You may be surprised to find so many things to do within the moderately sized state of New Jersey.
With its pretty coastline and proximity to major metropolitan areas, such as New York City and Philadelphia, the state boasts national parks, fine science and children’s museums, historical sites, beautiful beaches and more.
From the hustle and bustle of the famous boardwalk of Ocean City to the amusement rides of Casino Pier and Morey's Piers, from the Revolutionary War Monmouth Battlefield to Paterson, the country's first planned industrial city, New Jersey is a top destination for nature enthusiasts, history buffs and summer fun-seeking families.
There are penguins where you’d least expect them, an interactive science museum on the banks of the Hudson River and a quiet white-sand beach and coastal dunes to explore.
When you’re considering where to go first when visiting the Garden State, we suggest some of these top tourist attractions in New Jersey.
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It’s difficult to think of New Jersey without conjuring up images of Atlantic City and its famous Boardwalk.
Atlantic City is considered the "Gambling Capital of the East Coast". You can try your luck in gambling at some of the best casinos along the boardwalk including Atlantic Club, Bally's, Borgata, Caesars, Golden Nugget, Trump Plaza, and many more.
The Boardwalk is the lifeline of the coastal city and you’ll find everything from an amusement park to a historic lighthouse along this four-mile-long promenade.
At Steel Pier, you’ll find all the typical fun park rides, an observation wheel for views of the city and ocean, and an aquarium.
Down at the Absecon Lighthouse, one of the oldest in the country, visitors can climb the 228 steps to the top for picturesque views and a look at the original first-order Fresnel Lens first lit in 1857.
On the Garden Pier, find the Atlantic City historical museum and Atlantic City Art Center, whereas, on The AC Boardwalk, you’ll be delighted by a shopping extravaganza of souvenirs, saltwater taffy and fudge.
Address: 3109 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
Escape the city and breathe in the fresh sea air of Ocean City, among the most popular places to visit in New Jersey.
This popular family beach resort area offers nearly eight miles of gorgeous beachfront, perfect for lounging and playing in the waves.
With everything from miniature golf to amusement park rides, kid-themed programs, to water parks, the Ocean City area offers something for every family.
Start with a walk on the famous, 2.5-mile Jersey Shore Boardwalk, where from May through October, there are endless opportunities for fun and entertainment, shopping, dining, arcade games, water park rides and more.
This is where you’ll also find the Music Pier, home to the Ocean City Pops.
Even in the winter, the Boardwalk still shines, just at a slower pace. Grab a boogie board, a beach towel and an ice cream from the Boardwalk and head down to the sand!
Address: Ocean City, NJ 08226
Cape May is a very magnificent and vibrant city located at the southern tip of the famous Cape May Peninsula, where Delaware Bay meets with the expansive Atlantic Ocean in Cape May County.
While in Cape May you can swim, sunbathe or fish in any of its stunning beaches such as the Higbee Beach, Poverty Beach, Sunset Beach or the Cape May Beach.
You can also visit any of the city's impressive museums and lighthouses such as Cape May Firemen's Museum, Cape May Lighthouse or the Colonial House.
Address: Cape May, NJ 08204
Located in Mercer County, New Jersey, Grounds for Sculpture spans forty two acres and offers both a sculpture park and museum for visitors to enjoy in addition to a range of programs, events and activities.
This attraction dates back to the early 1990s and is now home to hundreds of incredible sculptures for visitors to take in. There are some great exhibitions that you can also enjoy, which will inspire and educate.
When you visit the park you can opt for a self guided tour or book a guided one depending on your preferences. There are also various facilities onsite for the benefit of visitors including a shop and a range of dining options.
Address: 80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton Township, NJ 08619
One of the most popular New Jersey tourist attractions, Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach Water Park, offers two great venues for family fun.
At Casino Pier, ride all the classic amusement rides, from the Tilt-a-Whirl to the Surf Shack funhouse.
Stroll the midway and throw a dart at a few balloons or shoot hoops to try to win a kitschy souvenir.
Cool off at the Breakwater Beach Water Park, where the massive Wave Pool delights older kids and adults.
Try the Aqua Drop free-fall, a 50-foot speed slide where the floor drops out from under you at the start.
The littlest kids will love the Perfect Storm multi-level area, with fountains, sprayers and the huge Nantucket Basket that dumps out 800 gallons when it’s full.
Address: 800 Ocean Terrace, Seaside Heights, NJ 08751
Give yourself a full day to enjoy Six Flags Great Adventure and Wild Safari, a top family-friendly things to do in New Jersey.
Choose from more than 100 rides, shows and attractions in themed areas.
Get the adrenaline pumping on rip-roaring roller coasters, like the wooden coaster El Toro and the steel monsters, Nitro and The Joker.
Little kids have their own area with rides and activities tailored just for them.
