New Jersey has developed a misleading reputation lately thanks to television programs such as The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Jersey Shore.
But despite “McMansions” and the party destinations, the state has many beautiful natural and historic parks as well as world-class history and art museums.
The state may be in the shadow of New York in terms of tourism but it should not be written off and has many sites to rival those of the Big Apple.
It is even possible (and recommended) to visit two of New York’s most popular attractions from New Jersey: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Explore the cities and experience life on the Shore but also take the exit off the freeway and sample New Jersey farm life and natural beauty.
Here is our list of the best things to do in New Jersey and, as always, it combines a mix of action, adventure and relaxation to provide the ultimate companion to tourism in the State of New Jersey:
1. Cape May
Cape May earned its reputation as a trendy and attractive resort town in the 18th century as it was increasingly visited by the wealthy.
Situated on Delaware Bay, the town’s beaches, historic lighthouse, and charming homes in Victorian style attract many tourists every year.
Six different US presidents have also chosen the town for the location of their holiday homes in the past.
One of the best examples of the homes of Cape May is the Emlen Physick Estate, which is currently used as a museum, allowing guests to explore the buildings 18 extravagant rooms.
2. Atlantic City/The Boardwalk
Another popular and beautiful resort town in New Jersey is Atlantic City, home of the famous Boardwalk.
The boardwalk was built in 1870 and is a promenade with various seaside attractions including a number of piers and hotels.
The Boardwalk is four miles long, which may seem like a daunting distance for a seaside walk however bike rentals are widely available and make for a great way to see the area.
3. Thomas Edison National Historical Park
This Historic National Park is the site of the former laboratory and home of Thomas Edison.
Within these two buildings, Thomas Edison experimented and invented objects such as the first ever batteries and primitive movie cameras and sound recording devices.
Visits to the park allow an up close examination of the labs as well as original objects used by Edison himself.
The home of Edison is a 29-room mansion and has been preserved excellently. Tickets for tours of the mansion are limited and should be booked in advance.
The name of Princeton is widely recognized due to the reputation and achievements of its university and research programs.
The University was founded in 1756 and consists of an impressive 1,600 acres worth of grounds.
The tours of the grounds, which last around one hour, are run by students of the university and are very informative and entertaining.
5. Battlefield State Park
Also, located in the town of Princeton is the historic site of Battlefield State Park.
The site encompasses an area of 200 acres and was the location of the Battle of Princeton, which marked George Washington’s victory over the British in 1777.
Other points of interest on the site are the Clarke House Museum, used from 1772 as a hospital for injured troops and the Ionic Colonnade which is a memorial honoring soldiers from both Britain and America.
6. Grounds for Sculpture
The Grounds For Sculpture in Trenton is one of the most popular art attractions in the state of New Jersey.
It was founded in 1992 as a way of appreciating sculptures from the contemporary art scene and has expanded over the years to reach its current size of 42 acres.
The park, which can be found in the town of Hamilton, is home to a wide rang of sculptures including whopping works from Seward Johnson and other artists from the United States.
The grounds of the park itself are also well worth a look around and feature beautiful landscaping of flowers and trees.
7. Delaware Water Gap
Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area is situated on the state borders of Pennsylvania and New Jersey and covers and immense area of over 70,000 acres.
The area includes an impressive 40 mile chunk of the Delaware River which serves as a protected recreational area and has two visitor centers which both offer information on the history, geography and recreation in the area.
The area is possibly the best place in the state to enjoy outdoor pursuits such as kayaking, fishing, natural swimming and camping.
8. Liberty State Park
It may surprise many visitors to New Jersey that seeing the Statue of Liberty is on a list of the top 25 things to do in New Jersey but a trip to Liberty State Park offers the opportunity to do just that.
The park commands excellent views of Ellis Island (home to the famous aforementioned statue) as well as Liberty Island and Upper New York Bay.
Also within the state park are Communipaw Cove, a salt marsh nature reserve, and the touching “Empty Sky” memorial, which pays respects to the victims of 9/11 who were from or had ties with the state of New Jersey.
9. Paterson Great Falls
The Paterson Great Falls are one the most recently established national parks in the United States and are home to an array of impressive waterfalls and natural scenery.
Exploring the parks is great fun and several viewpoints and differing perspectives of the falls are including the epic bridge near the Falls Gorge.
Interesting information regarding the history of the area can be obtained from the nearby Paterson Museum.
10. USS New Jersey
This floating behemoth is now a museum and can be found moored peacefully on the Delaware River.
Visits to the ship include guided tours and allow viewing of many exhibits, artifacts and documents relating to the vessel’s eventful history.
