Living in New Jersey has its perks. We’ve got it all, from big cities to charming small towns, mountains, museums, farms, beaches, unique shops and diverse dining. Another major plus? Our proximity to some pretty epic weekend destinations. Here are 12 wonderful weekend trips you can take if you live in the Garden State.
1. Cape May
Though this is a shore town, Cape May can be enjoyed year-round. Be sure to take a trolley tour and learn about the Victorian village's unique history. Visit the lighthouse, take a whale watching tour and find one-of-a-kind goods and gifts at the Washington Street Mall. Other area attractions include the Cape May Zoo (free!), Cape May Winery and Cape May Bird Observatory. Must visit spots include the Cape May Peanut Butter Co. and Emlen Physick Estate. While you're here, you may want to hop on the ferry to Lewes, Delaware. The little town has a wonderful museum, the Zwaanendael Museum, celebrating local history and culture and the area's European heritage.
2. Atlantic City
New Jersey's version of Vegas, but better. I may be biased, but Vegas doesn't have a beach. Enjoy gambling, nightlife, live music, comedy shows and big buffets at the casinos. Head to the historic Gardner's Basin for a charming little aquarium, fishing excursions and the great Gilchrist Restaurant. You'll also enjoy the iconic Steel Pier and its 25+ rides, the arcades and speedway of Central Pier and Absecon Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey (171 feet). If you're into oddities, the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum is a fun stop. If you're a foodie, check out Carmine's, Chef Vola's and Buddakan.
3. Lambertville & New Hope
These sister cities on opposite sides of the Delaware River offer shopping, dining, art galleries and antiques. Walk around along the river, you never know what you'll find. The Golden Nugget Antique Market and The People's Store are local favorites. For a peek into the past, check out Howell Living History Farm. If you're into cinema, don't miss the Acme Screening Room, a weekly independent and documentary film series. There are often exhibits and guest speakers to go along with the films.
4. Wharton State Forest
Enjoy a serene space with a variety of attractions that bring the past to life. A great getaway for nature lovers, this forest is a great place to camp and hike. There are lakes for swimming and boating along with several historic villages including Allaire and Batsto (pictured). Batsto features a working blacksmith shop and you can take a self-guided tour with any smartphone. You'll scan various codes and enjoy short videos and fun facts along the way. Also hiding here is Harrisville Village, a ghost town abandoned in 1891. For an unforgettable experience, check out Pinelands Adventures, offering guided hikes and paddles along with tours that truly immerse you in Pinelands history and ecology.
5. Ocean City
This family friendly destination is a dry town (no alcohol is sold) and has a world famous boardwalk. You'll find endless entertainment options from amusement rides to arcades and water parks to frequent festivals. Mini-golf is big here, with several courses to choose from - Congo Falls is a favorite. While the boardwalk is a blast, there are also over 100 shops and restaurants to enjoy downtown along Asbury Avenue.
One of our state's most historic cities, you'll find numerous sites that played a major role in the Revolutionary War. Visit Washington's winter headquarters at Ford Mansion and don't miss the Morris Museum while you're in town. The museum has a little bit of everything, from art to Native American artifacts. Other collections include rocks, minerals and mechanical musical instruments (one of the world's largest automata exhibits). Kids will love the Dinosaur Den and Dino Day is coming up on April 8th - hunt for and handle real fossils while learning from an expert! Other area attractions include the George G. Frelinghuysen Arboretum and Fosterfields Living Historical Farm. The farm is very hands-on and offers guided tours where guests take part in egg collecting, corn grinding, chicken feeding and more. It operates just as a New Jersey farm would in the 1920s.
7. Mountain Creek
This ski resort is actually so much more. Find mountain biking, zip-lining, a water park, golfing and the gorgeous Crystal Springs Resort. The resort offers amenities galore and one of the country's best wine collections at Restaurant Latour. The biosphere indoor pool complex is equally as amazing but a stay here can be pricey. Luckily, there are other lodging options nearby including the Appalachian Motel and Alpine Haus Bed & Breakfast.
8. New York City
Perhaps the greatest city in the world, this little island is big on culture. Take in as many museums as you can, stroll through Times Square, stop at Central Park and then enjoy the views from the top of the Empire State Building. Head all the way uptown and take in The Cloisters, a magnificent medieval art museum or downtown where you can visit the World Trade Center Museum and Observatory. From there, stroll south to Battery Park where you can hop a ferry to the Statue of Liberty or take a free, scenic ride on the Staten Island Ferry.
There's plenty to do in this city but there are a few things you can't miss - check out the Liberty Bell and enjoy the lights of Boathouse Row at night. Run like Rocky up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and be sure to stop at Reading Terminal Market while you're in town. America's oldest farmers market has everything from artisanal cheeses to Amish vendors.
10. The Poconos
There are all sorts of outdoor adventures to be found in the Pocono mountains. Enjoy skiing (Camelback, Shawnee) water parks (Camelbeach, Kalahari, Great Wolf Lodge), hiking and the beautiful Bushkill Falls. Bushkill Falls is a fantastic family destination with a series of 8 waterfalls to enjoy along with gemstone mining, paddle boating and mini-golf. It's also a great date for the outdoorsy couple. Other area attractions include the Asa Packer Mansion and Old Jail Museum in Jim Thorpe. A hidden gem? The Casino Theatre entertainment center in Mt. Pocono. It's not some big attraction but it will take you back to the 1950s with its malt shoppe.
11. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
It's hard not to love this beautiful beach but it's not all about the shore here. You'll find a bustling downtown with art galleries, shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, a theatre company and more. You'll also find designer outlets, amusement parks, arcades and even an Art League nearby. They offer ever-changing exhibits; currently (until April 2nd), the campus is hosting Young At Art featuring the work of local schoolchildren.
12. Norwalk, Connecticut
This beautiful waterfront town is easily accessible from I-95. Its biggest attraction is probably the Maritime Aquarium but there's plenty more to do. The Stepping Stones Museum For Children is a popular pick for families and history buffs will love the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, pictured. Calf Pasture Beach is a scenic spot for sunbathing and picnicking and the SoNo Switch Tower Museum is the place to be for railroad aficionados. There's also the Norwalk Museum with a focus on local history and culture and the Sheffield Island Lighthouse, an absolute must-see. Take a guided boat tour here and pass by Norwalk's other islands along the way.
What’s your favorite weekend destination in or from New Jersey? We really do have the world at our fingertips. For more Garden State Getaways, check out this list of
unforgettable trips that you absolutely should take.