Charming historic town of Lambertville, New Jersey. Image credit EQRoy via Shutterstock

New Jersey's 8 Most Underrated Towns to Visit in 2024

There is no better time than 2024 to discover New Jersey in these eight underrated towns. Seaside Heights embodies the spirit of the Jersey Shore, welcoming visitors with sandy beaches, a bustling boardwalk, and family-friendly attractions. Lambertville beckons with its quaint streets lined with boutiques and antique stores, while Red Bank boasts a thriving arts scene against the backdrop of the scenic Navesink River. With its Victorian-era architecture and pristine beaches, Cape May is perfect for birdwatching and long walks. In Princeton, academic prestige meets cultural richness, with landmarks like the Morven Museum & Garden. Cranbury invites exploration of its colonial heritage, while Haddonfield offers a journey through history with its well-preserved architecture. Finally, Asbury Park blends its storied past with a vibrant present, offering music-filled streets and cultural attractions.

Seaside Heights

Casino Pier at Seaside Heights, New Jersey is buzzing with activity
Casino Pier at Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Image credit James Kirkikis via Shutterstock

Seaside Heights, New Jersey, a small coastal town with a population of 2,500, embodies the essence of the Jersey Shore. Located just a short drive from New York City and Philadelphia, Seaside Heights is renowned for its white sandy beaches, lively boardwalk, and vibrant music scene, like the 9th Annual Rock the Farm Tribute Festival on Saturday, June 1, 2024. The event features an incredible lineup of tribute bands playing the music of Van Halen, Cold Play, Nirvana, and more.

The Casino Pier & Breakwater Beach Waterpark is an amusement park. Casino Pier opened in 1932 and included the original water park known as Water Works. The park was remodeled in 2003 to offer a range of attractions for all ages, including roller coasters, bumper cars, and a Ferris wheel, as well as numerous activities for smaller children, like Pirate’s Island. The Breakwater Beach Waterpark features a wave pool and a lazy river, and families can rent private cabanas for the day without having to stand in line or wait for a lounge chair.

Staying within walking distance of the beach and boardwalk in Seaside Heights is a breeze, with numerous classic beach motels—complete with strappy lawn furniture, ice machines, and pools—to choose from, like the Anchor Motel, the Sunrise Motel, and the Sunset Motel. Come for the nostalgia and stay for the brick oven pizza, cheesesteak, and old-fashioned waffles.


Winter view of the historic town of Lambertville, located on the Delaware River in Hunterdon County,
Winter view of the historic town of Lambertville, New Jersey. Image credit EQRoy via Shutterstock

Tucked along the Delaware River, Lambertville boasts charming streets with boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. The town's historical feel and scenic views make it a delightful destination. Known as the Antique Capital Store of New Jersey, the People’s Store Antique Center in downtown Lambertville is worth exploring. Lambertville also has a lively theatre scene, and in 2024, the Music Mountain Theatre will play host to 16 live performances, including "Hello, Dolly," "Hair," "Beauty and the Beast," and more.

The Marshall House, built in 1816, was the childhood home of James Wilson Marshall, a New Jersey-born carpenter and sawmill operator credited with starting the California Gold Rush by discovering gold in the water flowing through his sawmill in 1848. Today, the Marshall House sits on the National and New Jersey Registers of Historic Places and is the headquarters of the Lambertville Historical Society. 

Reserve a table or a room at the Lambertville Station Restaurant and Inn—a 19th-century train station converted into an award-winning restaurant and posh inn for peaceful riverfront dining. Located an hour from New York and Philadelphia, the resort is worth a day trip or an overnight stay. 

In Lambertville, walk over the New Hope Lambertville Bridge, which connects Lambertville, New Jersey, with New Hope, Pennsylvania. In the middle of the bridge is a marker delineating both state lines, so visitors can put one foot on each side of the marker and be in two states at once. 

Red Bank

View of downtown buildings on Broad Street in the town of Red Bank, Monmouth County, New Jersey.
Downtown buildings on Broad Street in the town of Red Bank, New Jersey. Image credit EQRoy via

Known for its vibrant arts scene, Red Bank offers a mix of cultural attractions, including theaters, art galleries, and live music venues. Visitors can also enjoy the town's diverse dining options and boutique shopping. Named by Smithsonian Magazine as the third-best small town in America, Red Bank is also called the Soho of New Jersey.

