New Jersey is not second fiddle to New York, says Samantha Feuss of Have Sippy Will Travel. Her home state has the best pizza and glorious beaches for kids making it an ideal place for a family vacation. Or if you want a cheaper way to travel to New York with kids, it’s worth basing yourself out of Jersey, says the mother of one. She gives suitcases&strollers the scoop on activities, hidden gems and the best place to get a giant American breakfast when you’re in New Jersey with kids.

Isn't New Jersey just the poor cousin to New York City?

New Jersey is the most populated state in the Union for a reason — everyone wants to live here. Poor cousin, nothing. We have the best pizza (sorry, NY and Chicago!) and best bagels in the country, you can park your car without selling an arm and we have it all — cosmopolitan cities, fine dining, amazing theater to beautiful beaches. You can reach all the east coast states via a quick and easy drive, and you have fast access to both NYC and Philly. All from one of the smallest states in the USA. NYC is New Jersey’s “poor cousin”. And you pay higher rent too. Why bother?

We hear a lot of families tend to move from NYC to New Jersey once they've had kids. What makes NJ so attractive for families? 

It's got lawns, for one. Good schools, easy access to the city without having to live there and a sense of community. 

Is New Jersey a good place for families who are visiting to base themselves to visit New York with kids?

It depends if they have a car.  If they do, then yes. The money they can save on hotels alone is insane. Plus, New Jersey is a great place to visit — NYC or no.

Why is New Jersey good for families to visit for a holiday in itself?

Forget New York City. NYC is it s own destination. New Jersey is a great place to visit. Check out the Jersey Shore (Sandy who?), walk the boardwalk, visit the Cape May County Zoo (voted one of the best in the USA), check out some of the hot spots that Tony Soprano made famous (although we’ve loved them for a long time) or go tax-free shopping if that's your thing. We have it all. 

Where is your favourite place to take the kids in New Jersey?

Lucy the Elephant in Margate, New Jersey, is always great. It's so unique — a giant elephant you can climb up and has served as a house, a hotel and more — that kids and adults alike love. 

Where is your son’s favourite place in New Jersey to hang out?

My son is only 6 so he is all about local kids’ spots that all kids love like Chuck E. Cheese’sSix Flags Great Adventure Park and the train station when Thomas the Train comes [for Day Out With Thomas]. It's not hard to see why he likes those places — I think most kids would!

What are the best free activities to do with kids in New Jersey? 

There are many to choose from — many museums and gardens (like the New Jersey Botanical Gardens) have tons of free events year round or seasonally. Depending on where in New Jersey you are, put in the city or county plus the words “free events for kids” [into Google] and you will find a bounty of things to choose from.

Where is the best place to take kids in New Jersey when the weather is bad?

Depending on the time of year and where you are in New Jersey, this varies. Safe choices are always the movies or a mall which NJ is famous for. Google “New Jersey mall movies” if you think I'm kidding!

What are some of New Jersey’s hidden gems that tourists might not know about?

Island Beach State Park is about ten miles long. Located in Ocean County, the 3,000-acre park is some of the last undeveloped barrier island ecosystem in the state. It also has a Nature Center that contains exhibits on the watershed, shells and animals.

What’s the best way for children to have an authentic New Jersey experience? 

Come as you are and understand that it's loud here. People are really nice – and really, really loud. They talk loud, they gesture with their hands and they want you to love this place. And eat. Everything.

Which is the best part of New Jersey to stay for families visiting the New York City with kids?

Hoboken is the closest place to NYC. It's also expensive.

When is the best time of year to visit New Jersey with kids?

Summer is best for the beach and boardwalk. Spring and fall are great for any part of the state.

Where are your top 3 places to take kids for a meal in New Jersey?

It really depends on what part of the state you are in. 

South Jersey? Hit up Duffers in Wildwood. Not only is it good food but they have an old fashioned ice cream parlor, costumed servers in a nostalgic, toy-filled restaurant and games and mini golf outside. 

North Jersey visiting Hoboken?  Check out Pizza Republic. Yes, for pizza – but more for the Mac and Cheese. You can get it in any variety you can think of (white truffle, buffalo chicken, plain); even the adults will want some. The portions are huge [so] sharing is OK. If you are in the mood — and I mean REALLY in the mood for breakfast – visit the Country Pancake House in Ridgewood. As seen on Extreme Pig Out, these pancakes are made with every topping imaginable, ordered every way possible — and as big as hubcaps. Go hungry and be rolled out the door. 

What is the best way to move around New Jersey with kids?

Drive. There really is no better or more efficient way to get around.

What are your top 3 tips for families travelling to New Jersey?

·  Go with the flow. It's a little busy here; we are fast paced and a little loud— but very friendly. You can ask anyone for anything and they will offer you all the assistance they possibly can.

·  Eat everything — it's all good.

·  And remember: we are so cool here, we don't have to pump our own gas. Enjoy it!

To read more about things to do in New York City with kids, go to the suitcases&strollers story here or see the story by suitcases&strollers contributor Bindi Irwin