New Jersey often lives in the shadow of New York, but this densely populated state has a lot of different things to offer than its neighbor to the north. There are tons of small towns in New Jersey that aren’t often publicized but are great places to escape for a day, weekend, or even longer.
You can expect to find lots of history, authentic charm, and beautiful beaches in New Jersey’s cities and towns. In fact, National Geographic once called New Jersey “America in Miniature.” Some of the nation’s oldest communities are located here, and there are plenty of modern attractions here to keep you busy as well.
So if you’ve never ventured to this part of this East Coast before, start planning your trip now and check out these awesome places to visit in New Jersey.
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More than the University in Princeton
People from far and wide have heard about the famous Princeton University, but there’s quite a bit to do here for non-students too. Palmer Square is a great place to start wandering around, and it’s free to visit the Princeton Art Museum. Princeton is full of history and culture and is a beautiful place full of energy. You can check out the historic Princeton Cemetery, which is where many famous Americans, like Aaron Burr and Grover Cleveland, have been laid to rest. Also worth visiting are Drumthwacket, the Morven Museum and Gardens, and the Princeton Record Exchange. Finish your day off with a pint at the Triumph Brewing Company.
This is the oldest seaside resort, not just in New Jersey, but all of America. In fact, the entire town is a National Historic Landmark. Perfect for a romantic getaway, you can admire the Victorian charm when you visit Cape May, and the colorful houses give the town a unique and intriguing vibe. Cape May is a great place to catch a live theater performance, join in the fun at a festival, and shop at boutique stores. The Cape May Music Festival is one of the best annual events in the state. You can also check out West Cape May while you’re in the area to visit the Willow Creek Winery and even join a guided bird walk to learn more about wildlife along the seaside.
Riverside Town of Frenchtown
For another scenic and beautiful New Jersey experience, plan to spend some time in Frenchtown. It was named Frenchtown by a Swiss fugitive named Paul Henri Mallet-Prevost and is located right along the Delaware River. To keep active on your trip to New Jersey, go for a scenic jog or walk on the riverfront path. If possible, plan your visit around one of the town’s several festivals, like Riverfest and Bastille Day. In the summertime, you can even go tubing down the river to cool off and try something different. There are some nice bed & breakfasts to stay here for a weekend getaway.
Historic and Scenic Allentown
Looking for an off-the-beaten-path weekend destination in New Jersey? Not to be confused with the Allentown in Pennsylvania, New Jersey’s Allentown is a quaint town that has historic homes and buildings that date back to the early 1800s. The town’s Main Street is quite charming, and you can take a scenic drive down Route 539. Don’t miss the Old Mill for the art gallery, restaurants, and shops.
Foodie Paradise in Lambertville
Located in Hunterdon County, Lambertville is one of several great small towns worth visiting in the area. Lambertville is located right along the Delaware River and has a nice riverfront area and lively arts scene. There are lots of well-preserved Victorian homes here that have been transformed into antique stores. ShadFest is an arts and crafts fair that happens each year and is definitely worth checking out. You can find an interesting mix of restaurants and shops here, not to mention the ultra-unique bar, the Boat House. Other recommended places to grab food and drinks are Siam Thai and Hamilton’s Grill Room. Foodies love Lambertville, especially when the annual restaurant week and food fair are going on.
The Mill Town of Clinton
Clinton, New Jersey is another town that’s right along a river, the Raritan River. Visit the Red Mill Museum for iconic views, and spend some time checking out the shops and restaurants clustered together on Main Street. Clinton is a very walkable town that’s often compared to a scene in a Norman Rockwell painting. Inside the mill, you’ll find thousands of historic artifacts and museum displays that tell the story of the town’s importance as a wool processing mill. Recommended stops include ice cream at JJ Scoops and riverfront dining at The Clean Plate Kitchen. This is also a good place for art lovers, as the Hunterdon Art Museum is located here.
Refined Beach Town of Spring Lake
If you’re looking for a seaside town and a lively beach boardwalk scene, head to Spring Lake, New Jersey. There’s a long commercial strip here that’s perfect for shopping and people-watching, and the place to be is known as Divine Park. Unlike some other parts of the Jersey Shore, Spring Lake offers a more refined and historic getaway spot along the water. Plan to stay at one of the town’s historic inns to take a step back in time. In the 1800s, the wealthy elite from nearby cities flocked here to soak up the sun and spirit of relaxation.
Arts and Shops in Quaint Newton
When you arrive in Newton, head to Spring Street in the middle of town. There’s an art center here, as well as quite a few shops and restaurants to stop into. You can also visit the Newton Fire Museum in town. Other top things to check out in Newton include the Newton Theater to catch a performance, Kittatinny Valley State Park for fishing and walking, and the Spring Valley Equestrian Center to go for a scenic horseback ride in the woods. Max’s Station House is a great place to find food and beer while sitting outside when it’s nice weather.
Peaceful and Fascinating Haddonfield
Haddonfield is a historic and peaceful small town that has a very interesting downtown area that celebrates the fact that the oldest dinosaur skeleton was discovered here in the mid-1800s. Shops to add to your list while walking around Haddonfield include the English Gardener Shop and Indulgence Cupcakery. The Indian King Tavern Museum is at the place where New Jersey became a state.
Mob History in Collingswood
Much of Collingswood’s fame comes from mob legends. This New Jersey town in Camden County has a deep history with the area’s fascinating mob activity. It’s also conveniently located just a few miles from Philadelphia. There’s also a long commercial strip here that has a nice mix of both old and new shops and restaurants. Recommended dining spots are the Kitchen Consigliere, a centrally located Italian restaurant, and El Sitio, which offers some great Ecuadorian dishes. Kitchen Consigliere is owned by Angelo Lutz, who was a former mob associate. If you visit between May and November, check out the Collingswood Farmers’ Market for an amazing selection of produce.
Youthful Energy in Hoboken
Hoboken has a fascinating history that once made it a less than desirable place to visit. But today, this is a clean, vibrant, and well-connected town of young professionals. It’s just a ferry ride away from Manhattan, and the downtown area gets packed with people for concerts and recreation throughout the year. While in Hoboken, take a stroll along the Hoboken Waterfront Walkway, see lovely views of New York City from Pier A Park, and visit the Hoboken Historical Museum to learn about the town’s history. Water sports are popular here too, and it’s easy to find local guide companies for tours and gear if you want to kayak, SUP, or jet ski.
The Boulder and More in Glen Rock
Another fun place to walk around in New Jersey is Glen Rock, which has a huge 570-ton boulder in the middle of town. A Native American council named it Pamachapuka, the Stone from Heaven, and it’s thought to be have been left behind from glacier activity. There are a couple of transit lines that run through here, so you might be passing through on your way to somewhere else nearby. Anyone who enjoys coffee should definitely check out the unique Starbucks in town that has a tower.