New Jersey has some of the best gardens and nature centers around—and that’s one reason it’s called the Garden State. Our lush state is full of beautiful gardens, landscapes, and nature centers where you and your littles can learn about different environments and species. Walk among the blooms on the trails at New Jersey State Botanical Gardens in Ringwood, learn about bamboo at Rutgers Gardens in New Brunswick, or visit the beautiful rose gardens of NJ at the Essex County Rose Garden in Brookdale Park. Read on for the best places to appreciate the beauty of the Garden State. (featured photo credit: New Jersey State Botanical Garden & Skylands Manor)
15 of the best gardens and nature centers in New Jersey
The New Jersey Botanical Garden and Skylands Manor range across 96 acres of gardens and about 1000 acres of woodlands—there are plenty of spaces to explore and home to unusual plant species from around the world. Stroll around the carefully crafted formal gardens or through walking paths that are a must-see for budding botanists.
Ringwood State Park, Ringwood, NJ 07456
Open during daylight hours year-round, the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum & Bird Sanctuary is a fantastic spot to enjoy nature and make new friends with birds. The 16-acre forest was once a degraded woodland, so this arboretum wants to achieve its goal of sustaining a healthy, diverse woodland habitat. The building is currently closed, but the trails are open, and the Arboretum has an interactive scavenger hunt you can download on the trails to keep littles busy and learn about nature.
324 Forest Hills Drive South, Short Hills, NJ 07078
You’ll spend a peaceful afternoon at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, home to over 1,000 acres of gorgeous land. Walk or bike through the paths and stop by the Orchid Range for tropical and subtropical species. Be sure to take advantage of their bike-sharing program, see the tiered waterfalls, grab a bite in their farm-to-table cafe, and go geocaching (a treasure hunt using GPS on your phone) with the fam.
1112 Dukes Parkway West, Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Rutgers Gardens are open 365 days a year and are entirely self-sustainable. The students and workers at Rutgers Gardens hope to bring together inquisitive minds and inspirational gardening in this garden, including a shrub garden, a bamboo forest, a holly garden, herbs, and ponds. Rutgers Gardens also hosts farmer markets and other fun events.
Rutgers University, 112 Ryders Lane, New Brunswick, NJ 08902
A former private estate, Greenwood Gardens will delight kids and adults. The grounds and mansion feel like you’ve stumbled into an enchanted hideaway, graced with terraced gardens, woodlands, meadows, caves, fountains, statuaries, and winding paths. The grounds are open May through September, and they offer special events, bird walks, plant walks during that time, and guided tours.
274 Old Short Hills Rd., Short Hills, NJ 07078
The Willowwood Arboretum began as a passion project for two brothers interested in horticulture in the late 1800s. There are several formal gardens to wander through and informal walking paths to stroll around. You’ll see plants for shade and sun, subtropical plants, bulbs, ferns, and shrubs. New to this garden is a Cell Phone Tour, which guides you around the gardens using your cell phone.
300 Longview Rd., Far Hills, NJ 07931
Deep Cut Gardens is dedicated to the home gardener. There are 54 acres of gardens that are filled with cultivated varieties and native plants and flowers to NJ. You won’t get lost in these gardens – everything is easy to see and pretty low to the ground. Kids will love exploring the grounds, and looking at the hundred year-old bonsai trees (read more about one NJMOM’s adventure through Deep Cut Gardens here).
152 Red Hill Rd., Middletown, NJ 07748
Though the Reeves-Reed Arboretum is known for its spring Daffodil Bowl (when the gardens are filled with thousands of blooming daffodils), there’s plenty to admire here. Take a hike through the trails, explore outdoor sculptures, and relish the history of the grounds and display gardens. There are also kid-friendly special crafts and events all year.
165 Hobart Ave., Summit, NJ 07901
The Essex County Rose Garden at Brookdale Park started in 1959 and has grown to 1,500 bushes of over 100 varieties of roses. Some of those include hybrid tea, floribunda, hybrid musk, rugosas, and antique roses. Did you know that roses are more than just pretty colors and lush fragrances? Learn how they resist disease and more when you stop by this garden to see thousands of beautiful roses. Be sure to check the Brookdale Park Conservancy’s Facebook for any updates before you go.
Brookdale Park, Montclair, NJ 07043
Van Vleck House & Gardens is a formerly private estate now owned by The Montclair Foundation. The gardens and walking paths are open to the public 365 days a year. As you take in the beauty of the estate and the villa, you can check out their bloom list to see what flowers are blooming—there are over 60 kinds of trees alongside shrubs, rhododendrons, and perennials. Read more on visiting Van Vleck here.
21 Van Vleck St., Montclair, NJ 07042
There are nearly 300 contemporary pieces of art covering 42 landscaped acres where you can view sculptures such as the Damascus Gate by Walter Dusenbery or Daydream by Seward Johnson. As you wander through this unique garden in NJ, you’ll see ponds, wildflowers, and architectural reflecting pools on the grounds. Kids will love seeing larger-than-life art and all the hidden spots to view.
80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton, NJ 08619
History buffs, nature lovers, and garden enthusiasts will get their fill at the historic Hamilton Square Sayen House and Gardens. Spring is the perfect time to visit their beautiful display of color and beauty with more than 250,000 flowering bulbs and dogwoods, heirloom azaleas, and rhododendrons. Throughout the year, annual and perennial displays fill this NJ garden, and they highlight the walking trails, fish ponds, and gazebos on the grounds.
155 Hughes Drive, Hamilton, NJ 08690
Stunning sunsets are a frequent occurrence at Cattus Island County Park. Photo credit: @mattbaronphoto
Cattus Island County Park features 530 acres and 7 miles of trails, filled with beautiful paths surrounded by the Barnegat Bay. It’s a cool mix of trees and watershed, as well as sand and shore. The Cooper Environmental Center has been recently renovated and includes hands-on activities for kids, like a live osprey cam, habitat tree and tunnel, children’s activity corner, and live reptiles and fish. Also, check out the Butterfly Garden with native plants and lots of butterflies all around.
1170 Cattus Island Blvd, Toms River, NJ 08753
The NJ Audubon Nature Center of Cape May is a great spot to visit all summer. The Nature Center is fully equipped with a touch tank and a three-story observatory tower for bird watching during the year. In addition to the beauty of nature at the Nature Center, there are plenty of opportunities to learn at various events.
1600 Delaware Ave., Cape May, NJ 08204
The Camden Children’s Garden is a special place for families to come together and experience beautiful flowers and greenery and learn about horticulture. Kids can choose from the Butterfly Garden, Potting Shed, Picnic Garden, Storybook Gardens, Dinosaur Gardens, and many other activities like the carousel, a treehouse, and an “underground” tunnel maze. Be sure to check their website for new updates and special events.
3 Riverside Dr., Camden, NJ 08103
More NJ Gardens and Natures Centers we love:
Leonard J. Buck Garden
Morven Museum & Garden
Barton Arboretum and Nature Preserve
Bamboo Brook Arboreta
Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden
Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Presby Memorial Iris Gardens
Georgian Court University Gardens and Arboretum
Smithville Mansion Courtyard Gardens
The Cross Estate Gardens
Which NJ gardens and nature centers have you been to?
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