Need to get away? Planning day trips in NJ can be just the vacation you’re looking for if you’re itching to go somewhere. Thanks to our prime location in the Garden State, you can have sand between your toes, hike along scenic wooded trails, jump in a lake, or walk in the footsteps of history, all while feeling like you’ve been far, far away. Read below for the perfect spots that satisfy any family vacation craving and bonus options if you want to spend the night. Want a longer time away without a plane trip? Check out our guide to family resorts in NJ. (Feature Photo Credit: Highlands Natural Pool)
4 day trips in NJ that feel like a vacation
Head to a quiet beach
Skip the rowdy crowds and buzzing boardwalk and head to a quieter spot by the shore for a beachy day trip in NJ. Avon-by-the-Sea offers plenty of waterfront play with amenities, like a playground, pavilion with restrooms, free parking, and a no-frills boardwalk to make a day trip feel like a solid vacation. Start your morning with a peaceful walk on the boardwalk and take in the gorgeous views. Buy a badge, stake out your spot on the beach, and finally relax on the pristine shore renowned for its cleanliness and family atmosphere. Spend the day and then break for a late lunch at the newly opened Avon Promenade on the boards steps away from the sand. Feast on freshly rolled sushi, delicious salads, and fish just off the boats as you look out at the fantastic views or opt for something more cas at their take-out window next door.
Overnight Option: If you want to clock in extra beach time, spend a night at the Cashelmara Inn across the street from the ocean. The Victorian-era spot is a restored historic home featuring large rooms with marble baths and includes access to their renovated theatre room, where you can book a private viewing complete with popcorn, candy, and soda. After you check in, sit back for sunset on their wrap-around porch, and you’ll instantly be in a vacay state of mind, even if you’ve only escaped 24 hours.
Go jump in a lake
New Jersey’s bigger lakes can get overrun with boats, so for a pure swimming spot, try Highlands Natural Pool in Ringwood. This spring-fed swimming hole is a hidden gem where kids can take the “go jump in a lake” command seriously. Bring a cooler for lunch, and plan for a day of fun. There are lifeguards and roped-off areas just like a pool, a sandy volleyball area, a sandbox for littles, and hiking trails that offer scenic views of New York City on site.
Overnight Option: Just 25 minutes from Ringwood past the NY state border, The Waterstone Inn is on the shoreline of Greenwood Lake. Paddle out on a canoe or kayak right from the waterfront, or venture out on a motorboat rental at the nearby marina.
Relive the past
If your family is obsessed with history or wants to appreciate our country’s roots, visiting Morristown is a must. Spend the day retracing Washington’s steps from his headquarters to Jockey Hollow, where revolutionary soldiers fought and lived during the brutal winter of 1780. Start at The Ford Mansion, known as Washington’s Headquarters, one of the oldest house museums in the US, and shows off the rooms restored to reflect what they were like during Washington’s stay. Make a burger pit stop at The Committed Pig, which boasts views of the historic Green. Afterward, head to nearby Jockey Hollow Park, where kids can learn more about the war fought on the grounds and get up close to the authentic soldier huts.
Overnight Option: Right down the road from Washington’s Headquarters is the Westin Governor Morris, a modern respite from the revolutionary past with an outdoor pool. If you’re still on the history hunt, visit the 19th-century restored Fosterfields Living Historical Farm or Historic Speedwell, where Samuel Morse invented the telegraph. The interactive museum about telecommunication has three floors of hands-on, interactive exhibits that take you through the development of the telegraph and its connections to modern telecommunications.
Relax in the great outdoors
Pack a picnic and take a drive to Cheesequake State Park, known for its unique landscape, one of the most beautiful day trips in NJ. It has saltwater and fresh marshes with hardwood trees, positioning it among two different ecosystems of the sea and forest. The interpretive nature center is an excellent place to start, where you can view the nature, wildlife, and history exhibits, learn about the three habitats located within the park and read up on Native Americans and early colonizers of the area. You can also pick up a trail map and decide which of the five trails you can all enjoy—they range from easy to moderate with inclines, and some allow bikes.
Overnight Option: Roast s’mores and sleep under the stars at the on-site campgrounds (a reservation is required). With bathroom facilities and fishing spots nearby that include a kid-popular crabbing bridge, spending the night here can be just the place for your family to unplug.
Where are your favorite day trips in NJ? Let us know!
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