From theme parks to national parks, world-class museums to celebrity beach resorts, there are so many things to do in New Jersey.
Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from Liberty State Park, laze on one of Jersey Shore’s stunning beaches, follow Anthony Bourdain’s food trail, ride the world’s tallest rollercoaster, and enjoy plenty of tax free shopping. There are so many great things to do in Jersey, and I’ve got 12 great reasons why you should visit below.
1. New York vs New Jersey
We all know that New York is one of the world’s top destinations, but let’s face it, hotel, food and clothing prices are not cheap! I know of many who choose to visit Jersey Gardens Outlet Mall when staying in New York, because New Jersey offers tax free shopping on clothing and food. So why not stay in New Jersey instead?
You can still visit New York from New Jersey. There are multiple ferry and train services, some taking as little as 10 minutes journey time, but by staying in New Jersey instead of New York, you will find cheaper hotel prices as well as so many great things to do! So if you have already visited New York, or you are contemplating your first trip, swap New York for New Jersey and take the road less travelled.
There are many more reasons to visit New Jersey, I have listed some favourites below.
2. Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from Liberty State Park
You simply can’t visit New Jersey without seeing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Did you know that parts of Ellis Island belong to both New York and New Jersey, depending upon where you are? Both of these top attractions are easily accessible by ferry from New Jersey’s Liberty State Park.
A visit to Liberty State Park is one of the top things to do in New Jersey, you could easily spend the day there. From picnic areas to playgrounds, memorials to museums, there is something for everyone to enjoy at Liberty State Park.
As well as visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, take time to explore the Liberty Science Center which offers interactive science experiences for all ages. It boasts the largest planetarium in the western hemisphere and the largest IMAX theatre in North America. This is one of the top things to do in New Jersey with kids.
In the afternoon take a boat or canoe out on the Hudson, and walk the promenade to one of the picnic areas, while enjoying stunning views of the Manhattan skyline – something that you don’t see if staying in Manhattan.
Liberty State Park is also home to the ‘Empty Sky’ 9/11 Memorial. This is the official memorial that honours the 750 people from New Jersey that lost their lives in the 9/11 terror attacks.
3. Chill out on the Jersey Shore & Explore Cape May
It’s hard to believe that the reality TV series Jersey Shore finished in 2012. Its phenomenal success has made Jersey Shore a household name around the world.
However, many natives saw its beauty long before it was aired on TV. With white sandy beaches, beautiful boardwalks, and plenty of fashionable places to shop and dine, it is the staycation destination of choice for Americans living on the East Coast. This can result in a scarcity of hotel rooms, particularly during school holidays, so my advice would be to travel off peak, or book early!
TOP TIP: Don’t miss Asbury Park. As well as being one of the Shore’s most popular hang outs, its home to The Stone Pony, where Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi started their careers.
Cape May, the most southern tip of the coast is the most sought after resort town. From wine tasting to whale watching, you name it, you can do it in Cape May.
It is a historic town – in fact it is America’s oldest seaside resort. Cape May is home to over 600 preserved Victorian buildings, a World War II Fire Control Tower, as well as a historic lighthouse dating back to 1858.
You can also expect superb beaches, a great food scene and unique shopping at the outdoor Washington Street Mall.
TOP TIP: Check out the many bed and breakfasts available in the town, they will be less expensive and more readily available than hotels during the summer months.
4. Stroll the world’s longest boardwalk in Atlantic City
Atlantic City is not only famous for its five-star hotels, casinos and amazing live shows, it is also home to the world’s first and longest boardwalk, which is over 7km long! Enjoy a morning jog, an evening stroll, or sample some of the many water sports available on the beach.
Atlantic City is often described as the Vegas of the East, but it has the added advantage of being on the coast. It is also home to many designer shops, and remember you are in New Jersey, which has tax-free shopping!
5. Live the American Dream
The American Dream Mall is as the name suggests – a utopian destination of world-class entertainment, and is situated on three-million square feet.
It is home to Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park, which is the biggest indoor theme park in the Western Hemisphere and boasts some of the tallest, steepest and longest rides in the world. You will find Dreamworks Water Park here too – the largest indoor water park in North America that boasts the largest selection of water slides worldwide, as well as SeaLife, Legoland Discovery Centre and Big Snow – the only real-snow and ski resort in America.
And that’s not all… There is a full size ice rink, a large freshwater wave pool offering public and private surf lessons, two indoor mini golf courses, and a Big wheel offering views of the New York Skyline!
There are plenty of dining and shopping options too. Browse designer shops such as Tiffany and Dolce & Gabbana, and or enjoy high street stores such as Primark and Zara – and all tax free! American Dream really is a destination like no other.
