New Jersey Cream
Byline: PRECIOUS WILLIAMS
Move over Manhattan, says Precious Williams, New Jersey is the place to go, with great outdoor pursuits and top shopping
Best known as home to The Sopranos, the sprawling state of New Jersey has a reputation for gangland murders, grating accents and tacky hairdos. It has long been New York's unloved neighbour, a place you pass through - if you land at Newark Airport - on your way to Manhattan, without so much as a glance out of your cab window.
But New Jersey, also known as the Garden State, is worth a second look. It offers everything from skiing to sunbathing, as well as gambling, sailing and lots and lots of tax-free shopping.
In fact, New Jersey is so fabulous that director Zach Braff has set a film there - Garden State, starring Natalie Portman.
'Nine out of ten people fly into Newark and say, "Ugh, New Jersey"' says Braff, who grew up there in the upper-middleclass town South Orange. 'It's unfair. It's a beautiful place.' Indeed, Braff sees no reason why New Jersey shouldn't be deemed as romantic and glamorous as New York and calls Garden State 'a Valentine to the breadbasket of the mid-Atlantic.' New Jersey is, of course, home to Ellis Island (001 212 269 5755), the Jersey City port via which millions of immigrants entered America in the 19th and 20th centuries.
It is worth paying the site a visit to catch a screening of the film display that recounts the immigrant experience and the Immigration Wall of Honor, inscribed by descendants of early immigrants.
Bounded by New York on the north, the Atlantic Ocean on the south and east and Pennysylvania and Delaware on the west, the Garden State's biggest secret is actually its 125-mile stretch of unspoilt beaches, the most picturesque of which are on Cape May, a small seaside town boasting fishing, bird-watching, whale and dolphin tours.
The entire town is a National Historic Landmark with glorious Victorian architecture. Stay at the 100-year-old Inn of Cape May (001 800 582 5933, www.innofcapemay.com).
New Jersey is a charming amalgam of the quaint (it is against the law to frown at a police officer) and the modern. One of the original 13 states, many of its enclaves have an old-world elegance.
But when it comes to shopping, New Jersey is ultramodern, offering Manhattan choice, at substantially lower prices. The ultimate shopaholic's paradise is the 1.35 million sq ft Short Hills (001 973 376 7359), 13 miles west of Newark Airport. Housing Gucci, Tiffany, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Neiman Marcus, Bally and Versace all under one glittering roof, at typically 40 per cent off - and without the 8.25 per cent retail sales tax on clothes and shoes mandatory in New York. …