These are challenging times for parents and caregivers around New Jersey and the country. We are being told to stay at home or if we must go out we should keep ourselves and our kids away from others. No playdates! No going to the museum. No amusement parks! Don’t walk by a playground, that might be too tempting for kids! Are there any New Jersey outdoor activities you CAN do?
Kids want to play! Kids want to be active!
Parents and caregivers need help! A few weeks ago, we got that help through a new executive order and our state has started to respond.
Murphy also issued a new executive order that “authorizes all outdoor recreational and entertainment businesses that were previously closed to reopen, with the exceptions of amusement parks, water parks and arcades, which all involve large numbers of people coming into contact with high-touch surfaces.”New Jersey Business Magazine, June 9, 2020
Now more than ever families are looking for things to do with their kids, outdoor activities in New Jersey. But who wants to keep a list of blog posts? Who wants to have to search each NJ outdoor activity to see if it’s open? And then there’s all the outdoorsy activities we don’t even know to look for.
We KNOW you need help finding outdoor activities in New Jersey for the kids to do that are fun and engaging. Moms, dads, grandparents, caregivers, we know you are going to need a break. It was a lot to have parents go from having their kids in school to having them home ALL DAY! Now, with most summer camps closed your kids are going to be home all day, every day, all summer.
We’re here to help.
26 New Jersey Outdoor Activities
A lot of these outdoor New Jersey attractions have indoor buildings. Even though those buildings might be closed right now, the grounds are still fum to explore with kids.
Walk through the zoo
As soon as I realized certain low risk outdoor activities would be allowed again, I thought of our zoos. I was hopeful they would be able to open. It took them a few days but some of the New Jersey Zoos are open to the public. Take a look at what you need to know to visit them at this time.
- Cape May County Park & Zoo – The Cape May County Zoo is open daily from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Learn more about the Cape May County Zoo by visiting their website. Keep in mind, while admission is free donations are greatly appreciated, especially because they had to be closed for so many weeks. A few rules to keep in mind when visiting the Cape May County Zoo.
- Everyone over the age of 2 years old is required to wear a face covering when visiting to protect each other and their susceptible animals!
- Adhere to social distancing guidelines when visiting.
- Don’t visit if you are feeling ill or running a fever.
- The Reptile House and Aviary will remain closed at this time.
- Admissions into the Zoo will be limited to maintain a light manageable crowd every day and to make sure everyone can distance themselves responsibly.
- Playgrounds will be open and the Park is available for pavilion rentals and recreation.
- Space Farm Zoo – Starting Monday June 22, Space Farm Zoo will be open 10 am – 5 pm, last entrance at 4 pm Sundays – Thursdays. Friday and Saturday will be drive through 10 am – 5 pm. Last time slot 4 pm. Guests must buy tickets on-line. Learn more about the Space Farms Drive Thru farm. Buy tickets here.
- Turtle Back Zoo – The Essex County Turtle Back Zoo reopened to the public on Thursday, June 18th with timed tickets only. The Zoo will be open daily from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Tickets are only valid for date and time specified. You have a 30-minute time frame to enter the Zoo after the time specified on your ticket. Learn more and reserve your tickets at their website. Read more about this North Jersey zoo in our review of Turtle Back Zoo.
The Bergen County Zoo, the Cohanzick Zoo, and the Popcorn Park Zoo are still closed at this time.
Put put put a round of Mini Golf
What tourist town or beachy destination doesn’t have mini golf? When we walked into Ocean City the other day we found families enjoying a game of miniature golf, while maintaining their distance from others.
If you have a mini golf place in New Jersey you love give them a call or drive by, I’m sure they’d love to see you. Or venture out and try someplace new. I alway enjoy seeing the different themes and decor or mini golf courses. To cut down on the passage of germs bring exact change and your own pencils, golf balls, and score card. Bring wipes to clean off the golf putters before you get started.
Enjoy a dinner out at sunset at New Jersey restaurants
New Jersey restaurants have been given permission to open for outdoor dining. Everyone’s trying to get in on the action. From local mom and pop restaurants to popular restaurants on the boardwalk, there’s probably a restaurant near you that offers outdoor dining. Time it right and enjoy an outdoor meal with your family as the sun is setting.
