Summertime is a very special season in New Jersey. Students and teachers enjoy some hard-earned time off. Family vacations are planned and taken. Through rising temperatures and thick humidity, every corner of the state comes alive with outdoor activity.

One of my favorite things about the Garden State is the enormous variety of things to do — especially in the warm weather months. You can literally close your eyes, randomly point to a map of New Jersey, and then plan a trip around that spot.

Let me make your summer getaway planning a little more straightforward. I have compiled a few fantastic options for day trips, staycations, and/or weekend getaways across the state. Note: I am specifically staying away from the Jersey Shore here, as I covered those hotspots in my recent Waves of WOW article.

This article is part of a special series brought to you by the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism.

Lake Hopatcong Scenic
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lake Hopatcong

We start this journey with a real gem, right on the border between Morris and Sussex counties. Lake Hopatcong is the largest freshwater body in New Jersey.

Four towns lie along the shores of Lake Hopatcong: Hopatcong, Jefferson, Mount Arlington, and Roxbury. You'll find passive recreation and natural beauty galore. Hopatcong State Park offers opportunities for boating, fishing, picnicking, and sports. It is also home to the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum, with exhibits about the area's Native American past, canals, and recreation influences.

Fun fact: The one and only fish I ever caught in my life was on Lake Hopatcong!

Aerial view of Ellis Island
Ellis Island. Credit: Getty Images

Jersey City

If a little more "hustle and bustle" is your style, then the second-most populous city in the state might be a perfect destination. Jersey City is a major transportation hub of North Jersey — which makes it very easy to travel to and to get around.

There are several major shopping districts in Jersey City, including Journal Square and Newport Mall. (And don't forget, parts of Jersey City fall within an Urban Enterprise Zone, offering reduced sales tax at eligible shops.)

Aside from great views along the Hudson River and tons of amazing eateries, you could also make a whole day out of Liberty State Park. That is the launch point for ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

And one of my favorite spots in the state, the Liberty Science Center has been educating and entertaining visitors since 1993. The Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium is one of the largest such venues in the Western Hemisphere. And be sure to give my regards to the Hoberman Sphere, hovering just outside the main atrium.


Just one town up from Jersey City is "The Mile Square City" of Hoboken.

An emerging hotspot for trendy restaurants and bars, eclectic shopping, and rich culture. Hoboken is a very walkable city, and a really great place to explore and "play tourist." Grab a slice of cake at the original Carlo's Bake Shop. Pay your respects to Ol' Blue Eyes at Sinatra Park. And soak in the amazing views along the Hudson Waterfront.

Plus, since you are traveling to the urban core of northeastern New Jersey, there is no shortage of hotels and rentals to turn a day trip into a weekend getaway.

Lambertville House Hotel. Credit:
Lambertville House Hotel. Credit:


Nestled in a quiet corner of Hunterdon County is the picturesque city of Lambertville, New Jersey.

Tucked along the Delaware River, Lambertville has a rich history as a hub for rail traffic, canal ferries, and road travelers. Over the last three or four decades, Lambertville has reinvented itself as a prominent creative center and all-season tourist destination. It also is considered by many to be "The Antiques Capital of New Jersey."

There is plenty to do and explore in Lambertville, from shops to eateries to galleries to parks. Honestly, the best way to see the city is just to start walking around downtown or along the D&R Canal.

Shopping outlets range from the Golden Nugget Flea Market to Rago Auctions to numerous art galleries.

You might choose to have dinner at Lambertville Station, which doubles as an elegant hotel and wedding venue.

And I highly recommend ending your day in Lambertville with a show at Music Mountain Theatre. Still coming up at MMT in Summer 2024: Anything Goes, The King and I, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Beauty and the Beast.


I once spent an entire summer living in Princeton, working at the university, and it was fantastic. The vibe is chill, with lots of quaint shops, eateries, and lodging options.

On the 681-acre grounds of Princeton Battlefield State Park, you'll find historic monuments and hiking trails galore.

Walk along Nassau Street.

Catch a show at McCarter Theatre.

Or take a quick ride on the "Dinky" — stretching just 2.7 miles between Princeton and Princeton Junction stations, it is the shortest rail line in the NJ Transit network.

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