In the unique Wild Safari section of the park, you’ll find Safari Off Road Adventure.
Guests are guided on an off-road tour through a 350-acre wildlife preserve in a safari-style vehicle – the perfect vantage point to see up to 1,200 species of animals from around the world, including elephants, rhinos, bears and giraffes.
Address: 1 Six Flags Blvd, Jackson, NJ 08527
Among the most historic New Jersey tourist attractions, Battleship New Jersey is a favorite destination for all ages.
While you’re at the longest battleship ever built, visit exhibits that illustrate its storied past.
You’ll even become part of the exhibit yourself as you sit in Admiral Halsey's chair, try out the bunks where sailors slept and climb into the 16th gun turret and learn how projectiles were loaded.
Don’t let the massive size of the ship – three football fields long and more than 11 stories high – overwhelm you.
There are several self-guided and guided tours available to make your experience manageable, interactive and educational, including the turret tour, firepower tour and engineering tour.
Address: 100 Clinton St, Camden, NJ 08103
The preservation site of Thomas Edison’s home and laboratory, the Thomas Edison National Historical Park is a must for anyone interested in history, science, inventions and nature.
You will find so much to take in and explore here and the educational benefits make it a great choice to take the family for a fascinating day out.
You can look forward to visiting the Glenmont Estate as well as the Laboratory Complex where you can spend time learning all about the inventions that this genius brought to us in order to help create the world we live in today.
Address: 211 Main St, West Orange, NJ 07052
Inspiring the scientists and engineers of the future, Liberty Science Center is one of the most fun places to go in New Jersey for families.
You'll find fun, interactive science and technology exhibits in a 300,000-square-foot learning center with 12 museum exhibition halls.
Look for the live animal collection boasting 110 species, large aquariums, a 3D theater, live simulcast surgeries, hurricane- and tornado-force wind simulators and the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere.
Learn all about the iconic Rubik's Cube. Check out the Superhero Laser Show.
Discover how scientists are bringing back mammoths in the Making Mammoths exhibit. And scramble around in the Infinity Climber, a huge suspended climbing play space.
Finally, don’t miss Our Hudson Home, where you can learn about the importance of the local Hudson River.
Address: 222 Jersey City Blvd, Jersey City, NJ 07305
If sharks and penguins are on your list of things to see in New Jersey, make time to visit the Adventure Aquarium, one of the best aquariums in the US.
With more than 15,000 aquatic animals on display, you’ll see sharks and penguins, yes, but also Nile hippos, sea turtles, even a chocolate-chip sea star!
Convenient to downtown Philadelphia, the celebrated aquarium features a Shark Tunnel, an exciting Shark Bridge, suspended just inches about the shark tanks, several fun touch tanks and a warm-water exhibit with countless, rainbow-hued tropical fish.
The popular perennial Penguin Park offers a soft-surface play area and adorable-as-can-be African penguins.
Want to go deeper? Ask about animal encounters, during which you can meet the residents, including the hippos and sea turtles.
Address: 1 Riverside Dr, Camden, NJ 08103
If you’re looking for outdoor things to do in New Jersey, head to the expansive Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
With 67,000 acres of forested mountains, riverine valleys and fertile floodplains, there’s something for every outdoorsy interest.
Paddle along 40 miles of the Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River.
Hike more than 100 miles through the forest, along ridges, up to mountaintops overlooking the 1,000-foot-deep Water Gap.
The place where Victorian vacationers once relaxed and Native farmers tended their crops, today's nature lovers find tumbling waterfalls, rhododendron ravines, hemlock forests, and bountiful wildlife.
Hiking not your style? You can see just as much of this beautiful area by car as you traverse more than 100 miles of scenic roadways.
Address: 1978 River Rd, Bushkill, PA 18324
Meet giraffes and red pandas, sea lions and jaguars at the Essex Country Turtle Back Zoo, one of the most family-friendly New Jersey attractions.
Watch wolves from various angles through expansive glass panels and feel like a member of the pack.
Observe black bears and red foxes as they hang out by the large logs at the top of their enclosure. Meet Great Gray kangaroos, the three-toed emu and more Australian wildlife. Watch huge buffalo roaming about as they once did on America’s Great Plains.
Don’t miss the cute sea lions near the Penguin Coast exhibit, splashing about in their 82,000-gallon pool and basking on rocks.
Take a ride on the zoo's miniature train, play mini-golf, ride a pony and take a spin on the Endangered Species Carousel.
Address: 560 Northfield Ave, West Orange, NJ 07052
Also Read: 30 Best Zoos in the USA
Founded in 1969 by the Morey family, these famous piers have continued to grow, making the area a top vacation spot in New Jersey.
