If you’re thinking of taking the kids to New Jersey on your next family vacation, but you’re not exactly sure what The Garden State has to keep them entertained, then you’re in the right place.
Spoiler alert: New Jersey has everything you need to have a memorable and fun-filled family trip. Whether you’re looking to relax on sandy beaches, have a splash at the best water parks in New Jersey, or check out world-class children’s museums, you’ll never find yourself short of things to do.
In this guide, we’re here to point you to the best of the best when it comes to things to do in New Jersey with kids so that you can make the most of your precious vacation time!
- The 5 best kids’ museums in New Jersey
- The 5 best amusement attractions and waterparks in New Jersey
- The 5 best outdoor spaces and activities for kids in New Jersey
- Ready to start packing?
The 5 best kids’ museums in New Jersey
Whether they’re a budding Einstein, a young Picasso, or a future Attenborough, children are naturally curious about the world around them. They love to explore, learn and – most importantly – have fun! New Jersey has some of the best museums for kids to fully immerse themselves in their favorite subjects, so let’s take a look at where you could visit.
Liberty Science Center, Jersey City
The Liberty Science Center is an interactive science museum and learning center spanning multiple floors, with something for kids of every age to get stuck into. There are both permanent and rotating exhibits, which means you can go back several times and never get bored!
Your kids can grab a fossil brush and become a paleontologist for the day, digging for dinosaurs in the sand. Once they’ve had enough of extinct animals, they can head to the live animal collection to see 110 live species from all over the world. There’s also an aquarium for deep sea lovers, a 3D theatre, and a giant planetarium that offers an 89-foot full-dome view of the night sky and distant galaxies.
Imagine That!!!, Florham Park
At Imagine That!!!, kids are encouraged to touch and explore their way through several unique exhibits. They can have a jam session in the music room, create a masterpiece in the craft room, or let off excess energy in the three-storey playscape. While your little things are having some fun, they’ll be able to absorb all the important information without even knowing it.
Monmouth Museum, Middletown
The Monmouth Museum provides a space for creative expression for kids of any age and ability. There are two wings dedicated entirely to children’s learning.
The Becker Wing brings STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) to life through play and interactive exhibits. From a dinosaur exhibit and a fossil dig to a paleo lab with a digital microscope, there’s so much to see at the Monmouth Museum.
For those with a curious mind, children age 7 and under should head over to The Wonder Wing to find an under-the-sea-themed area. Here kids can climb into a treehouse, steer a ship and even explore a lighthouse.
The Newark Museum of Art, Newark
The Newark Museum of Art is New Jersey’s largest museum, and it’s one that’s community-focused. This means on top of the incredible art that your kids can admire, there are countless events throughout the year tailored to children of different ages.
You can sign up for a full day of events on one of their Family Saturdays, which includes planetarium shows and art projects, or you can take them to the WBGO Kids Jazz Concert, where young listeners can hear a range of talented jazz musicians right there in the museum.
Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Ogdensburg
Once the last working mine in New Jersey, Sterling Hill is now a unique, immersive museum that offers hands-on learning inside an actual piece of history. Kids can go on a real scientific adventure with a guided tour down the mine. They’ll stare in wonder at the world-famous “rainbow tunnel”, an area of the mine where ore glows bright green and red, and get to see the equipment used by workers and the conditions they worked in.
You’ll want to wear comfortable shoes and a light jacket for this walking tour, as it’s a damp 56 degrees down the mine!
Since they’re not technically museums, we haven’t included NJ’s finest aquariums on this page. However, we know that kids (and adults) love watching and interacting with sea life, so it might be worth reading another of our guides here to find out where the best 10 aquariums are!
The 5 best amusement attractions and waterparks in New Jersey
Thinking of heading to New Jersey with the kids during the sizzling summer months? If so, you’ll probably want to head to one of the state’s many amusement parks, some of which are situated right on the seafront, or combined with water parks to keep you and the family cool while you make memories. These are the parks we think you should consider:
Storybook Land, Egg Harbor Township
Storybook Land is a family-run amusement park with one aim: to keep the spirit of childhood alive. You don’t have to go far, far away to find this magical place- just drive to Egg Harbour Township to be transported into a family fairytale.
You’ll be greeted by a 20-foot Mother Goose when you enter, and that’s only the very beginning! As you and your kids walk through the park, you’ll encounter many characters from classic children’s tales and nursery rhymes, such as Snow White, Humpty Dumpty, and Alice in Wonderland. Whether you’re on a ride, catching a show, or seeing an attraction, the whole family will find Storybook Land enchanting.
Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson Township
Six Flags Great Adventure is one of the first places people think of when it comes to family activities in NJ, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s the state’s largest amusement park, with a total of 58 rides, which means there’s something for thrill seekers of all ages.
The braver (and slightly taller) of the bunch can find a thrill on any of the 14 world-class rollercoasters. The smaller adventurers can hop from treetops or fly high in a red propeller plane. The whole family can see the amusement park from above on the Big Wheel, then crash into the competition with a classic round of bumper cars, or race through the jungle on the Congo Rapids! If all the excitement is making you hungry, you can head to one of the countless restaurants and food stands.
If you want to be close to the Six Flags action, you’re in luck! We have a whole page dedicated to family-friendly hotels near Six Flags Great Adventure theme park here.
Land of Make Believe & Pirate’s Cove, Hope Township
The Land of Make Believe is built on the idea that parents should be actively having fun with their kids on trips, not just spectating from the side and holding the bags! At the Land of Make Believe, you can have as much fun (if not more) as your kids. Plus, you get two parks for the price of one.
