New Jersey's Liberty State Park: A Perfect Family Day Trip
With majestic views of the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty, and Lower Manhattan, plus acres of sprawling green lawns, a riverfront walkway, nature trail, picnic areas, playgrounds, and one of our favorite kid-friendly museums, Jersey City's Liberty State Park is ideal for a memorable family day trip.
Whether you spend a day exploring the park, or use it as a jumping-off point for more adventures, this green space on the banks of the Hudson is worth a visit. You can also head indoors for an afternoon at the Liberty Science Center, followed by a bite at one of our favorite family-friendly restaurants in Downtown Jersey City.
Read on for our favorite things to do during a visit to Liberty State Park, and find more outdoor family adventures in our Guide to Local Parks and Playgrounds.
Editor's note: While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.
Spend a family day exploring all that Liberty State Park has to offer. Photo by Shinya Suzuki
1. Explore Liberty State Park's Grounds
A prime attraction at Liberty State Park is the 2-mile riverfront promenade, which is perfect for strollers, bikers, joggers, and scooters. Breathtaking views of the sparkling water, Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Freedom Tower are awe-inspiring. When your little ones get tired of walking or scooting, spread out a picnic blanket on the grassy lawns, or unpack your lunch at a shaded picnic table.
Acres of green fields are perfect for flying kites, tossing a Frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, or playing catch. Relax on a bench along the promenade and watch the boats, including the ferries to Ellis and Liberty Islands. Fishing and crabbing are permitted in certain areas.
Its location on the Atlantic Flyway makes it a spot for birdwatchers in all seasons and plenty of ranger-led programming makes it a destination even in the colder months. When its blanketed in snow, you'll find families sledding on hills near the Interpretive Center and the Empty Sky Memorial.
The park is open daily from 6am-10pm.
The large playground offers lots of opportunities for climbing, sliding, and balancing, even in winter! Photo by Rose Gordon Sala
2. Romp in One of Liberty State Park's Playgrounds
The large playground features connecting climbing structures, with low slides and bouncy bridges for younger tots, and a pretend sailing ship with two steering wheels and a lookout post facing the river. Big kids can enjoy spiral slides, rock walls, climbers, and bumpy slides, plus ladders, bridges, monkey bars, balance steppers, and tunnels. The huge playground is not fenced in or shaded, but shaded benches and picnic tables encircle it.
Surrounding the playground are fields dotted with open charcoal grills perfect for larger family gatherings. On busy summer weekends, arrive early to snag a spot or reserve ahead of time by contacting the state park office. A second, smaller playground is located at the southern end of the park, near the main parking lot and restrooms. A few portable toilets are available near the main playground.
Enjoy the walking paths through the park in all seasons. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala
3. Enjoy a Guided Outdoor Event in Liberty State Park
Put on your walking shoes, and check out the year-round outdoor events hosted by Liberty State Park. The best part—they are all free! Events include waterfowl walks, evergreen tree hikes, and hikes to Cavern Point in the colder months. Warmer weather welcomes events like low-tide beach walks and summer shorebird walks.
Kids can participate in nature programs at the park.
4. Explore the Park's Natural Beauty
Bring your binoculars to check out the many species of birds in the marshlands and glimpse boaters out on the Hudson. The Nature Interpretive Center remains closed, but the adjacent pathway through the 36-acre salt marsh is open for self-guided strolls. Seasonal kayak tours for ages 16 and older depart from the southern end of the park (advance registration is required). A winding trail with fitness markers and stretching stations run the length of the park, too.
The Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial is a touching memorial to those whose lives were lost on 9/11. Photo by Walt Gobetz via Flickr
5. Visit the Memorial
Older children may appreciate the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial, New Jersey's powerful tribute to residents whose lives were lost on that day. Twin walls of stainless steel, rising 30 feet high, are etched with the victims' names.
The Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal, sometimes known as Communipaw Terminal, was the state's waterfront passenger terminal. Photo by Pete Miller
6. Explore Liberty State Park's History
2021 update: Both the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal and ferry landing to Liberty Island are currently closed. No reopening date has been set for the terminal. Ferry service will resume as soon as the docks are repaired from recent storm damage. You can, however, catch a ferry from NYC's Battery Park departure point in the meantime.
A hundred years ago, Jersey City's southern waterfront was an industrial wasteland, a relic of its earlier use as a rail transit hub for the New York area. It took decades for Jersey City officials to clean it up and open it as a state park, which was dedicated in time for the country's bicentennial celebration in 1976. Get a glimpse of that history during a family tour of the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal at the park's north end.
Liberty State Park has long been a jumping-off point for a journey to see Lady Liberty herself. Plan to play tourist and board a ferry from the park to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Before you do, be sure to check out our tips for visiting Ellis Island and Lady Liberty with young children.
Stroll the promenade and take in the gorgeous views at Liberty State Park. Photo by Laurie Rein
How to Get to Liberty State Park
Visitors from New York can take the PATH train to Jersey City and connect to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, which deposits you right in the park. Ferry service is also available via the Liberty Landy Ferry from Brookfield Place. If you're driving, parking is available at the Liberty Landing Marina.