100 Things To Do in New Jersey With Kids Before They Grow Up

New Jersey's farms offer year-round family activities, including festivals, mazes, petting zoos, and fruit picking.
New Jersey's farms offer year-round family activities, including festivals, mazes, petting zoos, and fruit picking.
8/22/21 - By Rose Gordon Sala

Never did I imagine that I would be raising three kids in New Jersey, but I'm pretty happy with the way things turned out as this area makes it easy to entertain kids. 

Our state is crazy expensive, as we all know, but it's also diverse, both in terms of its population and geography, which means there are plenty of fun things to do in New Jersey with kids of all ages and interests. From the gorgeous Jersey Shore beaches to our plentiful Garden State farms, New Jersey offers tons of incredible kids' activities. We have cool playgrounds, fantastic hikes and parks, and awesome zoos. There are lakes to swim in every summer and mountains to ski in the winter.

Read on for our list of the 100 best things to do in New Jersey with kids, and don't let those kids tell you they're bored again!

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1. 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!

Visit the free Cape May Zoo; it's manageable for little kids, has a great playground, and sweet exhibits. Photo by the author

2. Cape May Zoo

Walk the boardwalk at the FREE Cape May County Zoo to see buffalo, bears, and zebras.

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 at 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, which is reopening for fall 2021 to celebrate 100 years and its full renovation.

6. Pumpkin Picking

Celebrate fall by wandering the farm for pumpkin picking. Get the perfect photo by bribing them with the farmstand ice cream.

Walk on the moon at the Liberty Science Center. Photo by Karen Turner

7. Liberty Science Center

Spend the day at Liberty Science Center, and visit its new, state-of-the-art planetarium.

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.

11. 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.

12. 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 out flat before hitting the mountain.

RELATED: 30 Reasons New Jersey Is the Best Place To Raise Kids

Cool off in the amazing water playground at Van Saun Park. Photo by the author

13. 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.

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. (We hope this NJ festival returns to in-person fun in 2022!)

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.

22. Diggerland

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 NJ lake and building sandcastles on the shore.

31. NJ Jets Training

See the Jets Training Camp at their center in Florham Park.

32. 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.

33. New Jersey Shore Boardwalk Amusement Parks

Ride the 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.

34. 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.

35. 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.

36. Adventure Aquarium

Walk through the Shark Tunnel at Adventure Aquarium, or enjoy its scuba Santa during the holiday season.

New Jersey goes all out with the Christmas lights, like this house in Union. Photo by the author

37. Christmas Lights

See an over-the-top block of Christmas Lights at these New Jersey houses and neighborhoods.

38. Washington's Headquarters

Brush up on your Revolutionary War history at Washington's Headquarters in Morristown.

39. Allaire State Park

Bike through Allaire State Park.

Head to the seasonal Sussex County sunflower maze in summer and early fall. Photo courtesy of the county

40. Sunflower Fields

Puzzle your way through the Sussex County sunflower maze, or just pick the pretty summer blooms at these NJ farms.

41. Raptor Trust

View hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls at close range at the Raptor Trust.

42. Washington's Crossing

Watch the annual reenactment of Washington's Crossing of the Delaware.

43. Putt Putt on the Boardwalk

Go mini-golfing on (or off) the boardwalk.

44. Stargazing

Go stargazing at the historic Batsto Village in Wharton State Forest.

45. Medieval Times

Cheer for your knight at Medieval Times.

46. Grounds for Sculpture

Explore the massive outdoor art installations at South Jersey's Grounds for Sculpture.

47. 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.

48. 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

49. Liberty Hall

Search for eggs at Liberty Hall during the annual Easter egg hunt.

50. 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.

It's not just cones at Denville Dairy! Photo courtesy of the dairy

51. Ice Cream Shops

Enjoy homemade ice cream on a hot summer day at Denville Dairy or one of these NJ ice cream spots.

52. Palisades Interstate Park

Take in the view of New York as you hike at Palisades Interstate Park.

53. Ocean City Baby Parade

Watch (or enter your little one in) the Ocean City Baby Parade.

54. Thomas Edison National Historic Park

Visit the home and laboratory of one of America's greatest inventors at Thomas Edison National Historic Park.

55. Tick Tock Diner

Eat disco fries at Tick Tock Diner.

56. Pine Barrens

Try to avoid the Jersey Devil in the Pine Barrens.

57. Mountain Creek

Ski or snow tube at Mountain Creek, enjoy the water park, or just rest up at one of its sumptuous hotels.

