We have meetings in New Jersey throughout the year because of its convenient location in terms of sites in New York City and its convenience to Newark Airport," says Steven Strauss, president of the pharmaceutical division of Ardsley, NY-based Technomic Publishing Company. "New Jersey is less expensive than New York, and it's convenient and easy. Plus there is plenty of parking at no charge."

Accessibility isn't the only thing drawing meeting groups to New Jersey. The state's abundance of outdoor attractions is also a big pull. The Garden State offers fishing in some 1,400 miles of trout streams; swimming, rowing, and paddling in more than 800 lakes and ponds; and scenic valleys and mountains to explore. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a 70,000-acre region that has a 25-mile section of the Appalachian Trail running through it. Rafting and canoeing are popular on the Delaware.

The Jersey Shore, with 127 miles of white sand beaches, features boardwalks and endless amusement from Victorian Cape May-America's oldest seaside resort town-at the southern tip of the state, to picturesque Spring Lake, up the coast.

The world's first boardwalk was built in 1870 as a wooden sidewalk to keep sand out of hotel lobbies and railroad parlor cars. Today, those boardwalks are lined with Atlantic City's lavish casinos. A renaissance is taking place in Atlantic City, with a reported $7 billion being spent on development. The number of casino hotel rooms will triple from approximately 9,000 to more than 27,000 by the end of 1999, and six new casino resorts have announced construction plans. Adding to the excitement is the new $268 million Atlantic City Convention Center, scheduled to open in May 1997. The center will have 45 meeting rooms and 510,000 square feet of exhibit space.

A new meeting and entertainment facility is being built in another popular shore destination: The Wildwoods, the beach resort area that comprises North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest. The new Greater Wildwoods' Civic Center will market to smaller conventions and meetings. It is scheduled for completion in the spring of 1998.

This year, the new Greater Atlantic City Golf Association has come to the fore in promoting golf. With eight member courses and 26 hotels providing a variety of golf packages, the association is committed to making golf a year-round attraction at the Jersey shore.

Hotel News A new convention center hotel, managed by Doubletree Hotels Corporation, is being built next to Atlantic City's new convention center. It will have 500 rooms, a 12,000-square-foot main ballroom and more than 4,000 square feet of meeting room space and business center areas.

* After a $100 million expansion and renovation project, TropWorld Casino and Entertainment Resort has become Tropicana Casino and Resort. Now the largest hotel in the state, it has 1,624 hotel rooms and suites including the new 604-room West Tower, a $5 million lobby, and extensive room and suite renovations in the North and South towers.

* Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino opened in February a new $35 million, 349-room tower and expanded its casino.

* Trump World's Fair Casino opened in May as Atlantic City's 13th casino hotel. Previously, it was the 500-room Trump Regency Hotel.

* The Grand Casino Resort will expand to 1,008 rooms when its $68 million 500-room tower opens in July 1997.

* Harrah's Casino Hotel Atlantic City is undergoing an $81 million expansion that will add 416 rooms to its present 760 rooms that is slated to be finished in July 1997. This expansion will be followed by an additional 1,500-room addition costing $325 million.

* Caesars Atlantic City Hotel Casino is undergoing a $280 million expansion that will bring the room count to 1,130 rooms when completed in October 1997.

* The 1,265-room Bally's Park Place Casino Hotel & Tower is adding a $100 million western-themed casino scheduled for completion next summer.

* Merv Griffin's Resorts Casino Hotel plans 700 new rooms at a cost of $200 million, for a total of 1,176 rooms by June 1998.

* Sands Casino Hotel has plans to add 500 rooms in a $150 million expansion that will increase the number of rooms to 1,034. The hotel also recently completed a new $5 million themed restaurant, the Epic Buffet.

* Trump's Castle Casino Resort is planning a $225 million, 1,500-room tower showcasing a 430-foot yacht with a 35,000-square-foot-casino to bring the resort's total number of rooms to 2,225.

* Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort plans a $195 million, 802-room, and 68,000-square-foot casino expansion, which will bring its room total to 2,052.

* ITT and Planet Hollywood plan a $490 million, 1,000-room casino hotel on a site adjacent to the Sands Casino Hotel.

* Mirage Resorts plans to build a $750 million, 2,000-room Beau Rivage Casino Resort in Atlantic City's marina district.

* Circus Circus Enterprises has entered into an agreement with Mirage for land to build a $600 million, 2,000-room casino hotel adjoining the Beau Rivage.

* Boyd Gaming Corporation has also entered into an agreement with Mirage to build a $500 million, 1,000-room Stardust-Atlantic City casino resort adjacent to the Beau Rivage.

* Following a $9 million renovation of all guest rooms, public spaces, and its exterior, the former Sheraton Hasbrouck Heights has become the Crowne Plaza Hasbrouck Heights. The 355-room hotel has 23,000 square feet of meeting space. A new conference wing was added, and the hotel now has 21 function rooms and the rooftop Crowne Ballroom.

* The Clarion Hotel at Newark International Airport has become the Newark International Airport Hotel and Conference Center. It has 258 rooms and 5,000 square feet of meeting space.

* In Mount Olive, the 141-room Wyndham Garden Hotel at the International Trade Center, slated to open next year, will include a restaurant, swimming pool, exercise facility, and a 300-person ballroom that can be reconfigured for special events and meetings.

Getting There Newark International Airport, New Jersey's major airport, has a new $354 million monorail that opened at the end of May. Plans are in the works to extend the monorail to the Northeast Corridor lines of New Jersey Transit. A $1 billion rail project is also underway linking the airport to JFK. High-speed ferry service to LaGuardia Airport will be available next year.

Atlantic City International Airport has undergone a $17.7 million expansion doubling the size of the airport terminal to 78,000 square feet.

How's the Weather? New Jersey has four distinct seasons. Winter temperatures along the coast range from 24 to 49 degrees. Winter is also value season, except near New Jersey's ski areas. Spring and fall, peak meeting season, have average daytime temperatures in the 50s and 60s. The Jersey Shore region is cooler than the rest of the state in the summer because of its ocean breezes. There, temperatures range from 62 to 79 degrees, while central New Jersey's summer temperatures reach the high 80s.

http://www.meetingsnet.com

New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism Eileen Thornton, travel trade rep. (609) 292-1141; Fax (609) 633-7418 http://www.state.nj.us

Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority William Blaziek, vice president of convention development (609) 449-7110; Fax (609) 345-3685

Gateway Regional Tourism Council Linda Moniz, tourism director (201) 641-7632; Fax (201) 641-7632

North Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau Stephen Van Campen, president (908) 475-2222; Fax (908) 475-2241

Shore Region Tourism Council Peter Schnell, chairperson (800) ENJOY-33; Fax (908) 341-1629

Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority Deborah Bass, dir. of public relations (609) 523-0100; Fax (609) 523-9350