Tour NJ museums, walk across Hoboken and video chat from a waterfall — all virtually, of course
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Tired of looking at bare walls behind you during your many daily Zoom calls? You can liven up your next call with a background of a lush Southern New Jersey vineyard, or the green mountains of North West New Jersey or a picturesque lighthouse along the shore.
These Zoom backgrounds, along with virtual tours of museums, a Spotifly playlist of New Jersey artists, games like New Jersey bingo and other activities, are part of the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism's New Jersey in the House! digital hub.
"It's for existing visitors who are unable to see us right now, for potential future visitors and for everybody stuck at home," said Executive Director of NJ's Division of Travel and Tourism Jeffrey Vasser.
According to Vasser, New Jersey is poised to lose billions of tourism dollars this summer due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Visitors from New York and Pennslyvania who own or rent second homes in New Jersey may not be able to visit this summer.
In 2018, tourism spending brought in about $45 billion. (The 2019 stats are not available yet). Last year, New Jersey welcomed about 110 million visitors, and slightly more than half of came during June, July and August.
New Jersey in the House! is one way to keep New Jersey top of mind for future tourists, said Vasser. It's also a way for New Jerseyans to experience their state without leaving their homes.
"We wanted every region represented," said Vasser. "We reached out to different areas and told them to send us the most iconic scene from your area."
A collection of shore shots, rushing waterfalls and green landscapes, all perfectly sized for Zoom, is the result.
The site features two downloadable games: "This or That" (which asks questions like "Taylor ham or Pork roll" and "Giants or Eagles," and can be downloaded and posted on social media) and "NJ Bingo" (spaces include Garden State experiences such as seeing the cherry blossoms in Newark and vacationing in Cape May).
The "Ultimate New Jersey" Spotify playlist includes more than 70 songs from New Jersey artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Queen Latifah, Bon Jovi, Southside Johnny, The Smithereens and Count Basie.
Virtual tours of the Hunterdon Art Museum and Morris Museum, a virtual city walking map of Hoboken and links to Adventure Aquarium's behind-the-scenes videos are some of the educational resources on the site.
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Vasser says the Division of Travel and Tourism also hopes to host Facebook livestreams of chefs teaching cooking classes and bartenders mixing up drinks.
"We want to push our restaurants, push that New Jersey is one of the fastest-growing states for craft breweries," he said. "If you haven't tried a bottle of high-end Jersey wine yet — it's top quality."
Last year, 51% of New Jersey's tourism revenue came from non-shore counties, which is heartening for Vasser and his colleagues. They've been making an effort to expand visitors' perception of the state and encourage them to visit landmarks other than the beaches.
Livestreams from places like Diggerland (West Berlin's construction-themed amusement park) and the Cape May Zoo are also linked on the site.
"It's a stressful time right now," said Vasser. "We want to provide some beauty and fun. We'll be here when the pandemic is over, and we want to start thinking ahead."
Go to visitnj.org/new-jersey-house to access New Jersey in the House!