New Jersey is one of the East Coast's top tourist destination areas, home to expansive waterfront stretches along the Atlantic Ocean coastline and vibrant resort towns. Adult visitors will find much to do in popular resort towns like Atlantic City, known for its nightlife and high-rise casinos, or Cape May, home to preserved Victorian homes and quaint shops and restaurants. Quirky and photogenic attractions abound, including the unique Lucy the Elephant structure, considered to be the first roadside attraction in America in the 19th century. All of the state's top visitor areas are easy to get to via car or public transit from New York City or Philadelphia, making it a great choice for day trips.
1. Allaire State Park
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Allaire State Park is one of Monmouth County's loveliest outdoor recreational destinations, located near the charming borough of Farmingdale within the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route. The park is home to the preserved Allaire Village, a 19th-century ironworks site that was named in honor of James P. Allaire, the founder of the Howell Works iron company. Park visitors can peruse the preserved and restored historic buildings of the village, including community sites like the campus' foreman's home, general store, and blacksmith headquarters. Scenic excursion railroad rides are offered throughout the year aboard the park's lovely Pine Creek Railroad route. Visitors can also fish on the picturesque Manasquan River, bike along the beautiful Edgar Felix Bikeway, or embark on guided nature programming at the park's Nature Interpretive Center.
4265 Atlantic Ave, Wall Township, NJ 07727, Phone: 732-938-2371
2. Atlantic City
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Atlantic City is one of the top tourist destinations in New Jersey, originally developing its reputation as a major resort town in the late 19th century, when it became known as a major health resort on the East Coast. Today, it has transformed into a glitzy high-rise district, home to luxurious hotels, vibrant nightlife options, and 24-hour casino complexes. Visitors can stroll along the city's beautiful Atlantic Ocean boardwalk, the nation's first public boardwalk when it opened in 1882, which serves as the inspiration for the popular board game Monopoly. Four miles of tourist attractions line the boardwalk, including iconic destinations like the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, and the Tropicana Atlantic City. The Steel Pier amusement park is home to high and mild thrill rides, including a giant observation wheel. Each year, the city hosts the annual Miss America pageant.
3. Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park is a charming 32-acre public park on the northern end of Long Beach Island, anchored around the historic lighthouse facility of the same name, which formerly served as one of the most important navigational aids for vessels entering nearby New York Harbor. The charming lighthouse operated between 1859 and 1927 before being decommissioned. Since 2009, it has been relit and operated as an historic attraction by the Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse nonprofit organization. Throughout the summer months, visitors can ascend the lighthouse's 217 steps and enjoy amazing views of nearby Barnegat Bay and Long Island Beach. The park's interpretive center also showcases live images of panoramas atop the lighthouse for visitors who cannot climb its stairs. Outdoor recreational opportunities abound throughout the park, including chances for fishing and birdwatching.
208 Broadway, Barnegat Light, NJ 08006, Phone: 609-494-2016
4. Cape May
Cape May has been named as one of the top beaches in the United States by the Travel Channel, known as one of New Jersey's most vibrant year-round seaside resort towns. The lovely city has been named as a National Historic Landmark in its entirety, home to gorgeous Victorian-style houses within its quaint Cape May Historic District. Visitors can explore living history museums like the Emlen Physick Estate for glimpses into the region's 19th-century daily life. The World War II-era Lookout Tower and the Cape May Lighthouse are operated as living history sites by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities, open to the public for guided tours throughout the year. A plethora of shopping and dining destinations line the city's Washington Street Mall area and public boardwalk, which also offers amazing opportunities for dolphin and whale watching throughout the year.
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5. Cheesequake State Park
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Cheesequake State Park is a delightful state park spanning more than 1,600 acres throughout the New Jersey city of Old Bridge. The park, which was originally established in 1937, is known for its unique ecosystems and habitats, which range from northeastern hardwood forests and white cedar swamps to tidal estuaries and freshwater and saltwater marsh areas. Excellent opportunities for year-round recreation aboard, including chances for fishing for catfish, trout, and largemouth bass on the scenic Hooks Creek Lake. During the summer months, visitors can enjoy chances for swimming, boating, and canoeing on the lake's lifeguard-staffed beaches. In the winter, snowshoeing, sledding, and cross-country skiing are popular activities. Five hiking and biking trails traverse the park's marshland and forest areas, providing beautiful scenic ride opportunities.
300 Gordon Rd, Matawan, NJ 07747, Phone: 732-566-2161
Clinton is lovely Hunterdon County village located along the southern edge of the beautiful Raritan River. Despite its picturesque scenery, the town is actually best known for its reported haunted historic attractions, including the 10-acre 1810 Red Mill Museum Village, which was featured on the television series Ghost Hunters. Living history exhibits are showcased throughout the museum complex, including a replica quarry building, a one-room schoolhouse, and an historic log cabin. Each year, the museum complex hosts the annual Red Mill Haunted Village Halloween celebration, paying tribute to its haunted reputation. Across the river, the Hunterdon Historical Museum is home to a massive collection of cultural artifacts related to the city's history, while the Hunterdon Art Museum showcases contemporary craft exhibits. Downtown, visitors can enjoy a plethora of shopping and dining opportunities.
Columbia is one of Knowlton Township's most picturesque cities, located along the eastern banks of the Delaware River. The community has gone to great lengths to protect its surrounding environmental habitats, home to areas such as the Columbia Wildlife Management Area, which protects significant area forest and stream habitats. Visitors can enjoy excellent opportunities for year-round recreation, including fishing, hiking, kayaking, and canoeing on the Delaware and Columbia Lakes. Family-friendly Wolf Watch tours are offered at the Lakota Wolf Preserve, which protects populations of endangered Arctic, tundra, and timber wolves. Other area attractions include the beautiful Portland-Columbia Toll-Supported Pedestrian Bridge, which connects the city to nearby Pennsylvania, and the charming Brook Hollow Winery, which offers tastings and tours throughout the week.
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Edgewater is one of New Jersey's most historic towns, known throughout the East Coast for its role in the American Revolutionary War and America's colonial history. The city, which is located on the banks of the Hudson River in Bergen County, is home to a plethora of National Register of Historic Places-listed sites, including the 1904 Borough Hall, restored to its historic condition in 2009 by nonprofit groups. Visitors can climb aboard the historic Binghamton Ferry, the only double-ended steam ferry boat still docked today on the Hudson River, which was originally constructed in 1904 and is permanently anchored at the Binghamton Shopping Plaza. New Jersey's only remaining Carnegie library, the Edgewater Free Library, offers public programming throughout the year. The city's lovely River Walk also stretches for 11 miles along the city's waterfront, offering unparalleled views of nearby Manhattan.
9. Grounds for Sculpture
Grounds for Sculpture is one of the most unique outdoor park sites in New Jersey, transforming the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds complex into a gorgeous 42-acre public sculpture park in Hamilton. The park, which was developed in 1992 by John Seward Johnson II, is home to a continuously-changing collection of contemporary art sculptures, along with a permanent collection of more than 270 works by artists from around the world. Though sculptures rotate regularly, the park is noted as the former home of internationally-renowned works like Johnson's Forever Marilyn and Unconditional Surrender sculptures, evoking iconic 20th-century media images. Six indoor galleries offer additional contemporary art and sculpture exhibits throughout the year. Visitors can also dine at the delicious Rat's Restaurant, named in honor of a character from famed children's novel The Wind in the Willows.
80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton Township, NJ 08619, Phone: 609-586-0616
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Haddonfield has been named as one of the best shopping and dining destinations within the Delaware Valley by Philadelphia Magazine, known for its delightful culinary scene and upscale and unique stores. The city, which is located in Camden County just 10 minutes outside Philadelphia's boundaries, is accessible from downtown Philadelphia via the Walt Whitman and Ben Franklin Bridges. Over 200 unique stores and art galleries line the city's streets, earning it acclaim as one of Philadelphia's top shopping districts. Visitors can peruse eclectic retailers like hip pet accessory shop Velvet Paws, kitschy children's toy store Happy Hippo, or upscale shoe shop Benjamin Lovell for unique finds. After a full day of shopping, visitors can dine at some of the Philadelphia area's top restaurants or explore area attractions like the Historical Society of Haddonfield museum.
Highlands is one of Monmouth County's most beautiful coastal communities, overlooking the beautiful Sandy Hook Bay on New Jersey's pristine Atlantic Ocean coastline. The city is known as one of New Jersey's most historic maritime communities, home to more than seven miles of pristine beachfront that are popular seasonal swimming and sunbathing areas during the summer months. Its twin lighthouses, which were originally constructed in 1828, have been fully restored to their historic condition and are now open to the public as living history museum facilities for guided tours. Marinas and dock areas throughout the city offer opportunities for recreational boat launching, perfect for anglers looking to hit the waters. Visitors can also dine at some of New Jersey's most acclaimed seafood restaurants, including the delightful Lusty Lobster Seafood Market.
12. Island Beach State Park
Island Beach State Park is home to one of the largest undeveloped barrier island stretches in the United States, spanning more than 1,900 acres along the Barnegat Peninsula in Berkeley Township. The lovely park, which is split into northern and southern recreational areas, lies just south of Seaside Park and is known as a top outdoor recreation destination throughout the summer months. Visitors can swim, fish, and kayak at public areas in the park or enjoy opportunities for dune buggy and four-wheel-drive vehicle driving with permits. More than 1,600 acres of tidal marsh, pond, and open water habitats are protected within the Sedge Island Marine Conservation Zone, which is home to New Jersey's largest osprey colony.
13. Liberty State Park
Liberty State Park is a delightful public park along the Upper New York Bay in Jersey City, originally opened in 1976 as part of the United States' bicentennial celebration. The park, which is overseen by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, is known for its unparalleled views of the Manhattan skyline and popular New York City landmarks like Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Visitors can enjoy a plethora of year-round recreational opportunities, including chances for hiking, biking, fishing, boating, and canoeing. The two-mile award-winning Liberty Walk promenade features unique landscaping and beautiful views of the nearby waterfront, while the Liberty Science Center is home to family-friendly STEM-focused exhibits and a massive IMAX Dome Theater.
200 Morris Pesin Dr, Jersey City, NJ 07305, Phone: 201-915-3403
Margate is a delightful city on Absecon Island in Atlantic County, located adjacent to major tourist hub Atlantic City. The charming Jersey Shore tourist destination serves as a less-crowded alternative to Atlantic City's high-rise hotels and casinos, known for its stunning natural beaches that make for popular swimming spots throughout the summer months. Eight blocks of downtown district stretch along the city's Atlantic Ocean waterfront, home to unique attractions like the Lucy the Elephant zoomorphic architectural structure, which stands 65 feet tall and lets visitors see through the eyes of an elephant via windows. Marven Gardens, immortalized in the board game Monopoly, showcases lovely Tudor Revival-style architecture.
15. Morristown National Historical Park
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Morristown National Historical Park protects important sites connected to the American Revolutionary War in Morristown, including the General George Washington's Headquarters at Ford Mansion, the site of the Revolutionary War's infamous "hard winter." The 1,676-acre historical park was the first National Historical Park established in the United States at the time of its founding in 1933. Today, it is home to the Washington's Headquarters Museum, which showcases three exhibit rooms of artifacts connected to the Revolutionary War. Visitors can view daily showings of the documentary Morristown: Where America Survived, which details the site's connection to the war. Nearby, Fort Nonsense overlooks the city's landscape, while Jockey Hollow preserves a former Continental Army encampment. Visitors can also make use of the site's 24 miles of hiking trails throughout the year.
30 Washington Pl, Morristown, NJ 07960, Phone: 973-543-1949
16. The Paterson Museum
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The Paterson Museum is the premiere cultural and historical museum of the city of Paterson, the first planned industrial city at the time of its founding in the 19th century. The museum, which is housed within the historic Thomas Rogers Building, preserves the former site of the Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works erecting shop. Visitors can tour the museum's historical exhibits, which detail the unique industrial history of the city and the significance of sites like the Old Great Falls Historic District. Unique artifacts on display include the Fenian Ram submarine, designed by engineer John Phillip Holland, and a major collection of rare Colt firearms that were produced by the city throughout the 19th century. More than 200,000 negatives, prints, and photographs detail the operations of the company throughout the years. Other exhibits include a 20th-century medicine collection, which showcases paintings of medicine covers.
2 Market St, Paterson, NJ 07501, Phone: 973-321-1260
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17. Point Pleasant Beach
Point Pleasant Beach has been named as one of the top beachfront stretches in New Jersey by the New Jersey Marine Science Consortium. The lovely family-friendly beach is located within Ocean County and is home to a scenic mile-long boardwalk that stretches along expansive pristine Atlantic Ocean beachfront areas. Visitors can explore the lively attractions of Jenkinson's Boardwalk, which is home to a plethora of candy and ice cream shops, sausage vendors, and activities like arcade games and miniature golf. Jenkinson's Aquarium showcases marine life exhibits, while Uncle Vinnie's Comedy Club presents regular comedy performances. Delicious Portuguese cuisine is served daily at acclaimed Europa South.
