18 FUN Things to Do in New Jersey with Kids

New Jersey is often overshadowed by its bustling neighbor, New York City, but the Garden State can be a fun and exciting place for a family vacation. Brimming with exhilarating theme parks, lively beaches, and picnic-perfect nature reserves, New Jersey is much more than just a pass through destination.

Don’t believe me? Keep reading! We’ve compiled a list of the very best fun things to do in New Jersey with kids. With so many unique attractions in New Jersey for families – you’ll head home from your trip saying “I ❤️ NJ”! 

the boardwalk in Ocean City
The coastal towns in New Jersey are famous for their lively, family-friendly boardwalks.

Fun Things to Do in New Jersey with Kids

Family trips create fun memories no matter what you do or where you go. However, New Jersey has some particularly exciting family activities your kids might love. Whether you are flying into Newark with plans to visit NYC, or you are driving through from Pennsylvania, consider spending a few extra days in New Jersey.  

With so many fun things to do in New Jersey with kids – the unsuspecting state may become an unforeseen family favorite.

1. Visit a Jersey Shore Beach

a little boy playing in the sand at a beach along the Jersey Shore
The beaches along the Jersey Shore are wonderful places to explore in New Jersey with kids.

New Jersey has nearly 115 million visitors each year, with many likely stopping to see the state’s famous beaches. Jersey shores like Sea Bright, Stone Harbor and Manasquan are just a few places to take your family for a day on the sand. Be sure to bring sunscreen and water, and pack your beach essentials for kids, to make memories that last long after the sand washes off.

Be aware that you will need to purchase beach tags for $10 per person to access the beaches in Ocean City. While there are free beaches along the coast, they don’t have lifeguards, so they may not be the safest options for your family. 

2. Spend a Full Day at American Dream

Nickelodeon Universe inside American Dream - the largest indoor theme park in the western hemisphere
Nickelodeon Universe inside American Dream is the largest indoor theme park in the western hemisphere. | Courtesy: American Dream

American Dream is not just a shopping mall – it is a full-fledged entertainment center.! You can ride roller coasters, waterslides, and even go skiing inside this megacenter of fun!  

American Dream houses both the largest indoor water park in North America and the largest indoor theme park in the western hemisphere plus the first and only indoor real-snow park where you can ski year round.

Plan to spend a full day or two, visiting Nickelodeon Universe and Dreamworks Water Park before taking a ride on the 300-foot high Dream Wheel. If you get hungry, well, you have more than 50 dining options to choose from.

And there are always special events going on at American Dream that add to the fun and excitement.   

3. Ride a Historic Train

Whippany Railway Museum, located in the small Hanover Township, is a unique place that provides year-round family-friendly fun in New Jersey. 

The museum hosts fun events throughout the year. You can visit around Halloween for the Pumpkin Patch Train or come during the spring season to ride the Easter Bunny Express. 

Visitors will learn all about the trains and the history of the railroads in New Jersey, so your family can fully appreciate what makes these trains amazing when it’s time to ride them.

4. See a Fabulous Manhattan View

looking at Manhattan from Liberty State Park
Liberty State Park boasts incredible views of the NYC skyline.

Although you can only experience the Statue of Liberty by visiting New York City, you can still see Manhattan from New Jersey’s Liberty State Park. The Jersey City park located on the upper New York Bay offers a front-row seat to Manhattan’s skyline providing the ultimate family photo background. 

Aside from epic views, there are walking trails, playgrounds, and the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial worth visiting in the park. And if your kids tire of outdoor activities, the Liberty Science Center is within walking distance and is one of the best places to visit in New Jersey with kids.

5. Bike Around the Gateway National Recreation Center 

The lighthouse in the Gateway National Recreation Center
Gateway National Recreation Center is home to the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in the US.

