New Jersey's lively Jersey Shore is home to some of the East Coast's favorite playgrounds, ranging from family-friendly boardwalk entertainment centers like the Wildwoods to iconic nightlife destinations like Atlantic City.
New Jersey visitors can easily day trip to famed resort destinations like Ocean City and the Skylands or get away for the weekend to nearby East Coast urban areas like New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston. Quaint waterfront towns like Annapolis offer some of the Chesapeake Bay's best dining destinations, while college towns like Princeton are home to world-renowned museums and theaters.
1. The Wildwoods
The Wildwoods are one of New Jersey's liveliest beachfront resort areas, located along a barrier island on the state's Atlantic Ocean coastline. The vibrant resort district is home to a plethora of family-friendly attractions along its picturesque Wildwood Boardwalk, which is lined with delicious restaurants, kitschy souvenir shops, and arcade attractions. Visitors can ride high and mild thrill rides at the historic Morey's Piers and Beachfront Water Parks, Mariner's Pier, or Splash Zone Waterpark, open seasonally. Sightseeing tram car rides traverse the region's boardwalk throughout the year, offering hop-on-hop-off service. Unique attractions include the Doo Wop Experience Museum, which preserves midcentury artifacts and memorabilia.
Annapolis is a delightful historic waterfront town located along the banks of the Chesapeake Bay's western shoreline, approximately halfway between the cities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The city, which dates back to the United States' colonial period, is home to picturesque cobblestone streets and a charming downtown district that offers 17 miles of stunning public-access waterfront. Visitors can dine at acclaimed restaurants like the lovely waterfront Carrol's Creek or upscale OB's Prime Steakhouse or try hip gourmet cuisine at trendy spots like the award-winning Iron Rooster. The city's bustling Main Street is home to a plethora of boutiques, art galleries, and specialty shops selling everything from women's apparel to home goods. Romantic bed and breakfasts and inns offer overnight accommodations in historic settings.
3. Asbury Park
Asbury Park is one of New Jersey's hippest seaside resort towns, known for its role in the 20th century's popular music scene in breaking internationally-renowned acts like Bruce Springsteen. Today, the city remains a top destination for East Coast music lovers, home to acclaimed venues like the historic Stone Pony. Visitors can stroll along the city's gorgeous boardwalk, which is lined with lively amusement attractions for visitors of all ages and bustling souvenir shops and arcades. The charming Silverball Museum offers unlimited play on restored 20th-century pinball machines and video games, while the 1920s-era Paramount Theatre draws some of the region's top concerts and theatrical touring performances. Annual special events include the city's famed Oysterfest, which brings delicious seafood vendors directly to the Jersey Shore.
4. Atlantic City
Atlantic City is the East Coast's most decadent seaside playground, originally developed as a health resort district in the late 19th century. Today, the city is known as the Las Vegas of the East Coast, home to opulent high-rise resorts, luxurious hotels, lively casinos, and nonstop nightlife. The city's iconic boardwalk is said to have inspired the famed board game Monopoly, showcasing four miles of tourist attractions, including the delightful Steel Pier amusement park, which is home to roller coasters, water rides, and a giant seaside observation wheel. The historic Absecon Lighthouse preserves New Jersey's tallest lighthouse, while unique Lucy the Elephant remains one of the East Coast's most iconic roadside attractions. Visitors can also explore family-friendly attractions like the lovely Atlantic City Aquarium, which presents marine life shows throughout the week.
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5. The Atlantic Highlands
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The Atlantic Highlands are a delightful borough in New Jersey's Bayshore Region, home to majestic Mount Mitchill, the Eastern Seaboard's highest peak, which towers nearly 300 feet above sea level. The Monmouth County borough, which dates back to the late 19th century, is known for its gorgeous park system, which encompasses eight borough parks and two county parks open to the public for year-round recreation. Visitors can explore lovely landmarks like Lenape Woods, which protects 51 acres of natural woodland and wetland habitats along the banks of Many Mind Creek. In town, visitors can explore attractions like the beautiful Queen Anne-style Strauss Mansion Museum, preserved as a living history museum, or catch performances at the charming First Avenue Playhouse dinner theater.
Baltimore is a lively Maryland metropolis located at the northwestern edge of the Chesapeake Bay, approximately an hour north of Washington, D.C. The vibrant harbor city offers a plethora of family-friendly attractions within its charming Inner Harbor district, including the unique American Visionary Art Museum, celebrating eclectic folk and amateur art from around the world. Historic district Fells Point, once an independent city, is home to delightful seafood restaurants, hip boutiques, and lively bars, while hip Power Plant Live district showcases trendy upscale nightlife venues. Visitors can also peruse the exhibits of cultural institutions like the Walters Art Museum or explore hip neighborhoods like Hampden, named as one of the United States' most hip urban neighborhoods, home to annual special events like quirky Honfest.