6. Hike the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest hiking trails in the world and stretches over 3500 km from Georgia to Maine, 116km of which is in New Jersey. Pass through the Delaware Water Gap National Park and Worthington State Park, where you can kayak or fish on the Delaware River, and stay overnight in a log cabin.
Experienced hikers will enjoy reaching the highest elevation point in the state at High Point State Park ,where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Pocono Mountains. Don’t miss the Stairway to Heaven, the 110-foot, mile-long suspension bridge on the Pochuck Valley Trail, and hopefully you see some wonderful wildlife along the way.
7. Follow the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail
If you have been following me for a while, then you will know that most of my travel guides include food experiences of some description, so this was an easy addition for me! What better reason to visit New Jersey than to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain, and discover his culinary roots from his time in Leonia and summers spent at the Jersey Shore.
The trail features 10 restaurants featured on CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown series, from North Jersey to South Jersey including many selections in the Jersey Shore.
8. Take a tour of Princeton
Princeton is one of America’s top universities and you can enjoy an hour-long tour of the campus by some of its students. Founded in 1754 and set on 1,600 acres of grounds, the tour alone is worth the trip. However, there is more to Princeton town than its University.
There are some great shopping and dining options, as well as a vibrant art scene. For nice outdoor activities try boating on Carnegie Lake, or take a trip to Terhune Orchards and enjoy wine tasting and farmyard activities for all the family. Albert Einstein’s House is here too, where he spent the last 20 years of his life.
9. Stay overnight on the USS New Jersey
The USS New Jersey Battleship is one of New Jersey’s top attractions. History buffs and families will love the interactive tour that will see you navigate the decks of a real life Battleship, that was on active duty during World War II and the Vietnam War. You can sit in the Admiral’s chair, stretch out on the bunks, and climb the 16″ gun turret and learn how the projectiles were loaded.
A visit to this U. S Navy Museum is one of the top things to do in New Jersey with kids, and if you want sensory overload, you can even stay overnight! Enjoy dinner and breakfast on board, sleep in the bunks where the crew of the USS New Jersey once slept, and you will also get the opportunity to fire the saluting gun. Overnight encampments are available if you have at least one child between the ages of 5 and 18 years old.
10. Marvel at the Grounds for Sculpture
New Jersey is known as The Garden State, so it is no surprise that a trip to the remarkable 42-acre gardens at Grounds for Sculpture is one of the top things to do in Jersey. This non-profit sculpture park and museum have permanent works by more than 150 artists, with many more indoor and outdoor exhibitions showcased throughout different seasons.
As well as over 270 sculptures, there are entertaining performances, workshops and lectures available throughout the day. The grounds are filled with flora and fauna – manicured gardens combine with wild meadows, exotic flowers with native trees, and reflecting pools with natural ponds.
11. Ride the world’s tallest rollercoaster at Six Flags
Six Flags has 27 parks across the USA, Mexico and Canada, and is renowned for its thrilling coasters, family rides and water attractions. Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey is home to the tallest roller coaster in the world – Kingda Ka, which also happens to be the fastest in America! I actually visited Six Flags in New Jersey about 20 years ago and recall how many great rides were there for people of all ages.
Located in Jackson, this top class theme park boasts 58 attractions including Wild Safari Drive-Thru Adventure and live entertainment shows, and attracts overseas guests as well as visitors from New Jersey and nearby States. Six Flags is one of the top family attractions in New Jersey.
12. Enjoy a road trip along America’s East Coast
New Jersey is ideally situated to explore America’s East Coast. I did this road trip many years ago and visited New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore. We stopped in Atlantic City and even travelled as far as Virginia and stayed in Chesapeake Bay. My only regret is not visiting Cape May – but I guess it is my excuse to go back!
There is also an excellent train service connecting all major cities and towns, but I recommend hiring a car to explore as much of New Jersey as possible.
How to get to New Jersey
The most convenient airports to visit New Jersey are Newark and Philadelphia. Philadelphia is closer to Cape May than Newark, but if visiting Jersey City, the North Shore, Liberty State Park, or New York, then Newark is a better option – you can check travel distances to the towns and cities you want to visit here.
You can fly direct from Dublin or Shannon airports to Newark with United Airlines, and from Dublin airport with Aer Lingus. Alternatively fly direct to Philadelphia with Aer Lingus and American Airlines from Dublin airport.
This is just a snapshot of the many things to do in New Jersey, you can find out more at VisitNJ.org.
While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, destinations and attractions are subject to change. This post was sponsored by Visit New Jersey.