Outdoor Activities In NJ: What To Do Fall, Winter, Spring And Summer

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When it comes to outdoor activities in NJ, we’re lucky enough to live in a state offering plenty of options throughout the year. With four seasons and diverse landscapes, from the mountains to the forest to the shore, you can find an outdoor activity that fits the bill for your family. Go biking on the trails, hit the sand for a beach day, slide on a snow tube when the flakes fall, or pick pumpkins from the farm—we’ve got you covered on ideas to do (especially when you think you’ve done them all). Read on for the best outdoor activities in NJ any time of year.

Featured photo taken at Atlantic Farms 

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Outdoor activities in NJ all year long

outdoor activities in NJ Atlantic Farms NJ

Petting zoos like Atlantic Farms in Wall, NJ are the perfect place to go for outdoor activities in NJ.

Take a look at the zoo

As the seasons change in the background and animals frolic in the forefront, visiting zoos during ay season can be a beautiful way to spend the day. Whatever animals your kids are into these days, there’s no shortage of exotic species, wildlife education, and friendly farm petting zoos in the state. See giraffes and elephants from your car at the seasonal Six Flags Drive-Thru Safari or check out what flamingos, lions, bears, and the like are doing at Turtle Back Zoo or Cape May County Zoo.

Hike or bike in the fresh air

Getting the whole family outdoors on a hiking trail is a chance to be at one with nature and take a deep breath (as well as sneaking in some fitness, too). We found plenty of great places around the Garden State to take a hike and admire the outdoors. Or, if you prefer to get around on two wheels, take a spin on one of the bike paths like the Patriot’s Path in Morris Township or Cooper River Park in Camden to keep you moving.

Explore NJ State Parks

How many state parks in NJ have you explored? Discover the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park spanning several New Jersey counties or take in the fantastic views at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Reach the highest point in our great state at High Point State Park in Sussex, or take it easy on 10 miles of sandy beaches at Island Beach State Park in Seaside Park.

Listen to the crashing waters

Did you know that New Jersey has over 15 waterfalls sprinkled throughout the state? Our state is famous for many things like beaches and state parks, but if there’s one more thing we should be known for, it’s gorgeous waterfalls. Some are easily seen from a roadside lookout, while others require a hike (check out what’s doable for your family before you go). Try an outdoor excursion at Paterson Great Falls, one of the best known in the state.

Find fresh picks at a farmers’ market

Whether you are looking for some farmers’ market finds in the fall, winter, spring, or summer, there is something for everyone all year round. Stop by one of the farmers’ markets scattered all over the Garden State, where you can shop locally for fresh fruits, vegetables, and so much more. Pick up yummy treats of the season, too, like fresh apple pies, pumpkin bread, cider, and even non-edible ones, like soft alpaca throws and scarves. Or, in the colder months, check out these delicious winter markets around NJ.

Snap an Insta-worthy family photo

It’s not always easy to get the family together for a photo, but the results are always worth it when you do. Whether you decide to do a fall family photo shoot or pose with the perennials in the spring, there are plenty of Insta-worthy spots all over the Garden State. The cliffside Fort Lee Historical Park has stunning views from the Hudson to the George Washington Bridge or snap a shot at Paterson Great Falls, which looks as breathtaking as Niagara. Want a beach shot that’s more nautical? Barnegat Light State Park is the perfect spot for a sunset shot with a lighthouse and a natural setting in the background.

Swing by a playground

Spending time at a playground is a top activity for littles, and the best part is that you can do it all year round. Pack a picnic and head down to the shore, lake, or beach to swing and slide over the sand. We’ve rounded up the best beach playgrounds, and if you can’t get to the shore but want a ship theme, the Regatta Playground in the South Mountain Recreation Complex overlooking a pond is worth a visit too.

