17 Great Picnic Spots in New Jersey for Families

Liberty State Park boasts picnic spots, a playground, riverfront paths, and stunning views of NYC. Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr
Liberty State Park boasts picnic spots, a playground, riverfront paths, and stunning views of NYC. Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr
5/7/24 - By Dore Duhaime

New Jersey is teeming with picnic spots that kids of all ages can enjoy, so get your baskets and blankets ready. From majestic views and wooded trails to tranquil lakes and shaded playgrounds, these parkland treasures are worth a visit. 

For even more warm-weather activities, check out our Spring Fun Guide.


Picnic Spots in North Jersey

1. Darlington County Park – Mahwah

Featuring three lakes, wooded picnic areas, a new playground, and rolling lawns, this park at the foot of the Ramapo Mountains is a winner. Two lakes with sandy beaches allow swimming from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and the third lake is designated for catch-and-release fishing. Basketball, tennis, and handball courts are also available. Open 10am-6pm.

2. Hacklebarney State Park – Long Valley

Rustic picnic tables shaded by hemlock trees dot the landscape of this rocky park, a favorite with hikers, anglers, and picnickers. A deep ravine carved out by the trout-filled Black River remains cool, even in summer, and the area is home to 100 species of birds and other wildlife, including bears, woodchucks, deer, and foxes. Charcoal grills are available at scenic picnic areas, and a small playground is located near the ravine. Open dawn to dusk.

3. High Point State Park – Sussex

Panoramic views of forests and farmland from the highest point in New Jersey, combined with lush trails and quiet picnic spots, make this spot a nature-loving family's dream. Picnic shelters, large-group rentals, a playground, a visitors' center, and concessions are all available at this stop along the Appalachian Trail. After taking in the view of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, try fishing, swimming, or boating in one of two lakes, or even overnight camping in designated areas (reservations required). Open 8am-8pm.

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kids in the water at Lewis Morris County Park
Go for a dip in Sunrise Lake at Lewis Morris County Park. Photo courtesy of Morris Parks Dept.

4. Lewis Morris County Park – Morris Township

Open lawns, shaded trails, and covered picnic areas with benches and grills abound in this 2,196-acre park. With 22 miles of walking, biking, and equestrian trails, plus swimming at Sunrise Lake Beach Club and a great playground, this park is a perfect family destination. And it's not too far from Jockey Hollow if you want to add some Revolutionary War history to your outing. Open sunrise to sunset.

5. Liberty State Park – Jersey City

Spread out your blanket and take in views of the Hudson River, New York skyline, and of course, the Statue of Liberty. The park's flat, riverfront paths are ideal for strollers and beginning bike riders. Don't miss Empty Sky, New Jersey's powerful September 11 Memorial. For even more adventure, you can schedule a canoe or kayak ride on the Hudson. Check out our Liberty State Park favorites. Open daily 6am-10pm.

6. Ringwood State Park – Ringwood

Home to the state botanical garden and sweeping views of the Ramapo Mountains, this Northern Jersey gem also has Shepherd Lake, a 74-acre, spring-fed lake where swimming, boating, and fishing are permitted Memorial Day through Labor Day. Picnic tables and grills are also available. Outdoor walking tours of the historic Ringwood Manor are offered on select weekends for FREE (advance registration required). Park entrance is free. Open daily, 8am-6pm.

7. South Mountain Reservation – West Orange, Maplewood, Millburn

Beyond the Turtle Back Zoo, this 2,112-acre Essex County Park also has 19 miles of hiking trails and 10 picnic areas. The reservation is home to Washington Rock Lookout historic site and a hidden, 25-foot waterfall. Look for picnic areas at Mayapple Hill, Turtle Back Rock, Oakdale, Tulip Springs, Shady Nook, Bramhall Terrace, and Summit Field. The recreation center in West Orange includes the zoo, mini golf, Treetop Adventure Course, an ice arena, paddleboat rentals, and a playground. Check out our list of South Mountain highlights. Hours are 8:30am-4:30pm.

8. Stokes State Forest – Branchville

Part of the Appalachian Trail, Stokes offers two large picnic areas at Stony Lake and Kittle Field, with shelters that can be reserved in advance for large groups. If your young hikers cannot make it up the steep trail to the top of Sunrise Mountain, you can drive up and still enjoy breathtaking views. The Kittle Field area has playgrounds and baseball fields, while Stony Lake has plenty of picnic tables and grills, as well as newly added horseshoe pits. Camping is also permitted. Open daily, sunrise to sunset.