Of all the free things to do in New Jersey, your family has to see the Gateway National Recreation Center in Middletown Township. There’s a forest with plenty of trails for stretching your legs after a long road trip, as well as swimming beaches, and the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in the US

Don’t forget to bring supplies or gear for your preferred activities — the center has a quiet coastline, tennis courts and basketball courts to entertain even the sportiest of kids.

6. Dig for Fossils Together

If you have a dino-obsessed kiddo then Field Station: Dinosaurs in Leonia is a must-visit. This family-friendly activity in the northeast corner of New Jersey will leave dino-loving kids starstruck. 

Your children can pretend to be paleontologists who dig for fossils, attend educational shows and discover life-sized dino recreations throughout the park. 

Don’t miss the Jurassic Jump attraction that helps kids reach new heights with the help of a massive trampoline and a safety harness and the new Jurassic Zoo Bounce House for kids 12 and under.

7. Drive Dump Trucks at Diggerland USA

a little boy operating a child-sized backhoe at Diggerland USA - one of the best New Jersey attractions for kids
Diggerland USA takes playing in the sand to a whole new level! | Courtesy: Diggerland USA

Kids who play with dump trucks in sandboxes and watch construction equipment YouTube videos will have their minds blown at Diggerland USA

No hard hats are required at this unique construction-themed park in West Berlin, New Jersey that lets children drive go-carts shaped like tractors and skid steers, operate kid-friendly machinery and even splash around in a water park. 

It’s one of the most popular family activities in New Jersey because it caters to the specific adoration many little ones have for construction. 

8. Get Lost in a Fairytale

Instead of reading fairy tales before your kids go to sleep during your next New Jersey family vacation, you could immerse them in their favorite fictional worlds. Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township brings tales like Alice in Wonderland and Humpty Dumpty to life with fun and whimsical rides.  

There are even themed restaurants that keep the fun going while your family snacks on their favorite theme park foods.

9. See the Cape May Zoo

a peacock at the Cape May Zoo in NJ
The Cape May Zoo is home to 250 different types of animals.

Cape May is a popular vacation destination for families in New Jersey. Located at the southern tip of the state, the Cape May peninsula is home to beautiful beaches, seaside resorts, and a fun zoo that is the perfect activity to break up a beach trip.  

The Cape May Zoo features 250 different species, like buffalo, giraffes, ostriches and even termite colonies. Your family will see all kinds of animals for free nearly any day of the year.

10. Splash Around in Van Saun Park

Another fun place to spend some time outdoors in New Jersey with kids, Van Saun Park is located in the city of Hackensack. It has activities that fit any family’s budget. You can take your children to Harmony Playground and splash pad, bike down trails or walk around the park on paved pathways.

You can also get tickets to the park’s other amenities, like seasonal pony rides, a carousel, or the mini train that chugs around the property. In winter, they

If you’re traveling with your family dog, there’s also a dog park within the property where your pup can get their energy out in a fenced-in area. Visit while the park’s open to include your furry best friend in the family fun.

11. Spend the Day in Ocean City’s Wonderland

the Ferris Wheel at Gillian's Wonderland Pier in Ocean City, one of the best places to visit in New Jersey for families
Gillian’s massive Ferris Wheel is one of the prized attractions in Ocean City NJ for kids.

Ocean City is another popular New Jersey family vacation destination with a lot of fun activities and attractions for kids. 

Consider stopping by Gillian’s Wonderland Pier when you’re driving through or staying in Ocean City. 

Young children love the carousel and the balloon race ride, while older ones sprint to rides like the Canyon Falls Log Flume or the Moby Dick swing.

Ocean City is also known for its entertaining boardwalk, making it a fun place to visit in New Jersey with kids

12. Watch Sea Creatures at Jenkinson’s Aquarium

If you’re heading to Point Pleasant Beach, be sure to spend a morning at the Jenkinson’s Aquarium

Whether your vacation forecast is full of rain, snow, or sunshine, you and your family can visit the aquarium to see fish, penguins, sharks, and coral reefs. 

