The New Jersey Native's Guide to Summer, Part Two

So now that you know how to talk, drive, and rock out like a Jersey native, it's time to do summer like one.

We may be best known for our tan lines and bar fights white sand beaches — all 127 miles' worth of them — but there's so much more to NJ in the summertime than laying out and baking on the beach all day. {Don't get me wrong, that's always an option too.} There are a couple of things I try to cross off my summer To Do list every year, and today I'm sharing them with you. So that in case you find yourself in Jersey this summer, you won't just be aimlessly wandering the Seaside Heights boardwalk in a sea of Longyulanders and looking for Snooki.

{If you haven't seen Part One of this Summer Education Course, find it here.}

So you're in NJ for a day or a week and it happens to be summer. Lucky you! This is the best time to be here. Sure, we love the beach and the shore is what it's all about, but you're missing out if you don't make some time for the rest of these NJ Summer Must Dos:

A show on the lawn{s} — Holmdel, NJ is home to the PNC Bank Arts Center, a hugely popular music venue that has offered music lovers in the tri-state everything from KTU's Beatstock to Summer Jam to Ozzfest. Though there are real seats available under the portico, the real party is on the hilly grass lawn. Lounge out and get your listen on to everyone from Dave Matthews Band to John Mayer to OAR to Maroon 5 to Motley Crue. Bring a blanket, have some drinks, a couple smokes of whatever you like and get your lawn on.
Note: An acceptable substitute for this central-Jersey music Mecca is the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ. Pros: Right outside Philly for easy commuting, gorgeous waterfront, spacious lawn. Cons: Camden is also affectionately nicknamed "Murderville," and it's not without cause. So, ya know.

A beach bonfire — If you can't make it happen on the beach, anywhere else you can manage it is acceptable too. {Be smart, and make sure it's legal where you are.} Wind down a wild weekend or kick back on Friday with the tunes going and the gluten-free beer flowing. Bonus: The smoke keeps mosquitos away. Score.

My buddy's band tearing it up // 2013 4th of July fireworks at Avon by the Sea // one of countless bonfire nights

Check out locals at the Stone Pony — You may be familiar with the Stone Pony as Asbury Park's famous venue that knew Bruce Springsteen as just a young, guitar-toting lad, and has launched countless other hometown heroes into successful music careers. Everyone in NJ knows what it means to play at the Stone Pony, and there's just an air of legendary greatness in even a whisper of its name. Go. See a local band you've never heard of. Support the talented musicians you'll find there and become a fan for life.

Hit the boards — If you've never been on an NJ boardwalk, you have to make it at least once. The most famous one is arguably the Home of Sunnin' & Funnin' in Seaside Heights, where you can find rides, games, booze, food, airbrushed T-shirts, and body piercers galore. {Fun fact: My first ever upside down roller coaster was the one on the Casino Pier in Seaside, the subject of this now-iconic photo.}
Michael Reynolds / EPA /October 31, 2012 // via
Then there's the AC boardwalk, which... is a little bit different. Not quite family friendly after dark if ya know what I'm saying. There's more to do on the Asbury boardwalk, and we can't forget Jenkinsons on Point Pleasant. Basically what I'm saying is, get some boardwalking in, whether it's at the top of the shore or down in the Wildhood Wildwood.

Get on a boat — I don't care how you do it, just get yo'self on a boat this summer. My cousins broke theirs out this Memorial Day weekend, and it was just perfect. We anchored out in Silver Bay and sat back and drank up. That Jersey sun can be a nasty gal though, and the sea {or bay} breeze makes it so sweet, so you better slather on the SPF or you'll be sorry later. Bonus: Take the boat over to F Cove on a Sunday, and don't forget to bring snacks. Bonus #2: Water ski or tube, because duh.

Kick it — Maybe New Jerseyans from other parts of the state will correct me on this one, but it's a BBQ/barbecue or you're grilling. We don't grill out, we don't go to cookouts. We grill and we drink. Get a friend with a nice backyard — up north or down the shore, either will work — and get it going on a Saturday afternoon. Extra points to the person who brings outdoor speakers and a lawn game. And when it rains — which it will, because it's NJ — don't panic. A) it will pass within a half hour and B) what other opportunities do you have to make a grown up homemade backyard slip n' slide?