© Borough of Bernardsville, NJ
Bernardsville is a charming borough in Somerset County, known as one of New Jersey's most affluent and sophisticated communities. Much of the borough's downtown district is protected as part of the National Register of Historic Places-listed Olcott Avenue Historic District, which showcases splendid historic architecture and a plethora of shopping and dining experiences. Gorgeous public parks throughout the borough include lovely Michael J. Nervine Memorial Park, which overlooks the banks of picturesque Borough Pond, and Cross Estate Gardens, overseen in conjunction with the National Park Service. The lovely Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, overseen by the New Jersey Audubon Society, offers nature trails showcasing more than 200 native area species. Fine dining destinations abound, including European-influenced favorites like Bernard's Inn and Osteria Morini.
Boston is one of the East Coast's most historic metropolises, known around the world for its connection to America's colonial period and fight for independence in the 18th century. The city, which was originally founded in 1630, preserves a plethora of historic attractions today along its 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, including several sites connected to Paul Revere's famed midnight ride, which signaled the start of the American Revolutionary War. Charming Faneuil Hall marketplace is home to dozens of food and artisan vendors selling a variety of international goods. Visitors can also peruse the collections and exhibits of cultural attractions like the Museum of Fine Arts-Boston, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Boston Athenaeum. Over 1,100 acres are preserved within the city's acclaimed Emerald Necklace park chain, originally landscaped by Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted.
9. Cape May
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Cape May is one of the United States' most popular seaside resort towns, named as one of the nation's top beachfront stretches by the Travel Channel. The lovely New Jersey seaside getaway has been protected in its entirety as a National Historic Landmark, noted for its stunning historic Victorian-era houses in its charming Cape May Historic District. Visitors can explore preserved historic attractions like the Cape May Lighthouse and the World War II-era Lookout Tower, both open to the public as living history museums offering guided tours throughout the year. 19th-century life is on display at the Emlen Physick Estate, while colonial-era demonstrations are showcased at the Historic Cold Spring Village. The city's downtown Washington Street Mall area offers delicious dining destinations and chances for romantic boardwalk strolling and whale watching throughout the year.
10. Chester Borough
© Municipality of the Borough of Chester
Chester Borough has been named as one of New Jersey's top 10 most gorgeous towns, located within lovely Morris County. The city serves as a gateway to some of New Jersey's loveliest state parks, including Hacklebarney State Park, which offers opportunities for hiking and hunting throughout the year. Delightful Black River County Park preserves the historic Nathan Cooper Gristmill, open to the public for living history exploration, while Willowwood Arboretum offers 131 acres of hiking trails and landscaped gardens. In town, lovely historic sites include the 1740 First Congregational Church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The city's historic downtown district offers over 50 stores, boutiques, and antique stores, along with a plethora of charming cafes and restaurants.
© Borough of Collingswood
Collingswood is a lovely suburban Philadelphia borough in Camden County, New Jersey, known as one of southern New Jersey's top shopping destinations. The city's vibrant Haddon Avenue has been ranked as the United States' top small-town foodie destination, home to a wide variety of eclectic consignment shops, antique galleries, designer boutiques, and gourmet restaurants. Historic homes like the Collings-Knight Homestead and the Stokes-Lees Mansion showcase 1820s-era architecture, preserved as living history sites, while Harleigh Cemetery protects the gravesite of famed poet Walt Whitman. Lively concert and theatrical venues like the Ballroom and Theater at Collingswood showcase regional and international artists throughout the year. The city is one of the Philadelphia area's top travel destinations for LGBTQ visitors, known nationally as the site of the first same-sex weddings performed following the passage of New Jersey's Civil Union law.
© Town of Hammonton
Hammonton is commonly referred to as the "Blueberry Capital of the World," hosting the annual Red, White, and Blueberry Festival each June, which brings live music performances, pie-eating contests, and family-friendly carnival rides to the city's downtown district. The charming Atlantic County town, which was a finalist for 2013's Great American Main Street award, is home to a plethora of delightful art galleries, boutiques, theatres, restaurants, and bars throughout its picturesque downtown district. The Hammonton Art District is home to hip galleries and venues like the Hammonton Arts Center, while the century-old Eagle Theater showcases acclaimed live theatrical performances. Visitors can also sample wines at several award-winning wineries, including Plagido's Winery, DiMatteo Vineyards, and the Tomasello Winery.
