The Top Things to Do and See in New Jersey

Liberty State Park is one of the top places to check out in New Jersey
Liberty State Park is one of the top places to check out in New Jersey | © Demetri2K / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Christopher Rivera
16 September 2020

New Jersey is an exciting state with a whole lot to offer – from Liberty State Park to Princeton University. To ensure a perfect visit, Culture Trip has rounded up the top things to do and see in the Garden State.

Visit Liberty State Park and the Statue of Liberty

Historical Landmark
Map View
The Statue of Liberty not only is a significant piece of US history, but it has also come to represent the United States as a whole. Because of the interest and volume of international traffic that the Statue of Liberty attracts, tourists and locals can now take ferry rides from New Jersey’s Liberty State Park to the Statue, Ellis Island, the Liberty Science Center, the Liberty National Golf Club and the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway. Ferries aside, Liberty State Park is a lovely place for a stroll and city skyline views.

Take a day trip to the city of Hoboken

Architectural Landmark
Map View

Hoboken is not only the birthplace of Frank Sinatra, but also a clean, walkable city located along the Hudson River, directly across from Manhattan. It is officially part of the New York Metropolitan Area, and the population has grown consistently over the last decade. It offers residents an escape from the big city, and it’s a local’s and a tourist’s dream, offering four separate transportation options: NJ Transit, Hoboken Light Rail, a ferry, and the PATH Train. Hoboken is bicycle-friendly, has beautiful waterfront parks, the most Zagat-rated restaurants in New Jersey and over 100 outdoor cafés in a single square mile.

Explore the city of Cape May

Architectural Landmark
Map View

Cape May is on one of New Jersey’s most beautiful shores. It is located at the southernmost tip of the Cape May peninsula, where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, and it is the nation’s oldest beach resort destination. Due to its location and the transportation by ferry to Ocean City, Maryland, it is very accessible to tourists. It offers beautiful beaches, historic beachfront homes and a welcoming feeling to visitors through its small-town environment. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes in which to relax just steps from the water.

Visit the Newark Museum

Building, Museum
Map View
The pedestrian area of Washington Street in downtown Cape May, New Jersey, USA
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
The largest museum in the state of New Jersey, the Newark Museum was originally established in 1909 and is notable for its Tibetan and African collections. The museum now also includes the historic 1885 Ballantine House and is committed to the natural sciences and community partnerships. The Alice Ransom Dreyfuss Memorial Garden, located behind the museum building, is a space where various performances, concerts, educational events and artistic gatherings are held. Visitors can get there via New Jersey Transit to Newark Broad Street or the Newark Light Rail to Washington Street. The museum is free to visit for Newark residents.

Visit the Adventure Aquarium

Aquarium
Map View
Formerly known as the New Jersey State Aquarium, Adventure Aquarium is the only aquarium in the world that exhibits hippos, and one of only six in the United States where you’ll find Little Blue penguins. The aquarium was updated in 2005 and now offers visitors a chance to see more than eight thousand living animals in freshwater, semi-aquatic and marine habitats, including the biggest collection of sharks on the East Coast. The impressive facilities are spread over 2,000 square feet of public floor space and tanks containing over two million gallons of water.

Go to the races at Monmouth Park

Park, Sports Center
Map View
Originally opened in 1870 as the Long Branch Racetrack, this famous track has evolved throughout the years, and in 1946 it was officially opened as the new Monmouth Park. This thoroughbred horse racing track is accessible to visitors via New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line. A variety of races are held during the racing season, and Monmouth has reached such national acclaim that, in 2007, the Breeder’s Cup World Championship was held there. The main track is a 1mi (1.6km), dirt, oval-shaped space with chutes for six-furlong and one-and-a-quarter-mile (2km) races.

Walk in Deep Cut Gardens

Park
Map View
Deep Cut Gardens, New Jersey
© Elena Rostunova / Alamy Stock Photo

In 1935, Italian mobster Vito Genovese purchased this 35-acre (14ha) area in Middletown and remodeled it on his birthplace of Naples, Italy. The Mount Vesuvius rockery was Genovese’s main request; other than that, he allowed designer Theodore Stout to use his creativity to create an environment that would be impressive to all who saw it. Though Genovese abandoned the project before its completion, Karl and Marjorie Sperry Wihtol acquired the land and finished it according to their own vision. In 1977, upon Marjorie’s death, half of the property was donated to the Monmouth County Park System. Between 1977 and 1978 the grounds were finally launched by the county as Deep Cut Gardens.

