A world-famous boardwalk, over 120 miles of pristine coastline, and some of the best hotels and casinos in the United States draw tens of millions of tourists to New Jersey each year. This state snuggled between New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and the Atlantic Ocean, however, offers visitors more than sea, sand, and slot machines. Whether you are looking to explore rich American history, music history, world-class museums, enjoy miles of sandy beaches, or partake in the best diner grub in the United States, New Jersey is filled with diverse and enchanting towns that should land on any traveler’s bucket list in 2024 and beyond.
Midway between New York City and Philadelphia lies Princeton, New Jersey, a town chock full of American history, beautiful Gothic architecture, great art museums, and the university of the same name. For history buffs, a stop at the university’s Nassau Hall is a must. Learn about the important role it played in the American Revolution when, in 1783, it briefly served as the nation's capital, housing the Continental Congress from June to November. The Battle of Princeton in 1777 marked a turning point in the Revolutionary War when the British troops holding Nassau Hall surrendered to General George Washington.
Art lovers can indulge their passion at the Princeton Art Museum. Although undergoing a major upgrade and closed until 2025, the museum operates two downtown facilities, Art@Bainbridge and Art on Hulfish. Looking to do some shopping and eat tasty grub? Palmer Square, located directly outside the front gates of Princeton University, serves up a myriad of shops and eateries. End your day with a show at the McCarter Theater, a Tony Award-winning organization featuring theater, music, and dance.
Dreaming of a seaside town with a Victorian flair? Then, Cape May should be at the top of your list. Offering over two miles of white, sandy beaches, vacationers can partake in a variety of beach activities. For something that does not involve the sea and sand, architecture enthusiasts will love Beach Avenue, aptly named because it overlooks the beach, where you can stroll along, taking in the beauty of the colorful, Victorian-style homes that line it. Tour the haunted Victorian-era Emlen Physick Estate. Supposedly, the ghosts of its original owners from the 1800s reside there.
Head to the top of Cape May Lighthouse or the World War II Lookout Tower for scenic views and a cardio workout. Wander through the Washington Street Mall, a three-block outdoor shopping district. Top off your day with a delicious libation at one of the popular wineries, including Willow Creek Winery and Cape May Winery and Vineyard.
For a charming, lakefront town to add to your travel list, Sparta, New Jersey ticks off the boxes. Located along the beautiful Lake Mohawk, its lovely boardwalk built in the 1920s beckons visitors to stroll, birdwatch, or enjoy the fresh air and serene atmosphere. For those looking for a more strenuous hike as well as some history, head over to Kittatinny Valley State Park in nearby Newton, which offers a perfect blend of the two. Take to the miles of trails once part of New Jersey’s railroad system during the late 1800s and early 1900s to hike, bike, horseback ride, or more. Enjoy the park’s rich ecosystem filled with many species of wildlife, including white-tailed deer and other animals native to New Jersey.
Abracadabra! Considered the magic capital of New Jersey, make sure to book a show at Sparta Avenue Stage, where some of the world’s best magic acts perform. Looking to bowl a strike? Hit the popular Sparta Lanes, a popular community hangout and a classic bowling alley featuring over 32 lanes. Enjoy a brew and some food at the Sparta Pour House, located inside the bowling alley, great for kids and adults of all ages.
Having experienced a revival in recent years, Asbury Park has become one of New Jersey’s trendiest destinations. Offering a thriving and diverse music scene, no visit is complete without catching a show at The Stone Pony, the old stomping grounds of Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, and The Doors. Ready to try your hand at some old-fashioned pinball and learn about video gaming history? The Silverball Retro Arcade features 1930s-style pinball machines and hundreds of other arcade games to indulge your pleasure.
If ghosts and the paranormal are your thing, take a 60-minute guided tour through the rotating exhibits at Paranormal Books and Curiosities, part gift shop, part exhibit. Support local businesses by shopping at the Asbury Park Bazaar located in the convention center or trying your hand at glass-blowing at Hot Sand Studio. After strolling along the boardwalk, relax in your accommodations at The Asbury Hotel. Enjoy popcorn and take in a movie at their rooftop movie theater overlooking the ocean.
Known as "the Brooklyn of New Jersey," Montclair is a tranquil escape, blending cultural attractions with natural beauty. Calling all nature lovers! Indulge your senses by wandering the over six-acre Iris Presby Gardens, which contains over 10,000 varieties of irises. Or, check out the Van Vleck Gardens for plants from around the world. Take a hike in the Eagle Rock Reservation. For history enthusiasts, the Montclair History Center offers educational in-person programs. Explore American and Native American art at the Montclair Art Museum.
For fans of America’s favorite pastime, baseball, a visit to the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, located on the Montclair State University campus, is a must-see. Take in a show at the Wellmont Theater, which was originally founded in 1921 as a vaudeville and stage play venue.
A theme park and delectable French chocolate make this New Jersey town a unique place to visit in the Garden State. Home to the only construction-themed amusement and water park in the United States, Diggerland USA, families can indulge their DIY building passion. Drive, ride, and operate specially engineered machines for a safe and fun time. In the summer months, get soaked at The Water Main, their construction-themed water park.
Craving chocolate? Discover its history at the Chocolat Michel Cluizel Store and Chocolate Tours. Learn how this sweet treat evolved over the centuries on a privately guided tour, and learn the craftsmanship of their chocolate. No visit is complete without a tasting. Pair your chocolate with your favorite wine, or indulge in lunch or dinner. Combine your inner artist with your sweet tooth and select and paint your very own chocolate creation.
Called the military capital of the American Revolution, Morristown is best known as the location of General George Washington's winter headquarters during the Revolutionary War. Every visitor’s first stop should be at Morristown Historical Park, America's first national historical park. Explore over 1,400 acres, hike one of its 24 miles of trails, explore an 18th-century farm, and drive the three-mile tour road. Head over to Historic Speedwell, the site of the first successful demonstration of the telegraph.
Wander the 127 acres of gardens at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum, New Jersey's largest horticultural park. To end the day, enjoy a cold beer at Glenbrook Brewery.
No visit to New Jersey is complete without a stop at this iconic location, famous for its stretch of beach, boardwalk, and casinos. If you dig a bit deeper, however, you will find there’s more to Atlantic City than beach activities and slot machines. It is home to art galleries, murals, cultural festivals, and one-of-a-kind memorials.
Browse indoor artist studios at the Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University or head to Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall for the “Atlantic City Experience” exhibit. Check out Atlantic City’s monuments honoring the Civil Rights movement, war heroes, and figureheads that made Atlantic City what it is today. Explore the Atlantic City Heritage Collection at the Atlantic City Free Public Library. For a beautiful view and a workout, ascend the 228 steps of the Absecon Lighthouse, New Jersey's tallest lighthouse, and the country's third-tallest lighthouse. Book tickets to a performance of the Atlantic City Ballet, considered the premier ballet company in this area.
Given the nicknames Garden State and "Diner Capital of the World," New Jersey has become a worldwide destination, and for good reason. No matter the season in 2024, New Jersey offers a diverse array of towns that will satisfy any traveler’s passions. So, ready your bags to visit the state where the properties in the United States version of the board game Monopoly are named after the streets of Atlantic City. Start planning.