Red Bank sits on the magnificent Navesink River, offering natural beauty and historic architecture. In the heart of Red Bank, you’ll find the Count Basie Center for the Arts, named after jazz great William James “Count” Basie, who was born in Red Bank in 1904. Originally called The Carleton as a vaudeville theatre and cinema, it was renamed the Count Basie Center for the Arts in 1984. In the summer of 2024, the not-to-be-missed "Happy Together Tour" returns to the center with its show of chart-topping hits from the 1960s and 1970s.

The Molly Pitcher Inn and Marina, or “The Molly” as the locals know it, is a 100+ room boutique hotel on the Navesink. Named after a heroine of the Revolutionary War, the inn earned its name from the Irish-born woman who carried pitchers of water to the colonial soldiers during the battle of Monmouth in 1778. The hotel has a bar, a full-service restaurant, and a large pool overlooking the marina, where visitors can rent kayaks and tour the nearby mansions.

Cape May

Beach goers enjoy a beautiful day in Cape May, New Jersey.
Beachgoers enjoy a beautiful day in Cape May, New Jersey. Image credit Racheal Grazias via

Cape May is a seaside resort at the southernmost tip of New Jersey—Exit zero on the Garden State Parkway. While it draws tens of thousands of visitors annually, Cape May only has a population of 2,700 full-time residents. It is a Victorian-era gem with beautiful architecture and pristine white sandy beaches. A top destination for birdwatching, Cape May is listed as the World’s Best destination for birding by National Geographic magazine. The Cape May Bird Observatory (CMBO) is a respected bird research and education leader and a hotspot for migrating birds.

Cape May is home to beautifully restored Victorian-era hotels, like the Marquis de Lafayette, the Carroll Villa Hotel, the Hotel Alcott, The Chalfonte Hotel, and The Inn of Cape May, as well as numerous bed-and-breakfast inns, restored guest houses, resort hotels, and condo rentals.

When you aren’t enjoying the warm surf or watching the dolphins swimming just offshore, visitors can book a Victorian house tour or an evening ghost tour. Miniature golf courses dot the beachfront, where you can grab delicious food or pop into a tavern for a cold beer. The Washington Street Mall is a few blocks up from the beach, and this outdoor walking mall is a great place to shop for saltwater taffy, souvenirs, collectibles, clothing, and swimsuits, or head over to the Fudge Kitchen for a free sample.

Cape May plans a full calendar of events and festivals throughout the year. Plan your 2024 visit to coincide with one of these exciting celebrations, such as the Cape May Music Festival, Cape May Food & Wine Celebration, or the Cape May Exit Zero Jazz Festival.


Shoppers and pedestrians near a Tudor style building on Witherspoon Street in Princeton, New Jersey.
Witherspoon Street in Princeton, New Jersey. Image credit Benjamin Clapp via

This town is home to the prestigious Princeton University, founded in 1746 as the College of New Jersey, and offers more than just academic appeal. With its beautiful architecture, tree-lined streets, and cultural events, Princeton has much to offer visitors interested in history, art, and education.

The Morven Museum & Garden is on five pristine acres in Princeton, New Jersey. A former home to five New Jersey State Governors, Morven was once home to Richard Stockton, who signed the Declaration of Independence and graduated in the first class of The College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Don’t miss the “Princeton Festival,” New Jersey’s premier performing arts extravaganza held on the Morven Museum & Garden grounds from June 7 to 22, 2024.

Princeton Battlefield State Park and Thomas Clark House are a mile southwest of Princeton University and pay homage to the scene of George Washington’s 1777 victory over the British. The park is part of the American Battlefield Trust, an organization that strives to preserve America’s battlegrounds and inspire and educate the public about the wars fought on American soil. The Thomas Clark House, located on the ground of the state park, is a tribute to American General Hugh Mercer, who died there during the Battle of Princeton. The house has been furnished as it would have looked in the 18th century and features displays and exhibits about the Revolutionary War.


