Congratulations! We have gotten through some challenging times around New Jersey and the country these past two years. We were 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! At a time when parents were struggling, we were able to come to the rescue with New Jersey outdoor activities families could do.
Never before had we seen the kind of phenomenal support for a guide of things to do in New Jersey with kids as we saw for this guide. THANK YOU.
Kids STILL want to play! Kids STILL want to be active!
One of my biggest takeaways from that time is how important outdoor activity time is for us and our kids. While we initially published this guide in June 2020, we’re updating it for 2022. All of the original activities we’ve listed continue to be open AND we’ve found new NJ outdoor activities to add. We will continue to keep this guide to New Jersey Outdoor Activities You Can NOW Do updated.
Families are continuing to look 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 an activity is still available or if an attraction was able to stay 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 still deserve a break. The pandemic may be coming to an end, but a lot of us are still feeling exhausted and need help.
We’re here to help.
Amazing New Jersey Outdoor Activities
A lot of these outdoor New Jersey attractions have indoor buildings. Even though those buildings might still be working to reopen fully, the grounds are still fun to explore with kids.
Walk through the zoo
When certain low-risk outdoor activities were allowed again, I thought of our zoos. I love that they were some of the first to reopen their doors to visitors. 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 in Cape May Court House
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.
- Adhere to social distancing guidelines when visiting.
- Don’t visit if you are feeling ill or running a fever.
- The Reptile House is open. The Aviary is closed and most of the birds are off-exhibit due to the bird flu that is going around the area.
- Playgrounds will be open and the Park is available for pavilion rentals and recreation.
Space Farm Zoo in Sussex
During the pandemic, Space Farms offered a whole new temporary drive-through experience. The drive-through experience is no longer available, but guests can enjoy daily walk-through visits to Space Farm Zoo.
Featuring more than 500 animals of 100 different species, Space Farms has the largest private collection of North American animals in their natural surroundings, in the United States. This New Jersey zoo also has many exotic species from around the world. Space Farms is internationally famous for its bear and lion cub breeding programs.
- Space Farm Zoo is open daily 10 am – 5 pm.
- The last entrance is at 4 pm.
- Guests can buy tickets online.
Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange
Turtle Back Zoo – Turtle Back Zoo is not the zoo you remember from your childhood. It has been magnificently transformed in the last ten years. New exhibits and enhancements are made each year. You will find a wealth of nature and great teaching moments with respect to nature.
The Essex County Turtle Back Zoo reopened to the public on Thursday, June 18, 2020. The Zoo will be open daily from 10 am to 4:00 pm.
- Rules regarding face coverings
- Face coverings are REQUIRED while indoors. This includes, but is not limited to: Reptile House, Touch Tank, Penguin House, Gift Shop, Cafe, etc.
- Per County Health Inspector & Zoo Veterinary Staff guidelines, guests will be required to wear a face covering that covers the nose and mouth at certain animal interactions (please be prepared to bring your own).
- Face coverings are optional when outdoors on regular zoo grounds.
- Reservations are no longer required.
- There is no time limit to how long you can stay in the Zoo.
- Tickets can no longer be purchased online. They can only be bough at Turtle Back Zoo. Learn more at their website. Read more about this North Jersey zoo in our review of Turtle Back Zoo.
Cohanzick Zoo in Bridgeton
Cohanzick Zoo -The Cohanzick Zoo is located at 45 Mayor Aitken Drive, Bridgeton. Check out New Jersey’s FIRST zoo! There are over 100 animals in 15 acres and lots of fun to be had. Pack a lunch and enjoy a day out among the black bear, emu, donkey and more. Read more about this zoo in Southern New Jersey in our review of the Cohanzick Zoo or our articles about the Cohanzick Zoo.
- Admission is free!
- Cohanzick Zoo is open 9 am – 5 pm daily. The best time to visit is between 10 am and 4 pm. Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and occasionally for bad weather.
