Samantha Brown has always been one of our favorite travel show hosts. With her down-to-earth, humorous and fun-loving personality, she’s famous for showing us the local joints that make each destination unique and for spotlighting the food, music, museums, historical places — and most importantly the people — that give each place their heart and soul. During the pandemic, watching Brown’s two-time Emmy Award-winning PBS series, “Places to Love” was the second-best thing to actually traveling. And now that travel is back, she’s giving us the 411 on how to travel with children and why Southern New Jersey was the subject of one of Season 5’s best episodes.
Another highlight is her visit to at the Transparent Clinch Gallery in Asbury Park where she speaks to photographer Danny Clinch, known for his amazing portraits of rock stars. Brown also stopped at Source Farmhouse Brewery for a farm-to-glass brew produced using locally sourced ingredients.
New Jersey Family: Did you have any preconceived notions about NJ and how did doing this episode change those? What surprised you the most about NJ?
Samantha Brown: I had been to Asbury Park eight years ago and fell in love with it. It’s fun — it’s this funky land of weird toys, beach art, rock n’ roll. I had no idea. During the pandemic, live music performances had stopped but that community of musicians never did, and the Stone Pony was a part of that. They kept it going through social media.
The Garden State is also an agricultural hub. It’s called the Garden State, but we don’t make that association. There’s so much happening in the way of organic farming.
NJF: From what you’ve seen has travel returned?
SB: American leisure has been undeterred by the pandemic. If a place has a beach or a mountain it is packed and booked. That’s a positive for some, but not so great for others. But I see that Americans are traveling and most have no issues getting on a plane. Places like the Jersey Shore are booked even into October.
NJF: What’s your best travel advice for right now as things start to book up fast?
SB: My advice is to plan for a vacation. Get the calendar out now and book the travel for the year.
NJF: You’re a mom of twins and you give great tips for traveling with kids on your Instagram page @samanthabrowntravels. What’s your best advice for New Jersey families?
SB: Of course, getting kids vaccinated has made parents a little more easy-going about traveling again. One of my tips for younger families is never use the pre-boarding option on flights. You need to divide and conquer. Parent number one goes in and sets up shop while parent number two waits in the gate area and then bring them on. That pre-board is the most stressful part. Remove the kid out of that.
For older kids that are getting to be savvier, have them be a part of the trip planning process. A lot of the planning falls on the mom. Let each kid plan a day or an activity. It’s a great way to involve them and get them excited and it takes the burden off you!
NJF: You say on your show that a “place to love” is truly about the people that inhabit it. What did you learn about Jersey folks from filming this episode?
SB: I met South Side Johnny & The Asbury Jukes and asked, do you get really excited about playing here? Is it easy to be back home? And he said, ‘No that’s the audience that makes me the most nervous. They know all my songs. I give 110 percent home. You can never dog it with the NJ audience.’ And to me, that’s New Jersey. The people work so hard and are so passionate about what they do. They never “dog it.” It’s always 110 percent.
NJF: After hosting travel shows for so many years, how do you stay excited about it?
SB: Being curious is the best part. When you’re curious it doesn’t matter if you’re in Switzerland or at the Jersey Shore, I’m just as excited. It’s about connecting with people.
Watch Samantha Brown’s “Places to Love: The Jersey Shore and More” on your local PBS station on demand or on her website.