58. Nutcracker Ballet

Catch a fantastic kids' show or holiday Nutcracker performance at one of NJ's many family-friendly theaters, including Mayo Performing Arts CenterBergen Performing Arts Center New Jersey Performing Arts Center, or South Orange Performing Arts Center—many of which offer sensory-friendly performances!

59. 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.

Hit the playground after a stroll along Pier C in Hoboken. Photo by Shinya Suzuki via Flickr

60. Pier C

Stroll along Pier C in Hoboken and take in amazing views of Manhattan while your kids play in the park.

61. Morris Museum

Spend a Saturday at the Morris Museum during one of its family festivals; see the model train go around or check out the NJ dinosaur fossils.

62. Land of Make Believe

Hit the rides and visit Santa at the Land of Make Believe.

63. Greenwood Gardens

Explore the magical grounds of Greenwood Gardens, or soak up the scenery at another one of NJ's gorgeous gardens and arboretums.

64. Turtle Back Zoo

Gape at the lions, giraffes, and bison up close at the Turtle Back Zoo.

65. Iris Gardens

See thousands of irises in bloom from May through June at Presby Memorial Iris Gardens.

Find your way through the corn maze this fall in New Jersey. Photo by the author

66. 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.

67. Smithville Village

Ride the train, carousel, and paddleboats at the old-time Smithville Village.

68. Indoor Water Parks

Warm up at Sahara Sam's Oasis or at another nearby indoor water park.

69. Battleship New Jersey

Visit Battleship New Jersey for a big-time thrill.

70. 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.

71. NJ Lighthouses

Climb or visit one of the many NJ lighthouses. Kids will thrill at the view from the top, and you can help them check off one of these iconic things to do in New Jersey.

The bucolic setting of the Red Mill Museum is gorgeous no matter the season. Photo by Anthony Cuffari via Flickr

72. Red Mill Museum

See the falls at the historic Red Mill Museum quarry or visit during the Haunted Village...if you dare.  

73. 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 teams around the state.

74. Cranberry Festival

Celebrate New Jersey's cranberry harvest at the Annual Cranberry Festival in Chatsworth.

75. Duke Farms

Bike ride through Duke Farms landscaped grounds; when everyone gets hungry, pull over for a picnic on the grounds.

Sit under Tripod Rock, perched here long ago by glaciers. Photo by the author

76. Pyramid Mountain

Take selfies under Tripod Rock after hiking Pyramid Mountain.

77. Sail With Pirates

Go sailing with pirates, or hit the water on another exciting boat ride.

78. Newport Green

Play and splash around at Newport Green in Jersey City or at one of NJ's other awesome water playgrounds

79. Family Music Festivals

Bring the whole family to an outdoor music festival like Maplewoodstock or Hoboken Arts and Music Festival.

80. Camp Under the Stars

Bond with your crew in nature at these family campgrounds.

81. Newark Museum

Visit the Newark Museum to see an amazing art collection, along with cool science exhibits, planetarium shows, and a fire museum

82. Escape to AC

Enjoy a night or two in Atlantic City with the kids. It's surprisingly filled with free family entertainment.

83. Big Snow

Ski at the indoor snow park at the recently open American Dream mega entertainment complex.

Pick a dozen tulips at the spectacular Holland Ridge Farms. Photo by the author

84. 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.

85. Old-School Arcades

Become a pinball wizard at Silverball Museum in Asbury Park or Morristown Game Vault.

86. Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Tour the Sterling Hill Mining Museum and mine for your own treasures.

87. Brookhollow's Barnyard

See baby animals at NJ farms, including Brookhollow's Barnyard in Boonton, which offered drive-thru options during the pandemic. It has a sweet sandbox, playground, and playhouses that the kids always adore. Feed the animals from a little bucket.

88. Northlandz

Bring your train lover to Northlandz to see the miles and miles of model trains and doll collection.

89. Red Bulls

Take the whole family to a Red Bulls soccer game in Harrison.

Visit the farm animals at Howell Living History Farm. Photo by William Doyle via Flickr

90. Howell Living History Farm

Learn about the past at Howell Living History Farm.

91. Pick a Christmas Tree

Toss the plastic tree and go cut down your own beauty on one of NJ's Christmas tree farms.

92. Pi Day 

Get your math fun on at Pi Day in Princeton.

93. Asbury Park Boardwalk

See the murals and famed boardwalk in Asbury Park.

Visit High Point State Park for a view of the tristate region. Photo by Jessica Delfino

94. High Point State Park

See three states from the top of the monument at High Point State Park.

95. Trampoline Park

Bounce it out at an NJ trampoline park.

96. Whale Watching

Go whale watching in Cape May.

97. iFly Paramus

Go skydiving indoors at iFly Paramus.

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.