producers on the east coast. There are four official regions for wine production in the state: the Cape May Peninsula, Central Delaware Valley AVA, Outer Coastal Plain AVA and Warren Hills AVA. Some of the most popular varietals grown in the state are Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Blaufrankish. Sharrott Winery, Beneduce Vineyards, Renault Winery and Villa Milagro Vineyards are all worth a sip.
Prepare for Your Move to New Jersey
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