There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding the Garden State and hearing the words New Jersey may conjure up images of the MTV show Jersey Shore. The state is unfairly called the Armpit of America. Yet New Jersey is home to over 100 miles of coastline: Beach communities like Cape May, Long Beach Island, Wildwood, and Point Pleasant are amazing vacation regions that cater to a variety of interests. There are additionally plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities, museums, and performance venues in the state. The suburban towns are quiet, and the malls are a shopper’s paradise.
Summer 2021 has unofficially started now that Memorial Day weekend is over and it’s a great time for day trips! Give yourself a well-deserved break from staring at screens and enjoy the following seven attractions in New Jersey. The state that gave us Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen is a worthwhile place to visit.
I’d like to add that the following seven places are the lesser-known sites in New Jersey. I love the beach towns in this state- I plan on writing blog posts about them- but my goal for today is to spotlight the state’s secret treasures and to offer insight into places that those living in the New York metropolitan area can explore!
Ringwood State Park is the definition of a “hidden gem.” Located in the Ramapo Mountains, Ringwood is part of Passaic County and borders New York State’s Rockland County. Ringwood State Park is a serene and remote place that compromises the New Jersey Botanical Garden at Skylands, Skylands Manor, and the Shepherd Lake Recreation Area.
Parking is available for visitors coming to see the botanical gardens and adjacent hiking trails. The outdoor botanical garden has a lovely collection of flowers and there are haiku displays. The area is sweeping and vast. It feels like you’re the only person in the world! Skylands Manor, a stunning Tudor Revival Mansion, is the perfect backdrop for a portrait photo. Don’t miss the adjacent forest with hiking trails (You don’t need to be an expert hiker to enjoy these trails!) You will feel as if you’re in upstate New York.
Shepherd Lake is a five minute drive from the botanical gardens and is an ideal place to have lunch because there are many picnic tables. You can even go hiking or mountain-biking on the trails surrounding the lake (A hilarious sign explains that there are black bears living in this area and describes what to do if you see one). There’s a playground and sandy beach for children. Visitors can fish and rent boats.
2. Grounds For Sculpture (Southern New Jersey)
This beautiful oasis in Hamilton is like the New Jersey version of Storm King Art Center! Established by artist Seward Johnson, Grounds For Sculpture is home to 300 pieces of art. What’s amazing is that there are life-sized sculptures resembling the ones in Impressionist paintings…this makes for a great photo opportunity! There’s a replica of Claude Monet’s Garden at Sainte-Adresse painting: A life-sized sculpture of a table, couple, and French flag are in this area of the public garden. It’s such a fun way to experience art, and Grounds For Sculpture changes the way we perceive art because we can interact with the landscape. You don’t have to be an art lover to enjoy Grounds For Sculpture!
Moreover, Grounds For Sculpture is home to the exemplary Rat’s Restaurant. It overlooks a pond with water lilies- inspired by Claude Monet’s painting of water lilies- and looks like something out of a fairytale (Beauty and the Beast characters will definitely enjoy this place). The French cuisine is spectacular. Reservations are required for this restaurant.
The Van Gogh Café is a stunning café open to visitors. It has delicious snacks, and the interior will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a Van Gogh painting: There are images of vibrant sunflowers and Van Gogh’s use of thick brushstrokes is evident in the painting display.
Visitors must purchase timed admission tickets online before going to Grounds For Sculpture.
3. Holland Ridge Farms (Central NJ)
This unforgettable place is a slice of the Netherlands in Cream Ridge! The Jansen family immigrated to the U.S. from the Netherlands in the 1960s and began growing tulips in the Garden State. In 2017, the family planted over 1 million tulip bulbs after they came up with the idea of having a u-pick tulip season. So many people visited in 2018 and it was a successful season. Holland Ridge Farms has now exploded in popularity because Instagram and TikTok users post about this stunning place.
There are two u-pick flower seasons: Visitors can pick tulips in the spring and sunflowers in the fall. This place is busy, busy, busy. You must order tickets online and tickets can be sold out even on weekdays.
I visited to pick tulips, and the landscape felt ethereal. After such a snowy winter in 2021, it was almost overwhelming to see such vibrant colors. There are over 60 acres of flowers. Life-sized Dutch clogs, bicycles, and flower cut-outs are perfect photo-ops. There’s a shop that sells Dutch clog keychains, Amsterdam tote bags, and Amsterdam wallets. There are on-site food trucks, I remember one of the trucks was Cousins Maine Lobster.
Holland Ridge Farms is near Freehold, home to the Battleview Orchards Country Store. This store has pies, donuts, apple cider, jam, fudge, spices, and tea. Freehold is also home to an amazing Barnes & Noble that has an extensive collection of books and a mall.
Dalton Farms is located in Swedesboro, a borough in Gloucester County known for its early Swedish and Finnish settlers. It’s close to Delaware.
The 99-acre farm offers tulip and strawberry picking in the spring. The family also planted 1.2 million sunflowers and hosted their very first Dalton Farms Sunflower Festival in 2019. There’s a six acre lake, food vendors, and a store. Dalton Farms is further home to an apiary that has 10 beehives…homemade honey is the best.
There’s a bustling Amish Farmers Market in nearby Mullica Hill. There are different sections within the market, including the chicken shack, Beiler’s Bakery, Country Lane Salads, and Beiler’s Donut & Coffee Shop. Amish women bake the desserts in front of you, and you can smell the fresh donuts before stepping into the market. Your entire car will smell of fresh food.
5. Morris Museum (Northern NJ)
All the attractions I’ve mentioned so far are outdoor-related! For a culture fix (and access to air-conditioning!), check out the Morris Museum in Morristown. Visitors can see Native American artwork, minerals, and paintings. The mechanical musical instruments are especially unique. The Morris Museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, so a great, enriching experience is guaranteed. I’ve visited twice and my most recent visit was in 2016, but I couldn’t find photos.
Morristown additionally has a cute Main Street with an ice cream shop, clothing stores, cafes, and restaurants.
6. Newark Museum of Art (Northern NJ)
This place is like New Jersey’s version of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum houses an extensive collection of artwork, and the wide variety of work ensures that visitors enjoy this cultural institution, no matter what their interests are. There’s Native American art, African art, and 19th century American art. There’s a collection encompassing artifacts from ancient Greece and Rome. Furthermore, the Newark Museum of Art is home to a garden and planetarium.
Make sure to check out the ceramics exhibition that chronicles the state’s 300 year old history in this industry and the 20 permanent galleries that include over 600 Asian works (Told you this is an impressive museum!) This is a wonderful and peaceful place to visit on your day off. Museums provide a contemplative and gratifying experience. I went to this place when I was pretty young, so I don’t have any photos but I did like seeing the exhibits!
The museum has recently reopened, and visitors over the age of 12 are required to show proof of vaccination.
7. Van Vleck House & Gardens (Northern NJ)
Located in Montclair, the Van Vleck House & Gardens encompass a 20th century Mediterranean Revival home and stunning gardens. If you want to get some fresh air and get out of the house, the Gardens are a great way to enjoy nature and take a break from electronics. The Van Vleck House is closed, but the Gardens are open daily.
This place also hosts amazing events, including outdoor yoga, meditation classes, and bulb sales. I went to a Mother’s Day celebration here and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra performed. Altogether, if you’re looking for a restorative experience, visit the Gardens.
Happy sightseeing! xx