Eat ice cream at Applegate Farm

Ice Cream Parlour, Ice Cream, $$$
Map View

Located approximately 15 minutes (depending on New Jersey traffic) west of New York City, Applegate Farm has long provided families in northern New Jersey with dairy products of the highest quality. The ice cream is among the very best in the region, and the success of the farm is not only due to its survival of the Civil War, the Great Depression and two world wars but also to its status as one of the largest ice cream distributors on the east coast. The farm has consciously preserved its history as a way to make visitors feel as if they are going back in time, while enjoying some of the best ice cream around.

Cycle on the Henry Hudson Trail

Hiking Trail
Map View

Though it is named after Henry Hudson, this paved, 22mi-long (35km) by 10ft-wide (3m) trail is not located near the Hudson River. This biking trail is a combination of several former railroad lines, and it is divided into northern and southern parts by the Garden State Parkway. Even though it was a rail line, it still offers scenic views and gives outdoorsy travellers a great chance to see the rural interior of New Jersey. You’ll pass plenty of beautiful streams and green areas while walking or biking.

Wander the grounds of a world-class university

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Alexander Hall on the Campus of Princeton University in Princeton New Jersey
© Heymo Vehse / Alamy Stock Photo

If you fancy escaping the crowds, spend a morning out in Princeton, an attractive town located 50mi (80km) southwest of New York City. The manicured grounds of its prestigious university, where Albert Einstein worked towards the end of his life, are the perfect setting for a leisurely morning’s walk – just book yourself onto one of the hour-long, student-led tours that run every day. Directly opposite the university is the Battlefield State Park, hallowed site of 1777’s Battle of Princeton, where you’ll find an understated memorial to the British and American soldiers who lost their lives in the conflict.

Visit the city of Lambertville

Architectural Landmark
Map View
First settled in 1705, Lambertville has flourished due to its proximity to Trenton (New Jersey’s state capital), the Delaware River and the Delaware and Raritan Canal. Currently, what makes this quaint, scenic town thrive is its dedication to community, culture and the arts. Lambertville offers a variety of antique shops, art galleries and coffee shops along with its distinct architecture and history. It is a border town and in many ways works in unison with New Hope, Pennsylvania, which is located directly across the river and also offers tourists an artsy and eclectic experience. Visitors can cross the bridge from the New Jersey side to the Pennsylvania side and enjoy both locations’ food, arts, and entertainment.

Explore a deserted village

Architectural Landmark
Map View

The largely abandoned rural community of Feltville is found deep in the forests of the Watchung Reservation, a 40-minute drive west of New York. It was originally founded as a sawmill in the early eighteenth century, thereafter morphing into a farming village and, at the end of the 1800s, a summer resort named Glenside Park – but none of its residents ever stuck around for long. Nowadays only a couple of families call this idyllic spot home, down from a peak population of about 175 in the mid-1800s. You can walk around the spooky abandoned houses, and throughout October there are “haunted” tours of the village.

Explore America’s most celebrated battleship

Historical Landmark
Map View
Battleship New Jersey on the Delaware River Camden
© Brian Kushner / Alamy Stock Photo

The United States’ most celebrated battleship, the New Jersey, is moored on the Delaware River in Camden, a 90-minute drive south of the Big Apple. Launched in 1942 and commissioned for action in World War II the following year, it’s three football fields in length and eleven stories high, and its sixteen-inch guns had the power to reach targets over 20mi (32km) away. The New Jersey also sailed in conflicts in Korea and Vietnam before being converted into a floating museum in 2000. Explore this great vessel with one of the daily guided tours or book yourself on an educational overnight stay.

Visit the Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Park, Historical Landmark
Map View

Located in the peaceful town of West Orange, the Thomas Edison National Historical Park comprises the former laboratories and home of America’s greatest inventor. You can tour the complex of workshops and laboratories built in 1887, where Thomas Edison perfected inventions that included the motion picture camera, batteries, phonographs and silent and sound films. You can also visit Edison’s 29-room mansion “Glenmont”, found 5mi (8km) to the west of the industrial center in Llewellyn Park. The building dates from 1882 and was home to the great inventor and his family from 1886.

Get back to nature at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Natural Feature
Map View

Located on New Jersey’s border with Pennsylvania, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area is a great place to reconnect with nature. The Water Gap itself is one of the park’s most impressive features – a mile-wide channel carved by the Delaware River through the lush Kittatinny Ridge. The park is dissected by dozens of hiking and biking trails of varying distances and difficulty levels, and it contains ideal locations for swimming, paddling and fishing. Native wildlife includes bats, black bears, turkeys and white-tailed deer. You can access Water Gap at Millbrook Village or the Kittatinny Point Visitor Centre.

Additional reporting by Mark Nayler

These recommendations were updated on September 16, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.