Before you head out for outdoor dining in New Jersey, read this first, 13 Rules for Dining Outside in New Jersey.
Smell the roses at New Jersey Gardens
One of the New Jersey outdoor attractions we started enjoying more of last year were New Jersey gardens and arboretums. Botanical gardens and arboretums across New Jersey are a fun way to get outside in the fresh air and share in unique experiences with you family.
There are quite a few gardens and arboretums around the state. New Jersey botanical gardens and arboretums, give families opportunities to get exercise as a family while also discovering new flowers and create new memories together. Every few weeks something different is blooming.
Here’s a few of our favorite arboretums, you can find a full list here, New Jersey gardens and arboretums.
- Linwood arboretum – Completely outdoors at Belhaven & Wabash Avenues, open every day dusk to dawn, free admission.
- Reeves – Reed Arboretum in Summit. Arboretum grounds will be open to the public 7 days a week from 1 pm to 7 pm; however all buildings are closed. I remember admission being free, but a donation of $5 per person was preferred.
Go back in time at battlefields in New Jersey
Ever since we visited the battlefields of Fredericksburg Virginia, my youngest has been fascinated by battlefields. The cannons, forts, lookout towers capture his imagination and he can’t help but have a pretend battle with his brothers. In New Jersey, we have a few state parks with battefields.
- Fort Mott State Park
- Monmouth Battlefield State Park
- Princeton Battlefield State Park
- Washington Crossing State Park
Board a Battleship
The Battleship New Jersey reopened for limited, self-guided tours on June 15! The Battleship was granted approval by the State of New Jersey to open her decks for exterior tours. The Hit the Deck tour, which will launch at 10am each day with the last tour departing at 4 pm, and will be a self-guided tour.
Guests are encouraged to purchase tour tickets online at www.battleshipnewjersey.org/visit. Tickets will be $15 per adult and $10 for children 12 and under, veterans and senior citizens. The tours will be limited to 10 people every 15 minutes. This will spread out guests along the tour route to make for a safer experience.
All guests touring the Battleship will be screened in the Visitors Center before redeeming tickets. All guests must wear a face covering and practice social distance of one fathom — six feet — in the Visitors Center and while touring the Battleship. Free parking is available!
Pick berries at a New Jersey farm
One of my favorite past-times is picking berries at New Jersey farms. Strawberry season is winding down. Soon it will be time to pick blueberries and blackberries. We’ll end the summer picking peaches. Then, as we roll into the fall, we’ll visit New Jersey farms for picking apples and pumpkins.
Spending an hour or so with your kids on a farm is a great outdoor activity and helps your kids appreciate where their food comes from. Make it better by coming home and baking up some yummy treats. Find a New Jersey farm near you by visiting our directory of New Jersey farms.
Shop a Farmers Market
Experiences at New Jersey farmer’s markets are going to look different this year. But whether you are looking for a farmers market with walk up service, a drive thru farmers market, or a farm-to-car experience you can get it in New Jersey.
Not only do farmers markets provide us a way to get fresh and healthy produce, that may be limited in grocery stores, but they also provide us a way to support New Jersey’s farmers. For a listing of farmer’s markets near you visit our listing of New Jersey Farmers Markets.
Find a waterfall
The most majestic waterfall in New Jersey has to be the one at Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. I truly wish I loved closer because I would be there ALL THE TIME. Not only are the waterfalls at Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park truly majestic but they are also quite significant when it comes to waterfalls on the East Coast. The Paterson Great Falls are the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi. How fortunate are we that they are ours to share in New Jersey?!
You can learn more about the Paterson Great Falls through TWO articles we’ve written: Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park & The Day With No Falls! and Earning Paterson Great Falls Junior Ranger Badges.
There are other waterfalls in New Jersey that you can learn about through this article on NJ Hiking.
Discover a castle
Last summer we discovered one of the most beautiful locations to visit in New Jersey, Kip’s Castle. The view of the castle is impressive. Originally referred to as “Kypsburg” it took over three years to build in the early 1900’s. The County of Essex became it’s most recent owner in 2007 and integrated into it’s offerings of outdoor films and concerts. Under normal circumstances visitors are permitted to tour the first floor of the castle.
