Don’t automatically write-off New Jersey as the red-headed stepchild of New York. The Garden State has a surprisingly diverse range of world-class attractions that run from charming colonial-era towns to some of the east coast’s best beaches. Gamble and party in Atlantic City, relax in Victorian tranquility on the sea at Cape May or ramble through ancient forests in the Pine Barrens. New Jersey may not have big name museums or luxury shopping districts, but it does have historical attractions and gorgeous natural scenery to keep your interest.
This 150-year old seaside resort was reborn as the east coast’s hub of casino gambling and entertainment in the 1970s. The result is a surprisingly fun beach town, second only to Las Vegas in terms of amenities and entertainment. Its four-mile long boardwalk is the highlight with loads of shops, food vendors, attractions, and an amusement park. Atlantic City offers the rare pleasure of playing on the beach by day and hitting the casinos all night for as much partying as you can handle.
Address: Coastal New Jersey
Pinelands National Preserve
The Pine Barrens cover one-third of New Jersey, offering over one million acres of undeveloped nature to enjoy. This is the place for hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, and horseback riding. Visitors can camp at one of the many grounds or book a room in border towns like Batsto Village, Hammonton or Cherry Hill. The pine forests and cedar swamps provide unique hiking environments, while several mellow rivers offer ideal boating conditions.
Address: Southern New Jersey
The crown jewel of the Jersey Shore is Cape May, a historic seaside resort town dating back to the 1800s and boasting an enchanting Victorian atmosphere. It oozes romance and tranquility, even at the peak of summer. From the pedestrian Washington Street Mall to the soft sands of Sunset Beach, Cape May has it all, which is why it’s one of New Jersey’s top tourist destinations. See the town by trolley or horse and buggy, then experience an authentic Victorian house at the Emlen Physick Estate. Cape May isn’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny.
Address: South Coastal New Jersey
One of America’s oldest and coolest university towns, Princeton has plenty of history behind it to match the student energy that abounds. The town core is a true charmer, while the surrounding countryside is as pastoral as it gets in New Jersey. Soak in the heady academia of the campus and enjoy the relaxed taverns, cafés and shops lining the historic downtown district before brushing up on your Revolutionary War knowledge at the Princeton Battlefield State Park, a turning point in the American Revolution.
Address: Central New Jersey
New Jersey is one of America’s oldest states, and its countryside is littered with colonial-era towns and hamlets that scream out for a multi-day road trip. Founded in 1705 along the banks of the Delaware River, Lambertville is one of the gems. Its historic downtown is filled with nicely restored Federal and Victorian homes and businesses, many of which local craftspeople and artists live in. The town is one of the best shopping spots in New Jersey, especially for antiques and art. The 175-year old Delaware & Raritan Canal towpath runs through town, offering an ideal place for walks and biking.
Address: Central New Jersey
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Many would argue that the Delaware Water Gap is New Jersey’s most scenic outdoor recreation site. Straddling the Appalachian Mountains and 40 miles off the Delaware River, the park offers an incredible array of options for hiking, biking, boating, and fishing. With 70,000 acres, there are dozens of worthy natural highlights such as waterfalls, ridgeline viewpoints and the 1,000-foot deep Water Gap canyon itself.
Address: 1978 River Road, Bushkill, PA 18324
Six Flags Great Adventure
America’s largest seasonal theme park defines the concept of fun for children and adults alike. It’s a combination amusement park, water park and wildlife safari so you are guaranteed to find something engaging. Live performances and over 100 thrill rides including the planet’s highest roller coaster are on hand. If you're looking to get wet, Hurricane Harbor water park is also one of the world’s largest, while Wild Safari, a 350-acre preserve boasts the largest drive-through safari adventure outside of Africa.
Address: Route 537, Jackson, NJ 08527