Each of the three piers – the Surfside, Mariner’s and Adventure – feature an exciting lineup of exhilarating rides for all ages, from bumper cars to high-flying swings.
Get spooked in a haunted ship, soar 140 feet in the air on the Atmosfear or defy gravity in the Cygnus X-1.
When it’s time to cool off, take a break for the Ocean Oasis Water Park & Beach Club or Raging Waters Water Park, where you'll find activity pools, lazy rivers and giant slides.
All the activities are sure to give the family an appetite, so treat everyone to one of the piers' many eateries, offering pizza, German sausages, barbeque, fresh seafood, burgers and more.
Address: 3501 Boardwalk, Wildwood, NJ 08260
Perhaps one of the most educational sights to see in New Jersey, Battlefield State Park marks the spot of one of the largest battles of the American Revolution.
Today, the park preserves a landscape of rolling farmland and hedgerows, with miles of hiking and horseback-riding trails.
You’ll find a restored Revolutionary War farmhouse and a visitor center with interesting historical exhibits.
If you happen to visit in June, you’ll have the chance to witness the Battle of Monmouth reenactment.
Listen as the drum major drills his musicians and watch (safely) as artillerists fire their cannons.
Through the summer, the park offers a variety of interpretive and educational programs, including nature and history hikes and birding walks.
Winter months are a fun time at the park as well, with plenty of sledding and cross-country skiing available.
Address: 16 Business Route 33, Manalapan Township, NJ 07726
One of the few New Jersey attractions where you can see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Manhattan skyline, Liberty State Park is a lovely spot for a picnic with a Hudson River view.
It is also the only place in New Jersey with a ferry service to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Walk along the two-mile Liberty Walk promenade, passing the picnic area, an outdoor performance area, an interpretive center and the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal.
The world-class Liberty Science Center sits at the western edge of the park.
Take a reflective moment at the “Empty Sky” 9/11 Memorial, commemorating the lives of those who lived in or who had ties to New Jersey who lost their lives at the World Trade Center.
Eco-kayak tours set off from the south side of the park, near the park office, offering paddlers a chance to explore the local wildlife and habitat of the Hudson River Estuary.
Address: 200 Morris Pesin Dr, Jersey City, NJ 07305
Also Read: 25 Best State Parks to Visit in the US
For outdoor enthusiasts seeking fresh-air things to do in New Jersey, High Point State Park offers an array of choices.
The land was dedicated as a park in 1923 and designed by the sons of the famous Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central Park.
The crown jewel of the park is the 220-foot-tall High Point Monument, which stands 1,803 feet above sea level.
When the monument is open, guests may climb the stairs to the lookout and gaze out over the Pocono Mountains to the west, the Catskill Mountains to the north and the Wallkill River Valley to the southeast.
Activities include swimming in 20-acre, spring-fed Lake Marcia, fishing, nature hikes with park naturalists, birding and self-guided hiking in the Dryden Kuser Natural Area.
This latter area is home to the 1.5-mile Cedar Swamp Trail, which leads you through a wetland that was created by a retreating glacier more than 15,000 years ago.
Address: 1480 NJ-23, Sussex, NJ 07461
When it comes to unique attractions in New Jersey, Lucy the Elephant takes the cake.
The world’s largest “elephant,” Lucy is more than 130 years old and built entirely of tin and wood.
She was built by James V. Lafferty and modeled after Jumbo, who was P.T. Barnum’s real-life “Largest Elephant on Earth.”
Today’s Lucy stands 65 feet high, 60 feet long and 18 feet wide. She weighs 90 tons and is comprised of nearly one million pieces of wood.
Her covering is made up of 12,000 square feet of tin. You’ll find this pretty pachyderm about five miles south of Atlantic City in Margate City.
Enter the spiral staircase in her leg and explore the small museum inside, with exhibits about Lucy’s history.
Lafferty actually built three of these giant elephants, but Lucy is the only remaining one, thanks to a "Save Lucy" campaign in the 1960s.
In fact, today, she’s a National Historic Landmark. It’s even possible to spend the night inside!
Address: 9200 Atlantic Ave, Margate City, NJ 08402
Explore this beautiful New Jersey attraction in America’s first planned industrial city, established by Alexander Hamilton in 1792.
Centered around the Great Falls of the Passaic River, Paterson Great Falls National Natural Landmark is a unit of the National Park Service and open to visitors for self-guided outdoor activities and tours.
View the falls from Overlook Park or get close enough to feel the spray in Mary Ellen Kramer Park.
Spend some time wandering through the Great Falls National Historic Landmark District, noticing the many mills that once contributed to America’s development and growth – everything from cotton to silk, steam locomotives to airplane engines, was manufactured here.
Walk through Upper Raceway Park, a National Engineering Landmark – the raceways were built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to take advantage of the falls’ waterpower.
