New Jersey June 12, 2016
12 Things You Can’t Do In New Jersey Anymore… But Wish You Could
There are so many wonderful places to enjoy in New Jersey, though some of our favorites have closed over the years. There are businesses and attractions we look back on fondly, and it’s always fun to remember the times we had. From amazing amusement parks to the best department stores, here are 12 nostalgic New Jersey establishments that we’ll never forget.
1. Jungle Habitat, West Milford
Before Six Flags had its Safari, Warner Brothers owned their own drive through amusement park in West Milford. In operation from 1972-1976, over 500,000 visitors came to see wild animals up close. There was also a walk through area with a petting zoo and character shows. The park was plagued with issues and closed abruptly in 1976, leading to rumors that many animals were left behind. Many structures still remain and the grounds are a popular hiking and biking spot.
2. Bamberger's, Multiple Locations
This department store chain served several states in the area and was headquartered in Newark, New Jersey. Other locations included Morristown, Princeton, Paramus, Plainfield and nearly a dozen more. Founded in 1893, the company was bought by Macy's in 1929, but maintained its own identity until 1986 when locations became Macy's New Jersey. By 1988, all existing stores were converted into Macy's and Bamberger's was dissolved. Fun fact, the Newark location was so large that the phone exchange 565 was devoted entirely to the store.
3. Traymore Hotel, Atlantic City
This magnificent art deco resort was once one of Atlantic City's most popular destinations. The hotel existed in some form from the 1880s onward, but the incarnation we're most familiar with (pictured) was built in 1906 and demolished in 1972.
4. Two Guys, Multiple Locations
This discount department store chain was founded in Harrison, New Jersey in 1946 by the Hubschman brothers. By the 1950s, the company grew well beyond the New Jersey area with over 100 stores reaching as far as California. Unfortunate mergers led to the company's decline in the 1970s and the chain was defunct by 1982.
5. Absecon Drive-In, Absecon
The Absecon Drive-In opened in 1955 and operated until 1983. It could host 1,250 cars at capacity and was a popular place for locals to spend summer nights. The screen remained for many years after closing, though I've heard it has been mostly destroyed at this point. (Above photo is from 2008.) Other drive-in theaters New Jerseyans loved included Atco Drive-In, Somerville Drive-In and Saddle River Drive-In, among others. Delsea Drive-In in Vineland is the only operating theater that remains.
6. Horn & Hardart, Multiple Locations
Who remembers the automat? Pick your meal, put in some change and POOF, you had your food. Horn & Hardart was the most popular automat chain on the East Coast, primarily located in New York and Philadelphia. There were several New Jersey locations of the chain, including waitressed shops; they included Paramus, Camden and Collingswood.
7. Hunt's Pier, Wildwood
Hunt's Pier Amusement Park operated between 1957-1985. It was well-known for its "dark rides," which guided patrons through a variety of specially lit scenes. You may also remember the famous Flyer, a wooden roller coaster. It was re-imagined as the New Hunt's Pier in 1989, but this venture was short lived, closing its doors in 1992.
8. Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford
Now known as the Izod Center, the building will likely be demolished after 2017. Originally the Brendan Byrne Arena, the venue first opened in 1981 to a packed house and performances by Bruce Springsteen. The home of the Nets before they moved to Brooklyn, the space was also previously known as Continental Airlines Arena (1996-2007). 2007 was also the year that the New Jersey Devils left the arena, moving to the Prudential Center in Newark.
9. 500 Club, Atlantic City
The 500 Club first opened in 1918 and served as a supper club while being a front for an illegal gambling operation. It was at its peak from the 1940s to 1960s, when it was operated by Paul D'Amato. The club was frequented by mobsters and celebrities alike, often hosting Rat Pack members Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. The club burned to the ground in 1973.
10. Bertrand Island Amusement Park, Mount Arlington
Bertrand Island Amusement Park was actually located on a peninsula, jutting out into Lake Hopatcong. Originally only a beach, amusements were added in the 1910s. It thrived for over 70 years, closing in 1983. Artifacts from the park can be found at the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum. Do you remember the Wildcat coaster?
11. Eatontown Roller Rink, Eatontown
Popular in the 1970s and '80s, the last remaining roller rink in Monmouth County closed its doors in 2005. It was left abandoned and has since collapsed. Roller rinks once dominated the landscape of New Jersey, but now few remain.
12. Palisades Amusement Park, Cliffside Park/Fort Lee
This iconic 30-acre amusement park was located in the Palisades Cliffs on the Hudson River. A favorite family destination from 1898 to 1971, it was the most popular amusement park in the United States for decades. Favorite attractions included the massive pool and Cyclone roller coaster. The magical park was so well-known that a song was even written about it.
To bring back even more memories, enjoy the following short videos:
Bertrand Island Amusement Park, uploaded by YouTube user njkenny.
Footage from the 500 Club, uploaded by YouTube user The AC butch Show.
Korvettes Department Store Commercial from the 1970s, uploaded by YouTube user eyeh8cbs.
Two Guys vintage advertisement, uploaded by YouTube user stevations.
For an even bigger blast from the past, check out this article focused on
Palisades Amusement Park with some great facts, photos and videos, and this gem of a video featuring even more New Jersey favorites: This Nostalgic New Jersey Video Will Bring Back Fond Memories.
Share your memories of these locations and other classic New Jersey venues with me.