There is this misconception of New Jersey by many that there’s not much to do and it’s really not worth crossing the Hudson River for it. This misleading reputation oftentimes goes back to TV-Shows like the Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jersey Shore, and a few others.
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Despite this false information, it’s a beautiful state that has many really fun things to do in New Jersey. From beautiful beaches and state parks to world-class history, shopping malls, and amusement parks, the Garden State offers so much for you to explore. New Jersey won’t have as many tourists as New York, but there are a few things to do in New Jersey you should have on your list next time you’re around.
Is New Jersey worth visiting? There are many reasons why visiting New Jersey is a good idea and that’s not only because you can enjoy tax-free shopping on clothes and shoes! Here’s our guide to all the things to do in New Jersey:
Getting to New Jersey
From NYC, the best way to get to New Jersey is by car. You can either cross the George Washington Bridge or take either the Lincoln or Holland Tunnel. From there, follow your GPS in order to take the correct highways to your destination. Public transportation is possible as well. The PATH trains, NJ Transit or the ferry takes you from NYC to NJ in no time. If you want to travel within the Garden State check the NJ Transit website for directions, take an uber or consider renting a car.
What’s the number one attraction in New Jersey?
Top 5 things to do in New Jersey
Island Beach State Park
Island Beach State Park is one of New Jersey’s last significant remnants of a barrier island ecosystem. It used to exist along much of the coast and is also one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier beaches on the north Atlantic coast. The entire park is incredibly beautiful and worth the trip. From all the things to do at the Jersey Shore, this is probably my favorite.
Asbury Park Boardwalk
From the 70s to 2000s Asbury Park was experiencing some rough times but it used to be the go-to spot for the upper class who came from out of town. You can still see the ghosts from the past in many of its remaining structures that are still in use today. The Convention Hall located on the boardwalk is home to the Paramount Theater which today attracts people with its unique shops, fancy restaurants, and great events during the summer. The old Casino is an excellent authentic reminder of the “old” Asbury Park. Today Asbury Park is a funky, gentrifying, up and coming town.
The Boardwalk itself is a must-do in Asbury Park as well. Stroll along the coast, have a drink at one of the many restaurants and bars, get your hand palm read and enjoy some delicious ice cream.
Six Flag Great Adventure
Six Flags Great Adventure is the world’s largest theme park with world-class coasters, Safari Off Road Adventure, three kids’ areas and events like Fright Fest and Holiday in the Park and it is located in Jackson New Jersey, near the Jersey Shore. Next door, Hurricane Harbor water park features 25 thrill slides, massive wave pool, lazy river and water play areas.
The 260-acre theme park, the largest of the three, has 10 themed sections offering a total of more than 50 rides, shows, and attractions. We love going to Six Flags Great Adventure at least once a year during the summer time. If you’re visiting New Jersey and have the time to spend a day at Six Flags, you should visit the amusement park for sure.
Known as hotspot for the wealthy in the 18th century, Cape May earned its reputation as a trendy and attractive resort town. The many attractions of Cape May, at the southernmost tip of New Jersey on Delaware Bay, were largely discovered by the the same people during the 18th and 19th centuries. Cape May was so popular what six US presidents spent their summer vacation there. Today it attracts tourist with fine beaches, the Cape May Point Lighthouse (built in 1859), and its many beautiful Victorian-style holiday homes.
A must-go is the Emlen Physick Estate which is now a museum. The 18-room mansion was built in 1879 and is a great example of the American Stick Style of architecture. While in Cape May, you can also hop on the Yankee, an 80-foot-tall schooner offering a variety of harbor tours, as well as dolphin and whale-sighting cruises.
Liberty State Park
Besides all the urban vibes in Jersey City, there is a huge green space that most New York City visitors don’t know about. Liberty State Park offers by far the most stunning views of the Lower Manhattan skyline and Lady Liberty. The Statue of Liberty is only 2,000 feet away. It sounds like a perfect shot, doesn’t it? To get there take the Light Rail, or a city bike, since walking might be a little bit too far.
However, there is more to see at Liberty State Park than just the NYC skyline. Check out the Liberty Science Centerwhich offers hundreds of exhibitions in 12 galleries. The IMAX Dome Theater is the largest in the nation. If you’re wondering why there is this old Railroad Terminal inside the park, it’s the Central Railroad Terminal of New Jerseywhich is part of the rich history of Jersey City.
From 1892 through 1954, the terminal was part of the immigration of northern, southern and eastern Europeans, among others, into the United States. From here they left into their new homes all over the United States via trains.
Map for New Jersey
Shopping in New Jersey
Overall there are 45 shopping centers and malls all over the state of New Jersey. With many large malls, shopping in New Jersey is a lot of fun. The best malls in New Jersey oftentimes offer hundreds of different stores with great discounts in an excellent shopping environment. With luxury shops, fine dining and staggering square footage most malls in New Jersey I’m recommending are easily accessible from New York City and very popular for tourists as well.
In 2020 the American Dream Mall will celebrate its opening. It will be the largest mall in New Jersey featuring a theme park, ice rink, water park, and indoor ski center in addition to over 450 shops.
- American Dream Meadowlands (opening in 2020)
- Westfield Garden State Plaza
- Freehold Raceway Mall
- Woodbridge Center
- Jersey Gardens
- Willowbrook Mall
Is shopping in New Jersey tax-free?
