From the well-known Princeton University to the Boardwalk of Atlantic City, New Jersey has numerous famous landmarks, including some impressive monuments and architectural wonders.
New Jersey is often thought of as an extension of New York City. However, it is a rich and diverse state with wonderful beaches, mountainous areas, and rural farmland.
To help us explore some of the most famous landmarks in New Jersey, both natural and human-made, we have invited Susan Decoteau-Ferrier (from genxtraveler) and Sean Lau (from Living Out Loud) to share with us their favorite NJ landmarks.
If you want to learn more about New Jersey, have a look at What is New Jersey famous for.
Famous landmarks in New Jersey – Human-made
Lucy the Elephant in Margate
Whether you have kids or you’re a kid at heart you must visit Lucy the Elephant on the beach in Margate NJ, just a few miles from Atlantic City. The 65-foot pachyderm stands in the feeding position just off the beach and can be seen from 8 miles out at sea.
Built in 1881, Lucy was brought to life by James Vincent De Paul Lafferty, Jr., in an effort to attract tourists and potential landowners to the town.
Through the years, she has been saved from destruction multiple times and has been physically moved twice. In 2022, she is undergoing a $2 million renovation. She is expected to reopen to the public on Memorial Day weekend in 2022.
Families can easily make a day of a visit to Lucy. Plan a morning visit or wait until later in the day when you need a break from the sun, to tour Lucy’s interior. While inside, kids can learn about Lucy’s unique history. Guides will entertain visitors with stories of this fascinating and very special elephant.
The little ones will delight at her brightly painted toenails and adults will love the clean, guarded Margate beaches. (Tags are required). Additionally, there is a refreshment stand, picnic tables, and bathrooms on Lucy’s property making for an effortless beach day for the entire family.
Victorian Cape May
While you may think of the Jersey Shore as a summer vacation spot, the historic seashore town of Cape May has become a year-round destination. This National Historic Landmark located at the southernmost tip of the state offers pristine beaches and an amazing collection of Victorian architecture.
Breath in the salty ocean air and view the lovely Victorian-era homes with a morning stroll along the promenade. In the evening walk pedestrian mall in the center of town.
One of the most enjoyable ways to experience this town’s beautiful Victorian architecture is by horse-drawn carriage. As you traverse the city’s gaslit side streets you’ll be transported back in time amid the clip-clop of horse hooves.
Take a bike ride to Cape May Point State Park located just outside of town. This 244-acre wildlife refuge offers 5 miles of trails that meander through freshwater meadows, ponds, dunes, and beaches. It is a popular destination for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts.
While visiting the park you will want to climb the 199 steps to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse. On a clear day, the views are spectacular.
Take in a sunset over cocktails and a plate of fresh oysters aboard the Schooner American docked at the Lobster House on Fisherman’s wharf. The wharf is a working commercial fishing dock with some of the haul making its way to your table. The Lobster House is a family-friendly restaurant that consistently serves tasty meals.
Atlantic City and the Boardwalk
Today, Atlantic City is best known for its gambling and its grand casinos. But it was originally known for its beaches and boardwalk. Once identified by the moniker of “Americas Playground” this seaside resort that inspired the television series “Boardwalk Empire” was once a place where anything goes. And still is in many ways.
The city located on Absecon Island in Atlantic County was founded in 1853. It connected Philadelphians with the beach and what was touted as a health resort.
Opening in 1870, Atlantic City’s boardwalk has the distinction of being the oldest boardwalk in the United States. And at 5.5 miles long it is the longest in the world even to this day. The boardwalk spans the area from Historic Gardner’s Basin at the inlet to the border of neighboring Ventnor City.
One of the best ways to enjoy the boardwalk is with a morning bike ride. But remember that bikes need to be off the boards by 12 noon during the summer months.
Today there are four piers along the promenade: Playground Pier, formerly the Million Dollar Pier, the famous Steel Pier, Garden Pier, and Central Pier. Each is distinctly different. Playground Pier is predominantly shopping, dining, and entertainment. Central Pier is home to an arcade and go-kart track. For family-friendly amusements and rides, the Steel Pier is the place to visit. And Finally, Garden Pier is home to the Atlantic City Historical Museum.
Currently, Atlantic City is undergoing a resurgence that it hasn’t seen since the early days of the casinos. It is trying to reinvent itself as a more family-friendly destination. The former Showboat Casino has been purchased and is operating as a non-casino hotel. It is home to the Lucky Snake Arcade, the east coast’s largest arcade. Additionally, the Showboat has broken ground for a $100 million, 103,000-square-foot Island Waterpark. The park is expected to open by Memorial Day 2023.