Address: 72 McBride Ave, Paterson, NJ 07501
Spend a day enjoying the fresh air and outdoor pursuits available at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park on the northern tip of Long Beach Island in Ocean County, New Jersey.
The lighthouse was crucial to the navigation of coastal vessels bound to and from New York along the New Jersey coastline.
Today, the park is part of the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail.
Avid birders flock here to observe spring and fall migrations, including red-breasted mergansers, endangered beach-nesting birds, common eiders and harlequin ducks.
Walk the short Maritime Forest Trail, a self-guided loop through one of the state’s last remaining maritime forests.
Fishing is a popular pastime at the park – saltwater anglers often pull in striped bass, bluefish, summer flounder and black sea bass off the 1,033-concrete walkway on the south jetty.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the Barnegat Light Museum, which houses the lighthouse’s original Fresnel lens.
Address: 208 Broadway, Barnegat Light, NJ 08006
Amateur geologists will love the Sterling Hill Mining Museum, set in the small town of Ogdensburg and home to the world's richest zinc ore deposits and a renowned zinc mine.
This famous New Jersey attraction offers a fun scientific adventure as guests set off on an underground mine tour.
Along the way, you’ll visit two museums, go 1,300 feet into the mining tunnel, see old mining equipment, watch a drilling and blasting demonstration and see the incredible "Rainbow Tunnel" – where a mine wall with intensely fluorescent green and red zinc ore is exposed.
Check out the multi-million-dollar mineral display in the Oreck Mineral Gallery in Zobel Hall Museum.
And in the Warren Museum of Fluorescence, marvel at the Color Wall, a massive display of 100 fluorescent mineral specimens, some as long as 3 feet and weighing more than 100 pounds.
Address: 30 Plant St, Ogdensburg, NJ 07439
A favorite for summer swimmers and surf anglers, Island Beach State Park is a popular vacation spot in New Jersey.
Visitors come to soak up the sun along 10 miles of beach – one of the last remaining undeveloped barrier beaches on the north Atlantic coast – and to explore miles of sand dunes, freshwater wetlands, maritime forests and tidal marshes.
Birders come to see the state’s largest osprey colony, as well as the visiting peregrine falcons, wading birds, shorebirds, waterfowl and migrating songbirds.
The 3,000 acres of coastal dunes found here are much the same as when Henry Hudson first glimpsed New Jersey’s coast in 1609, so the plants and diverse wildlife found here are similar to what they were hundreds of years ago.
Activities include swimming, canoeing, sailboarding, surfing, nature hiking, fishing and more.
Address: Seaside Park, NJ 08752
Looking for summer fun? One of the most delightful things to do in New Jersey on a bright summer day is visiting Jenkinson's Boardwalk, where you’ll never run out of activities.
From the aquarium to arcades, there is something for the whole family.
Primarily targeted at younger children, the amusement park at the southernmost end of the boardwalk is perfect for their first ride experience.
Big kids, too, will love it here, with more thrilling rides like the Wave Swinger.
At Jenkinson's Aquarium, you can watch the marine life, from penguins to Pacific sharks, and learn about their conservation.
Take a shady break in the arcade and try your hand at video games, slot machines, skee ball and more.
Grab burgers or seafood from the boardwalk’s many dining options, then head down the beach to round out a perfect seaside day.
Address: 300 Ocean Ave, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742
This wildlife-rich New Jersey destination protects approximately 47,000 acres along the back bays of the New Jersey coast.
Birders, nature lovers and photographers of all abilities visit for the chance to see an incredible array of wildlife and migratory birds, including endangered species.
The salt marshes and unspoiled barrier beaches are within the Atlantic Flyway and protected habitats.
There are at least 10 locations throughout the refuge where visitors can watch for the 322 species that have been observed here.
The most popular birding spot is Wildlife Drive in the Brigantine Division of the park (an entrance fee is charged).
Follow the eight-mile, one-way, unpaved road through wetlands and woodlands to the three observation towers and decks with birdwatching spotting scopes.
There are four hiking trails along the drive, taking your farther into the refuge.
Address: Great Creek Road, Oceanville, NJ 08231
Providing a fun learning environment for children, along with their families, the Garden State Discovery Museum is one of New Jersey’s top attractions for families.
Together, children and their caregivers can build and remodel a two-story house in the Under Construction exhibit, care for animals in Vet and Pet, visit with live animals, play outside, pretend on stage, check out the garden and do art and crafts in the 20-plus exhibits.
Pretend to whip up a meal in the Silver Diner, dig for fossils in the Dinosaurium and take in a drama performance by the museum’s acting troupe.
Nearly every space of the museum is covered with enticing exhibits or interactive areas for kid play and exploration. You’ll have to drag your little ones out when it’s finally time to go!
Address: 2040 Springdale Rd, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003