Historical Sites In NJ: These 16 Places Make Learning Fun

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One of the best things about living in The Garden State is showing your kids a real piece of our country’s history at one (or all) of the historical sites in NJ. Of course, we’re lucky to have sites dating back to the Revolutionary War when Washington fought important battles that led to our freedom, but there are lots of other historical spots your family won’t want to miss. See where Thomas Edison invented electricity and motion pictures, the terminal where immigrants first landed on US soil, and some of the oldest iconic landmarks in the country. Ready to step back in time? Scroll down for the historical places in NJ you and your budding history buffs should have on your bucket list. (featured photo credit: @kateystanley)

These are the 16 Best Historical Sites in NJ

Allaire State Park

Visit one of the 13 original buildings at Allaire State Park, one of the must-see historical sites in NJ. Photo taken at Allaire State Park

The Historic Village at Allaire
Initially, this historical site in NJ was a thriving, self-sufficient industrial town of 400 people. These days, the original buildings operate as if they were still in the 19th century. You and your crew can swing by the carpenter and blacksmith shops to watch the volunteers at work and then stop by the general store to buy items that they made on-site, like necklaces (blacksmiths), dolls (textile artists), whistles (tinsmiths), and purses (leather smiths). And don’t forget to pop into the bakery for some fresh treats. The town is part of  Allaire State Park, which has many other attractions, including a forest full of dinosaurs and a train.
4263 Atlantic Ave., Farmingdale, NJ 07727

Historic Smithville
This charming town gives you a glimpse into what a village looked like back in the 19th century, with cobblestone streets, footbridges, and pretty lake views. Historic Smithville started as a seven-acre stagecoach stop with one building—The Smithville Inn, and grew into a representation of a historic village, with buildings restored and repurposed into stores and eateries over the years. Kids will love riding the train and carousel, visiting the Toy Market, and then stopping by Scoop’s Place for some refreshing ice cream—and don’t forget to swing by Sweet Things to grab some candy before you go.
615 E. Moss Mill Rd., Smithville, NJ 08205

Central Railroad of New Jersey (CRRNJ) Train Terminal
Most of us can probably trace our US beginnings to the CRRNJ train terminal, where immigrants landed after a stop on Ellis Island. During the time of operation, about two-thirds of immigrants made their way to the terminal and then continued their journey further into the US or settled in NJ or NY. You can make a stop here, too, read about this historical place in NJ with the interpretive displays, and then continue to Liberty State Park, where you can explore the grounds and more on the shores of the Hudson.
1 Audrey Zapp Dr., Jersey City, NJ 07305

Lambert Tower
This 70-foot tall tower, built in 1896 by Catholina Lambert, an English immigrant and silk mill entrepreneur, has panoramic views from the top with a nod to British royalty. While the Lambert Castle was built just a few years earlier, in 1892-1893, both the castle and tower were built in the style of the castles in Great Britain (where Catholina was raised). Climb to the top for the most amazing views of the Garret Mountain Reservation at this historical place in NJ. The Tower is open to the public from May-October Wednesdays through Saturdays.
Lambert Castle Valley Road, Paterson, NJ 07505

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum
This museum was once one of the world’s best sources of zinc ore and is considered one of NJ’s most unusual attractions. The open-pit-turned-underground-mine, which had 35 miles of tunnels, stopped operations in 1986 and now has weekend tours for the mine. There’s also a museum and the world’s most extensive collection of colorful fluorescent minerals, which will fascinate big kids and littles. Kids will want to pan for minerals in the Sluice mining station afterward.
30 Plant St., Ogdensburg, NJ 07439

Haddonfield’s Dinosaur Discovery Park
In 1858, a group of diggers excavated an almost complete dinosaur skeleton in a Haddonfield farm. Up until then, researchers had found only small, seemingly unconnected pieces in Europe and North America, proving dinosaurs were indeed on this continent. While you won’t see the skeleton, you can stand where the dinosaur was discovered and once roamed in this mini-park at the end of a suburban street. You’ll know you’re there when you see a few low-key historical plaques and a bench.
End of Maple Avenue, Haddonfield, NJ 08033

Weehawken Dueling Grounds
If you know, you know—this historical site in NJ is where the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr happened, a crucial part of history and a pivotal scene in the Broadway hit Hamilton. The duel took place on a ledge on the cliffs, below where a bust of Hamilton sits to commemorate the spot. (The actual dueling ground no longer exists because of a railroad line built in 1870.) After you and your family explore the history, relax in the adjacent Hamilton Park and enjoy a picturesque view of the Manhattan skyline—make sure to get some photos of your kiddos for the gram.
Hamilton Ave., Weehawken, NJ 07086

historic speedwell historical places in nj

Historic Speedwell makes a lovely place to explore— with a park featuring a small waterfall, lake, and walking trail. Photo Credit: @kateystanley

Historic Speedwell 
The Industrial Revolution began here in 1838 when Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail showed people their electromagnetic telegraph, ushering in a new way to communicate messages across far distances through electric currents known as the Morse Code. The 18th-century buildings and interactive museum have reopened after three years, so it’s worth checking them out and exploring the lovely park that features a small waterfall, lake, and walking trail.
333 Speedwell Ave., Morristown, NJ 07960