From the Essex County Park’s website, “Kip’s Castle is a magnificent 9,000 square foot mansion that replicates a medieval Norman castle. The estate spans eleven acres of land on the ridge of First Mountain, resting in both Montclair and Verona townships, and provides spectacular views of New York City.
Kip’s Castle is located at 22 Crestmont Road in Verona. The grounds at Kip’s Castle Park are open from dawn to dusk seven days a week. There is a small parking lot visitors can use while they tour the grounds. Admission is free.
Seek out diamonds
Diamonds can be found on the Sunset Beach of Cape May. This is one of those Cape May activities that I’ve heard about from friends but still need to do with my boys. It sounds so fun! Small pieces of quartz, rounded and smoothed through hundreds of years traveling down the Delaware River are underfoot on this Cape May beach. When polished, these quartz rocks look like diamonds-hence the name “Cape May Diamonds.” Hunting for diamonds is a tradition for many families that visit Cape May on vacation.
Dip your toes in the water at the beach
While we’re talking about diamonds on the beach, one of the most loved New Jersey outdoor activities is visiting the beach. As we approach the July 4th holiday almost all New Jersey beaches are staffed with lifeguards and open for swimming. Whether you want to visit the free beaches in Atlantic City and Wildwood or travel to another beach on the Jersey Shore you can learn more about beach tags, amenities, and more in our guide to New Jersey beaches.
Watch a movie under the stars
Over these last few weeks how we’ve watched movies with our families has definitely changed. Our movie theaters are closed. New releases have gone straight to TV. It’s definitely been different and I am missing the movie theater experience.
This summer, though, we have a whole new way to see movies in New Jersey because drive in movies are back! There are SEVEN ways to see New Jersey drive in movies this summer: our permanent drive in theater, pop up drive in theaters, and traditional but one night only township drive in movies. Learn more about each option in our article, New Jersey Drive In Movies ARE Back.
Drive thru a safari
Growing up the Six Flags Great Adventure Drive Thru Safari was pretty epic. It was something every family wanted to try at least once. We all had our stories of what it was like. Years later the Six Flags Great Adventure Drive Thru Safari would close and visitors enjoyed it as a perk with their Great Adventure admission ticket. It’s back though, for a limited time, while the regular amusement park is closed. Learn more in Six Flags Great Adventure Drive Thru Safari is OPEN.
Other New Jersey drive thru experiences include:
- Find 500 Animals at the Space Farms Drive Thru Zoo
- See Silly Animals and More at Brookhollow’s Barnyard Drive Thru Farm
Pose with art
Did you know that Atlantic City has over 60 murals? I have traveled into Atlantic City quite often attending events and finding things to do in Atlantic City with kids and I can not believe I did not know that. I mean sure I knew there were a few Atlantic City murals, but I had no idea there were murals up and down nearly every street in Atlantic City.
A month into the pandemic, when most things were still closed, I was determined to get out of the house and find something to do with my boys. That’s when I discovered Atlantic City murals. I spent the next week creating a Self Guided Atlantic City Murals Tour than you can do by car or bike.
Hike at a New Jersey State Park
After sitting on a beach to watch the waves, hiking is my second all time favorite outdoor activity in New Jersey. We have so many hiking trails in New Jersey, but I usually prefer hiking at New Jersey State Parks. Not only are the trails usually marked out well, there’s also park rangers available should I run into a problem. Plus you don’t usually need to worry about where to park or use the bathroom.
Bike a new path
From the Jersey Shore boardwalks to the mountain bike trails, there are plenty of places to go bike riding in New Jersey.
One South Jersey bike path we have enjoyed as a family is the Somers Point Bike Path. It is part of a longer trail of 6.5 miles that extends from Somers Point through Linwood into Northfield and ends in Pleasantville. In Somers Point it starts at the Somers Point City Hall at 1 West New Jersey Avenue. Along the way the trail might be called different things, but one thing is for sure. This trail is definitely kid-friendly. The paths are wide enough for parents with a stroller to share it with bikers and joggers.
If you’re not local to Somers Point or planning to visit anytime soon plan a day out biking with these 10 great places to ride bikes in New Jersey from Visit New Jersey.