Sip on vino or brews

Sitting among the vines drinking some pinot, what could be better? Exploring the vineyards and tasting wines is one of our favorite adult-friendly activities. And New Jersey has the perfect grape-growing conditions to make outstanding wines that are right up there in the ranks of Tuscany and Napa Valley. You can raise a glass to stellar local wine options all over the Garden State, and many wineries have events all year long. If breweries are more your speed, raise a glass from Oktoberfest to Summer Street Fests.

Watch nature do its thing at a botanical garden

Visiting an NJ botanical garden is the perfect treat any time of the year—you can watch winter, spring, summer, or fall unfold with each trip to the grounds and walk along the trails. Head north to Van Vleck House or south to Deep Cut Gardens. Other top spots include the New Jersey Botanical Gardens and Skylands Manor in Ringwood and the NJ Audubon Nature Center of Cape May.

Fall outdoor activities in NJ

outdoor activities in NJ Atlantic Farms maze New Jersey

Visiting family-friendly farms in NJ is a favorite outdoor activity in the fall. Photo Taken at Atlantic Farms

Fall into fun at a family-friendly farm

Visiting one of the fall farms is a must for all the fall feels—from petting zoos and tractor rides to farms with pick-your-own fruits and veggies and even wine tastings (yes, you read that right). Stop by Happy Day Farm in Manalapan to take a pic in their pumpkin house or grab an apple cider slushie and donuts at Ort Farms in Long Valley. With over 20 farms in NJ, you can find a different family-friendly farm to go to every weekend of the season.

Fall pick your own apples and pumpkins

Gather all your favorite McIntosh, Gala, Golden Delicious, and more varieties and snap selfies during apple picking with the fam. From Demarest Farms in Hillsdale to Stiles Farm and Nursery in Cape May, there are apple picking farms all over the Garden State. And taking a hayride to find the perfect orange pumpkin on a vine is not be missed (nor are the insta moments).

Get outdoors with the alpacas

Nothing says cozy like some fuzzy alpacas, and did you know that their fur is used to make lots of products yearly (all 100% safe and animal-friendly)? These adorable creatures live between 18 and 24 years of age and come in 22 different natural colors. Your littles will love getting to know these gentle souls at one of the many alpaca farms in NJ.

Problem solve in a life-sized maze

Put those life skills to work as you and your kiddos get lost in a maze. Yup, fall is officially the season of the farm maze, where the whole family can get moving and have a ton of fun. Check out the massive corn mazes often mowed into themes that boggle the mind or have easier, kid-friendly versions your kids can do on their own. Likewise, a sunflower maze is pretty and skillful, like the Sussex County Sunflower Maze in Sandystown, where you can get lost in a labyrinth of over 1 million flowers (just make sure you catch it before the sunflowers are done).

Peek at fall foliage

What’s more fall than a fiery rush of red, orange, and yellow leaves in our views? New Jersey’s peak fall foliage happens in mid-October, so get your phones ready to snap the best spots to see the leaves in their full autumn glory. This time of year is also a great excuse to cross the Hudson, where the prime leaf-peeping areas make it the ideal daycation. But the leaves, like the season, are fleeting, so best to head out when you see the first signs of color all around.

Winter outdoor activities

outdoor activities in NJ

Outdoor activities don’t get any cuter than this. Photo Credit: @themilleredition

Ski a black diamond

Whether you’re looking for a day trip with the littles or a week-long family vacation, you don’t have to go far to get on the slopes. Skiing is one of the top winter activities families love to get you outside and moving in the cold temps. Sign up for lessons, spend the day on the trails, try boarding, or cozy up to an apres-ski fire pit—you can find a mountain to fit your family’s needs in the #NJMOM guide to the best ski resorts for families.

Sled down a hill

Snow days got you stumped on what to do? There’s no doubt sledding is one of the best ways to take advantage of those no-school hours. From hidden hills to big drops, check out our #NJMOM guide to the best sledding hills in NJ.