- Visit the Cohanzick Zoo website.
Bergen County Zoo in Paramus
The Bergen County Zoo is located at 216 Forest Avenue, Paramus. The Bergen County Zoo is small but friendly! See birds, cows, snakes, lizards and more. The zoo offers a series of educational programs and public events as well.
- Admission is FREE until May 1, 2022. During the winter season (November 1–April 30), the zoo is open to the public for FREE from 10 am-3 pm.
- During the paid season (May 1–October 31) the hours are 10 am-4:30 pm. The last admission is 4 pm.
- Adult admission is $8, children over 3 is $5. Reduced admission is available for Bergen County residents.
- Masks must be worn in all indoor areas including the Education and Discovery Center, Gift Shop, and bathrooms.
- Plexi-glass has been installed to cover and protect all of the exhibits.
- Visit the Bergen County Zoo website.
Popcorn Park Zoo in Forked River
The Popcorn Park Zoo has reopened. Popcorn Park is an animal rescue for animals who faced desperate circumstances. Also known as Popcorn Park Refuge it’s home to over 200 animals and birds. Each animal is provided with spacious living quarters and vetrinary care.
- Popcorn Park is open daily from 11 am to 5 pm with early closings on holidays.
- Admission into the park stops at 4:15 pm.
- A small admission fee, of $5-$8 per person, helps support the animals
- Visit the Popcorn Park website or our feature on Popcorn Park Zoo to learn more.
Visit our guide to The Best Places to See Animals for Free in New Jersey for more locations to find animals.
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
Many New Jersey restaurants experimented with outdoor dining back in 2020. It worked so well several restaurants have continued to offer it. 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 our recommendations 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 over the past few years 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 in Linwood
Linwood arboretum – Completely outdoors at Belhaven & Wabash Avenues, open every day dusk to dawn, free admission.
Reeves – Reed Arboretum in Summit
The Reeves-Reed Arboretum is a hidden little spot that few realize is an untold treasure. Beautiful gardens in a relaxing setting make is a perfect place for a nature walk. Arboretum grounds will be open daily: November 1 2021 – March 31, 2022 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and April 1, 2022 – October 31, 2022, 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. I remember admission being free, but a donation of $5 per person was preferred.
Walk among the tulips
I love seeing rainbows of tulips. When I start to see them bloom in my garden I know spring is here. But the tulips in my garden are never enough, I need to get out and see them all. If you’re like me and love tulips, check out the New Jersey tulip farms where you can pick tulips and other places where you can find these beautiful flowers. Find one local to you and our list of Tips for Visiting Tulip Festivals in New Jersey. Don’t wait. Tulips only remain in bloom for a short period of time.
Check out Cherry Blossoms
I have to admit, until the pandemic, I never really paid much attention to cherry blossoms. But a visit to Holmdel Park blew me away. What a breathtaking site to see tree after tree of cherry blossom trees.
The best time to see cherry blossom in New Jersey is from early to mid April. Like the tulips, you don’t want to wait to see cherry blossoms. They only stay in bloom for a few weeks.
Cherry Blossom Trees in New Jersey
You can find cherry blossom trees blooming in the spring at these New Jersey parks.
- Holmdel Park in Monmouth County
- The New Jersey State Botanical Garden, that’s a part of Ringwood State Park
- Essex County Branch Brook Park in Newark and Belleville
Sunflower picking season runs from August through September! It’s one of my favorite times of year. All across New Jersey we have farms where you can pick sunflowers. Find one local to you in our list of New Jersey Sunflower Farms.
Roam where dinosaurs have roamed
Dinosaurs still exist in New Jersey. Or at least there are LOTS of locations they look like they still exist in New Jersey. If you have a dinosaur-loving kid or teen who is always on the search to find dinosaurs or dinosaur fossils, we can help with our listing of where to find dinosaurs in New Jersey.
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
- You can see a World War II bunker on the beach at Cape May Point State Park.
