New Jersey may be the less-attractive cousin to the Big Apple, but we have so much to offer families. Here’s a fun guide to 16 adventures that New Jersey offers!
by Kimberly Pangaro
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Most people think of New Jersey as New York City’s less-fun alternative, but New Jersey has a lot to offer families that may not be known. Families around the world should consider a visit to New Jersey if they’re looking for something less crowded than New York City.
In my great state, you can find mountainous terrains for some truly amazing hikes, farms with locally grown fruits and veggies to pick, petting farms to interact with animals, sky-high rollercoasters to ride, thrilling water parks, snowboarding and skiing, kids-only adventures, science museums, underground mines, gardens, lakes, and so much more! New Jersey is a truly wondrous place to visit because you can literally find any activity under the sun all in one state!
So before you rule out a visit to the Garden State, read this article and check out some of the amazing adventures listed!
#1 Mill’s Reservation – Montclair & Cedar Grove
This is a great hiking trail that offers easy-to-moderate hikes. Some of the terrain is flat and perfect for people with breathing issues or physical injuries. Other parts of the reservation are more difficult to traverse if you’re not a big hiker or you have little ones in tow. If you’re lucky enough to hike to the top, you will be met with a fantastic view of the skyline and will even get to see some hawks fly by your head! It’s a stunning hike with plenty of wildlife to see along the way. The deer are not even shy!
#2 Sterling Hill Mine
This is a pretty famous Zinc mine and yet, most families in New Jersey have never visited Sterling Hill Mine. It’s a historic mine that allows visitors to take a guided tour of the mine, check out vintage mining machinery, and to mine for minerals. The experience is completely awe-inspiring because you’re not just checking out rocks, gems, and minerals, you are also diving deep into a mine. The tour is about two hours long, requires a lot of walking, and can be quite chilly as the inside temperature is around 56 degrees. So be sure to bring plenty of water, your walking shoes, and a jacket.
#3 Sandy Hook Beach Abandoned World War II Site
Sandy Hook beach has a very historical importance to the Revolutionary War all the way through to the end of the World War II effort. It housed the nation’s defense system until it was decommissioned in 1974. What’s left is a small U.S. Coast Guard base and the original yellow-brick buildings that were built prior to World War I. When you visit here, you’ll get an eery sense like you’re living in history. Further than that, if you’re a history or military buff, you’ll get to see and visit some of the abandoned structures and buildings.
#4 Food Tour Through Hoboken
Every family is different. Some like adventures that involve theme parks or sports, while others enjoy trying new foods. And there’s no better place to walk around and do a food tour than Hoboken! On almost every corner (including on the more residential side), you’ll find cute and quaint restaurants/pubs that offer food and they’re mostly kid-friendly. My favorite to stop with the kiddos is Elysian Cafe because they have a great menu, cool historic vibes, is close to the waterfront and not far from ice cream!
#5 Skyland Manor Botanical Gardens
Every Mother’s Day, my husband and daughters take me to the Botanical Gardens at Skyland Manor. The state of beauty is so stunning and serene, that I simply sit on a bench and enjoy the breeze while watching the flowers sway back and forth. It is the most amazing walk-through garden I’ve ever visited, and the best part is that it is hardly ever packed! That means you can walk around peacefully and let the kids run around safely. It’s an unbelievable experience! Bonus tip: sometimes you may even catch Black Bears walking through so be careful.
#6 Shepherd Lake Picnic Area
I love coming here! They have permanent charcoal grills on-site, canoe/kayak rentals, a sand beach, and swimming in the summer months! And right next to it are a few hiking trails – making this location a prime spot to bring the kiddos! Plus, you can come here in the fall, spring, and winter to enjoy the surrounding tranquility. However, in the summer months after Memorial Day, you’ll need to come here early on weekends because the guards close off access after a certain point in the day due to capacity limitations. But it is worth waking up early to go and enjoy. So, make sure you do.