Glide around on a snow tube

If you’re looking for more of a thrill than a traditional sledding day but aren’t quite ready to hit the slopes of the ski mountain—this activity is for you. Snow tubing is a great way to get outside and breathe in the crisp air while laughing the whole way down. Unlike skiing and snowboarding, no experience or lessons are required to enjoy this activity. Not sure where to go? Take a look at these snow tubing spots in and around NJ for a day of thrills.

Lace-up your ice skates

Bundle up and try this classic winter activity—the whole family can get in on the action, whether it’s just learning together or having a blast sliding along to tunes. And with many outdoor rinks popping up in towns around the state, this is a great way to spend the day or night. Find an ice skating rink near you for a few spins around the rink.

Learn how maple sugar is made

If you’ve always wondered how the sweet stuff goes from tree to your table, you can see it up close at a maple sugaring demonstration. Check out the Great Swamp Education CenterTenafly Nature Center, and Washington Crossing State Park on select weekends in February and March. You’ll learn how to identify maple trees, all about the taps, and how they boil down the sap to make the syrup.

Spring outdoor activities

outdoor activities in NJ Absecon Lighthouse

Add lighthouses to your list of outdoor activities in NJ. The Absecon Lighthouse is the tallest New Jersey Lighthouse, and it’s actually the third tallest in the whole country. Photo Credit: @littlekidbigcity_

Watch the blooms unfold

Tulips, roses, and orchids will all be in bloom, and luckily NJ has plenty of spots to view them. Whether you walk through rows of tulips at Holland Farms or take close-up photos of the roses at Deep Cut Gardens, there is beauty popping up all over the state. Make sure you check out our guide to spring flowers and where to see every bloom.

Fly high at a butterfly garden

From monarchs to the Viceroy and the Tiger swallowtail, each butterfly has unique colors and characteristics. And the best way to see one up close is to visit a butterfly garden to watch these colorful insects fly by. Here are 7 butterfly gardens to go to in the spring.

Reach the top of one of the lighthouses

The lighthouses in New Jersey give a peek into our state’s maritime history and incredible views. With the Sandy Hook to the north, Absecon Lighthouse to the south, and Finn’s Point out west, there are so many options to see a lighthouse or lightship in the state. Not sure where to start? Our guide to NJ lighthouses will show you the way.

Summer outdoor activities in NJ

outdoor activities in NJ Land of Make Believe

The Land of Make Believe waterpark is where you can splash around and cool down all summer.  

Splash around get wet at a waterpark

Plunge down a waterslide, drift in the lazy river, or get knocked down in the wave pool—waterparks in New Jersey are a refreshing oasis during a hot summer day. Glide down a slide at Thundering Surf Waterpark in Long Beach Island, visit The Water Main, brand new at Diggerland USA in West Berlin, or get drenched by a 1,000-gallon bucket at the Land of Make Believe and Pirate’s Cove in Hope, NJ. So pack your towel, sunscreen, and get ready to get soaked in the summer.

Take in the thrills of an amusement park

There are plenty of thrills, spills, and daring rides in NJ, like the brand new New Jersey Devil roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson. Want more big and little rides? Visit Morey’s Piers right off the Wildwood boardwalk to excite everyone or step into a favorite nursery rhyme at Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township. Find your favorite heart-pounding rides and kiddie adventures at these amusement parks in New Jersey.

Bring home fresh florals

Flower picking and even admiring the fields is an insta-worthy and relaxing activity for the whole family. So get a whiff of aromatic lavender at a lavender farm in New Jersey and take home some lavender treats from lavender lotions, lavender tea, or lavender for baking. And summer isn’t complete without picking your own sunflowers or getting lost in a sunflower maze.

Hit the beach

Pack up the beach chair, umbrella, and all of the other beach essentials, and get ready to soak in the sun. Whether you like to jump right into the waves or if you prefer to keep your toes in the sand, heading to the shore is always a great idea. Once you find your beach badge, you’ll be all set for the season, or if you aren’t sure where to start, take a look at our recommendations of the 11 beaches to visit this summer. And if the kiddos haven’t had enough after a long beach day, there are plenty of beachfront playgrounds to get them tuckered out for the ride home.