It’s one of the most educational indoor activities in New Jersey, thanks to its in-person and virtual teaching moments with the animals. Stroll the nearby boardwalk when you’ve seen everything the aquarium has to offer then dine on delicious food under the sunset.

13. Explore the Liberty Science Center

the view of the NYC skyline from the observation deck at Liberty Science center
The view from the observation deck of the Liberty Science Center is just one reason to take your kids to this fascinating museum and planetarium.

Located in Jersey City’s Liberty State Park, parents looking for family-friendly indoor activities in New Jersey can check out the Liberty Science Center

It has interactive exhibits that encourage children to get creative while they learn. When you’re ready to rest, the massive on-site planetarium offers shows that will take your family on a trip through the galaxy. It’s the largest planetarium in the western hemisphere. 

And to top it off, you can also get great views of New York Center from the observation deck.

14. Swim in Hurricane Harbor

Six Flags and Hurricane Harbor are popular family activities in New Jersey and across the United States in cities where they have theme parks. 

Located in Jackson Township, Six Flags has its classic theme park rides while Hurricane Harbor invites everyone to cool off during the hot summer months on its thrilling water slides and other water features. There are even family-sized cabanas where you can relax between dips in the splash pools or trips down the water slides.

15. Search for Fairy Houses

New Jersey residents have long upheld folklore traditions, which is why there are fairy houses along trails in South Mountain Reservation. As long as your kids stay on the walking paths and don’t add anything to the tiny houses, they can enjoy the magical setting without breaking any of the park’s rules. 

The Fairy Trail at the South Mountain Reservation is a short half mile trail where you’ll find tiny fairy homes built into the hollows and roots of treats or crafted from natural materials. 

Don’t worry if you run out of miniature houses to spot — the park also has a zoo, mini golf, a pristine playground and paddle boats for family fun all day.

16 Wear Cowboy Hats at Wild West City

Do your kids imagine galloping across the Wild West when they play make-believe? You don’t have to go all the way to Jackson, Wyoming or West Texas for those cowboy vibes. 

Instead, visit Wild West City in Byram Township, New Jersey to make their dreams come true. It features recreated historic cities and living history stations and reenactments so they can learn about things like blacksmithing and farming. Ride a few of the horses before stopping for comfort food at any of the themed restaurants.

17. Attend an Elephant’s Birthday Party

Lucy the Elephant, one of the most unusual places to visit in New Jersey with kids.
Lucy the Elephant is the oldest roadside attraction in the United States.

Located in Margate City, Lucy the Elephant is a National Historic Landmark. She’s a unique New Jersey attraction built in 1881 that stands six stories high. Anyone can visit to take pictures, but those who want more time can actually go inside the oldest roadside attraction in the United States on a guided tour. 

If you wish to see the spectacular sight, the venue throws her a birthday party every year in July.

18. Jump in a River Tube

River tubing is a fun outdoor activity where nature is the main attraction! There are numerous places to go tubing while in the Garden State during the summer months, so see if there are tours close to where you’re staying. 

Your family might love the adrenaline rush of soaring over the water on the Delaware River, especially if it’s a sunny day. 

Conclusion: Enjoy These Family Activities in New Jersey

Pick any of these family activities in New Jersey. You can also give your kids a list of possible activities and have them choose what you’ll do so they feel like a bigger part of the trip. No matter where you go or what you do while you’re in the state, you’ll have an incredible time together. 

Do you have a question or comment about any of these fun things to do in New Jersey with kids? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Photo credits: 1: Jesse Gardner from Unsplash | 2: Marla Schmidt from Unsplash | 3: American Dream | 4: Joey Pedras from Unsplash | 5: Santeri Liukkonen from Unsplash | 6: Diggerland USA | 7:  Devin Dumpson from Unsplash | 8: Jill Marv from Unsplash | 9: Roger Shih from Unsplash | 10: Jim McIntosh from Pixabay

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