Also, over the past 5 years, the area around Tennessee Avenue has undergone a transformation of its own and is now known as the Orange Loop. It features multiple restaurants and bars with opening air seating showcasing live entertainment and alternatives to casino accommodations.
Ocean City Boardwalk
Ocean City and its boardwalk are certainly one of the best family-friendly summer vacation destinations in the state. Since its founding in 1879, this seaside town has enforced “Blue Laws” barring the sale of alcoholic beverages.
Located on the northern end of Cape May County in Upper Township, Ocean City has historically been a “Blue-collar” family-oriented beach community attracting Philadelphians.
The city boasts 8-miles of clean family-oriented beaches guarded by lifeguards. (Beach tags required) The waters off Ocean City are a favorite among surfers and boogie boarders.
Families will love the 2.5-mile boardwalk featuring Gillian’s Wonderland Pier and Playland’s Castaway Cove. Both are large amusement piers with rides, arcades, and tasty boardwalk treats. Other family activities include the OC Waterpark and numerous miniature golf courses.
Also on the boardwalk is the Ocean City Music Pier, home of the Ocean City Pops Orchestra. The music pier hosts the band’s performances as well as concerts in a number of musical genres.
At the southern end of the island is Corson’s Inlet State Park. This is another nature preserve featuring sand dunes, marine estuaries, and upland areas. It serves as a protected nesting site for the endangered piping plover. Beaches are open to the public for sunbathing and swimming.
If you happen to be visiting on a Wednesday, there is a wonderful farmers market on the grounds of the Tabernacle Church at 6th and Asbury Aves. From 8 am to 1 pm. Here you will find Jersey Fresh produce, fresh fish and seafood, and arts and crafts vendors.
You could say that Bruce Springsteen put Asbury Park on the map, but it wouldn’t really be true. Located in Monmouth County, Asbury Park is known for its sandy beaches, oceanfront boardwalk, and The Stone Pony, the music venue that launched, Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and many other talented musicians.
Established in the latter part of the 19th century as a residential resort, the seaside community was extremely popular with New Yorkers and Philadelphians alike. During this time the city received over 600,000 visitors throughout the summer seasons because it was easily accessible by railroad from those larger cities.
Through the first half of the 20th-century, the city continued to grow and attract year-round residents as well as vacationers. But into the later half of the century, the area began to fall on hard times and into disrepair.
Fortunately, though the start of the 21st-century brought about a resurgence. The once dilapidated downtown and boardwalk area have undergone revitalization.
Today, the boardwalk is lined with boutique shops, bars, entertainment venues, casual eateries, and even Tim McLoone’s Supper Club which harkens back to the heyday of supper clubs of the 1930s and 1940s.
They’ve brought back historic buildings such as Conventional Hall and the Carousel Building, a 5,000 square foot ornate copper-clad rotunda. Plus, there is a fine collection of historic Victorian homes.
Oh, and the beach. Don’t forget the beach!
Trenton the Statehouse
Trenton is the capital of New Jersey and also the center of government for Mercer County.
The city has been pivotal in American history back to the nation’s earliest days. Established in 1679 by the Quakers, Trenton, then called “Falls of the Delaware” was a haven for settlers trying to escape religious persecution under the Church of England. During the American Revolution Trenton was the site of George Washington’s first military victory, the Battle of Trenton.
Because of the city’s significance in the nation’s founding, it seems appropriate that it would become the state’s capital in 1790.
As the state’s most historic building, a visit to the New Jersey State House is a must-do on your list of famous New Jersey landmarks. The original statehouse built in 1792 was a 2-1/2 story building with a bell tower and seven “bays” off of a center hall. Legislative chambers were on the first floor while second-floor house the governor’s office and judicial offices.
Today the capital looks nothing like that original structure. Through the years the building has been expanded a number of times and was reconstructed after a massive fire in 1885. The rotunda and dome that are hallmarks of the structure were added at this time.
In addition to being the center of power within the state, the statehouse is a work of art in its own right. Symbolic murals, the stained-glass dome in the senate chamber, and other architectural features are reason enough to tour this magnificent structure.
Battleship NJ at the Camden Waterfront
The USS New Jersey docked along the Camden Waterfront is a World War II Iowa class battleship that today serves as a museum ship open to the public. Built across the river at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard it seems appropriate that this would be her permanent home.
She was commissioned from 1943 to 1991 and served in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War before being decommissioned and then reactivated and deployed during the Lebanese Civil War.
The Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial consistently rank as one of the best museums in New Jersey. Because visitors can sit in the command seat or lie in a sailor’s bunk, this is really an interactive museum as much as it is a history museum.