New Jersey has a 6.625% state sales tax, which was cut in steps from the previous rate of 7%. Furthermore, New Jersey does not charge sales tax on most unprepared foods, household paper products, medicine, and clothing. Remember, in New York, any clothing item that costs more than $110 is subject to NY sales tax of 8.875%.
In New Jersey, on the other hand, you enjoy tax-free shopping on clothes and shoes! For those of you who plan to spend some serious cash shopping during their stay will save a tremendous amount of money by simply crossing the river to New Jersey.
More really fun things to do in New Jersey
Besides my favorite 5 things to do in New Jersey, there is so much more to explore in the Garden State. What else is popular in New Jersey? What I personally love about New Jersey is that the state offers a wide variety of activities, attractions, and also blows you away with many historical sites. There’s an adventure waiting for you where ever you go to in the Garden State.
Spend a day (and night) in Hoboken
Just across the Hudson River, you’ll find a beautiful town called Hoboken. In case you didn’t know, Frank Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. It is also the birthplace of modern-day baseball and the site of Stevens Institute of Technology. For the locals and international visitors, Hoboken is vibrant and the go-to spot to go out at night, also Hoboken is known for its various, unique restaurants and its bars. Believe it or not even New Yorkers come to Hoboken to party.
It is not a secret that Hoboken is not only home to the best parties in the area, but it is indeed also very family-friendly. Lots of young families found their homes in this beautiful area, settled down, while still being very close to the city. Parks, playgrounds, outdoor activities plus an interesting restaurant scene make Hoboken so attractive in the long run.
Visit Great Falls
Check out Liberty Science Center
Located inside Liberty State Park in Jersey City, Liberty Science Center is a fun interactive science museum that offers numerous fascinating hands-on exhibits and displays relating to science and technology.
Make sure to check out the planetarium where you can watch shows that explore the night sky and outer space. At the 3D theatre, visitors can enjoy films about science, nature, and technology. As one of my favorite things to do in New Jersey, I can highly recommend the museum to families as well. Children love the many educational presentations, light shows, animal encounters, and many more highlights.
Spend the day at Sandy Hook
A friend of mine goes fishing at Sandy Hook almost every weekend throughout the year. Sandy Hook is a beautiful state park beach, that is 7 miles long and is located at the northern end of the Jersey Shore. Take the ferry from Wall Street to Sandy Hook in less than an hour and spend the day surrounded by nature. Check out the impressive lighthouse and history as a military base.
Go on an adventure at the Delaware Water Gap
One of the things to do in New Jersey at the Delaware Water Gap is tubing along the Delaware River. Sitting at the border New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Delaware River is the site of the best river tubing in the area. You can rent equipment at a few places in the area. One of my recommendations is the Delaware River Tubing company in Milford. Stay for lunch at Famous River Hot Dog Man, a popular riverboat snack bar.
You’re not into tubing? How about hiking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, and camping? The 70,000 acres large Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area includes an impressive 40-mile long stretch of the Delaware River along the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. You can enter the recreation are from different points. The New Jersey site allows visitors to enter at the Millbrook Village, a recreation of a 19th-century community with displays of traditional crafts; and the Kittatinny Point Visitor Center which offers a lot of exhibits, amazing views, and an access point for the popular Appalachian Trail.
Stay for the weekend at the Jersey Shore
The Jersey Shore is the go-to spot in the summer. Endless beaches, boardwalks such as the Seaside Heights boardwalk, great restaurants, nature, bars, and clubs, the Jersey Shore has it all. Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it down the shore. Belmar is known for its nightlife, Asbury offers great bars and authentic local restaurants and then there are all the beautiful beaches such as the Island Beach State Park or Mantoloking.
If you’re looking for a little bit of history, you should go and see a concert at The Stone Pony in Asbury. While visiting Asbury Park, the Stone Pony is a must-go if you’re into live music and indie artists. This legendary Asbury Park music venue is best known for launching Bruce Springsteen’s music career. The best time to see a concert at the Stone Pony in Asbury is during the summer. The venue always sets up an outdoor concert stage by the beach.
Many hotels down the shore are worth staying at. Locations like Asbury or Long Branch have excellent hotels for those who like to come for the weekend. Check out our full guide for the best things to do at the Jersey Shore.
Besides Hoboken, there is another town worth visiting that should be high on your list of things to do in New Jersey – Jersey City, located across Lower Manhattan.
Jersey City is full of great restaurants, bars and will amaze you with stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. Many tourists can find a great deal on a hotel in Jersey City. There is a vibrant community of people that makes this city in New Jersey one of the most attractive places to live in. Jersey City is a melting pot of cultures and people that you have to experience while visiting New Jersey. If you’re in the city, hop on the ferry or the PATH. It takes you less than 5 minutes to get there.
Go apple picking
If you go to the western and southern part of the Garden State you’ll find lots of farms and apple orchards. During the fall, one of my favorite things to do in New Jersey is going apple and pumpkin picking. My go-to spots are Melick’s Town Farm, Demarest Farms, and Mackey’s Orchard. September will be the best time to plan your apple picking adventure in New Jersey.
Take as much cider donuts and apple pie to go while you’re there. It will probably the best you’ll ever have so far.
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