Most New Yorkers can probably count the amount of times they’ve trekked across the river to New Jersey on one hand, but the Garden State has so many great places for families to enjoy some quality time together. From legendary beaches that have graced both the big and silver screens to classic food spots, here are some reasons why you should consider New Jersey the home of your next family vacation or road trip.
Enjoy Beaches And Boardwalks
From MTV’s infamous reality TV show “Jersey Shore” to the subject of some of Bruce Springsteen’s famous summer songs, New Jersey’s beaches are without a doubt their defining landmarks. Cape May is undoubtedly Jersey’s most popular beach, with gorgeous white sand and an adorable seaside town filled with dining, shopping, and bed and breakfasts. Here families can enjoy typical beach activities like boating, parasailing, and surfing, as well as other more unique activities like ghost tours, airplane rides, and local theater productions. Other notable beaches loved by locals are Bradley Beach, Sandy Hook, and Seaside Heights. If you and the family are looking for more than just beaches, make sure to visit some of the state’s notable boardwalks, including Jenkinson’s Family Amusement Boardwalk on Point Pleasant Beach and Wildwood, where you’ll find a classic boardwalk that looks like something out of the 1950’s and Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Parks, a beach side carnival that rivals Coney Island.
Explore Expansive Wild Life
There is way more to New Jersey’s nature scene than just some famous beaches. From fishing to hiking to biking, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors in the Garden State. Families who love the great outdoors will love exploring one of New Jersey’s many hiking trails like Schooley’s Mountain County Park, where you and the kids can hike past beautiful waterfalls, and Bearfort Mountain, where you can hike through 6 miles of forest trails and around the beautiful Surprise Lake. Stop by the Lakota Wolf Preserve and go on an educational wolf tour to see the endangered species in their natural habitat, go tubing down the Delaware River, or enjoy guided hikes, nature tours, and guided/self-guided paddling through the Pine Barrens with Pinelands Adventures.
Visit An Amusement Park
Once you’ve had just about enough of New Jersey’s natural wonders, bring the kids to one of the state’s many amusement parks for some thrill rides, carnival games, and family fun. New Jersey’s most popular amusement is Six Flags Great Adventure, possibly one of the franchise’s most famous theme parks, where older kids can ride Kingda Ka, one of the world’s tallest roller coasters at 456 feet high, the new Justice League: Battle for Metropolis 4-D thrill ride that is perfect for families, and the ever popular Fright Fest Halloween celebration that happens every October. Other notable amusement parks in the state are Mountain Creek, a water park and ski resort that is open all year round and features activities for all ages, including water rapids, lazy rivers, water slides, skiing and snow boarding trails, zip lining tours, and more. Families with smaller children should make sure to visit Storybook Land or The Land of Make Believe, two different fairy tale-themed amusement parks that are filled with fun activities for your little princess or pirate.
Stop Over In A Foodie City
New Jersey’s cities may not be ranked as high on the food cities of America list as places like Austin and New Orleans, but there are plenty of great meals to be had in the Garden State. Down in South Jersey, Cape May’s seaside eats rival that of some of New England’s most popular seafood spots. The Lobster House on Fisherman’s Wharf at Cape May Harbor is a shining example, constantly receiving raving reviews from patrons thanks to a winning combination of scenic views of Cape May Harbor from their outdoor cocktail bar, a vintage vibe, and their extensive menu of local seafood. For some wackier eats, stop by Country Pancake House in Ridgewood for some of the most delicious chocolate chip cornbread you will ever eat and a menu featuring close to 200 different kinds of pancakes–some too big to even fit on the table! Fort Lee is a town known for their authentic Korean food, with Aquarius being on of the town’s highest ranked restaurants (App.com says that Aquarius’ shrimp shumai are a must-try). Though it may be sacrilegious, you and the kids may want to try some of New Jersey’s pizza and compare it to NYC’s. It may surprise you which you like best! You may not be able to get a dollar slice from a corner shop, but if you stop by Jersey City (just outside of NYC and one of New Jersey’s highest ranked food cities), make sure to stop by Razza, an artisan pizza spot that prides themselves on serving up authentic Italian pies with a bit of local flavor like the Project Hazelnut pie, featuring fresh mozzarella, hazelnuts from Rutgers University, ricotta, and local honey.
Spend A Day Down On The Farm
There is no questioning that NYC has plenty of seasonal events for families to enjoy throughout the year, but you can really feel the shifting of the seasons at New Jersey’s farms and marketplaces. Visitors and locals can enjoy corn mazes and pumpkin patches in the fall, berry picking in the summer, holiday tree cutting in the winter, and plenty of fresh flowers in the spring. Demerest Farms in Hillsdale hosts events throughout the year for families, from movie nights to educational events, and is a great place to pick your own peaches, apples, and pumpkins. Melick’s Town Farm Cider Mill & Orchards in Oldwick is the ideal farm to visit in the fall, with hayrides, 50 acres of pumpkin patches and apple orchards, and more just an hour outside of Manhattan. Abma’s Farm is a North Jersey favorite in Wyckoff where families can enjoy petting zoos, pony rides, farm tours, hayrides and pumpkin picking, and an expansive greenhouse. For summer berry picking, B&B Farms in Egg Harbor City is perfect for families, featuring pick-your-own blueberries in the summer, pick-your-own African and ethnic crops from July to November, and more.
Eat Breakfast At A Classic Diner
New Jersey is known for many things, one of which is their classic 50’s era diners. Whether you stop by for breakfast or a late night bite, you can’t pass through the state without eating at one of these vintage spots. Every few highways stops you’ll run across a diner, and every county has their handful of local favorites. Notable diners include White Mana Diner in Jersey City, Americana Diner in East Windsor, and Tops Diner in Harrison (named the country’s best diner by Time Out). So what should you order when you get there? A typical egg and bacon breakfast is always a good place to start, and you can tell how great your diner is by the size of their pancakes. For a local delicacy, make sure to order some Taylor ham, otherwise known as a pork roll. These small discs of cured ham are salty, delicious, and beloved by locals–though, there is a fight over what their proper name is. North Jersey residents refer to it as Taylor ham, South Jersey residents call it the pork roll, and there is a serious turf war between both parts of the state over which name is correct. What’s a New Jersey breakfast without a little north vs. south sibling rivalry, right?