Visitors can spend all day exploring the Camden Waterfront. In addition to the USS New Jersey, the waterfront is home to Adventure Aquarium, the Camden Children’s Garden, and BB&T Pavilion, a year-round outdoor amphitheater that hosts concerts and theatre productions.
Kids will love both the aquarium and the Children’s Garden.
The 550,000-gallon shark exhibit and the African Penguins are just two of the highlights of the aquarium. USA Today has called it a “Top 10 aquarium in the US” and the Best Aquarium in the Northeast.
The Camden Children’s Garden is operated by the Camden City Garden Club. It is a place for little ones to explore and discover the natural world. The four-acre garden offers opportunities for creative and imaginative learning and play. Additionally, the garden includes the Philadelphia Eagles Four Seasons Butterfly House, the Garden Carousel, the Arrow River Train, a dinosaur garden, and storybook gardens.
Finally, the Camden waterfront offers spectacular views of Philadelphia and the Ben Franklin Bridge.
Empty Sky Memorial
By Sean Lau from Living Out Loud
No landmark in New Jersey is more meaningful than the Empty Sky Memorial, a memorial dedicated to the 749 innocent loved ones from New Jersey that lost their lives in the events of September 11th, 2001.
The Empty Sky Memorial was erected on September 11th, 2011 to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the original 911 events. It features two stainless steel twin walls that measure 210 feet long, the same width as the sides of the original World Trade Center Towers. The stainless steel walls are perfectly aligned so they face the exact location where the original Twin Towers stood. Lastly, on the interior of the walls are the names of all 749 New Jersey residents who lost their lives on 9-11.
It is situated in Liberty State Park, just across the river from Manhattan. Though going to New Jersey is an unusual thing to do in NYC, visiting Liberty State Park and the Empty Sky Memorial is a unique experience. Not only is it an important reminder of the horrific events, but the memorial is situated next to the Hudson River, so you have a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline, especially during sunset.
Princeton University is a private Ivy League university and the 4th oldest higher education institution in America. With a total undergraduate enrollment of almost 5000 students, it is also frequently considered one of the best universities in the USA. According to the US News ranking, it is the number one University for 12 years in a row now.
Princeton’s alumni, faculty members, and researchers include 74 Nobel laureates, 16 Fields Medalists, and 16 Turing Award winners.
Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, it was moved to its current location in Princeton in 1756. Only much later in 1896, it became a university accordingly was renamed Princeton University.
The 600-acre campus is located in a suburban setting in the lovely town of Princeton. The campus is open for visiting and strolling through the gardens, visiting the gothic courtyard, and enjoying the sculpture collection is always pleasant.
There are also student-led campus tours, where they share their Princeton experience while walking through the heart of the University and teaching more about the history, traditions, and academic programs.
New Jersey Landmarks – Natural
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife
This National Wildlife Refuge begins in Oceanville located in Atlantic County and runs up the coast to Mantoloking in Ocean County. It encompasses 47,000 acres of managed land, 78% of which is salt marsh.
The refuge is home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna and is a popular spot for bird watching. The park is a nesting ground for the endangered piping plover and home to Ospreys, Bald Eagle, Horseshoe crabs, and more. It is a favorite destination for wildlife photographers.
The headquarters and visitor’s center for the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge is located at the Atlantic County end of the park. Here you will find approximately 5 miles of self-guided nature trails and an 8-mile car loop. Additional facilities include canoe/kayak launch and more.
Accompany the 8-mile car ride with a guided audio tour that you can download from Soundcloud. The audio tour provides visitors with information about designated spots along the way. Be sure to pick up your map at the visitor’s center.
One of the best ways to experience the 8-mile loop known as Wildlife Drive is on a bicycle. It is absolutely breathtaking and because of the strong winds and sandy roadway, it can be a real challenge. But don’t worry, it is very flat, and you will want to make lots of stops along the way for photos.
Visitors to Ocean County will want to visit Cedar Bonnet Island. Like the Atlantic County site, it is home to many species of wildlife in a marshland setting.
The refuge is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. Visitor Information Center hours are Wednesday through Sunday 10 AM to 3 PM.
Island Beach State Park
This undeveloped and nearly untouched barrier island under the care and management of the state of New Jersey offers 10 miles of pristine sand beaches and 3000 acres of natural areas. Island Beach State Park located in Ocean County is surrounded on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other by Barnegat Bay.
The park is known for its beautiful swimming beaches and excellent sports fishing (permit required). Additionally, the state park includes 1600 acres of tidal marshes, creeks, ponds, and open water which make up the Sedge Islands Marine Conservation Zone. Visitors can gain access to this area by canoe and kayak or participating in one of the tours offered by the park service.