Pitch a tent

The heat of the fire on your fingers while you roast a marshmallow just right, the smell of fresh pine needles, the silence of the woods at night are just a few of the fun perks of camping in NJ. The Garden State is full of perfect locations to pitch your tent and settle in for a fun night. From Pleasant Acres Farm RV Resort in Sussex to Adventure Bound Camping Resorts in Cape May, you can go camping and feel miles away. And if you’re not up for tenting it, RV rentals and cabin rentals are at many campgrounds too.

Walk along the boards

There’s nothing quite like the sound of flip-flops hitting the wooden planks of a Jersey Shore boardwalk. It’s a relaxing, repetitive sound punctuated by the harmonious sounds of boardwalk arcade games and the thrilling screams of amusement park guests. Whether you want to visit the historic Asbury Park Boardwalk or the family-friendly Ocean City Boardwalk, you’ll find these 6 boardwalks on the shore won’t disappoint. Ready to hit the boards? Point Pleasant Beach Boardwalk is a great place to start.

Take your family out to a ballgame

Spending a hot summer day sitting in the stands cheering on your favorite team is an American pastime. Luckily, the Garden State is full of baseball fields to watch a game (and at way less a cost for a ticket to the big leagues). And you never know you may be watching a pro player in the making. So get ready to batter up and catch a baseball game this summer.

Hop on a whale-watching cruise

You don’t have to travel to Alaska to see whales—you can feel the ocean spray and the salty breeze as you watch for these majestic mammals near the Jersey Shore. Take a cruise on the 115-foot Miss Belmar ship or take the Seastreak Ferry in Highlands to search for whales and other sea life. Going on a whale-watching cruise is one of those outdoor activities in NJ you won’t want to miss.

Zip above the trees

Climb up into the trees and fly on a zip line for a unique perspective and adventure. Take a Tarzan swing at Tree to Tree in Cape May, scale a 50 feet climbing wall at The Mainland Adventure Park in Manahawkin, or get the best ocean views you will ever see at Jenkinson’s Adventure Ropes Course. Whether ziplining is your sport or if you like the challenge of ropes courses, there are over 8 places to keep your little adventurer more than occupied.

Experience lake life

We may be known for the Jersey shore, but many pristine swimming lakes in NJ are just as family-friendly as the ocean. Lakes like Sunrise Lake, Greenwood Lake, and Lake Nummy are perfect for a day on the water. Or, if you’re the family who craves adventure, explore the wildlife-rich Rahway River or the historic Parvin Lake by kayaking or canoeing in NJ. Whether you swim or paddle your way through Jersey lakes and rivers— a day on the water is always a good day.

Pick your own summer produce

Kids gain a sense of accomplishment when they pick their own fruits and vegetables and then enjoy the fruits of their labor. New Jersey is full of pick-your-own farms and organic ones tooStrawberry picking runs through June, cherry-picking is quick in mid-June, and the blueberry season typically runs from mid-June to July. Watch for peach, raspberry, and plum season, too—so, get picking and enjoy a fresh, healthy treat.

Try some hole-in-one fun

The family that plays together stays together, and there are plenty of hole-in-one mini golf locations to keep you going all summer long. Explore 19 holes with life-size African animals at Mini Golf Safari next to The Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, or head over to the Asbury Eighteen for 18-holes of mini-golf with a beach vibe in Asbury Park. Down the shore, you can get scary and try out your spooky putt-putt skills at Haunted Golf in Ocean City.

Which outdoor activities in NJ are your favorites?

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About Author

Melanie Bodner has always had a love for writing, but now she has a new love…being a mom. Before having her kids, Melanie was no stranger to writing or working with children. She wrote for a local newspaper as a reporter and taught English and Dance in a public school. Now Melanie enjoys spending time with her kids, doing yoga, writing and decorating her home. Check out her Instagram @burlapbythebeach.

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