New Jersey boasts a treasure trove of lesser-known attractions that reveal the state’s rich history, diverse culture, and natural beauty. Beyond the usual tourist spots, you’ll discover Jersey’s best-kept secrets when you dig a little deeper.
The Garden State surprises with its coastal charms, featuring serene beaches like Island Beach State Park and the historic maritime allure of the Battleship New Jersey. New Jersey’s storied past is unveiled in its hidden historic sites. Nestled amid its landscapes are idyllic escapes like Hacklebarney State Park, perfect for nature lovers. Art and culture also thrive in many of its lesser-known spots.
New Jersey may be small, but it’s full of hidden treasures. Here are the coolest attractions in New Jersey that you never knew existed!
12. Island Beach State Park
Island Beach State Park is a pristine natural gem located on a barrier island along the Jersey Shore in New Jersey. The state park is known for its unspoiled beaches and thriving ecosystems. From hiking to camping and swimming to canoeing and motorboating, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
The Nature Center and Interpretive Center offer educational exhibits and programs, providing insights into the park’s ecology and wildlife. It’s a secret haven for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. You’ll find species such as ospreys, piping plovers, and the elusive northern diamondback terrapin.
11. Red Mill Museum Village
Located in Clinton, New Jersey, the historic site known as Red Mill Museum Village sits along the Raritan River. The village preserves an array of historic buildings, including its iconic Red Mill, built over 200 years ago. The museum also preserves a historic blacksmith shop, a one-room schoolhouse, a log cabin, and a barn.
Nearby, you’ll discover scenic views of the Raritan River and opportunities for walks along the riverbanks. As a little-known New Jersey gem, Red Mill Museum Village proves to be an ideal location as a destination wedding spot.
10. Rutgers Garden
Rutgers Gardens is a beautiful botanical garden located in New Brunswick, New Jersey. This 180-acre horticultural oasis is affiliated with Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and offers visitors a serene and scenic environment to enjoy a wide variety of gardens, plant collections, and educational programs.
Rutgers Gardens is home to a diverse range of secret gardens, each with its own unique features and plant collections. Some of the gardens you can explore include the Rose Garden, Rain Garden, Display Garden, Perennial Border, and Bamboo Grove. The gardens are known for their impressive botanical collections, from flowering perennials to ornamental grasses – and much more!
9. Sterling Hill Mining Museum
Sterling Hill Mining Museum is a unique educational experience that delves into the history of mining within the region. Visitors can explore an authentic hidden zinc mine through an underground mine tour that will take you 1,300 feet into the Earth. The mine tunnels, equipment, and geological features on display will fascinate visitors from all walks of life.
Learn about the minerals, rocks, and ores that were extracted from the mine, as well as the technology and techniques used in the mining industry. Sterling Hill is renowned for its fluorescent minerals, and the museum houses one of the world’s largest displays of these colorful, glowing specimens. UV lamps reveal the incredible fluorescence of these various minerals.
8. Duke Farms
The historic and environmentally focused property, located in Hillsborough, New Jersey, was founded by James Buchanan Duke, a tobacco and electric power magnate. Duke Farms features an extensive network of hiking trails and pathways that wind through woodlands, meadows, and wetlands. These trails provide an opportunity for nature walks, bird-watching, and other outdoor recreation.
Orchid enthusiasts will rejoice at the Orchid Range, a greenhouse that showcases a wide variety of exotic orchids from around the world. It’s also worth noting that the property practices sustainable efforts such as renewable energy, rainwater harvesting, and wildlife-friendly landscaping in an effort to preserve the area’s ecosystem.
7. Temple of Knowledge
Get in touch with your spiritual side at Madame Marie’s Temple of Knowledge. In New Jersey, Madame Marie was a psychic reader who was the longest-running tenant at Ashbury Park’s boardwalk. To locals, she was an icon, and her stand remains on the boardwalk to this day.
Madame Marie tragically died in 2008 at the ripe old age of 93. That year, in memory of Madame Marie, Another Jersey icon, Bruce Springsteen, dedicated his performance of “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” to the fallen fortune teller.
6. Princeton University Art Museum
While Princeton is one of the most well-known colleges in the country, but the university’s art museum is one of New Jersey’s best kept secrets. It houses an impressive collection of art, with works spanning a variety of time periods and artistic styles.
The museum’s collection includes over 100,000 works of art, ranging from ancient to contemporary. It features paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, photographs, prints, and more from regions around the world. The museum is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of its artworks, and it often conducts research and restoration projects.
5. Hacklebarney State Park
A natural retreat located in Long Valley, New Jersey, Hacklebarney State Park features a network of hiking trails that offer visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature. Standing as a centerpiece of the natural landscape, the Black River Gorge is a stunning natural feature characterized by rocky terrain and the meandering Black River.
The area is inhabited by a wide variety of amphibian and bird species, which you’ll find along several well-marked hiking trails that wind through woodlands, along the river, and across rocky terrain. Whether you’re an avid hiker or nature enthusiast, Hacklebarney State Park proves to be the perfect weekend escape.
4. Tomasello Winery
(image via Tomasello Winery)
This family-owned winery, located in Hammonton, New Jersey, produces a variety of high-quality wines, offering travelers in New Jersey an escape to the vineyards. Depending on the season and availability, you may have the opportunity to take guided tours of the winemaking facilities. These tours offer a behind-the-scenes look at the winemaking process, from vine to bottle.
Tomasello Winery offers wine tastings that allow you to sample a selection of their wines. You can explore their diverse portfolio, which includes reds, whites, sparkling wines, and dessert wines. Knowledgeable staff often guide you through the tasting experience, providing insights into each wine’s characteristics.
3. Lambert Castle
Lambert Castle, also known as the Passaic County Historical Society Museum, may not actually be a castle, but the castle-inspired architecture features turrets, stone masonry, and a commanding presence on the landscape.
Lambert Castle offers visitors the opportunity to explore the history, art, and culture of the region through a range of permanent and rotating exhibits that focus on the history of Paterson and Passaic County. On top of that, visitors will find an extensive art collection and wonderfully preserved historic grounds.
2. New Jersey Naval Museum
This maritime museum located in Hackensack explores the naval and military history of the encompassing area with authentic military vessels like the USS Ling (SS-297), a World War II-era submarine. Visitors can tour this submarine that served the Navy during World War II and the Korean War.
Guided tours, youth programs, and special events are available throughout the year. While the New Jersey Naval Museum provides an exceptional educational experience, visitors will be just as awed to witness the scenic views of the Hackensack River and the surrounding natural environment.
1. Silverball Museum
Silverball Museum preserves one of the oldest forms of arcade game: the pinball machine. This one-of-a-kind attraction boasts vintage pinball machines and classic arcade games, making it a fun attraction for the whole family. Visitors can play on these machines that have been carefully preserved and maintained.
The Silverball Museum in New Jersey provides an opportunity to explore the history and evolution of pinball and arcade games. Meanwhile, a retro ambiance with vintage decor, music, and memorabilia creates a unique and immersive atmosphere for visitors. Whether you’re a fan of retro gaming or simply looking for a lively and entertaining outing, the Silverball Museum has something for everyone.