Best Gardens and Nature Centers in New Jersey

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New Jersey is called the Garden State for good reason. Our lush state is full of beautiful gardens and landscapes, as well as nature centers where you and your littles can learn about all different environments and species. Take the family to Duke Farms in Hillsborough for the incredible Orchid Range, learn about bamboo at Rutgers Gardens in New Brunswick, or visit the beautiful roses gardens at the Essex County Rose Garden in Brookdale Park.

Psst! Snap a photo of your little ones frolicking through the gardens, and tag @njmom or #NJMOM for a chance to be featured in our next photo round-up.

Here are some of the best gardens and nature centers around New Jersey:

New Jersey State Botanical Garden & Skylands Manor

Did you know New Jersey does, in fact, have a Botanical Garden? Yep, it’s in Ringwood. The New Jersey Botanical Garden and Skylands Manor range across 96 acres of gardens and about 1000 acres of woodlands – plenty of spaces to explore, no matter the season. Home to unusual plant species from around the world, this garden protects and nourishes them. Stroll around the carefully crafted formal gardens or through walking paths, and stop by the manor for a tour. Definitely a must-see for the little botanists in your life.
Ringwood State Park, Ringwood, NJ 07456
(973) 962-9534

Duke Farms

via Duke Farms

You’ll spend a peaceful afternoon at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, which is home to over 1,000 acres of gorgeous land. Take your little explorers to a place where the exploring is endless. Walk or bike through the paths and stop by the Orchid Range for both tropical and subtropical species. Are you in a geocaching game right now? There’s plenty of geocaching at Duke Farms.
1112 Dukes Parkway West, Hillsborough, NJ 08844
(908) 722-3700

Nature Center of Cape May

The Nature Center of Cape May is a great spot to visit during the summer with your family, but also, if you need to drop the kids off for a few hours at nature camp. Your littles will have the best time making arts and crafts, playing outside, making new friends, and learning about all the animals in the environment of Cape May. The Nature Center is fully equipped with a touch tank and a three-story observatory tower for bird watching.
1600 Delaware Ave., Cape May, NJ 08204
(609) 427-3045

Rutgers Gardens

via Rutgers Gardens

Rutgers Gardens are open 365 days a year and are completely self-sustainable. The students and workers at Rutgers Gardens hope to bring together inquisitive minds and inspirational gardening in this garden, which includes a shrub garden, a bamboo forest, a holly garden, herbs, ponds, and tons of kids programs. Rutgers Gardens also hosts farmer markets and other fun events throughout the year.
Rutgers University, 112 Ryders Lane, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 932-8451

Greenwood Gardens

via Greenwood Gardens

Stop by Greenwood Gardens for all the flowers you can handle. This garden wants you to feel connected with nature, so they offer special events, bird walks, and plant walks all throughout the year. Enjoy Twilight Tours in the fall – wine and cheese on the terrace and then guided tours of the garden. Greenwood Gardens’ vision is “a world that embraces the beauty and transformative power of nature, and celebrates the history of a place.”
274 Old Short Hills Rd., Short Hills, NJ 07078
(973) 258-4026

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle

The Willowwood Arboretum

via Willowwood Arboretum

Open to the public daily 365 days a year, from 8AM to dusk, you can take the kids to The Willowwood Arboretum. There are several formal gardens to wander through, but there are also informal walking paths to stroll around. You’ll see plants that love the sun, plants that love the shade, 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
(973) 326-7600

Deep Cut Gardens

via Deep Cut Gardens

Deep Cut Gardens is dedicated to the home gardener. Maybe that’s you, mom. There are 54 acres of gardens full of “cultivated and native plant materials to be observed throughout the seasons.” You won’t get lost in these gardens – everything is easy to see and pretty low to the ground. Plus, there’s educational opportunities and classes for your little gardeners.
152 Red Hill Rd., Middletown, NJ 07748
(732) 842-4000

Van Vleck House & Gardens

via Van Vleck House & Gardens

Van Vleck House & Gardens is a formerly private estate that is 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, or just be surprised with the beauty. There are over 60 kinds of trees alongside shrubs, rhododendrons, and perennials. The Van Vleck House & Gardens host kids programs and family programs all year round – check out the magical monarchs program or the bird feeders program.
21 Van Vleck St., Montclair, NJ 07042
(973) 744-4752

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

via Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Do you love daffodils? Then you need to visit the Reeves-Reed Arboretum‘s Daffodil Bowl, which is filled with thousands of daffodils. Otherwise, utilize the site’s Healthy Hike map for a hike through the trails, explore outdoor sculptures, and relish in the history of the grounds and display gardens. Bonus: Day camps and kids classes are also available. Plus, classes for you, too, momma!
165 Hobart Ave., Summit, NJ 07901
(908) 273-8787

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 a degraded woodland, so this arboretum wants to achieve its goal of sustaining a healthy, diverse, woodland habitat. From special events and children’s programs to birthday party celebrations, Cora Hartshorn Arboretum is one of the best interactive spots in NJ.
324 Forest Hills Drive South, Short Hills, NJ 07078
(973) 376-3587

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 the Barnegat Bay. It’s a cool mix of trees and watershed, as well as sand and shore. The Cooper Environmental Center, which stays open year-round, is an added bonus when it’s cold out. It’s an indoor nature center that highlights the natural beauty of the park. Your littles will learn about birds, snakes, reptiles, and spiders.
1170 Cattus Island Blvd, Toms River, NJ 08753
(732) 270-6960

Essex County Rose Garden 

via Peter Gargiulo

The Essex County Rose Garden at Brookdale Park started in 1959 and has grown to now 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 a pretty fragrance, but they resist disease really well? Stop by this garden to see thousands of beautiful roses.
Brookdale Park, Essex County, NJ 07042
(973) 268-3500

Camden Children’s Garden

via Camden Children’s Garden

The Camden Children’s Garden is a special place for families to come together and experience beautiful flowers and greenery, but to also learn about horticulture. Kids can choose from the Potting Shed, Picnic Garden, Storybook Gardens, Dinosaur Gardens, and many other activities like the carousel, a tree house, and an “underground” tunnel maze the kids go crazy for.
3 Riverside Dr., Camden, NJ 08103
(856) 365-8733

Psst! Snap a photo of your little ones frolicking through the flowers and be sure to tag @njmom or #NJMOM to be featured in our next photo round-up.

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About Author

Erika is a yogi, writer, coffee enthusiast, and world traveler. If she's not at the beach or chasing the sunset, she's looking for the best iced coffee she can find and planning her next adventure. Her favorite NJ spots include The Saint, Island Heights, and Lava Java House.

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