Board a Battleship
The Battleship New Jersey has reopened Thursdays through Mondays in March from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm. They will be open daily starting in April! In addition to traditional tours, the Battleship offers a number of unique experiences for visitors.
Guests are encouraged to purchase tour tickets online at www.battleshipnewjersey.org/visit. General admission, self-guided tour tickets start at $5 for children under 5 years old and vary in price up to $25 per adult.
- Guests who have been fully vaccinated are not required to wear face masks.
- The Battleship requires guests to wear face masks and keep a six-foot social distance from other guests for those who have not been fully vaccinated.
- The Battleship has hand-washing stations and sanitizers throughout the tour routes.
Pick berries at a New Jersey farm
One of my favorite past-times is picking berries at New Jersey farms. In the garden state we can pick fruits and vegetables almost year round. May through June is the ideal time for picking strawberries in New Jersey. As June starts to wind down we gear up for picking blueberries in New Jersey. During the best blueberry picking seasons we can pick berries into August. Some of these farms also offer blackberries for picking. Then, families can end the summer picking peaches.
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
It’s still a little early to know what experiences at New Jersey farmer’s markets are going to look like this year. But these past two years we’ve seen farmers markets with walk up service, drive thru options, and a farm-to-car experience, I think it’s been such a convenient option for shoppers that they’re likely to continue this way.
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?! Learn more about this and other waterfalls in our guide to New Jersey Hiking Trails with Waterfalls.
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.
Discover a castle
A few summers ago 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. 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 summer most New Jersey beaches will be 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
The last few years definitely impacted how we’ve watched movies with our families. Movie theaters were closed. New releases went straight to TV. While things are getting back to normal some ‘new again’ movie watching experiences wil be coming back this summer.
This summer, stay tuned as we see drive in movies return again! There are lots of ways to see New Jersey drive in movies: 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.
When the pandemic first hit amusement parks struggled to adjust. Some brainstorming had to take place. Six Flags Great Adventure brought back the drive thru safari, for a limited time, while the regular amusement park was closed. The return of the Six Flags Great Adventure Drive Thru Safari proved so successful that they brought it back last year AND are bringing it back for 2022. Learn more in Six Flags Great Adventure Drive Thru Safari.
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 that 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 are 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
The pandemic has been hard on our traditional indoor roller skating rinks. Many have closed or gone out of business, 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 as part of your New Jersey outdoor activities.
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 a 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
When we were spending so much time at home we did this a few times as part of our New Jersey outdoor activities. 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 there 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.
Other New Jersey bridges with pedestrian paths include the parkway bridge that runs through Cape May County and the Ben Franklin Bridge from New Jersey into Philadelphia.
Have you tried fishing with your children yet? New Jersey is home to many excellent waterways, filled with various 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 have plans to reopen this summer and you definitely should include some waterpark visits in your plans for New Jersey outdoor activities.
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 are 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
Grab your singles and bank cards and the kids and head down to your favorite boardwalk for some games and friendly competition between the members of your family. Since payment options vary go prepared with cash and debit cards. One of the changes we’ve seen during the past two years is that boardwalk games are opting to have customers use their debit/credit cards to purchase game cards to reduce the amount of money changing hands.
Get scared on New Jersey roller coasters
That’s right! New Jersey amusement parks will be open again for this summer. Some of the best New Jersey outdoor activities and experiences may still look a little different as lines and ride availability will be dependent on staffing levels. But gone will be the requirement to wear masks or to have advanced reservations. Plus with many offering new rides and experiences 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. Pirate tours start hitting the seas in April. Call (732) 899-6100 to learn more.
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 other New Jersey outdoor activities and attractions would you add to this list? Would you like more ideas for outdoor activities? Visit our guide to Philadelphia Outdoor Activities for Kids and Teens.
Want to get away for a safe vacation?
Click over to read about Amazing New Jersey Staycations to Try With Kids.