Ten Things to Do in New Jersey This Summer That Aren't Going Down the Shore
I love summer in New Jersey. I love the long days and the fireflies and roasting in the sun by the pool. Of course one of the best places to be in New Jersey is down the Shore. I think one of the most popular questions when you’re in New Jersey is where do you go down the Shore. For years and years, my family has been going to Bradley Beach, which has a boardwalk to stroll on and is just ten minutes from Asbury Park.
Once the sun is out and the temps climb just a bit above freezing, shore season is open and everyone and their mother wants to be on the sand. Whether it’s for a day or a week or the whole summer, there’s always a thrill when you pack up the beach bag and drive east. But as much as I love the Shore, there is SO much more to summertime in New Jersey than sitting on the sand.
1 | Seek out the best ice cream on an epic road trip.
I’m a full advocate for ice cream as breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the summer (please don’t let Violet read this post ever). There are so, so many good places to grab a pint or a cone all over the state and the perfect summer activity is to try them all! You could do it all in one day in a road trip or create an ice cream bucket list. Personally this summer I’m going with the ice cream bucket list. Some places I’m going to grab a cone: Hoffman’s in Spring Lake, Kohr Bros on the boardwalk, Maple Shade Custard Stand in Maple Shade, and, of course, my hometown favorite, The Bent Spoon in Princeton.
2 | Get acquainted with the bursting craft brewery scene.
Even though the laws are still pretty strict when it comes to opening up a brewery in New Jersey, there are so many now. Summer is the perfect time to check one (or five) out. If you want a truly delightful brewery experience with a distinct NJ boardwalk flair, you need to visit Forgotten Boardwalk. Besides having really delicious brews, it’s women-owned and their bartenders are possibly the nicest people I’ve ever met. Other breweries worth grabbing a drink at: Double Nickel in Pennsauken, Asbury Park Brewing in Asbury Park, and Screaming Hill Brewery in Cream Ridge.
3 | Explore New Jersey’s small towns.
It’s been a few years since I did a “Small Town NJ” feature post but I’m still in love with all of New Jersey’s small towns. That’s why I love this state; most people see it as nothing but highways and a couple of beaches. But the small towns are filled with local boutiques, amazing farm fresh restaurants, and great attractions. My personal favorites are: Frenchtown, Princeton, Haddonfield, Red Bank, and Collingswood.
4 | Visit a museum.
You don’t have to go into the city to go to a museum. New Jersey has plenty of great museums, from art to history. Plus it’s a great way to get out of this hot and sticky heat. My personal favorite will always be The Princeton University Art Museum. Their collection is world class and they don’t charge admission. If you’re looking to learn more about New Jersey itself, the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton covers everything from the dinosaurs to Native Americans to modern day. They have great activities for kids and a planetarium. You’re not going to get more hands-on and fun for kids than the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. Doing the Touch Tunnel (a pitch black exhibit that you crawl through, meant to simulate blindness) is one of my favorite childhood memories.
5 | Chow down on fresh fruits and veggies at a pick-your-own farm.
Another favorite summer activity from growing up in Jersey is picking fruits and vegetables at a local farm. Sure it’s hot and sweaty and dusty but you can sneakily pop a few berries in your mouth while you’re working. I love picking fresh strawberries or blueberries and then making a blueberry pie or strawberry shortcake. Not sure you want to pick? Terhune Orchards in Princeton offers the best of both worlds: you can pick your own but their farm store also has fresh fruits and vegetables. Oh, and their absolutely delicious cider donuts, available year round.
6 | Get outdoors and hike, canoe, or kayak.
There is a whole lot of nature in New Jersey beyond the malls and highways. Lots of people will venture into Pennsylvania or drive to upstate New York but there are so many trails and parks right here. North Jersey is prime for hiking, especially at High Point State Park. If you like biking, I can personally recommend the Delaware Raritan Canal State Park trail. It runs 77 miles but you can hope off and on wherever’s most convenient. I love it for many reasons, from being a pretty easy, flat trail and it offers gorgeous views of the Delaware River. But most of all I love that it runs through Lambertville so you can stop and grab a drink and something delicious to eat in this adorable town. Then you just have decide whether you’re going to keep going!
7 | Hang out with animals and fish.
There’s plenty of wildlife running free in New Jersey from bears to bunnies to lots and lots of deer ( and apparently a coyote has been spotted in my town). In case you want to see something a little more exotic, NJ has you covered. Turtleback Zoo in West Orange has animals, yes, but also a playground, mini golf, and a train. Adventure Aquarium in Camden is another great place to get acquainted with wildlife from under the sea. Did you know they have hippos?!? To get up close and personal with the animals, Six Flags Great Adventure has a safari tour with lions, monkeys, zebras, and more. You used to be able to drive your car through it, which thinking about it is kind of wild, but now you need to get in one of their safari trucks.
8 | Learn about history.
If you love history, New Jersey is a great place to find it. I grew up having picnics on the same battlefield where the American troops turned the tide and started winning in our fight for independence. I literally didn’t think anything of it. There are numerous battlefields throughout the state which, besides being great open fields for picnics (lol), have visitor centers and exhibits to explore. Historic Smithville in Burlington County is a former factory town, now abandoned. You can tour the factory owner’s mansion (check the days because it’s not always open) and walk around the grounds. You can also get to know Walt Whitman a little bit better by visiting his house in Camden.
9 | Watch a movie under the stars.
Is there anything that screams summer than a watching a movie outdoors at night? If you’ve ever wanted to visit a drive-in movie theater, you’re in luck. Get in your station wagon and head down south to the Delsea Drive-In Theater. Or this list of towns across New Jersey is perfect for finding a casual grab-your-blanket-and-go movie under the stars.
10 | Pack a picnic and enjoy the open space.
One of my favorite things to do during a New Jersey summer is to pack a picnic and hang outdoors. There are great farms stands where you can pick up fresh fruits and veggies or visit the Trenton Farmer’s Market in Ewing where you can also pick up a pint of ice cream from Halo Farms. Or opt to go to a fabulous specialty grocery store like Dolce and Clemente’s in Robbinsville. I mean, the food is good here. Go to a national park like Washington Crossing State Park or the local park around the corner or one of these insanely cool playgrounds. Really, just enjoy the great outdoors that NJ has to offer.