This ecological island is home to peregrine falcons, shorebirds, waterfowl, and migrating songbirds, plus more than 400 plant species. It also possesses the state’s largest osprey colony, as well as NJ’s largest expanses of beach heather.
Hikers and nature lovers can explore 8 miles of trails, but biking is not permitted on the trails. However, the park’s main thoroughfare is open to cyclists (but be cautious).
If you intend to hike, it would be wise to protect yourself from ticks and other biting insects (NJ’s natural areas are loaded with these beasts).
There is a fee to enter the park. The charge is per vehicle not per person and on the weekend can be as high as $20/car. However, you will not be charged a separate fee for beach usage.
Allaire State Park
Located in Monmouth County, Allaire State Park is comprised of over 3200 acres which include a 19th-century village, hiking and biking trails, group and individual campsites, fishing areas on the Manasquan River, and dinosaurs. Yes, dinosaurs!
But before getting to the dinosaurs, most people visit Allaire State Park for its 19th-century iron-making village, and the Pine Creek Railroad, a narrow-gauge train ride.
The village once known as Howell Works was a thriving pig and cast-iron manufacturing town. Today, what remains is the general store, blacksmith shop, carpenter’s shop, manager’s house, foreman’s house, and church. And the Allaire Visitor Center and Museum are housed in what was once a workers’ row house.
Allaire Village Inc., a nonprofit organization hosts a number of flea markets, craft fairs, antique shows, and special events held at the village throughout the year.
The Pine Creek Railroad, established in 1953 is one of the oldest operating narrow gauge railways in the United States. Hop aboard one of the 15-minute train excursions operated by the NJ Museum of Transportation.
Allaire State Park offers over 22-miles trails covering a wide range of terrain. The trails attract mountain bikers and hikers and can be quite busy on the weekend.
And this brings us back to the dinosaurs. There is an artist who builds large-scale dinosaurs in the woods. They are crafted from tree branches found in the forest. To find the dinosaurs head to the 1.3-mile Boy Scout Trail near the group campsite. Here you will find the dinosaurs beneath a canopy of tall pine trees. It’s an easy walk.
Mountain bikers will want to check out these trails as well. There are some fun drops and jumps back in this area.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Worthington State Forest
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area spans two states with part of the park residing in New Jersey and the other portion across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania.
While many of the best vistas and views are from the Pennsylvania side of the park you will still find plenty of beautiful places on the New Jersey side.
There are a number of hiking/biking trails with scenic overlooks, natural springs, waterfalls, and more within Worthington State Forest which is a NJ state forest located within the National Park. Inside Worthington Forest alone there are more than 25 miles of trails including over 6 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
One of the highlights of the park is Sunfish Pond Natural Area which has been called “one of New Jersey’s Seven Natural Wonders” and is on the National Registry of Historic Landmarks. A 1.5-miles of hiking trail encircles this stunning 41-acre glacial lake.
Another popular area is the 1100-acre Dunnfield Creek Natural Area. The creek descends over 1000 feet from Mt. Tammany to the Delaware River. Hemlock, maple, birch as well as Mountain laurel, rhododendron, and dogwood all grow abundantly in this area. When in bloom (May – June) it’s a beautiful sight.
Finally, camping is permitted within the park. The campgrounds offer 78 tent and trailer sites along two miles of river frontage. Plus, there are three group sites, each of which can accommodate up to 35 people.
Great Falls of the Passaic River
The Great Falls of the Passaic River is one of the most famous landmarks in New Jersey. With 77 feet high and 260 feet wide and more than 2 billion gallons of water rushing daily, the great falls are the second-largest waterfall by volume, east of Mississippi. Only Niagara Falls are larger.
Carved by glaciers that recede at the end of the last Ice Age, about 13 000 years ago, the Great Falls are a captivating natural landmark in New Jersey. Though, what really is fascinating is that the location is also a historic landmark, protected since 2009 as part of the Parterson Great Falls National Historical Park.
The city of Paterson was founded by Alexander Hamilton who visited the falls with George Washington during the American revolution. Later in 1791, he returned to the area to plan Paterson, America’s first
industrial city Paterson.
Paterson was established around the Great Falls, and from the humble mills rose industries it became an important center of the early American industry. The industry in Paterson was diverse and included many American firsts: a water-powered cotton spinning mill (1793), continuous roll paper (1812), Colt revolver (1837), the Roger’s Locomotive (1837), and the Holland Submarine (1878).
You can see the falls from Haines overlook park (on the south) and Mary Ellen Kramer Park (on the north). It is also possible to drive-by view from Mc Bride Avenue, as it crosses the river just above the falls. There’s also a footbridge over the falls gorge, which serves as an excellent lookout.
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