Outdoor Activities In NJ: What To Do In Every Season


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 diverse landscapes that cover mountains, forests, and the shore, you can find an outdoor activity in any season that fits the bill for your family. Go biking on the trails, hit the sand for a beach day, pick pumpkins from the farm, or slide on a snow tube when the flakes fall—we’ve got a bunch of options for you (especially when you think you’ve done them all). Read on for the best outdoor activities in NJ any time of year, and if you are looking for more indoor or outdoor activities, don’t miss the best things to do in New Jersey. (featured photo credit: NJ MOM)

Outdoor activities in NJ all year long

 Atlantic Farms NJ

Petting zoos like Atlantic Farms in Wall are fun outdoor activities in NJ. Photo Credit: NJ MOM

Take a look at the zoo

As the seasons change and animals adapt to the surroundings, visiting zoos during any season can be a beautiful way to spend the day. Whatever animals your kids are into, there’s no shortage of exotic species, wildlife education, and friendly farm petting zoos in the state. And see what the flamingos, lions, bears, and the like are up to 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 sneak in some fitness, too). We found plenty of great places around the Garden State to 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, which spans 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 New Jersey has over 18 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 this side of Niagara Falls.

Find fresh picks at a farmers’ market

Whether you are looking for 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. You can also pick up yummy treats 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 do a fall family photo shoot or pose with the perennials in the spring, you can find 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 more nautical beach shot? Barnegat Light State Park is a prime 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. Heading to the shore? We’ve rounded up the best beach playgrounds. 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 wine 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. If breweries are more your speed, raise a glass from Oktoberfest to Summer Street Fests. Prefer something shaken or stirred? Head to one of the distilleries popping up to sip on an inventive cocktail or get a look at the process. 

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 see the changes during winter, spring, summer, or fall on the grounds and walk along the trails. Head north to Frelinghuysen Arboretum 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.

Spring Outdoor Activities in NJ

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 the third tallest in the 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 Ridge Farms, watch the cherry blossoms unfold, or take close-up photos of the roses at Deep Cut Gardens, beauty is in bloom 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 and 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 Sandy Hook to the north, Absecon Lighthouse to the south, and Finn’s Point out west, there are so many spots to see a lighthouse or lightship in the state. Not sure where to start? Our guide to NJ lighthouses will show you the way.

Take your family out to a ballgame

Spending a spring or hot summer day sitting in the stands cheering on your favorite team, like the Jersey Shore BlueClaws, is an American pastime. Luckily, the Garden State has minor league baseball fields where you can watch a game (and the cost of a ticket is way less than the big leagues). And you never know—you may be watching a pro player in the making. So batter up and catch a baseball game this spring or summer.

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. Photo Credit: NJ MOM

Splash around and 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 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 and sunscreen, and get ready to get soaked in the summer.

Take in the thrills of an amusement park

Amusement parks are a summer pastime, and NJ has plenty of thrills, spills, and daring rides at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson. Want more big and little rides? Visit Morey’s Piers on the Wildwood boardwalk to excite everyone, or step into a classic nursery rhyme at Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township. Find your favorite heart-pounding rides and kiddie adventures at all the 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. Get a whiff of aromatic lavender at a lavender farm in New Jersey and take home some lavender treats like lotions, tea, and baked goodies. 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 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 Jersey Shore is always a great idea. Once you find your beach badge, you’ll be set for the season. Not 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, while you roast a marshmallow, the smell of fresh pine needles, and the silence of the woods at night, are just a few of the fun perks of camping in NJ. The Garden State has lots of 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 and cabin rentals are also at many campgrounds.

Walk along the boards

There’s nothing quite like the sound of flip-flops hitting the wooden planks of a Jersey Shore boardwalk, punctuated by the harmonious hum of arcade games and the thrilling screams of amusement park guests. Visit the historic Asbury Park Boardwalk, the family-friendly Ocean City Boardwalk, or any of the 6 boardwalks on the shore. Ready to hit the boards? Point Pleasant Beach Boardwalk is a great place to start.

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. Cruise on the 115-foot Miss Belmar ship or take the Seastreak Ferry in the 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 the trees and fly on a zip line for a unique perspective and adventure. Be like Tarzan and swing Tree to Tree in Cape May, scale a 50-foot 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 family’s sport or you all like the challenge of ropes courses, there are over 8 places to go on a high-flying adventure.

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. Freshwater places like Sunrise Lake, Greenwood Lake, and Lake Nummy are perfect for a day on the water. Or, if you’re a 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— spending time 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, including organic onesStrawberry picking runs through June, cherry-picking 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. 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.

Fall Outdoor Activities in NJ

Atlantic Farms maze New Jersey

Visiting family-friendly farms in NJ is a favorite outdoor activity in the fall. Photo Credit: NJ MOM

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 Eastmont Orchards in Colts Neck to Stiles Farm and Nursery in Cape May, you find fresh fall goodies all over the Garden State. And taking a hayride to scope out the perfect orange pumpkin on a vine is not to 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 take it easy with 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 fade).

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 it’s 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

Skiing is one of the top winter activities for families, and whether you’re looking for a day trip with the littles at Jack Frost Ski Resort or if you want to learn how to snowboard at Shawnee Mountain, you don’t have to go far to get on the slopes. 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 our guide to the best ski resorts for families.

Glide around on a snow tube

If you’re looking for more 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—these snow tubing spots in and around NJ will guarantee 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 just learning together or having a blast gliding 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 table, you can see it up close at a maple sugaring demonstration. Check out the Great Swamp Education Center, Tenafly 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.

Sled down a hill

Snow days have been on the wane in the last few years, but when they do call off school for snow, you know what your kids will want to do—gear up and grab those saucers and sleds ready for a day outside. From hidden hills to big drops, check out where to go for the best sledding hills in NJ.

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.