What do Wes Anderson and New Jersey have in common? Essentially nothing. The director’s eccentric cinematic aesthetic could not be farther from the landscape of the Garden State. Our buildings lack a certain whimsy, I suppose.
However, accounts like @accidentallywesanderson exemplify that you don’t need to throw on candy-colored lenses to catch a glimpse of Wes’s world. In fact, New Jerseyans are living amongst several hidden gems that unknowingly (and accidentally) pay homage to his fantastical film sets. From an antique train car in Morristown to a symmetrical A-frame in Wildwood, these seven New Jersey locations look as if they were plucked from a Wes Anderson movie.
1. Grounds For Sculpture – Hamilton, NJ
Did you know that New Jersey shares a deep connection with state fairs? Turns out, the Domestic Arts Building at Grounds For Sculpture used to hold exhibits for local, handcrafted goods before it served as an exhibit itself at this New Jersey art park. Although Grounds For Sculpture was forced to shut down this summer due to COVID, it has reopened for the winter with guided tours and virtual activities. It might be worth an in-person visit to see this charming exterior with its arched facade and emerald green trim.
2. The Madison Hotel – Morristown, NJ
Since you can’t step inside The Grand Budapest Hotel (it’s fictitious), you can travel back in time to the Gilded Age by paying a visit to The Madison Hotel. Initially established in 1936, this Morristown, NJ landmark was known for hosting only the most affluent of visitors. By the look of the interior, you can see why. The Old World opulence and elegance still remains, including the most Anderson-Esque element of all. Guests have the option of dining inside the hotel’s Parlour Car—a refurbished, turn-of-the-century rail car and a unique restaurant venue nonetheless.
3. Barnegat Lighthouse – Barnegat Light, NJ
The New Jersey shoreline is home to some of the nation’s oldest and tallest lighthouses. Barnegat Light, or “Old Barney,” dates back to 1859 and boasts views of Island Beach, Barnegat Bay, and LBI. In 1971, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, visitors can reach the top by climbing Old Barney’s 217 stairs and transport themselves to “Moonrise Kingdom.” Well, one can pretend.
4. Gold Crest Motel – Wildwood Crest
As a kid, I vacationed in Wildwood every summer. Although, I guess I was too young to pick up on its affinity for mid-century modern design. Gold Crest Motel in particular features the classic characteristics of a Wes Anderson movie—from the symmetry, down to the minty blue curtains and bright red doors. It maintains that same Palm Beach-meets-Miami kind of vibe that was of its time in the ‘60s and evidently influenced many of Wildwood’s other motels.
5. The A House – Wildwood, NJ
If you frequent the Jersey Shore, it’s possible you’ve driven past this A-frame on Park Boulevard. The home’s triangular frame, along with the color and charm, qualifies it as a standout among this quaint beach town. Some have noted its resemblance to a pizza slice.
Legend has it, the owner ordered the structure from a catalog and built it himself in the ‘60s. However, not with the intention to live in or rent it. The A House was used to store his personal bottle collection and has served many purposes over the years, including acting as a location for his accounting business.
6. Asbury Park Convention Hall – Asbury Park, NJ
While many events have been either canceled or postponed this year, Asbury Park Convention Hall is historically known for hosting the state’s best concerts, from Elton John to Bruce Springsteen. The Convention Hall itself extends out over the beach, created by the same architects who designed New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. It’s also adjacent to The Paramount Theatre, another Jersey landmark on this list. While we don’t know when visitors will be allowed inside again, we can still daydream about sitting in those retro, teal blue stadium seats. Maybe even Bill Murray would make a cameo.
7. Paramount Theatre – Asbury Park, NJ
Asbury’s Paramount Theatre is one New Jerseyans will recognize well, as it shares the same address as the Conventional Hall. On the outside, there are nods to nautical elements. Think ocean waves and seahorses. Its architecture bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Anderson’s, inspired mostly by Italian and French design. This grand structure is made up of earthy hues from brick and terra-cotta, matched with stone arches and sculptural copper elements. Unlike The Grand Budapest Hotel, this building is not made out of Legos. Unfortunately, this venue too remains closed, but the opportunity for an outdoor photo-op still remains.
Have you visited any of these Wes Anderson inspired New Jersey locations? Let us know in the comments below.
Main image by Tyler Haughey