The ship was first launched in 1942, taking part in the conflict of World War 2 and later, wars in the Middle East.
For a truly memorable and unique experience, it is now possible to take an evening tour or even stay aboard the ship overnight.
11. The Adventure Aquarium
This aquarium in Camden, situated on the Delaware River, is perfect for families visiting New Jersey.
The aquarium is made up of around 2 million gallows of H2O and houses an impressive variety of 8,500 marine creatures.
The aquarium is a leader in marine biology education and has creatures as varied as sharks and hippos.
12. High Point State Park
At the center of this popular New Jersey natural attraction is the High Point Monument, a memorial erected in 1930 paying respect to the US participants in the First World War.
The park covers an expansive 16,000 acres and has many trails, all of which are well marked and maintained.
Other outdoor pursuits are available here, with the most popular being fishing, natural swimming and camping.
13. The Liberty Science Center
Located within the Liberty State Park, the Science Center is a must for children visiting New Jersey.
It is interactive education at its best and consists of many exciting hands-on displays and exhibits, which explore various scientific and technological areas, including robotics and the environment.
Impressively, the center is also home to the largest IMAX theatre in the whole world.
14. Six Flags Great Adventure
Located in Jackson, this theme park serves as a popular attraction for residents of both New Jersey and New York as well as visitors to the two states.
The park has rides to suit all ages and levels of daring, as you would expect from a Six Flags park.
The site is also home to the water-park Hurricane Harbor which has an impressive collection of flumes and water thrill rides.
The park has plenty of live entertainment throughout the season and copious places to eat and quench your thirst.
15. Lucy the Elephant
In Margate it is possible to view an unusual 65-foot high wooden elephant.
Lucy is a National Historic Monument and was built to attract buyers to the area in 1881 and has served several other purposes during its lifetime including operating as a hotel.
The building is six stories high and 134 years old. Due to Lucy’s age she is currently being given a makeover although tours through the building are still operated daily.
16. Ellis Island
Ellis Island is located in the port of both New York and New Jersey.
It is a place with a lot of history and served as the main immigration office in New York for 50 years beginning in 1892. It processed 12,000 people each day.
Visitors to the island will get to experience what it was like to be an immigrant all those years ago thanks to the Immigration Museum on the island.
Self guided tours of the island are popular and audio guides to accompany are well worth the extra cash.
17. Newark Museum of Art
The Newark Museum of Art is the largest museum in the state and is found in Newark, Essex County.
The impressive collection here shows contemporary and past art from all over the world including American art as well as art from Asia, Africa and Europe.
18. Montclair Art Museum
Montclair art museum, situated in Montclair, opened in 1914 and is now home to an impressive collection of more than 12,000 sculptures, paintings and photographs.
The museum exhibits are mainly dedicated to American and Native American arts and therefore the museum provides a good insight into the history of art within the United States.
The museum hosts events such as live music throughout the year and the website is a good place to learn more prior to visiting.
19. Monmouth Battlefield State Park
Straddling the border between Freehold Township and Manalapan, this state park covers an area of just under 3,000 acres.
The site hosted one of the largest battles of the American Civil War with re-enactments being staged in the summer.
The park is also perfect for hiking and has other points of interest such as a restored farmhouse from the Revolutionary War.
20. Sterling Hill Mining Museum
Found in Ogdensburg, where Iron and Zinc mining was common in years gone by, this museum highlights the working and living conditions of the miners in the area.
Mine tours are available and allow exploration of the industrial labyrinth as well as highlighting the minerals that can be found under the earth here.
21. Trump Taj Mahal
Owned by Trump Entertainment Resorts, this casino and Spa is one of the most famous in Atlantic City.
It offers restaurants, nightlife and one of the cities best casino floors.
This is certainly not a destination for travelers on a tight budget.
22. Space Farms Zoo and Museum
A zoo with a difference. The Space Farms Zoo and Museum, found in Wantage Township, has an impressive collection of over 50,000 objects and artifacts relating to farms, farm vehicles and farm tools.
The zoo holds 500 animals of 100 different species and focuses on North American animals.
23. Howell Living History Farm
This unique and entertaining family attraction is an outdoors living museum focusing on farm life in New Jersey.
The museum is located in Lambertville and covers an area of 130 acres.
It is a great place to be swept away and experience past life in the state.
24. Turtle Back Zoo
Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange was voted best zoo in the State recently and features enclosures and exhibits themed for animals from all over the world. Like many zoos, Turtle Back is committed to conservation and research.
The zoo also features a treetop adventure course.