It’s always easy to fall back into the same old, same old visits to your favorite NJ attractions like the shore and well-known parks, but shaking it up to discover the unique, unexpected and off-the-beaten-path attractions in NJ can be a welcome change. From seeing giant modern sculptures in the snow to uncovering a martian landing site to ogling a psychedelic storybook house deep in the woods, there are strange things to do all over the Garden State that the whole family will enjoy. While most of these NJ attractions are operating at some capacity now, COVID-19 guidelines are ever-changing, so make sure to check for temporary closings or restrictions before you head out. Read on for these 7 stranger things to do in NJ.
Featured photo via @sterlinghillminingmuseum
Here are 7 unusual NJ attractions to check out:
Grounds for Sculpture
Here’s one positive that’s come with the pandemic—for the first time, the Grounds for Sculpture is open this winter. That means you can walk among the larger than life-size sculpture garden at this NJ attraction after a freshly fallen snow (so pretty). Wander to your heart’s content and be wowed by the unusual art of contemporary sculptures scattered over 42 picturesque acres. While the indoor exhibits are closed for now, you can still enjoy lunch or dinner with a stellar view at the famed Rat’s restaurant across the way from the gardens. Named for a character in the children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows, Rat’s Restaurant has a unique design that’s reminiscent of the impressionist painter Claude Monet’s beloved town Giverny.
80 Sculptors Way
Hamilton, NJ 08619
The Deserted Village of Feltville
This town had reinvented itself more than a few times since the early 1700s but remains mostly deserted. Located in the beautiful Watchung Reservation in Union County, this historical and archaeological site is a popular hiking trail for locals. You’ll come upon a half-mile stretch of road with a cluster of surviving historic buildings that will surely capture your kids’ imagination. Peek into the abandoned houses at this NJ attraction, read upon the posted history, and check out the Willcocks and Badgley family cemetery, including 3 Revolutionary War Patriots.
2 Cataract Hollow Road
Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922
For over 30 years, skilled multimedia artist and designer Ricky Boscarino has been transforming his cabin in the woods into an indoor and outdoor fantasy-fueled work of art. The result is a house of storybook dreams that doesn’t even seem real. His brightly colored, eclectic private home, studio, and gardens are filled with gorgeous mosaics, stained glass, religious artifacts, and numerous surprising collections that he has cultivated over the years. Twice a year, it can be viewed in person when it’s open to the public for a 3-day Open House at this NJ attraction in the summer and fall (TBA in May), so mark your calendar to make sure you don’t miss it. If you can’t wait until then, make your own tour on the website and get up to date details about the live tours.
22 Degroat Road
Sandyston, NJ 07827
Martian Landing Site
In 1938, when people still gathered around their radios for news and entertainment, the science fiction novel, War of the Worlds, was adapted for radio and read by Orson Welles. Though listeners were reminded throughout the broadcast that this “Martian attack” was fictional, many believed it to be a real newscast, and pandemonium ensued. It was history in the making—and the supposed Martians Landing site was said to be in Grover’s Mill, which is in West Windsor, NJ. Read the park’s plaques that tell the broadcast story and lead you to the bronze Martian Landing Site Monument. After, hit up some better-known landmarks at this NJ attraction, like Washington’s Crossing and the Battle of Princeton sites near Princeton University.
218 Cranbury Road
West Windsor Township, NJ 08550
Fluorescent Rocks of Sterling Hill Mine
While the mine tours are temporarily closed at this NJ attraction (they plan to reopen in April), this bright and very cool mineral site is well worth waiting until spring. A National Historic site since 1991, this attraction houses the most extensive collection of fluorescent minerals in the entire world. There are guided tours of the 1,300 ft. tunnel inside the mine, the Zobel Hall Museum where the miners would start and end their workday, and the Warren Museum with more than 700 fluorescent minerals and objects on display. And during the season, kids and adults are encouraged to go mining for minerals of their own at the Mine Run Dump and sluicing (aka panning) stations.
30 Plant Street
Ogdensburg, NJ 07439
Telephone Pole Farm
This offbeat “farm” started as a testing site for AT&T’s Bell Labs back in the 1920s. The tidy rows of poles look they are growing, but realistically they were planted for testing purposes when the wood telephone poles needed to be durable. They used woodpeckers and insects to test their durability, and later it was adapted as a place for pole repair workers to practice their climbing. After snapping a few photos for the ‘gram at this NJ attraction, head to the adjacent property, the Evans Family Forest Preserve, a scenic wooded area for hiking and spotting local wildlife.
Chester, NJ 07930
Popcorn Park Zoo
If your kids love animals (and really, who doesn’t?), this 7-acre unusual “zoo” is not to be missed. What makes this NJ attraction different than a regular zoo is that it doubles as a refuge for animals in need and has a casual, hang-out feel. They are currently home to over 200 animals and take in injured, exploited, abandoned, or elderly wildlife, birds, exotics, and farm animals. Though some animals are on special diets, you can purchase air-popped popcorn and peanuts on-site to feed the free-roaming birds and farm animals in their stalls. And if you’re looking to help take care of or even take home a “friend,” you’ll want to look into their sponsorship and adoption programs.
1 Humane Way
Forked River, NJ 08731
Have you been to any of the NJ attractions on our list? Let us know in the comments below or be sure to tag your photos with #NJMOM and @njmom on social media for a chance to be featured in our round-up next week.