Think New Jersey is all about the beach? Well, think again. Sure, there are tons of beautiful beaches, action-packed boardwalks and tiny towns with Victorian charm, but how about the world-class sports events, nature preserves and historic museums and landmarks? Here is a sampling of some excellent options for a fine New Jersey family getaway.
Extreme Sports & Science
In the Meadowlands Liberty Region, close to downtown Manhattan and Times Square, families can hike along nature trails, take in a basketball game at the Meadowlands Sports Complex, or spend an afternoon at the science museum. The ferry service from Liberty State Park in Jersey City makes reaching the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island easy. Science geeks head to the Liberty Science Centre. With hundreds of exhibits in eight new galleries, and the largest IMAX theatre in the US, there is something for every age to enjoy. At the Meadowlands Environment Center, children and parents can take a guided tour of the Hackensack River and explore wetland ecology by boat.
Xanadu Meadowlands, a new shopping and entertainment centre, features year-round indoor skiing, snowboarding, and skydiving; the largest Ferris wheel in the US; movies; and live concerts.
Pristine Parks & Historic Landmarks
Established in 1688, Somerset County, in central New Jersey, is one of the oldest counties in the US. Visit historic bridges, train stations and homesteads, picnic in pristine parks and go horseback riding or cycling.
The Planetarium at Raritan Valley Community College hosts laser concerts, star shows and a variety of special events. Sports fans can catch the Somerset Patriots minor league baseball team, the only three-time champions in the history of the Atlantic League, play in Bridgewater.
For more open-air fun, visit Colonial Park in Franklin Township, perfect for picnics or a game of softball or mini-golf; Duke Island Park in Bridgewater Township, catering to biking enthusiasts; or the Sourland Mountain Preserve, where you can hike, or go mountain biking, bird watching, bouldering, and horseback riding. Or, explore the Environmental Education Center in Bernards Township and see the Secrets of the Great Swamp exhibit hall.
Beaches & Boardwalks
From Sandy Hook to Cape May, the lighthouses, barrier islands, bays and fishing villages have delighted beach-going families for decades. Ocean County’s seaside resort areas lie along the 32-kilometre stretch of the Barnegat Peninsula and the 32-kilometre Long Beach Island.
Point Pleasant Beach on the Barnegat Peninsula, Jenkinson’s Boardwalk is jam-packed with rides, arcades, mini-golf and batting cages. A sea aquarium houses sharks, penguins, seals, and a touch tank.
In Barnegat Light on Long Beach Island, water activities are huge – from sailing to windsurfing and parasailing, not to mention crabbing and fishing. For fun away from the beach, head to Viking Village, a combined commercial fishing outlet and shops. And kids love Fantasy Island Amusement Park near Beach Haven, with its turn-of-the-20th-century carousel and 20-metre Ferris wheel, games, rides and an arcade, all set against a Victorian-inspired backdrop.
Six Flags Great Adventure and Wild Safari in Jackson, the largest Six Flags amusement park in the US, features rides for the fearless and the ‘faint of heart’. Nearby, Six Flags Wild Safari houses more than 1,200 exotic animals, and is the largest drive-through safari outside of Africa. Six Flags Hurricane Harbour, a tropical-themed waterpark, features a wave pool, one of the world’s largest adventure rivers and speed slides.
New Jersey’s South Shore, between the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay, boasts six of the top ten New Jersey beaches. On the Jersey Cape, families enjoy well-preserved Victorian architecture, fine birding opportunities, unsurpassed fishing and water sports, and fun-filled boardwalks.
With 13 kilometres of spectacular beaches, five kilometres of boardwalk and loads of water activities, Ocean City is made for families. In Ocean City, families chill at Carson’s Inlet State Park with its sand dune systems and great bird watching, take a trip to the Ocean City Lifesaving Museum, or visit the Ocean City Historical Museum that chronicles local history.
At night, Ocean City comes to life with amusement rides for all ages, and a wide variety of shops. Built in 1928, the Ocean City Music Pier offers vacationers and residents concerts, from classical to rock, in a beautifully refurbished music center.
Cape May, the “Nation’s Oldest Seashore Resort,” takes you back in time with daily tours of the old historic district and authentically preserved Victorian Inns. Go fishing, whale watching and sailing, or hunt for “Cape May Diamonds” along the shore.
As an alternative to the beach, visit the Cape May County Park & Zoo, considered one of the best, full-system parks in the state. The Zoo houses more than 100 wildlife species like otters, tigers, bobcats, reindeer, zebra, goats and bears, reptile and monkey houses and an aviary. The Cape May County Park & Zoo also has playground areas, tennis and volleyball courts, baseball fields, jogging and bike trails and fresh-water fishing.
Cape May County Dept TourismKnown for its wide beaches and funky ‘50s DooWop architectural style, Wildwood hosts a variety of summer family entertainment including beach concerts, hobie cat races, kite festivals, national marble tournaments, life guard races, wrestling matches and beauty pageants. Wildwood’s boardwalk stretches along the beach past a convention centre, four amusement piers, two movie theatres, hundreds of souvenir and novelty shops and a variety of restaurants, ethnic food stands and salt water taffy shops.
With more than 100 rides and attractions, Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Waterparks combines the thrill of an amusement park with the fun of a classic boardwalk. From minute to minute kids can change activities – miniature golf, amusement parks, go-carts, swimming pools – and vast beaches.
Find more information:
New Jersey Tourism www.visitnj.org
NJ Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau www.mlcvb.com
Somerset County Business Partnership www.visitsomersetnj.org
Long Beach Island and Southern Ocean County, New Jersey www.visitlbiregion.com
Ocean County Tourism www.oceancountytourism.com
Cape May County Department of Tourism www.thejerseycape.com
Greater Wildwood Tourism www.wildwoodsnj.com