You don’t need a time machine to experience some South Jersey history. Check out these sites to take a trip to the Revolutionary War, the Victorian Era and other exciting points in history.
1048 Washington Street, Cape May
Emlen Physick Jr. came from a wealthy Philadelphia family (his grandfather was considered the father of American surgery). When Emlen moved into the Washington Street estate in Cape May with his widowed mother and maiden aunt, he chose a path that strayed from the family business: farming. Today, you can tour the 15 rooms of the Emlen’s 17th-century home and learn about the particulars of the Victorian lifestyle in Cape May. There’s even a specialized tour just for children, as well as a self-guided tour. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 3 to 12.
100 Hessian Avenue, National Park
A decisive Revolutionary War battle was won right on this Gloucester County site when patriot forces, though greatly outnumbered, defeated Hessian troops. Stroll through the riverfront battlefield and explore the stone forts and walls that fortified General George Washington’s men. The stately Whitall House, which housed the wounded after the battle, is also open for tours (April through October). The park offers pathways along the Delaware River and plenty of spots for picnicking, as well as a children’s play area.
9200 Atlantic Avenue, Margate
She’s been a staple of Shore skyline since 1881, but Lucy the Elephant is more than just a family-friendly tourist attraction. Once a restaurant, business office, cottage and tavern (which was closed by Prohibition), visitors today can walk up Lucy’s 130 steps (her legs!) and into her rooms and living quarters (her stomach!). Visit the carriage on her back for panoramic views of Margate, the Atlantic City skyline and the Atlantic Ocean. And then learn about Lucy’s construction (she’s made of nearly one million pieces of wood!), how she has moved to her current location and the storms and fires that almost wiped her out completely in the 1960s. Tickets cost $4 for ages 3 to 12 and $8 for ages 13 and up. Check the website for tour times.
62 Battleship Place, Camden
Come aboard the ship that has battled in a number of wars since its construction in 1940. The Battleship New Jersey was sailed during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. You can tour this museum on the water – some tour guides have even served on the ship – to see areas like the room where sailors controlled the guns, the hospital and the crew’s cabins. If you want to really know what it was like to serve on the ship, you can stay over night. Tickets range from $17 to $29.95, depending on the tour.
233 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield
As the Revolutionary War was raging in 1777, government officials who were forced to evacuate their offices in battle-ravaged Trenton gathered at the Indian King Tavern in Haddonfield. Here, they enacted the law to officially change New Jersey from a colony into a state. These days, you can take a free tour of the rooms, including the bed First Lady Dolley Madison is said to have slept in, and peruse the tavern’s collection of historical items. Throughout the year, the tavern hosts live music concerts, where musicians in historical dress play traditional Colonial songs.
128 High Street, Mount Holly
It held debtors and criminals alike, and some people maintain that the historic building and its grounds are haunted by the spirits of former prisoners – the museum was even featured on an episode of Syfy channel’s “Ghost Hunters.” If you dare, you can tour the small cells, complete with their original doors, and learn what prison life was like. Originally designed to house approximately 40 prisoners, the structure was in constant use until 1965. During tours, you’ll also hear how you can help participate in research and data compilation to fill in the missing holes in the history of the Burlington County Prison. Tickets cost $4 for adults and $2 for students and seniors.