Money Saving Tips For Exploring NJ
As we mentioned, the Garden State can be hard on a family budget, but we like to think of ourselves as the curators of family fun on the cheap. To that end, be sure to bookmark our Guide to Free Fun Things To Do in New Jersey with Kids, where we share all our top tips for how to score free admission to top New Jersey attractions, plus places where kids can play for free, eat for free, and even go down The Shore for free.
Top Things To Do in New Jersey for Visitors
While this list of the best things to do in New Jersey is geared toward locals, we've got plenty of top picks for family fun for out-of-towners, too. Here are a few helpful roundups for anyone visiting New Jersey with kids:
Best Things To Do in NJ with Kids By Age
Visit the free Cape May Zoo; it's manageable for little kids, has a great playground, and sweet exhibits. Photo by the Lisa Warden
100 Top Things To Do in New Jersey With Kids
1. Cape May Zoo
Walk the boardwalk at the FREE Cape May County Zoo to see buffalo, bears, and zebras.
2. Jersey Shore
Enjoy a day (or week) at one of the many Jersey Shore family beaches, such as Seven Presidents and Cape May. We love a beach day trip in the summer, but a winter walk is great, too!
3. Cape May Lighthouse
While you're in Cape May, let them work off that energy by climbing the 199 steps to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse.
4. Pick Apples
Fill your basket with apples at Terhune Orchards, or another of the Garden State's pick-your-own farms.
5. State Theatre
See a Broadway show at the spectacular State Theatre in New Brunswick.
Walk on the moon at the Liberty Science Center. Photo by Karen Turner
6. Liberty Science Center
Spend the day at Liberty Science Center, and visit its state-of-the-art planetarium.
7. Pumpkin Picking
Celebrate fall by wandering the farm for pumpkin picking. Get the perfect photo by bribing them with the farmstand ice cream.
8. Ride the Rails
Take a nostalgic train ride at the Whippany Railway Museum or on another historic NJ railroad. These trains offer Halloween rides in the fall, Santa visits in December, and sometimes Thomas the Train rolls in, too.
9. Liberty State Park
Play in the giant playground in Liberty State Park and enjoy the spectacular view of Manhattan any time of the year.
10. Ice Skate
Lace-up your skates and hit the ice rink. We love the pop-up rink at Van Saun Park in Bergen County.
Cool off in the amazing water playground at Van Saun Park. Photo by the author
11. Van Saun Park
Ride the train through the Bergen County Zoo in Van Saun Park and then take in the carousel, playground, and splash pad.
12. Jenkinson's Aquarium
Get a behind-the-scenes tour at Jenkinson’s Aquarium, or just enjoy the penguins and other sea life at this New Jersey aquarium located right on the boardwalk.
13. Hike the AT
Hike the New Jersey portion of the Appalachian Trail. Big kids might even be able to conquer the Stairway to Heaven trail, which starts flat before hitting the mountain.
14. Fairy Trail
Play, picnic, hike, and look for fairy houses at the South Mountain Reservation.
15. Family-Friendly Farms
While away a perfect fall day at a favorite nearby farm, feeding animals, taking a pony ride, or picking what's ripe.
Visit the enchanting Storybook Land. Photo courtesy of the park
16. Storybook Land
Brush up on your fairy tales at Storybook Land, or just hit the kiddie rides.
17. Hike the Stream
Pick a hike with water, a river, or a stream, and the kids will complain less, I promise!
18. Rutgers Day
Celebrate the state university system with an action-packed, family-friendly festival, Rutgers Day.
19. Canoe NJ's Waterways
Take a canoe or pontoon boat through the Meadowlands or another local river or lake.
20. River Tubing
Tube down the Delaware River when the kids finally learn to swim. It's one of those iconic summer activities you've got to try.
See the sky fill with colorful hot-air balloons at the NJ Lottery Festival of Ballooning. Photo courtesy of the festival
21. Balloon Festival
See the ascension at the New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning.
Take your bulldozer-obsessed child to the construction-themed amusement park and water park, Diggerland.
23. Great Falls
Watch the impressive Great Falls crash in Paterson.
24. Maple Sugaring at New Jersey Parks
Go maple sugaring in the late winter.
25. Cattus Island Park
Hike the "hidden beach trail" in Cattus Island County Park.
Visit the dinos at Field Station: Dinosaurs in Leonia from May to October. Photo by the author
26. Field Station: Dinosaurs
See prehistoric creatures up close at Field Station: Dinosaurs.
27. Walkable Small Towns
Ride NJ Transit to one of the wonderful and walkable small towns in our state.
28. Six Flags
Ride the roller coasters at Six Flags Great Adventure, and splash in the wave pool at Hurricane Harbor.
29. Wild West City
Or play cowboys and cowgirls at the western-themed Wild West City in Sussex County.
30. Lake Swimming
Spend the day swimming in a refreshing New Jersey lake and building sandcastles on the shore.
