With all of our modern technology and conveniences, today's kids (and grown-ups!) have a hard time imagining what life was like in the U.S. in the 18th and 19th centuries. Luckily, NJ kids don't have to learn about this long-ago time only from books—they can experience it firsthand at one of the state's many historic villages.
From working farms to blacksmith shops, general stores to cottages, these villages offer plenty to see for day-tripping families. Whether you are looking for an authentic old-school outing or an afternoon of quaint shopping, we've got you covered. This fall, unplug the family and step back in time at one of these historic New Jersey villages that are fun for kids and adults alike.
For more historical day trip inspiration, check out our list of Revolutionary War Sites To Visit with Kids.
Discover what life was like in a 19th-century industrial town at Allaire Village.
Allaire Village – Farmingdale
Travel back to 1836 as you enter this historic village in Allaire State Park. Tour historic buildings, including a blacksmith shop, carpenter's shop, manager's house, foreman's house, and church, to discover what life was like in a 19th-century industrial town. Historic interpreters provide a peek into the everyday lives of early residents, and visitors can join the town's villagers for activities such as 1830's games, chores, crafts, and demonstrations. Stop by the Visitor Center and museum, and visit the General Store for unique items made by Allaire artisans, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, and carpenters. Visitors to Allaire can also take a ride on the Pine Creek Railroad. For hours of operation and admission fees, visit the park's website.
Batsto Village – Hammonton
Once a 19th-century ironworks and glass-making industrial center, Batsto Village is now a museum village with 33 historic buildings and structures. Visitors can learn about the village's rich history by touring Batsto Mansion, a 32-room house that served as the residence of generations of the town's iron masters. Additional buildings include a post office, gristmill, and general store. There is also a Nature Center, located on the banks of Batsto Lake, that offers a variety of programs and displays on Pinelands wildlife and plant life. Canoes are available for guided nature trips on the lake. Check website for operating hours and tour schedules.
Kids can participate in hands-on crafts and watch demonstrations at Historic Cold Spring Village.
Historic Cold Spring Village – Cape May
Cold Spring Village brings to life the day-to-day activities of villagers living in South Jersey during the "age of homespun" (1789–1840). Visitors can connect with the past through educational and hands-on family activities. The 30-acre property includes shaded lanes, gardens, and a working farm where heritage crops are grown. There are 26 restored historic buildings, each housing historically clothed interpreters who educate visitors about the lifestyles, trades, and crafts of yesteryear. Children can enjoy playing in the activity area, where they can try on costumes, play games, and participate in hands-on crafts. There are also horse-drawn carriage rides on weekdays. Open seasonally, check website for special events.
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Historic Smithville has charming shops, fun events, and a train ride and carousel for the kids.
Historic Smithville – Smithville
If you're looking for a great place to stroll cobblestone streets, enjoy unique shops, and have a great meal, Historic Smithville is worth your time. The Village is comprised of more than 40 small shops selling everything from homemade soap to jewelry and clothing. Foodies will love the Smithville Inn, which has been in business since 1787 and is well-known for its delicious Sunday brunch. Annual events include a Renaissance Faire, Children's Festival, a Living History Encampment, and Mayfest. There is also a fun train ride and carousel for the kids. Open year-round; check website for more information.
Historic Speedwell Village – Morristown
Speedwell Village is known as the "Birthplace of the Telegraph," and visitors can tour the factory where Samuel F.B. Morse perfected and first demonstrated the telegraph. Other great buildings in this 19th-century industrial village include the restored estate of Steven Vail, proprietor of the Speedwell Iron Works during the early 1800s; a wheelhouse, granary, and carriage house. Guided tours and exhibits are available from April through October. Visit the website for details.
Historic Walnford – Upper Freehold
Visit this wonderful historic site to learn about the evolution of Walnford from an 18th-century industrial village and family farm to an elegant country estate. The heart of Crosswicks Creek Park, the village features an elegant home built in 1774, a 19th-century gristmill, and various farm buildings. On weekends from April through November, visitors can speak and interact with knowledgeable staff as they describe the workings of the mill. The village hosts a variety of family-friendly events throughout the year. Check website for details.
Visitors to Red Mill Museum Village can tour the mill, a schoolhouse, carriage sheds, and a log cabin.
Red Mill Museum Village – Clinton
The centerpiece of this historic village, nestled along the banks of the Raritan River, is the beautiful Red Mill. Visitors can tour the mill, which is now a museum, and learn about the history of this 19th-century power station. A tour of the museum showcases more than 40,000 historical artifacts. Additional buildings open to the public include a schoolhouse, carriage sheds, and a log cabin. The village offers numerous events, tours, and activities, including monthly children's drop-in activities. Visit website for hours, admission, and activity details.
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Tuckerton Seaport hosts numerous events throughout the year, including the Privateers & Pirates Festival.
Tuckerton Seaport – Tuckerton
The Tuckerton Seaport is a maritime village located along historic Tuckerton Creek. The Seaport's 40-acre site includes 17 historic and recreated buildings connected by a boardwalk. Highlights of the Seaport include a maritime forest and wetlands nature trail, a working boatworks building, and the the recreated Tucker's Island Lighthouse. Daily demonstrators and traditional artists bring the Jersey Shore's rich maritime heritage to life. Visitors can explore exhibits, take a boat tour of historic Tuckerton Creek, and meet people who lived, worked, and played along Barnegat Bay. Check out the Events Calendar for upcoming festivals, hands-on activities, workshops, tours, and classes.
Waterloo Village – Stanhope
This 19th-century village contains a working gristmill, general store, blacksmith shop, canal museum, and historic houses on the banks of the Morris Canal within Allamuchy State Park. A log-cabin farm site and 17th-century Lenape Indian village exhibit are also located in the village. Open seasonally. Special events are listed on the village's Facebook page.
RELATED: Revolutionary War Sites To Visit with Kids in NJ
Older kids can try glassblowing at Wheaton Village.
Wheaton Village – Millville
Learn about the history of glass making in New Jersey at this one-of-a-kind arts and cultural center. Daily glass-blowing demonstrations are held at the Village Glass Studio; visitors can make their own glass paperweight or vase; and artists can be observed in the ceramic and flame-working studios. The village is also home to the Museum of American Glass as well as several unique shops and boutiques. Keep in mind that there are many delicate breakables, so this day trip might not be suitable for small children. For more information about hands-on activities, check out the website.
Whitesbog Village – Browns Mills
Once home to the largest cranberry farm in NJ, Whitesbog Village was an early 20th century company town and agricultural community. Today, Whitesbog includes the historic village as well as 3,000 acres of bogs, reservoirs, forests, and fields. Check out the charming General Store, which sells unique items along with blueberry and cranberry preserves. Part of the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, the village is open year-round. Visitors can tour the village on their own with maps and brochures that are available at the Visitor Center. Check website for guided tours and scheduled programs.
Top Photo: Cold Spring Harbor. Photos courtesy of the venues.