Thomas Edison National Historical Park
The father of electricity, Thomas Edison, created many of his groundbreaking inventions in West Orange, including the motion picture camera, higher-quality phonograph, sound recordings, silent movies, movies with sound, and an electric storage battery. Stop by the visitor center to see a short film about Edison’s life and work, take a peek into the laboratory to see where Edison worked, and then visit the grounds around his estate, Glenmont (tours are available inside the estate for adults only).
211 Main St., West Orange, NJ 07052

Absecon Lighthouse
Head to the shore to check out one of the oldest lighthouses in the US, built over 160 years ago in 1857, and the tallest one in NJ. If you and your fam decide to trek up the 228 steps, you can see the original Fresnel lens (a classic lighthouse lens), first lit in 1857. You can also have fantastic views of the Atlantic City skyline—make sure to have your phone ready for some great candid shots. 
31 S. Rhode Island Ave., Atlantic City, NJ 08401

historical attractions

Lucy the Elephant stands six stories high and was built 140 years ago, in 1881, to attract real estate buyers to the area. Photo taken at Lucy the Elephant

Lucy the Elephant
It may be kitschy, but that’s part of the fun—one of the oldest roadside attractions in the US and a National Historic Landmark, Lucy the Elephant, stands at six stories high and was built 140 years ago in 1881 to attract real estate buyers to the area. Lucy recently went through a complete restoration inside and out, so it’s worth a visit again if you’ve been. You can take a guided inside tour before stopping by the gift shop to bring home a souvenir.
9200 Atlantic Ave., Margate, NJ 08402

Revolutionary War Sites 

jockey hollow morristown, historical places in NJ

Stepping back into the 1700s at Jockey Hollow, where soldiers stayed in these log cabins (since re-created). This is one of those must-see historical places in NJ. Photo Credit: @kateystanley

Jockey Hollow
Your whole family will be eager to explore the grounds of Jockey Hollow, the area where the Continental Army camped out during the winter of 1779 to 1780 (the coldest winter on record) and chopped down over 600 acres of trees to build shelter and make fires. Kids will love running up the hill to step inside the recreated log cabins where the soldiers and officers lived that winter. Afterward, they can learn the story of Tempe Wick and how she kept a horse in her bedroom at the restored Wick House, located in the lower part of the park (the Wick House is closed until late spring 2024 for conservation and renovation work).
586 Tempe Wick Rd., Morristown, NJ 07960

Washington Crossing State Park
George Washington famously crossed the Delaware River to this side from Pennsylvania on Christmas night, 1776. For almost 10 hours, boats traveled back and forth to bring people, horses, and supplies into NJ. They then marched into Trenton and secured a significant victory (capturing 900 enemy soldiers) on December 26. Have your kids pose to recreate the iconic painting of his crossing on display at the Met—and snap a photo of them for the gram. The Visitor Center is currently undergoing renovation and is closed until further notice. 
355 Washington Crossing-Pennington Rd., Titusville, NJ 08560

Princeton Battlefield State Park
After ten days of fighting—and three battles—George Washington led American troops to surprise and defeat a British army in one of the most intense battles of the Revolutionary War. The park is one of the historical sites in NJ with lots of monuments, including the Princeton Battlefield, the Clarke House Museum, the Mercer Oak, the Ionic Colonnade, and The Medallion—a stone patio marking the approximate gravesite of 21 British and 15 American soldiers killed in the battle. The interior of the Clarke House is open on a limited basis.
500 Mercer Rd., Princeton, NJ 08540

Monmouth Battlefield State Park
The battle that took place here was a critical turning point in the Revolution. The American army had experienced many losses in 1777, but in June 1778—after one of the longest battles of the war—they managed to keep the British back and hold the field. Take a history hike to see where Washington’s Army fought the battle and observe the wildlife and meadows along the way. The interior of the Visitor Center and park restrooms are open on a limited basis.
16 State Route 33, Manalapan, NJ 07726

The Ford Mansion, aka Washington’s Headquarters (Currently closed until July 2024)
One of the centerpieces of Revolutionary War historical places in NJ, this Georgian-style mansion was initially owned by Jacob Ford Jr., a prominent Morristown businessman, and served as George Washington’s military headquarters from December 1779 to June 1780. You can visit the mansion and several galleries with military memorabilia from the war, 18th-century artifacts, and notable artworks. Kids will enjoy touring the estate, which is fully furnished in eighteenth-century style with original pieces to replicate what it looked like while Washington stayed there.
30 Washington Place, Morristown, NJ 07960

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About Author

Caroline is a writer from central Jersey who loves checking out new boardwalks and beach towns (current faves include Long Branch and Ocean Grove), admiring the foliage and walking around downtown Princeton, and singing along to music—often with her younger sister. One of her favorite jobs was being a camp counselor and helping out at local, family-friendly events. She can regularly be found ordering a pie to go from Romeo's in Plainsboro, her favorite pizzeria.

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