New Jersey goes all out with the Christmas lights, like this house in Union. Photo by the author
31. Christmas Lights
See an over-the-top block of Christmas Lights at these New Jersey houses and neighborhoods.
33. New York Jets Training Camp
See the Jets Training Camp at their center in Florham Park during the late summer.
33. Water Parks
Cool off at the amazing water parks in New Jersey, enjoying splash pads when they're young and the thrill slides when they're teens.
34. New Jersey Shore Boardwalk Amusement Parks
Ride a thrilling coaster at one of New Jersey's famed boardwalks, play at the arcades, and enjoy sailing above the coastline in swings, wheels, and more rides.
35. Boardwalk Food
Afterward, stroll the boardwalk and fill your bellies with amazing Jersey Shore food: Johnson's popcorn, Shriver's fudge and saltwater taffy, and Kohr Brother's frozen custard, to start.
Head to the seasonal Sussex County Sunflower Maze in summer and early fall. Photo courtesy of the county
36. Sunflower Fields
Puzzle your way through the Sussex County Sunflower Maze, or just pick the pretty summer blooms at these NJ farms.
37. Ride the Polar Express Train
Meet Santa and sip hot cocoa on these Polar Express and Christmas trains. It's among our favorite things to do in New Jersey with kids during the holidays.
38. Adventure Aquarium
Walk the Shark Bridge at Adventure Aquarium, or enjoy its scuba Santa during the holiday season.
39. Washington's Headquarters
Brush up on your Revolutionary War history at Washington's Headquarters in Morristown.
40. Allaire State Park
Bike through Allaire State Park.
Enjoy photo ops and beautiful views at the Grounds for Sculpture. Photo by DMH Photography
41. Grounds for Sculpture
Explore the massive outdoor art installations at South Jersey's Grounds for Sculpture.
42. Raptor Trust
View hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls at close range at the Raptor Trust.
43. Washington's Crossing
Watch the annual reenactment of Washington's Crossing of the Delaware.
44. Putt Putt on the Boardwalk
Go mini-golfing on (or off) the boardwalk.
Go stargazing at the historic Batsto Village in Wharton State Forest.
It's not just cones at Denville Dairy! Photo courtesy of the dairy
46. Ice Cream Shops
Enjoy homemade ice cream on a hot summer day at Denville Dairy or one of these NJ ice cream spots.
47. Medieval Times
Cheer for your knight at Medieval Times.
48. Cherry Blossom Festival
Be awed by the world-famous Cherry Blossom Festival in Branch Brook Park in Newark. This New Jersey park has more cherry trees than the famed Washington, DC, fest.
49. Sunrise Mountain
Hike Sunrise Mountain at Stokes State Forest, or take a day trip to one of these other amazing NJ state parks and forests.
50. Liberty Hall
Search for eggs at Liberty Hall during the annual Easter egg hunt.
Mountain Creek is open all year for seasonal activities. Photo courtesy of Mountain Creek
51. Mountain Creek
Ski or snow tube at Mountain Creek, enjoy the water park, or just rest up at one of its sumptuous hotels.
52. Watchung Reservation
Visit Watchung Reservation for easy hiking trails, an awesome playground and nature center, and a brand-new sensory trail—or hit another one of our favorite NJ reservations.
53. Palisades Interstate Park
Take in the view of New York as you hike at Palisades Interstate Park.
54. Ocean City Baby Parade
Watch (or enter your little one in) the Ocean City Baby Parade.
55. Thomas Edison National Historic Park
Visit the home and laboratory of one of America's greatest inventors at Thomas Edison National Historic Park.
56. Tick Tock Diner
Eat disco fries at Tick Tock Diner.
Hit the playground after a stroll along Pier C in Hoboken. Photo by Shinya Suzuki via Flickr
57. Pier C
Stroll along Pier C in Hoboken and take in amazing views of Manhattan while your kids play in the park.
58. Pine Barrens
Try to avoid the Jersey Devil in the Pine Barrens.
59. Nutcracker Ballet
Catch a fantastic kids' show or holiday Nutcracker performance at one of NJ's many family-friendly theaters, including Mayo Performing Arts Center, Bergen Performing Arts Center, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, or South Orange Performing Arts Center—many of which offer sensory-friendly performances!
60. 9/11 Memorials
See the Empty Sky 9/11 memorial at Liberty State Park, or the wall of names perched atop Eagle Rock Reservation, looking out toward the NYC skyline.
61. Morris Museum
Spend a Saturday at the Morris Museum and be sure to save time for its maker space.
62. Land of Make Believe
Hit the rides and visit Santa at the Land of Make Believe.
Visiting the Turtle Back Zoo means plenty of cute photo ops. Photo by Margaret Hargrove
63. Turtle Back Zoo
Gape at the lions, giraffes, and bison up close at the Turtle Back Zoo.
64. Greenwood Gardens
Explore the magical grounds of Greenwood Gardens, or soak up the scenery at another one of NJ's gorgeous gardens and arboretums.