The park has 30 acres of non-stop family fun, including the Tilt-A-Whirl, ferris wheel, Old McDonald’s Farm, Drop ‘n Twist, 1863 Train ride, boardwalk, Middle Earth Theater, and much more.
Pirate’s Cove is a water park contained within the amusement park that has a life-size pirate ship, a 1,000-gallon bucket ready to tip at any time, river rides, and a large wading pool- definitely one to consider for a hot summer’s day.
Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Parks, Wildwood Boardwalk
Fancy a day of classic seaside amusement fun? Then you should pack your bathing suits and head to Jersey Shore where you’ll find Morey’s, the family-owned park with three amusement piers and two beachfront water parks. Try out the traditional teacups and waltzers before heading over to Ocean Oasis or Raging Waters to see their collection of wild water slides and cool cabanas.
Nickelodeon Universe, East Rutherford
If the weather isn’t the best, or you just feel like getting away from the heat while still enjoying an amusement park, Nickelodeon Universe is your best bet. It’s an indoor theme park in NJ with rides based on your kids’ favorite characters, including the PAW Patrol Adventure Bay, Spongebob’s Jellyfish Jam, Dora’s Sky Railway, and loads more one-of-a-kind attractions!
If you and the kids are after more of an aquatic-themed indoor trip, you might want to check out our list of NJ’s best indoor water parks here.
The 5 best outdoor spaces and activities for kids in New Jersey
It’s not a surprise that The Garden State has some remarkable outdoor spaces, so rounding up some of the best family spaces and activities in NJ wasn’t a chore. All you need to do is grab some comfy shoes and check out some of these amazing spaces!
Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton
Grounds for Sculpture is an outdoor museum that combines the beauty of nature with incredible art. Whether or not your kids have shown an appreciation for art, they’re sure to love this park. They offer kids’ explorer guides that encourage children to observe their surroundings and the pieces on display. They can pose for a picture with a recreation of The Scream painting and get up close to the larger-than-life cat and dog sculptures.
You can start a sculpture scavenger hunt, either by starting a competition to see who can find a certain sculpture first or by working together. Remember to check for hidden doors! If anyone’s getting hungry, why not stop by the Wind in the Willows-themed restaurant or the Van Gogh cafe?
Dolphin watching, Cape May
Give your kids the chance to spot a real-life dolphin on a boat tour in Cape May. The best time to see these cheerful and cheeky marine mammals is during the spring and summer months, and though they’ve been spotted from shore, you’re best off booking a short cruise with experienced captains and naturalists. Not only do they know where you’re more likely to find dolphins (and even the odd whale), but they’ll also teach you the history of the island and point out landmarks like the Cape May lighthouse.
Liberty State Park, Jersey City
Liberty State Park is ideal for a memorable family day trip, with unparalleled views of the Manhattan skyline, a riverfront walkway, acres of green lawns, playgrounds, and picnic areas. You’ll also be able to find the Liberty Science Center, which we mentioned above since it is also contained within the park!
Whether you want to kick a soccer ball about and throw a frisbee, or sit back to admire the views while your kids play on the slides, you’re all sure to enjoy this urban oasis.
Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, West Orange
Turtle Back Zoo is full of exhibits for kids and adults of all ages. Nobody in the family can fail to be impressed by the giraffes, especially if you pay a few dollars to feed them yourself!
You can take a miniature train through the beautiful South Mountain Reservation to get a great view of the waterfront, before hopping off to see the rare red panda and fuchsia flamingos. They also have a Sea Turtle Recovery Center, reptile house and butterfly tent, so your kids are sure to see their favorite creatures.
Lakota Wolf Preserve, Knowlton Township
Take your pack to the Lakota Wolf Preserve for a truly unique family day out! During your time at the preserve you can watch the wolves eat, play, and even howl at the sky. It’s an incredible animal sanctuary, also housing foxes and bobcats, that has helped to save the animals from near extinction and teaches adults and kids alike the importance of places like theirs.
Make sure you check tour times before heading there, as the center’s not open all day every day like a zoo would be.
Ready to start packing?
There’s no way you or your kids will regret heading to The Garden State on your family vacation. There’s endless amounts of fun to be had in every city and town, whether you’re going for a few days or a couple of weeks!
Hopefully, our guide to the best things to do in New Jersey with kids has taken some itinerary-sized weight off your shoulders, so you can just choose what to pack and get going!
Is New Jersey good for kids?
Of course! There’s so much for kids to do in New Jersey it’s hard to fit it into one trip, or even one guide! From beautiful, spacious parks to sandy beaches and waterfront attractions, NJ has everything you need for the perfect family vacation.
Is Jersey City family-friendly?
What sets Jersey City apart from other large cities is that it has an intimate community feel, and is well-known for being family-friendly. The spacious and beautiful Liberty State Park and the Liberty Science Center are located in Jersey City. Throughout Jersey City and all throughout the year there are family-centered events that provide entertainment and education.
What is New Jersey famous for?
New Jersey is known for its 44 beautiful beaches, 18 entertaining boardwalks, and expansive untouched nature. It also has a lot of history and a distinct culture. Maybe most importantly, it’s also famous for its food! It’s been crowned the diner capital of the world because it currently has over 500 diners and counting, it’s the birthplace of saltwater taffy and they’re known to serve a great hoagie.
Where are the best family-friendly hotels in New Jersey?
If you want to stay in Jersey City, the best family-friendly hotels include the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Suites Jersey City and Hyatt House Jersey City.
If you’re off to Cape May for some dolphin watching, why not stay at the Sandpiper Beach Club or the La Mer Beachfront Resort?
For Newark, we think the best kid-friendly hotels are the Element Harrison and the Residence Inn by Marriott West Orange.