Strap on some skates or grab a skateboard
Yes, our traditional indoor roller skating rinks are closed, but we do have trails across New Jersey that allow for inline skating. We also have outdoor skateboarding parks open for skaters. Visit our 100+ Places to Skate in New Jersey for a listing of local places you can skate, roller blade, inline skate, or skateboard.
Climb a New Jersey Lighthouse
New Jersey is home to 11 lighthouses. As a New Jersey mom of three boys, finding ways to help them burn energy has always been one of my top priorities. So, climbing New Jersey lighthouses with them not only gets them out and about, it also lets us experience the beauty of the New Jersey coastline as a family.
Learn more about each of them in our 11 New Jersey Lighthouses to Explore with Kids. Keep in mind, even if the lighthouse is closed, you can still walk around the grounds of them to learn about their history and take in the magnificent structure.
Cruise for dolphins
There are certainly times when you can see dolphins off the coast of the Jersey Shore. However, the best way to guarantee you’ll see dolphins is through one of the dolphin cruises offered in New Jersey. Here’s a few we’ve experienced.
- Atlantic City Dolphin Cruises
- Cape May Whale Watcher and dolphin cruises
- The Cape May Lewis Ferry, yes the ferry. While not promoted as a dolphin watching experience in New Jersey, we have seen dolphins every time we’ve sailed with the Cape May Lewis Ferry.
Journey Across a Bridge
We did this just the other day. We walked across the Ocean City Bridge and back. Have you ever done this? I’ve driven across this bridge probably a hundred times. Every time I do I say I’m going to walk across this bridge some day.
With the weather just perfect and my mind determined to walk somewhere I didn’t need to worry about ticks, my boys and I set about to walk the Ocean City bridge. At 2.5 miles each way it was just the right amount of challenge and distance for us.
We walked a complete loop by parking at one of the fishing piers. We walked from their all the way into Ocean City, where we stopped for ice cream. Then, we turned around to come back, passing the fishing pier, and getting to the cement gazebo at the Somers Point end before turning around to head back to our parking spot. Click over for more details to Walk Across the Ocean City Bridge.
Have you tried fishing with your children yet? New Jersey is home to many excellent waterways, filled with varies species of freshwater fish. In addition to beaches and other fishing piers you may already know of you can read our New Jersey Free Fishing Day post for a listing of other lakes and ponds around New Jersey that allow fishing.
Slip and Slide at a New Jersey Water Park
Summer is the time for cooling off and what better way to do that than by slipping down a waterslide or splashing in the waves of a wave pool. All of your favorite outdoor waterparks in New Jersey are opening up.
If you want more details or need help finding a local outdoor New Jersey water park visit our guide to New Jersey Water Parks.
Here’s a few water parks we’ve blogged about before:
- Morey’s Piers
- Sahara Sam’s
- The Water Main at Diggerland
- Splashplex at The Funplex
- Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach
- Hurricane Harbor at Great Adventure
- Mountain Creek Waterpark
- Runaway Rapids at Keansburg Amusement Park
Test your luck
While New Jersey amusement parks, water parks, and arcades don’t have permission to open, boardwalk games do. Grab your singles and the kids and head down to your favorite boardwalk for some games and friendly competition between the members of your family.
Get scared on New Jersey roller coasters
That’s right! New Jersey amusement parks have been given the green light to open for the summer. Your experience will certainly look a little different. You’ll need to wear masks. Reservations may be required. But you can still count on having a fabulous time.
If you want more details or need help finding a local amusement park visit our guide to New Jersey Amusement Parks.
Seek out treasure with pirates
Pirates, sunken treasures, and adventures… who can resist? If you haven’t had a pirate adventure with your kids, you need to set sail with Jersey Shore Pirates. Bring your young pirates aboard the Sea Gypsy for a swashbuckling Pirate Adventure on the Metedeconk River. To maintain safety and social distancing they are limiting capacity for the cruises. Call (732) 899-6100 to learn more. Pirate cruises are offered 7 days a week beginning in July.
Keep checking in with this post for new ideas. Every time I think I’ve listed all of the possible New Jersey outdoor activities, I think of a few more. I know this list will keep growing.
What outdoor activities and attractions in New Jersey would you add to this list?