Keyport is a delightful borough in Monmouth County, nicknamed as the "Pearl of the Bayshore" for its gorgeous waterfront stretches. The city, which is located across Raritan Bay from Long Island, offers more than 200 eclectic shops and restaurants within its lovely downtown districts, ranging from antique stores and home goods shops to Lowcountry and Gulf Coast-style gourmet dining destinations. Visitors can stroll along the city's delightful waterfront at Keyport Waterfront Park or Keyport Harbor, which offer unparalleled sunset views. Fishing and boating opportunities are offered at more low-key area waterfront sites, including Union Beach Pier and Lake Matawan. Each year, the city hosts the annual Keyport GardenWalk, which has been named as the Asbury Park region's best annual outdoor event for more than half a decade running.
© City of Lambertville
Lambertville is a gorgeous town in New Jersey's Hunterdon County, located along the banks of the scenic Delaware River. The charming town has been named as the "Antiques Capital of New Jersey," home to lively marketplaces like the Golden Nugget Antiques Market, which is open three days a week and offers indoor and outdoor vendor spaces. The People's Store offers three floors of antique dealers, while the city's Bridge, Main, and Union Street districts highlight a plethora of vintage shops and boutiques. Visitors can explore historic attractions like the 1816 James Wilson Marshall House Museum, which serves as the headquarters of the Historical Society of Lambertville. Unique dining experiences are offered at the 19th-century Lambertville Station, which has been converted into a waterfront restaurant and inn today.
15. New York City
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New York City is the world's most populous metropolis, stretching across five boroughs on three islands at the mouth of New York Harbor. The "City That Never Sleeps" is home to world-renowned landmarks like neon-lit Times Square, the iconic Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and the acclaimed theaters of the Broadway district. Visitors can travel out to quaint Staten Island aboard the historic Staten Island Ferry, peruse the hip shops and art galleries of trendy borough Brooklyn, or view sites connected to the 1964 World's Fair preserved at Queens' Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. World-renowned museums abound, including Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art. History buffs can explore the preserved attractions of Battery Park or pay their respects to the victims of the September 11 terrorist attack at several attractions connected to the former World Trade Center towers site. All five boroughs showcase some of the world's best cuisine options, including restaurants operated by celebrity chefs in elite neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and SoHo.
16. Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island is a charming destination on New England's Aquidneck Island, known as the home of the renowned America's Cup sailing regatta throughout much of the 20th century. The gorgeous resort area is home to stunningly-preserved Gilded Age mansions along its majestic Bellevue Avenue, many of which are open to the public today as living history museums. Visitors can explore iconic landmarks such as the 1895 Breakers, designed after historic Renaissance-era palaces in Europe as a residence for the famed Vanderbilt family. Fort Adams State Park offers a plethora of outdoor recreational experiences, including a popular summer concert series, while Easton Beach is home to an historic carousel and gorgeous white sand beachfront stretches.
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17. Ocean City
Ocean City is one of Maryland's top resort towns, home to one of the United States' top 10 most beloved oceanfront boardwalks. The charming Atlantic Ocean city, which is located adjacent to the beautiful Isle of Wight Bay, is home to three miles of beautiful public beachfront and a lively boardwalk lined with eclectic shops, restaurants, and luxury hotels. Visitors can enjoy high and mild thrills at boardwalk amusement parks like the historic Trimper's Rides or embark on excursions to nearby Assateague Island as part of tours offered by a variety of area companies. Opportunities for outdoor recreation abound, including chances for swimming, surfing, boating, fishing, and kayaking throughout the warmer months. Each Tuesday evening, the family-friendly Family Beach Olympics event offers sandcastle contests, relay games, and tug-of-war battles for visitors of all ages to enjoy.
18. Ocean Grove
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Ocean Grove is a lovely community along the Jersey Shore, located just south of Asbury Park within easy driving distance to lively attractions like Atlantic City. The National Register of Historic Places-listed community is best known as the home of the historic Great Auditorium, which served as a popular Christian event meeting place in the early 20th century and has hosted music luminaries ranging from John Philip Sousa and Ray Charles to Tony Bennett and Kenny Rogers. Visitors can explore the community's gorgeous preserved Victorian-era architecture or stroll along its gorgeous beachfront stretches, which are lined with gourmet restaurants and lively boutiques and shops. Each year, the city hosts one of the nation's largest annual Christian retreat summer camps, along with the two-day Bridgefest contemporary Christian music festival.
