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 grounds, landscapes, and nature centers where the entire family can learn about different environments and species and marvel at the beauty around them. 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 roses 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 nature centers and gardens in New Jersey
New Jersey State Botanical Garden & Skylands Manor
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 areas or through walking paths that are a must-see for budding botanists.
Ringwood State Park, Ringwood, NJ 07456
Cora Hartshorn Arboretum & Bird Sanctuary
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 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. 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 is one of the unique gardens in NJ that’s open 365 days a year and is entirely self-sustainable. The students and workers at Rutgers hope to bring together inquisitive minds and inspirational gardening on these grounds, including a shrub garden, a bamboo forest, a holly garden, herbs, and ponds. They also host 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 grounds, woodlands, meadows, caves, fountains, statuaries, and winding paths. The grounds are open from 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
The Willowwood Arboretum began as a passion project for two brothers interested in horticulture in the late 1800s. There are several formal spots 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 arboretum is a Cell Phone Tour, which guides you around using your phone. Make sure you check out the events page for all the fun things happening.
300 Longview Rd., Far Hills, NJ 07931
Deep Cut Gardens
Deep Cut Gardens is dedicated to the home gardener. There are 54 acres filled with cultivated varieties and native plants and flowers in NJ. You won’t get lost in this location – 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 one of the gardens in NJ that’s famous for its spring Daffodil Bowl (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 areas. There are also kid-friendly special crafts and events all year.
165 Hobart Ave., Summit, NJ 07901
Essex County Rose Garden
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 roses are more than just pretty colors and lush fragrances? Learn how they resist disease and more when you stop by to see thousands of beautiful roses, and for prime bloom times, check their Facebook page for updates.
Brookdale Park, Montclair, NJ 07043
Van Vleck House & Gardens
Van Vleck House & Gardens is a formerly private estate now owned by The Montclair Foundation and is a beautiful spot to visit in all seasons, especially spring and summer. The grounds and walking paths are open to the public 365 days a year, and there are seasonal events, like nature walks, crafts, and plant sales throughout the 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.
21 Van Vleck St., Montclair, NJ 07042
Grounds For Sculpture
Nearly 300 contemporary pieces of art cover 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 attraction, you’ll see ponds, wildflowers, and architectural reflecting pools in these gardens in New Jersey. Kids will love seeing larger-than-life art and all the hidden spots to view.
80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton, NJ 08619
Sayen House & Gardens
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 are on display, and they highlight the walking trails, fish ponds, and gazebos on the grounds.
155 Hughes Drive, Hamilton, NJ 08690
Cattus Island County Park’s Cooper Environmental Center
Cattus Island County Park features 530 acres and 7 miles of trails, filled with beautiful paths surrounded by Barnegat Bay. It’s one of the unique gardens of NJ, offering 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, 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
NJ Audubon Nature Center of Cape May
The NJ Audubon Nature Center of Cape May is worth a stop when you are down vacationing at the shore. Kids will love following the nature trail, which showcases a diverse area of habitats and plants. At the Nature Center, your kids can get their hands wet in a touch tank and climb the three-story observatory tower, where they can see native bird species, as well as beautiful views.
1600 Delaware Ave., Cape May, NJ 08204
More NJ Gardens in New Jersey and Natures Centers we love:
Leonard J. Buck Garden
Morven Museum & Garden
Barton Arboretum and Nature Preserve
Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center and Gardens
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
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