Explore nature — One thing NJ is certainly not lacking in is nature. From Allaire State Park to the Ramapo Reservation to South Mountain to ANYWHERE from the tippy tippy top all the way to the southern edge of the state, there is amazing hiking to be found. Watch out for the bears though, but bonus points when you find the springs and the waterfalls. Oh and there's that pesky Jersey Devil down in the Pine Barrens. I think he's friendly though.

I could honestly go on for another dozen posts. There really is just so much to do in NJ in the summertime, so much more than MTV and Bravo would have you believe. Jersey Fresh brings you an awesome selection of farmers markets every weekend, you'll have your choice of firework displays every 4th of July, the wine/arts/food festivals never seem to stop. We have a festival of hot air ballooning, you guys.

We have fun, we rock out, we tan, swim, surf. What I'm saying is, don't let those impostors fool you. We've got a good thing going on around here, so come on down for a swim. Biggest bonus yet: When you fill up the tank to head back home, you don't even have to pump your own gas.

Alyssa's Identity-Disordered Summer Soundtrack, Pt. 2

1. On My Way by Lea Michele — because ever since the first time I heard it, I knew it'd be a windows-down-hair-blowing-driving-down-the-shore song
2. Move by Ludacris — because you'll be screaming the chorus anyway as you sit in shore traffic; might as well be intentional about it
3. This is How We Roll by Florida Georgia Line & Luke Bryan — because the mix in our drink's a little stronger than you think
4. Latch by Disclosure & Sam Smith — because I haven't driven on the parkway once in about 6 months without blasting this tune as I go
5. Fancy by Iggy Azalea — because it's gonna be everywhere this summer, and you better get used to it now
6. Warehouse by Dave Matthews Band — because "woo!" and because you've gotta prepare for one of the three 2014 NJ DMB shows somehow {and because 4:37!}
7. Be Okay by Oh Honey — because I do believe we'll be okay, oh oh oh
8. Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen — because if you're not bumping this one at your 4th of July BBQ, you're doing it all wrong
9. Livin' on a Prayer by Bon Jovi— because put your drink down, throw your fist up, and give me your best "ohhhhOHHHHH" like a good little Jersey Girl/Jersey Boy when this one comes up
10. In Summer by Josh Gad — because I love you guys

So... I'll see you all this summer, right?


  1. Gosh girl all these look like fun you make me wanna visit NJ!!! .... and there's that hunk again! haha

  2. SONGS 6 & 9!!!! WOO! So much yes. You've killed it with these 2 posts, seriously. Also, I love you for the Jersey Fresh link. I know about the 2 closest to me but this website is fab!

  3. lol adult slip and slide! i have never been on a slip and slide. fun. you seriously make it all sound so fun, im so jealous that you live near the beach. i am absolutely coming to visit one day.
    ok for reals, why is that roller coaster in the water???

  4. I love outdoor music venues! Speaking of that, DMB will be at SPAC (the outdoor music venue around here) tomorrow night and Saturday. They come every summer, and this is my first year going. Well, going to the parking lot to drink, at least!

    That photo of the roller coaster in the water will never not give me the chills.

    We've discussed the boat already, and yes, I'm still inviting myself!

  5. This is awesome! You are a hoot. We had friends get married in Stone Harbor last summer (if that counts?) and I had no idea what to expect (totally guilty of watching Jersey Shore) but it was so quaint and beautiful!

  6. This absolutely makes me want to travel to New Jersey for a little visit this summer. I love part two of your playlist almost as much as I loved the first!

  7. Got to love outdoor music during the summer! Chicago is all about the outdoor music fests during the summer months. And I am LOVING your summer jams list too. :)

  8. So happy to find another Jersey girl. I'm new to this summer thing here because we just moved in November, but I can't wait for our first summer weekend down the shore.


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