There are so many amazing places in New Jersey, seeing them all is almost impossible. Still, I’m resolving to see more of the Garden State in 2017. I’ve crafted a list of can’t-miss attractions that most anyone can enjoy. If you haven’t been to each and every one yet, why not make this the year? Please note that this list is in no particular order.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Ringwood State Park
This stunning park is home to spectacular trails, stunning lakes, the New Jersey State Botanical Garden and two historic mansions - Ringwood Manor and Skylands Manor. Take a tour of either (though Ringwood Manor tours are more readily available) and enjoy sledding in the winter or boating in the summer.
2. INSIDE Lucy The Elephant
Many of us know and love Margate's own massive mammoth, but how many of us have taken a tour? It's a truly unique experience, seeing through her eyes. You can visit Lucy all year, and tickets are affordable - $8 for adults, $4 for children 3-12 and free to members of the armed forces.
3. Great Falls
This National Park in Paterson may not be America's most scenic - but it still is pretty stunning. This photo was taken at the start of our drought, and it's fairly impressive. After a rainfall... jaw-dropping. Entrance and parking are free, and you can get closer to the falls via a footbridge. The visitor's center nearby also has plenty of interesting info about the area.
This town has two attractions that can't be missed - the Red Mill Historic Village and Hunterdon County Art Museum. Take a day trip and enjoy both sites, followed by dinner downtown. Check out the Clean Plate Kitchen for riverfront views.
5. Field Station: Dinosaurs
This family-friendly park in Leonia will take you back in time. Be transported to the age of dinosaurs, learning all about the species while interacting with life-size animatronics. Adults will enjoy it, kids will never forget it.
6. Lakota Wolf Preserve
Guided tours of this Columbia-based non-profit are offered to educate the public and provide a one-of-a-kind experience for photographers. It's almost impossible not to enjoy this up-close adventure.
7. Barclay Farmstead Museum
This Cherry Hill gem offers visitors "an opportunity to observe and participate in the agrarian lifestyle that once dominated the South Jersey landscape." Tour the farmhouse, stroll the nature trails and admire the plant-a-patch garden plots. Free for Cherry Hill residents, admission is $5 or less for everyone else.
8. High Point Monument
Located atop the highest point in New Jersey, this imposing obelisk offers amazing views of three states from the top.
9. Sandy Hook Lighthouse
The oldest working lighthouse in the United States is located right here in New Jersey, and it has some pretty amazing history. British troops tried (but failed) to destroy it and later occupied it for some time. Park Rangers offer free tours year-round.
10. Popcorn Park Animal Refuge
Located in Forked River, this animal refuge differs from traditional zoos as all the animals are rescues. You'll see a wide range of species and can even feed some of the inhabitants. I had so much fun here as a kid, and later as an adult - plus, your visit supports the local humane society.
11. Thomas Edison National Historic Site
Explore the famed inventor's home and laboratory in West Orange. See a reproduction of the world's first film studio (the Black Maria), watch a silent film from 1903, take a guided tour and so much more. Kids can even earn a Jr. Ranger badge.
12. Grounds For Sculpture
This has to be one of the most beautiful open air art exhibitions in the United States. Enjoy picturesque ponds, gorgeous gardens, tunnels of trees, stunning sculptures and the famed French eatery - Rat's Restaurant. They're currently offering a promotion where tickets purchased online are just $10.
13. Princeton University Art Museum
Rated as one of the best University art museums in the United States, you'll find over 92,000 works of art that date back centuries and a collection of around 27,000 photos. Best of all, admission is free. Explore the campus and surrounding town and make a day trip out of it.
14. Sunset Beach
This Cape May Beach is known for its spectacular sunsets and the concrete ship that can be seen peeking out from under the sea. It's a serene, scenic spot, and offers incredible opportunities for photographers.
15. Wharton State Forest
The largest state park in New Jersey, there's so much to see and do here. Camp, hike, swim, explore the abandoned Atsion Village or restored Batsto Village with buildings dating back to the 1700s. Batsto is a real treat for history buffs, but there's something in this park for everyone.
16. Fort Mott State Park
See the other side of New Jersey's coast, along the Delaware, at this Pennsville park. Be sure to visit Finn's Point National Cemetery, the final resting place for both Union and Confederate soldiers, with monuments to both.
17. Historic Smithville
This quaint shopping area offers a spectacular variety of unique goods, great food and quaint scenery. Enjoy the lake while you're here. You'll often find free events, like holiday light shows, cruise nights, craft fairs, living history encampments and all sorts of festivals. The boutiques and beautiful scenery exemplify charm, and you can even spend the night.
What other must-see attractions in New Jersey would you add to this list? Another place you should definitely check out?
Cranbury Christmas Lights – currently offering its final shows of the season.