9. Van Saun County Park – Paramus

Tucked away not far from North Jersey's busiest highways (Routes 4, 17, and the GSP), this family favorite cannot be beat for easy access to summer fun. With 146 acres of green space featuring walking trails, picnic areas, a pond, a flower garden, a zoo, a train ride, a playground, and a carousel, Van Saun has something for everyone in the family. Check out our top picks at Van Saun Park. Hours are 10am-4:30pm.

RELATEDGreat Day Trips to New Jersey State Parks and Forests

Ross Dock Picnic Area in the Palisades.
Enjoy a gorgeous view of the bridge at Carpenter's Grove at the Ross Dock Picnic Area in the Palisades. Photo by Anthony Taronto for the park

10. Palisades Interstate Park – Englewood, Alpine, Fort Lee

Hugging the eastern edge of New Jersey along the Hudson River, this ribbon of parkland features picnic areas, boat basins, nature and wildlife lookouts, miles of trails, and historic sites. There are access ramps to the Hudson for crabbing, fishing, and personal canoes and kayaks. Four large picnic areas draw visitors from across North Jersey. Don't miss our post on the highlights of Palisades Interstate Park. Operating hours and parking fees vary within the park; check the website for details.

Picnic Spots in Central Jersey

11. Princeton – Various Princeton Locations

Princeton is an excellent destination for a picnic lunch, and there are a few locations you could choose from. If your family is filled with history buffs, I would suggest having your picnic at Princeton Battlefield State Park. If your family is outdoorsy and would enjoy a walk along a scenic canal, then head to D & R Canal State Park. The actual Princeton University Campus is also the perfect spot for a picnic. Not only is it a beautiful campus, but there are interesting sculptures all around and the Department of Geosciences has a T-Rex skeleton among other interesting fossils, skeletons and minerals on display. While on the campus stop in and visit the Cotsen Children's Library. My final Princeton picnic spot suggestion is Eleanor Marquand Forsyth Playground, which is a lovely park with a playground and a giant sandbox filled with tons of toys. And if you are looking for other fun things to do in Princeton with kids, check out our review.

12. Rutgers Gardens – New Brunswick

Close to Cook Campus is the beautiful Rutgers Gardens, a perfect spot for a picnic. There is a bamboo forest with a stream running through it waiting to be explored, lots of pretty flowers, and green grass to put a blanket down on. And right there is the last remaining old-growth forest in New Jersey, Helyar Woods, where you can take a hike along the Raritan River and enjoy the scenery. My favorite spot to walk to in the woods is the evergreen grove. And while you are there the kids might like a quick trip to Cook Campus where there is a farm right on the campus with horses, cows, sheep, goats, and pigs. 

13. Sayen House and Gardens – Hamilton

This gorgeous garden is filled with plants from around the world. You can enjoy the walking trails, ponds, and have your picnic in an idyllic gazebo. 

Picnic Spots in South Jersey

14. Red Bank Battlefield – National Park

This historic park in Gloucester County is located on the Delaware River and played a crucial role in the Revolutionary War. For those interested in the history, there are tours and programs offered throughout the year. For those looking to enjoy a fun family picnic on the water with a view of Philadelphia, there are bathrooms, covered pavilions with picnic benches, multiple playgrounds, and a butterfly house!

15. Cape May Point State Park – Cape May

This is one of the best picnic spots for bird-watching families as it is on a migratory route. This park has 244 acres of meadow, ponds, forest, dunes and beaches. But best of all, you can enjoy your picnic with a view of the picturesque Cape May Lighthouse. For history lovers, this park was once a WWII military base and still has a gun battery and fire control tower. 

16. Smithville Park – Eastampton

Located in Burlington County, this historic town was a model of industry known for its high-quality woodworking machinery. Now, you can find the historic Smithville mansion and gardens located on a 22-acre lake, which has a floating trail over it. At Smithville Lake you can enjoy hiking, fishing, boating, and picnicking. There is also the Smith's Wood Area that includes picnic pavilions with grills, bathrooms, a playground, hiking trails and a butterfly garden. 

17. Jake's Place – Cherry Hill

For a fun picnic location, check out Jake's Place in Camden County. This large, exciting, all-inclusive playground also has bathrooms and a covered pavilion with picnic tables. On location is a paved path, a baseball field, soccer fields, an outdoor basketball court, outdoor workout equipment, and a dog park. Located just beyond the playground is the historic Croft Farm, once a mill built on the waterway, and now used to host events and indoor programs. In the yard with a view of the barn and the charming, old house is an ideal location to lay out a blanket and enjoy a picnic. Just beyond Croft Farm are Croft Farm Trails, There is more than an acre of wooded trails around Evans Pond. You can find a map of the trails here

This article was first published in 2013 and has since been updated.

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