#7 Thunder Mountain Skeet Shooting
This New Jersey adventure is for those who enjoy a little something out of the ordinary. While this exciting option does come with hazardous requirements, such as shooting a shotgun, you really need to make sure that your kids are ready age-wise and mentality-wise.
With that said, let me just say that if and when you and the kids are ready, skeet shooting is a fun experience for the whole family. In a nutshell, you get to yell “PULL” and a frisbee-looking clay product gets slung into the air. Your job is to aim the shotgun at the clay and then pull the trigger in hopes of destroying the clay. It’s really fun and gets everyone laughing while competing, so be sure to add Thunder Mountain Trap & Skeet Shooting to your list of “Must Try”.
#8 Liberty Science Center
The Liberty Science Center is an interactive science and learning museum. It hosts an array of exhibits and installations that allows kids to touch, hear, and see everything! This is literally a kid’s fantasy come to life. More than that, everything in this museum will teach kids something completely new in an exciting way. Parents love it because their kids get to run around learning and they don’t have to yell, “Don’t touch that!” the entire time. It’s a win-win!!
When the venue has their full schedule in swing, you can visit and witness some of the greatest artists performing here. Rockstars like Ozzy Osbourne and Train have performed here. Plus, they often have kid-oriented shows like Kidz Bop and the Holiday Light Show. You can visit their site to check out upcoming events or you can visit Live Nation as their site often lists events at PNC Bank Arts Center.
#10 Bergen Performing Arts Center
Another fantastic option when you’re looking for live shows to bring the whole family too, the Bergen Performing Arts Center has a variety of shows all year round! During the holidays, be sure to check their schedule because you will find plays and performances the kids can really enjoy! And the prices are extremely affordable compared to heading into the Big Apple for similar performances.
#11 Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park
This is a place full of fun! They have rides, characters, character-themed products, and more! It doesn’t matter how old you are, when you visit this place, you’ll have the time of your life! The rides are totally fun and unique and offer thrills for every age. Honestly, if you haven’t visited here yet, you really need to. Just be sure to visit their website to get tickets, because they are still requiring timed entry tickets to be purchased.
#13 Adventure Aquarium
Most kids love the ocean and they’re extremely curious as to what creatures live inside of it. With that said, the Adventure Aquarium in Camden is one of the largest in the Tri-State area. I would know, I’ve been to almost all of them. When you buy tickets to experience this adventure, make sure you add-on some of the other experiences like feedings and handling, because your kids will really get a kick out of doing these! Again, capacity is limited so you will need to visit their site to buy tickets for specific time frames.
#14 Doyle’s Farm
If you never got to visit a farm as a kid, you definitely missed out! And because of Covid-19, so did our little ones! This experience is a life-changing one for kids and adults alike. Doyle’s Farm offers private tours, parties, scout tours, and school trips. When you visit, you’ll get to do different activities depending on the season, but you can expect to collect chicken eggs, bottle feed a lamb, sheep shearing, goat milking, and more.
#15 Pick Your Own Farm
A pick your own farm lets you pick your own fruits and vegetables, depending on the season of course. Each season brings different varieties to pick from. Why this is a home-run with kids is because they get to run around touching everything their eyes can see and trying it all on the spot. It’s literally a parent’s nightmare on steroids without all of the terrible things that can go wrong. My favorite place to bring the kids to – Hallock’s U-Pick Farm!
#16 Snowboarding, Skiing, & Snow Tubing
When you’re in New Jersey, the winter months can feel awfully lonely and boring, but only if you don’t know what to do. That’s why every winter season, my family and I purchase season passes to Campgaw Mountain – it’s the perfect place to bring teenagers, adults, and little ones and that’s because they have snow tubing, skiing, and snowboarding all at one place! It’s a ton of fun when we go and if you get the season passes, you’ll get tons of perks like food and beverage discounts. So, be sure to check it out.
Regardless of where you live, try to remember that New Jersey has so much to offer families in the way of fun, memories, and adventure! So, be sure to schedule a visit to this amazing place!!