Let’s be honest—we could all use a vacation right about now. But with COVID still a concern and the thought of taking off in a plane or going on a long car ride too much, don’t stress that you can’t get away. 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 for the day, all while feeling like you’ve been far, far away. Read below for the perfect spots that satisfy any kind of family vacation craving and bonus options if you find yourself wanting to spend the night.
Feature Photo Credit: Highlands Natural Pool
Become an NJMOM Insider! For all the best things to do with your family around New Jersey, be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox each week, and don’t forget to tag your photos #NJMOM and @njmom for a chance to be featured on our social media.
4 places to spend a staycation in NJ
Spend sun up to sundown strolling along the boardwalk and beach at Avon-by-the-Sea.
Head to a quiet beach
Skip the rowdy crowds and buzzing boardwalk and head to a quieter spot by the shore. 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 hearty breakfast at local favorite Avon Pavilion, steps away from the sand on the boardwalk. The fantastic views within a chic, whitewashed décor feel more Mykonos than Jersey Shore. Buy a badge, stake out your spot on the beach, and then finally relax among the pristine shore renowned for its cleanliness and family atmosphere.
Overnight Option: Avon Manor welcomes families and even has cottage rental options for when you need more space. A block from the beach with pool access, this spot has a complimentary putting green and bikes on-site. Check-in, then sit back for sunset on one of the largest wrap-around porches in the state, 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 if you’re looking 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 and map out your day. 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 just wants to appreciate our country’s roots, head to Morristown. 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. After, head over to nearby Jockey Hollow park, where kids can learn more about the war fought there 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. Though the interactive museum about telecommunication is closed for the remainder of 2021, you can still walk around the lake and admire the waterfall.
Spend time in the great outdoors
Pack a picnic and take a drive to Cheesequake State Park, known for its unique landscape. It has saltwater and fresh marshes with hardwood trees, positioning it among two different ecosystems of the sea and forest. While the interpretive nature center is currently closed, it’s a good place to start. 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.