Brainerd Lake in Cranbury, New Jersey, United States.
Brainerd Lake in Cranbury, New Jersey, in winter. Image credit EQRoy via Shutterstock

The picturesque town of Cranbury is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture and quaint atmosphere. Visitors can wander through the historic district, browse local shops, and dine at charming restaurants. The Cranbury Inn, founded in 1800, is a local landmark tavern and restaurant known for its colonial ambiance and traditional American cuisine.

NJWineseller, one of New Jersey’s most well-known distributors of fine wine and gourmet foods, is now located at the Cranbury Inn, where you’ll discover over a thousand wines, hundreds of spirits, cocktails, and seltzers. On hand at NJWineseller, you’ll find experienced sommeliers who are only too happy to help visitors choose the perfect wine or wine pairing. 

The Old Schoolhouse, also known as the Cranbury Public School No. 1, was constructed in 1877. It was the town's primary school until 1929 and now houses the Cranbury Historical and Preservation Society. Visitors can tour the building and learn about its significance in Cranbury's educational history. Also dating back to the mid-19th century, the Cranbury Museum features artifacts, photographs, and documents that illustrate Cranbury’s development from a small colonial farming community to the modern day. 


Downtown sidewalk in Haddonfield, New Jersey.
Downtown sidewalk in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Image credit EQRoy via

Rich in history and culture, Haddonfield offers a mix of art galleries, boutique shops, and cafes in historic buildings. Visitors can explore the town's well-preserved Victorian houses and colonial-era architecture in Haddonfield’s landmark district. The Indian King Tavern Museum, built in 1750, pays tribute to the American Revolution as a meeting place of New Jersey’s Provincial Congress during the war.

There are plenty of outdoor spaces to enjoy in Haddonfield, including the Haddonfield Farmer’s Market, which showcases locally-grown produce, handmade goods, and artisanal food from area vendors. The Haddonfield Sculpture Trail features a variety of outdoor sculptures displayed throughout the downtown core. Cooper River Park and Pennypacker Park also offer opportunities for picnicking, enjoying nature, hiking, and walking.

Movie buffs might draw a connection between Haddonfield, New Jersey, and the 1978 horror classic, "Halloween," directed by John Carpenter. While the movie is set in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois, the real-life Haddonfield, New Jersey, has benefited from the connection to the Halloween franchise, with the city hosting events and celebrations related to the film.

Asbury Park

Asbury Park Convention Hall, a historic building in Asbury Park on the New Jersey Shore, United States.
Asbury Park Convention Hall is a historic building in Asbury Park on the New Jersey Shore. Image credit EQRoy via Shutterstock

Asbury Park is a well-known destination for rock and roll. The town was made famous by Bruce Springsteen’s debut album, “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.," which epitomized a subgenre of rock and roll known as the Jersey Shore sound with songs like “Growin’ Up” and “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City.”

Asbury Park has a rich history, and a walking tour around the city is a great way to learn about the city’s past. While several guided tours are available, Asbury Park is a relatively walkable city at 1.6 square miles, so most destinations are reachable by foot or bicycle. If you opt for a self-guided tour, some landmarks include the Asbury Park Boardwalk, Convention Hall, Paramount Theatre, and historic neighborhoods like Sunset Lake and Ocean Grove. Convention Hall hosts events ranging from concerts to trade shows. The “Sea.Hear.Now Festival” is a two-day music festival held from September 14 to 15, 2024, in Asbury Park on three stages and features over 25 bands.

For fans of literature, the Stephen Crane House is a must-visit destination. Author of the classic novel, “The Red Badge of Courage,” Stephen Crane, spent a significant amount of time in Asbury Park, and his former house is a museum dedicated to his life and writing and his connection to the Jersey Shore.

Make 2024 the year to discover the rhythm of New Jersey. From coastal escapes boasting sandy shores and bustling boardwalks to quaint streets lined with antique shops and boutiques, each town holds underrated attractions. Explore thriving arts scenes against scenic backdrops, appreciate Victorian-era architecture, or wander through streets steeped in colonial heritage. Discover the rich blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that awaits in these hidden gem towns in the Garden State.

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