Philadelphia is a vibrant, diverse metropolis located along the banks of the Schuylkill River, just across the waterfront from New Jersey approximately an hour south of New York City. The lively city is known throughout the United States for its connection to the American Revolutionary War, preserving historic sites like famed Independence Hall, the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution in the 18th century. Visitors can tour a plethora of historic landmarks, ranging from the iconic Liberty Bell to the campus of Eastern State Penitentiary. The famed Philadelphia Zoo, home to more than 1,300 animal species, is a top spot for families traveling to the city. Throughout the summer months, the city's Spruce Street Harbor Park transforms into an urban beachfront, offering food vendors and giant games. During the winter, BlueCross River Rink offers waterfront ice skating and a beer garden.
20. Point Pleasant Beach
Point Pleasant Beach has been named as one of New Jersey's most popular beachfront districts by the New Jersey Marine Science Consortium, home to some of the state's top family-friendly beachfront attractions. The charming Ocean County beach is known for its mile-long Atlantic Coast boardwalk, which is home to attractions like the lively Jenkinson's Boardwalk entertainment district. Visitors can enjoy high and mild thrill rides at Jenkinson's, try locally-made ice cream and candy, or test their luck at the region's popular miniature golf courses and arcades. Marine life exhibits are on display at Jenkinson's Aquarium, while comedy performers take to the stage nightly at Uncle Vinnie's Comedy Club. Nearby, Manasquan Beach offers opportunities for swimming and fishing, while the Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area offers chances for frolicking with four-legged friends off-leash.
Princeton is a lovely New Jersey town that is best known as the home of the renowned Ivy League university of the same name, one of the nation's top liberal arts and sciences universities. Visitors can explore the picturesque college campus, founded in 1754, and view attractions like the gorgeous University Chapel, which showcases unparalleled Collegiate Gothic architecture. Campus museums like the Princeton University Art Museum are home to renowned collections of Chinese and classical art, while memorabilia and sites connected to the region's Revolutionary War history are on display at lovely Princeton Battlefield State Park. Other attractions include the colonial-era Clarke House Museum, the picturesque Morven Museum and Gardens, and the charming shopping and dining destinations of lively Nassau Street.
22. The Skylands
The Skylands are home to New Jersey's highest-elevation point at High Point State Park, rising over 1,800 feet above sea level and offering opportunities to hike along 72 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail. The lively district is one of New Jersey's top family-friendly destinations, home to delightful attractions like the Space Farms Zoo and Museum, the seasonal Tomahawk Lake Waterpark, the Old West-themed Wild West City theme park, and the Land of Make Believe family amusement park. Visitors can enjoy opportunities for year-round sporting adventures at Bridgewater Sports Arena, learn about the area's railroading history at the Whippany Railway Museum, or view preserved collections of indigenous and pioneer arts at the Morris Museum. Lovely Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, located on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, is home to over 100 miles of hiking trails and three seasonal beaches. Annual special events held throughout the region include the New Jersey State Fair, held each year in Sussex in August.
23. Stone Harbor
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Stone Harbor is a delightful small town located at the intersection of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal Waterway within the greater Ocean City metropolitan region. The charming community, which is located on the southern edge of Seven Mile Island, is known for its quaint downtown district, which offers a plethora of charming shopping and dining destinations for visitors to enjoy. It has been ranked as one of America's most affluent communities by Forbes, home to stunning mansions and elegant upscale retail districts. Visitors can enjoy year-round opportunities for watersports along the city's coastline, including chances for fishing, jet skiing, and chartered pleasure boat cruises. Annual special events include the Wings n' Water Festival, hosted by the Wetlands Institute, which showcases folk music performances, art vendors, and delicious cuisine offerings.
24. Whitesbog Village
© Whitesbog Preservation Trust
Whitesbog Village is a unique historic village attraction located within New Jersey's beautiful Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, originally founded in the 1870s by cranberry farmer Joseph J. White. The village is known as the site of the development of the United States' first cultivated blueberry, the Highbush blueberry, at the turn of the 20th century. Today, the village is open to the public as a living history site and nature preserve, protecting more than 3,000 acres of pine forest, blueberry fields, cranberry bogs, and historic buildings. Guided tours of the village explore attractions like the Whitesbog General Store, the New Jersey Agriculture Experimental Cranberry Substation, and the Whitesbog Agricultural Museum. Hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails throughout the village's gorgeous terrain are open to the public throughout the year.
What are the 25 Best Weekend Getaways from New Jersey?
The 25 Best Weekend Getaways from New Jersey according to local experts are: