Looking for things to do in New Jersey? It may be small, but it has produced American cultural icons like Anthony Bourdain, Frank Sinatra, Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen. It is a U.S. industrial center yet offers world-class live music, stunning beaches, and rich U.S. history. There is truly something for everyone in the country’s third state.
Travelers can enjoy guided tours of Ellis Island, scavenger hunts on the Ocean City Boardwalk, World War II aviation science centers, and national recreational parks. There are seemingly endless activities, but this blog post reveals the very best things to do on your trip to New Jersey.
THE BEST BOARDWALKS IN THE STATE
New Jersey is perhaps known best for its iconic boardwalks. There is a cool breeze along the oceanfront, the smell of freshly made popcorn, and the memories of endless summer nights. When visiting the Garden State, be sure to make a trip to each of these five boardwalks:
ATLANTIC CITY BOARDWALK
The first boardwalk in America, the Atlantic City Boardwalk is one of the most famous boardwalks in the United States. Since its opening in 1870, it has become an iconic symbol of East Coast American culture. It is one of the very few American beaches with a boardwalk.
Stretching for 5 miles along the coast of one of New Jersey’s most popular tourism destinations, thousands come to walk here every day. During your stroll, you’ll find dozens of stores, games, rides, and restaurants on the boardwalk. A few architectural landmarks call the Atlantic City Boardwalk home, including Bally’s Wild West Casino and Caesars’ Palace.
Spend the day on the water surfing, kayaking, and swimming, and enjoy dining at the boardwalk’s 5-star restaurants at night. The boardwalk is complete with casinos, clubs, Vegas-style shows, and more. If you’re traveling with kids, check out Lucy’s Wonderland Pier for a kid-friendly amusement park.
OCEAN CITY BOARDWALK
Ocean City Boardwalk is for you if you are traveling with a young family. Adjacent to eight miles of coastline, the boardwalk is about 2.5 miles long.
This boardwalk is filled with family-friendly activities such as rides, games, and even a waterpark. In addition, Ocean City is a dry town, so the whole family can enjoy nightlife, live music, and entertainers when the sun goes down.
Details: 400 Boardwalk, Ocean City, NJ 08226 | Website
The Wildwood Boardwalk opened in the 1890s as just a 150-yard stretch of boardwalk. Today, it is an award-winning boardwalk spanning 38 blocks. It is true sensory overload with over 100 rides and attractions.
No matter the time of day, Wildwood Boardwalk is filled with a carnival vibe, making it one of America’s last grand seaside promenades. There are plenty of restaurants, stores, and attractions here, including rides and a famous carousel. Clearview’s Skywheel observation tower also offers a panoramic view of the island.
SEASIDE HEIGHTS BOARDWALK
If you’re looking for the boardwalk made famous by MTV’s Jersey Shore, search no further than Seaside Heights Boardwalk. Located on the southern end of this summer hotspot, this is one of the most popular boardwalks in New Jersey for a good reason – it has everything you need, including restaurants, shopping, and even nightlife!
Seaside Heights Boardwalk is a classic, old-school American boardwalk. Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach sit within the boardwalk and are a great spot for families to spend the day.
The Seaside Heights Boardwalk is 2.1 miles long and spans the length of the beachfront town. It’s also served by a free shuttle that operates within Seaside Heights, so visitors don’t have to walk across the entire island to get from one side to another.
When visiting the Seaside Heights Boardwalk, the Island Beach State Park is just a short drive away. From the state park, visitors can see the Barnegat Lighthouse. Back at the boardwalk, families can enjoy surfing, mini golf, waterparks, great dining options, and so much more at this family-centric boardwalk.
Details: Boardwalk, Seaside Heights, NJ 08751 | Website
POINT PLEASANT BOARDWALK
Point Pleasant is a delightful boardwalk. This 2-mile stretch of pristine beach runs from Route 35 to Jersey Shore Medical Center, making it a great place for a morning walk or jog.
In addition to traditional boardwalk attractions, like mini-golf and arcades, Jenkinson’s Pier is home to Jenkinson’s Aquarium, which is now celebrating its 30th year in operation. When you need a break from exploring, you can refuel at the country’s very first Jersey Mikes!
Details: 300 N Ocean Ave, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742 | Website
You may think that the historic Ellis Island is in New York. You would not be wrong, but what you might not realize is that it is also in New Jersey – depending on where you are standing! The island is now 23-acres large, and from 1892 to 1924, served as the United State’s primary immigration station. During that time, 12 million immigrants passed through the island.
Since its restoration in the 1980s, Americans and tourists alike can visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. The Museum holds artifacts depicting early immigration in America, as well as a series of exhibits. Some people have been lucky enough to find information on their family members who passed through the island via the Family Historical Center!
The ferry that serves the Statue of Liberty also serves Ellis Island, so you can knock two bucket list items off your list in one trip. It takes about three hours to complete both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Pro Tip: Ellis Island is free to visit, but passage on the ferry is not. Looking to explore NYC while you’re there? We recommend the New York CityPASS, which includes ferry transport.
CAPE MAY HISTORIC DISTRICT
The Cape May Historic District houses one of the largest collections of late 19th century homes in the United States. Cape May calls itself America’s first seaside resort town, and the historic district covers 380 acres with over 600 buildings. Presidents such as Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant, Chester Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, and possibly Abraham Lincoln made a trip to this charming historical town.
The late-Victorian era structures will easily transport visitors to another time. Today, the rest of Cape May is a luxurious resort city. When travelers are done in the Historic District they can kick off their shoes at one of the many elegant resorts, swim at the pristine beaches, enjoy a local winery, or top-of-the-line shopping.
A great place to spend a day, this colorful spot is home to the famous Cape May Lighthouse.
Read More: 21 FANTASTIC THINGS TO DO IN CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM
Like culture, art is also an important part of New Jersey’s identity. Princeton University Art Museum opened in 1882. The museum is deeply intertwined with the school’s Department of Art and Architecture. A new museum is under construction to better serve the museum’s mission of serving as a gathering place for the arts and humanities.
It is anticipated that the new museum will open in 2024. Until then, the Princeton University Art Museum remains closed. However, visitors can visit their gallery spaces, Art@Bainbridge and Art on Hulfish, in downtown Princeton.
Details: Elm Dr., Princeton, NJ 08544 | Website
NAVAL AIR STATION WILDWOOD AVIATION MUSEUM
A great attraction to visit with kids, the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum is home to planes and helicopters from World War II.
Founded in 1942, NAS Wildwood played a major role during World War II as a training facility for the Navy where pilots and aircrews were taught to fly. Today, much of that history remains preserved inside these historic hangars.
Visitors can tour a wide array of military aircrafts, such as the TBM Avenger, F6F-3 Hellcat, and a Boeing 777 engine.
Details: Cape May Airport, 500 Forrestal Rd, Cape May, NJ 08204 | Website
PATERSON GREAT FALLS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Named the “Best Weekend Trip” by New Jersey Monthly, Paterson Great Falls is another great cultural attraction to visit. This historic site is home to the second-largest waterfall in New Jersey (77 feet) and an equally impressive national park.
It is an easy and almost entirely accessible 1-mile hike to the falls. The only part that is not fully accessible is some stairs to a lawn area below the main overlook. It is a lovely spot for a picnic and light stroll.
Paterson Great Falls is a United States National Historic Landmark, as it played a critical role in the nation’s early industrialization.
Details: 72 McBride Ave, Paterson, NJ 07501 | Website
LONG BEACH ISLAND
Affectionately known as LBI by locals, Long Beach Island is an exceptionally narrow 18-mile long island. The island is never wider than half a mile.
Spanning several miles of the New Jersey coastline, Long Beach Island is a great place to enjoy some fun in the sun. One of the most popular attractions on Long Beach Island is Jenkinson’s Aquarium. This spot focuses on marine life and habitats from around New Jersey and beyond.
Jenkinson’s also hosts several special events and festivals throughout the year, like their Halloween event and July 4th celebration.
When exploring LBI, you will find beautiful white sand beaches and charming seaside shops and cafes. There are plenty of family-friendly activities like a historic Viking village, water parks, boardwalks, boat rentals, and everything in between.
Long Beach Island is a great destination for a summer day trip, as it’s a short drive from many New Jersey cities.
BARNEGAT LIGHTHOUSE STATE PARK
A great place to learn more about the history of New Jersey, Barnegat Lighthouse is located along Long Beach Island.
In its prime, Barnegat Lighthouse was considered one of the most important lighthouses in the United States. To avoid submerged ridges or sandbars, ships headed to and from New York on the New Jersey coastline greatly depended on the Barnegat Lighthouse for guidance. These days, it’s one of the tallest lighthouses still standing on the East Coast.
Today, Barnegat Lighthouse is a popular recreational area, and on weekends the lighthouse is open for visitors. If you’re in the mood for a spooky experience, check out The Haunted Lighthouse Tour that takes place twice a year.
Details: 208 Broadway, Barnegat Light, NJ 08006 | Website
GROUNDS FOR SCULPTURE
Located in Hamilton, New Jersey, Grounds For Sculpture is an outdoor art museum. More than 700 artists have displayed their work here, and you’ll find beautiful contemporary statues scattered across the outdoor museum’s 42 acres.
With more than 250 works of contemporary sculpture, the park hosts some amazing pieces by world class artists like Michael Graves and Sol LeWitt. Some sculptures are permanent, while others are on loan from other institutions.
Grounds for Sculpture also hosts an annual art festival, known as Picnics in the Park. These family-friendly events draw in thousands of visitors each year, along with performing artists, food vendors, and more.
In addition to sculptures, the landscaped grounds are art pieces themselves. The Grounds also house six galleries that showcase work from both established and emerging artists. It is truly a place where art and nature come to play!
Details: 80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton Township, NJ 08619 | Website
THOMAS EDISON NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
New Jersey is home to Thomas Edison National Historical Park, which contains the Menlo Park laboratory, where Edison developed his most famous inventions. The science center includes some of his earliest light bulbs and phonographs.
Visitors can tour Edison’s personal 29-room estate, view the Glenmont Grounds, and look inside his industrial lab. The inside Edison’s mansion contains a collection of over 40,000 items. These items include everything from major works of art to Edison’s personal items.
Particularly beautiful elements of the collection include Tiffany & Co clock and Persian rugs. When walking through the Glenmount Grounds, you can use your cell phone for a private audio tour.
The park also hosts an annual festival celebrating Edison’s life and work. Visitors can learn more about how some of his early inventions came into existence.
Note: The historical park is closed every winter, from January to mid-March.
Details: 211 Main St, West Orange, NJ 07052 | Website
DELAWARE WATER GAP NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
Located along the New Jersey and Pennsylvania border, the Delaware Water Gap is another natural landmark. Not only does this spot offer plenty of outdoor recreational activities, but it also offers trails that visitors can walk along to take in some scenic views.
For anyone looking to get away from city life, this national recreational area offers over 40 miles of rivers, 100 miles of hiking, and three beaches for swimming. The Water Gap straddles a beautiful stretch of the Delaware River.
Ranging from easy, moderate, difficult, to very challenging trails, there are trails for all skill levels of hikers to try out.
The most popular activity in the Delaware Water Gap is whitewater rafting along the Delaware River. The river is fast-moving and offers some exciting rapids perfect for thrill-seekers.
Although not officially a national park, the Delaware Water Gap is being considered to become one.
Details: 1978 River Rd, Bushkill, PA 18324 | Website
ANTHONY BOURDAIN FOOD TRAIL
The late celebrity chef, author, and TV host Anthony Bourdain was a fan of New Jersey’s food scene. As a neighboring New Yorker, he visited the state countless times throughout his career to enjoy some local cuisine.
The Anthony Bourdain Food Trail takes travelers to ten New Jersey restaurants featured on the hit CNN food and culture TV series, Parts Unknown.
You will make stops all around the state — not only in South Jersey and Jersey Shore, but at the less visited north and west sides of the state. You will try good old-fashioned deli food, to iconic Jersey salt-water taffy, and a cheesesteak that rivals Philly’s. The guided tour includes restaurants like Hiram’s Road stand in Fort Lee and Frank’s Deli in Camden.
The downloadable itinerary features destination highlights and activities to do along the way.
SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE
Jackson, New Jersey is home to a classic amusement park, Six Flags Great Adventure. This Six Flags hosts 13 rollercoasters and 52 other rides. Additionally, it has one of the best water parks in the country: Hurricane Harbor.
The park is open during the spring and summer months for thrill-seekers to visit. Visitors can explore 100 acres of fun with dozens of roller coasters and family-friendly rides that the entire family will love.
If rollercoasters and water parks are not your style, Six Flags has a Safari Drive-Thru Adventure that takes guests through a 350-acre nature preserve. Adventures last between 1.5-3 hours and offer the opportunity to see many of the park’s 1,200 resident animals from six continents.
Details: 1 Six Flags Blvd, Jackson Township, NJ 08527 | Website
SANDY HOOK TWIN LIGHTHOUSES
The twin lighthouses found in this New Jersey location are over 150 years old. The original lighthouses built in 1828 were some of the first lighthouses to use electricity. The lighthouse presently on site was constructed in 1862. While they were decommissioned in 1949, they serve as a museum today.
Today, these two historic structures have been restored and offer some fantastic views out across the water. The museum holds artifacts related to maritime rescue and offers film and slideshows. Guests can visit the museum and climb the north lighthouse Wednesday-Sunday.
Details: 2 Light House Rd, Highlands, NJ 07732 | Website
WASHINGTON CROSSING HISTORIC PARK
You’ve likely seen the famous 1851 Emanuel Leutze painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware. At the 500-acre Washington Crossing Historic Park, you can see the actual site for yourself.
This historic park in Washington Crossing, New Jersey, is dedicated to preserving the memory of General George Washington and his crossing over the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War.
Visitors can explore several historic buildings at this location, such as a museum, grist mill, and others. The exact spot where Washington crossed the river is also marked with a National Historical Park.
Additionally, the park preserved many homes that guests can visit in the Historic Village. You can also see a traditional 18th-century garden and a memorial cemetery to soldiers who lost their lives during the Delaware Cross and First Battle of Trenton. Guests visiting in December can experience a reenactment of Washington’s crossing.
Details: 1112 River Rd, Washington Crossing, PA 18977 | Website
MORRISTOWN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
This park in Morristown, New Jersey, is a large area of more than 3,000 acres. The Morristown National Historic Park contains four crucial Revolutionary War sites: Jockey Hollow, the Ford Mansion, Fort Nonsense, and the New Jersey Brigade Encampment. The areas commemorated in this park are where Continental soldiers fought to survive.
From 1779-1780 when the Army was here, it was the coldest winter on record. Additionally, the grounds maintain a museum and library dedicated to Washington and pre- and post-revolutionary America.
Morristown is also the location of the Headquarters House, which was George Washington’s final military command headquarters during the Revolutionary War.
Details: 30 Washington Pl, Morristown, NJ 07960 | Website
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO NEW JERSEY
- NJ BEACHES: 19 Amazing New Jersey Beaches For Fun In The Sun
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
We make no guarantees of any price listed on our site. We are not responsible for content on external web sites linked from ours, including linked resources, an external blog post, any partner site, hotel property sites, or affiliate sites. We only write about places we love in an attempt to help you in your adventures, but we can’t guarantee you will love them, too.
Posts may contain affiliate links at no cost to you. Several of our trips are also compensated by the respective tourism boards for the city or state we are visiting. This never impacts how we share the destination with you – opinions are always our own and we pride ourselves on that. We do not sell links or accept unsolicited guest posts under any circumstances. Don’t even ask.
United States Copyright, 365 Atlanta Family, LLC