12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in New Jersey
Although one of the smallest US states, New Jersey is home to many first-rate tourist attractions. From national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty to fine museums and historical sites, New Jersey is a state that is well worth taking time to explore. A good place to start is along the state's Atlantic Coast, using any one of its quaint harbor towns or resorts - even the entertainment Mecca of Atlantic City - as a jumping off point. It's also a good base from which to explore New York, with excellent public transit and accommodation options.
1 Atlantic City and The Boardwalk
One of the most popular coastal resort towns on the Northeastern Coast of the US, Atlantic City is best known for its famous Boardwalk. This four-mile-long promenade was constructed in 1870 and to this day remains the place where the majority of the city's attractions are found, from its numerous resorts and hotels to its surviving piers, such as Steel Pier. Bike rentals or traditional rickshaw-like rolling chairs make a fun alternative to walking the Boardwalk. While there, check out the Entrance to the Stars with handprints of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra.
2 Old Victorian Cape May
The many attractions of Cape May, at the southernmost tip of New Jersey on Delaware Bay, were largely discovered by the wealthy during the 18th and 19th centuries when it enjoyed its heyday as a fashionable resort town. It was so popular that six US presidents had summer homes here, attracted by the very things that draw tourists today: fine beaches, Cape May Point Lighthouse (built in 1859), and its many handsome Victorian-style holiday homes, one of the best examples being Emlen Physick Estate. Now a museum, this 18-room mansion was built in 1879 and is a fine example of the American Stick Style of architecture. Also of interest is the Yankee, an 80-foot-tall schooner offering a variety of harbor tours, as well as dolphin and whale-sighting cruises.
Address: 1048 Washington Street, Cape May
3 Thomas Edison National Historical Park
A must-see when visiting New Jersey is the former home and laboratory of the state's most famous son, Thomas Edison. Preserved under the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, these two structures were where such breakthrough technologies as movie cameras, sound recordings, and batteries first saw the light of day. Highlights of a visit include a close-up look at the labs, vintage movies, and original artifacts, as well as a chance to tour Glenmont, Edison's magnificent Queen Anne-style home, a perfectly preserved 29-room mansion. Guided and audio tours are available for both sites. Hot Tip: Tickets for Glenmore are on a first-come first-served basis, so arrive early.
Address: 211 Main Street, West Orange
4 Editor's Pick Grounds For Sculpture
Art lovers (and nature lovers) won't want to miss the incredible Grounds For Sculpture, a 42-acre museum and sculpture park in the town of Hamilton. Established in 1992 to facilitate the appreciation of contemporary sculpture, it has become one of the state's most popular art exhibits, boasting 270 large-scale works by Seward Johnson and other US artists. In addition to the sculptures, the park itself is wonderfully landscaped with numerous trees and flowerbeds. Another great art experience awaits at the Jersey City Museum with its collection of more than 300 paintings, as well as a large permanent collection of historical artifacts from the region. Also of interest is the Newark Museum, home to more than 80 galleries containing American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts, as well as American Indian and African items.
Address: 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton
5 Princeton and the Battlefield State Park
The small town of Princeton owes its international reputation to its university and associated research institutes, including the Institute for Advanced Study, where Albert Einstein carried out his final work. Established in 1756, its 1,600-acre grounds are wonderful to explore, and one of the best ways to do so is by joining the student-run tour program (tours last an hour). Another famous historic site is Princeton Battlefield State Park, the 200-acre location of the Battle of Princeton of 1777, which resulted in Washington's victory over the British. In addition to the battlefield itself, other highlights include Clarke House Museum, built in 1772 and used as a hospital by troops from both sides of the conflict; the Ionic Colonnade; and a memorial marking the graves of British and American soldiers.
Address: 500 Mercer Road, Princeton
6 Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Covering more than 70,000 acres, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area straddles the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania and includes a spectacular 40-mile protected stretch of the Delaware River. This large recreation area is accessible at numerous points, with the New Jersey section being serviced by two visitor centers: Millbrook Village, a recreation of a 19th-century community with displays of traditional crafts; and the Kittatinny Point Visitor Center, with numerous exhibits, magnificent views, and an access point for the Appalachian Trail. Other park highlights include the Minisink Archaeological Site, where remnants from a 10,000-year-old settlement were found, as well as activities such as canoeing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, and camping.
7 Liberty State Park
Overlooking the Upper New York Bay, Liberty Island, and Ellis Island (home to New York's Statue of Liberty), Liberty State Park encompasses 1,212 waterside acres. In addition to its wonderful views of the aforementioned attractions, the park contains many highlights of its own, including Communipaw Cove, a 36-acre tidal salt marsh that has been designated a nature preserve (an Interpretive Center is onsite). The park is also home to a number of interesting memorials and monuments, including Liberation, dedicated to the Holocaust, and the sobering Empty Sky, a memorial consisting of two 210-foot-long steel walls with the names of those victims of the tragic events of 9/11 who had ties to New Jersey. Recreational opportunities are also available, including fishing, kayaking, and cycling.
Address: 1 Audrey Zapp Drive, Jersey City
8 Paterson Great Falls
Often referred to as New Jersey's very own Niagara Falls, the Great Falls in Paterson - one of the country's newest national parks - are equally fun to explore. A variety of great falls-view locations are available, including from Haines Overlook Park and Mary Ellen Kramer Park. However, by far the most dramatic views are from the footbridge spanning Falls Gorge. Also of interest is the Paterson Museum in the heart of the Great Falls Historic District, which provides fascinating information regarding the history of the area.
Address: 2 Market Street, Paterson
9 Battleship New Jersey
The US Navy's most decorated vessel, the mammoth New Jersey is now an excellent floating museum moored on the Delaware River. Highlights of a visit include guided tours through this historic Iowa-class ship, launched in 1942 and one of the largest battleships ever built. Along the way, you'll see numerous exhibits and displays of artifacts relating to the ship's involvement in conflict zones from WWII to the Middle East in the 1980s. Other highlights include visiting the bridge where Admiral Halsey commanded the Pacific Fleet and viewing its huge 16-inch guns. If you can manage it, take advantage of the opportunity to spend a night aboard the ship or join one of its popular twilight tour packages.
Address: 62 Battleship Place, Camden
10 The Adventure Aquarium
Another popular family attraction is the Adventure Aquarium on the Delaware River in Camden. Considered one of the best such educational facilities in the US, this fun two-million-gallon aquarium is home to more than 8,500 marine animals, including a large collection of sharks, sea turtles, penguins, and stingrays. It also has the distinction of being the only aquarium in the world with hippos.
Address: 1 Riverside Drive, Camden
11 High Point State Park
One of New Jersey's most popular natural areas is the 16,091-acre High Point State Park. Accessible via more than 50 miles of well-maintained trails, including the popular Appalachian Trail, the park's prime attraction is High Point Monument. Constructed in 1930 to commemorate US involvement in WWI, this 220-foot tower, made from local granite and quartz, offers superb views of the surrounding area as far as the Catskill Mountains. Recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, and camping are available.
Address: 1480 Route 23, Sussex
12 Liberty Science Center
A highlight for kids visiting Liberty State Park is the Liberty Science Center. Lying on the park's northwestern tip, this fun interactive science museum offers numerous fascinating hands-on exhibits and displays relating to science and technology, as well as the world's largest IMAX theater. Highlights include exhibits dealing with robotics, predators, energy, and the environment.
Address: Liberty State Park, 222 Jersey City Blvd, Jersey City