65. Family Music Festivals
Bring the whole family to an outdoor music festival like Maplewoodstock or Hoboken Arts and Music Festival.
66. Camp Under the Stars
Bond with your crew in nature at these family campgrounds.
67. Newark Museum
Visit the Newark Museum to see an amazing art collection, along with cool science exhibits, planetarium shows, and a fire museum.
Find your way through a corn maze this fall in New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Johnson's Corner Farm
68. Corn Maze
Let the kids lead you out of one of these New Jersey corn mazes that pop up in late summer and early fall.
69. Smithville Village
Ride the train, carousel, and paddleboats at the old-time Smithville Village.
70. Red Bulls
Take the whole family to a Red Bulls soccer game in Harrison.
71. Iris Gardens
See thousands of irises in bloom from May through June at Presby Memorial Iris Gardens.
DreamWorks Water Park at American Dream Mall is a larger-than-life oasis of wet-and-wild fun. Photo by Gina Massaro
72. Indoor Water Parks
Warm up at DreamWorks Water Park: Make Waves Year-Round at American Dream Mall or another nearby indoor water park.
73. Battleship New Jersey
Visit Battleship New Jersey for a big-time thrill.
74. Reeves-Reed Arboretum
Stop by the Discovery Center at Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit, or visit during one of its many family-friendly festivals, such as the Daffodil Festival in the spring.
75. NJ Lighthouses
Climb or visit one of the many NJ lighthouses. Kids love the view from the top, and you can help them check off one of these iconic things to do in New Jersey.
76. Climb Inside Lucy the Elephant
A national historic landmark, Lucy was erected in 1881. Visit her and the rest of these off-the-beaten-path attractions for an only-in-Jersey experience.
The bucolic setting of the Red Mill Museum is gorgeous no matter the season. Photo by Anthony Cuffari via Flickr
77. Red Mill Museum
See the falls at the historic Red Mill Museum quarry or visit during the Haunted Village...if you dare.
78. Baseball Game
OK, so we don't have a pro baseball team, but kids never want to stay for the whole game anyway, right? Root for the home team at one of these minor league baseball stadiums around the state.
79. Cranberry Festival
Celebrate New Jersey's cranberry harvest at the Annual Cranberry Festival in Chatsworth.
80. Duke Farms
Bike ride through Duke Farms landscaped grounds; when everyone gets hungry, pull over for a picnic.
81. American Dream Mall
There are so many fun things to do at this New Jersey mega mall you'll need more than a day to see and explore it all.
Sit under Tripod Rock, perched here long ago by glaciers. Photo by the author
82. Pyramid Mountain
Take selfies under Tripod Rock after hiking Pyramid Mountain.
83. Sail With Pirates
Go sailing with pirates, or hit the water on another exciting boat ride.
84. Newport Green
Play and splash around at Newport Green in Jersey City or one of NJ's other awesome water playgrounds.
85. Escape to AC
Enjoy a night or two in Atlantic City with the kids. It's surprisingly filled with free family entertainment, including a brand-new beachfront water park.
86. Big Snow
Ski at the indoor snow park at American Dream Mall.
Pick a dozen tulips at the spectacular Holland Ridge Farms. Photo by the author
87. Holland Ridge Farms
Pick tulips from among the millions planted at this New Jersey flower farm in the spring and gorgeous sunflowers in the fall.
88. Old-School Arcades
Become a pinball wizard at the Silverball Museum Arcade in Asbury Park or the Morristown Game Vault.
89. Sterling Hill Mining Museum
Tour the Sterling Hill Mining Museum and mine for your own treasures.
90. Brookhollow's Barnyard
See baby animals at NJ farms, including Brookhollow's Barnyard. It has a sweet sandbox, playground, and playhouses that the kids always adore. Feed the animals from a little bucket.
Bring your train lover to Northlandz to see the miles and miles of model trains and its doll collection.
Visit the farm animals at Howell Living History Farm. Photo by William Doyle via Flickr
92. Howell Living History Farm
Learn about the past at Howell Living History Farm.
93. Cut Your Own Christmas Tree
Toss the plastic tree and go cut down your own beauty on one of NJ's Christmas tree farms.
94. Pi Day
Get your math fun on at Pi Day in Princeton.
95. Asbury Park Boardwalk
See the murals and famed boardwalk in Asbury Park.
Visit High Point State Park for a view of the tri-state region. Photo by Jessica Delfino
96. High Point State Park
See three states from the top of the monument at High Point State Park.
97. Hunt for Haunts
Do you have the mettle to take on one of these New Jersey ghost tours?
98. Freedom & Fireworks 4th of July Show
Stay up late to watch the big fireworks display on July 4th in Liberty State Park.
99. Polar Bear Plunge
Be a spectator (or participant) at the NJ Polar Bear Plunge.
100. Dig into Jersey Donuts
Treat yourself to over-the-top confections at NJ's incredible doughnut shops.
This article was first published in February 2013 and has since been updated.