Princeton is known around the world as the home of the acclaimed Ivy League university of the same name, which was opened in 1754 and is renowned today as one of the top universities for liberal arts and science on the American East Coast. The lovely college campus is home to some of New Jersey's top architectural landmarks, including the Collegiate Gothic-style University Chapel. Visitors can explore the exhibits of the Princeton University Art Museum, which is renowned for its collections of Chinese and classical art. Princeton Battlefield State Park showcases the region's Revolutionary War history, while the Morven Museum and Garden living history site brings 18th-century culture to life. Live theatrical performances are presented regularly at the Tony Award-winning McCarter Theatre Center. In town, visitors can enjoy excellent shopping and dining destinations on lively Nassau Street.
19. Rockingham State Historic Site
Rockingham State Historic Site is a lovely New Jersey historic site that preserves the former home and estate of John Berrien, best known as the site of George Washington's final Revolutionary War headquarters. The National Register of Historic Places-listed site, which is located within Franklin Township in the city of Kingston, was relocated to its current location from its original site at the eastern edge of the Millstone River in Rocky Hill. Today, visitors can tour the historic home as part of self-guided or guided tours and view its completely restored interior, which is decked out in period-appropriate furnishings and military reproductions from Washington's time. Guided tours detail the historical events that took place in the home, including the writing of the famed Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States.
84 Laurel Ave, Kingston, NJ 08528, Phone: 609-683-7132
Smithville is a charming Galloway Township community that is located just 15 miles inland from popular tourist destination Atlantic City along the beautiful Jersey Shore. The town, which had long been maintained as a quaint rural community, gained national prominence in the mid-2oth century after the construction of the Smithville Towne Center, which is open to the public today as the Village Green shopping complex. Visitors can explore more than 70 unique family-friendly attractions and shops at the complex, including a miniature train, carousel, and paddle boat lake. The city's lovely town center is lined with charming cobblestone pathways, arcade games, and a boardwalk. Other area attractions include the restored Georgian Victorian-style Smithville Mansion, open to the public as a living history museum for guided tours.
21. Toms River
Toms River is one of New Jersey's most iconic waterfront communities, receiving national attention for its use as a filming site for major motion pictures and television showcase like Boardwalk Empire, The Amityville Horror, and Jersey Shore. The family-friendly tourist destination is known for its gorgeous coastal beachfront stretches, including charming Ortley Beach, which is staffed with lifeguards throughout the summer months for safe swimming experiences for visitors of all ages. Cattus Island County Park is home to gorgeous woodland trails, a picturesque butterfly garden, and the Cooper Environmental Center, which offers interactive exhibits and programming. Over 120 specialty retailers are housed at the Ocean County Mall, including brand-name favorites like H&M. Other unique area attractions include the River Lady paddlewheel excursion boat and the insect-focused Insectropolis museum.
Tuckerton is one of Ocean County's most quaint tourist destinations, known for its lovely Tuckerton Seaport maritime village and museum complex. The museum, which was opened to the public in 2000, is home to a variety of recreated and restored historic buildings, which are connected to one another via a boardwalk and wetlands nature trail that are open for self-guided tours. The seaport's visitors center showcases a plethora of exhibits on the wildlife and ecosystems of the Jersey Shore and the nearby Barnegat Bay Estuary. Historic buildings that can be explored within the complex include the Periwinkle and Skinner-Donnelly houseboats, the relocated Tucker's Island Lighthouse, and the 1699 Andrews-Bartlett Home.
23. Wharton State Forest
Wharton State Forest is the largest state forest in the state of New Jersey, stretching for more than 122,000 acres throughout the beautiful Pinelands area in Hammonton. The forest is named in honor of 19th-century figure Joseph Wharton, known throughout the region for his proposed groundwater tap plan for the city of Philadelphia. Forest visitors can explore attractions like the lovely Batsto Village glassmaking center and bog iron, which operated throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A plethora of hiking trails and unpaved roads traverse the forest, offering opportunities for horseback riding, mountain biking, and bird watching throughout the year. Year-round opportunities for outdoor recreation range from boating, fishing, and swimming opportunities at Atsion Lake to chances for cross-country skiing during the winter months.
Hammonton, NJ 08037, Phone: 609-561-0024
What are the 25 Best New Jersey Day Trips for Couples?
The 25 Best New Jersey Day Trips for Couples according to local experts are: