All Ages

Best New Jersey Attractions for Families (Beyond the Shore)

See recent posts by Amanda Geronikos

Say “New Jersey,” and most people think of the “Jersey Shore” — calling beaches and boardwalks to mind. What many people don”t realize, however, is that the Garden State largely consists of farm land and offers outdoor fun beyond the beach, from expansive, natural playgrounds to one-of-a-kind amusement parks, plus well-known water parks, museums and aquariums.

Written by Amanda Geronikos


Adventure Aquarium

Just outside of Philadelphia, Adventure Aquarium might just be the most popular aquarium in the Tri-State area, and is definitely among the best in the nation. Exhibits include Hippo Haven, where visitors meet a group of lovable hippos (above and below the water); Penguin Island, where more than 15 African Penguins hang out; and Shark Realm, the biggest collection of shark species on the East Coast! Adventure Aquarium also features KidZone, an interactive area for youngsters, plus rotating exhibits and an onsite café.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel Monaco Philadelphia - A Kimpton Hotel

Wild West City

You don"t have to head west to feel like you"re in the West - not if you visit Wild West City in Netcong, New Jersey, that is. This unique theme park features pony and train rides; a small zoo; an 18-hole, mini-golf course; and Main Street 1880, where you"ll find museum-quality artifacts, live entertainment and more. Kids also have the opportunity to pan for gold and hop on a stagecoach ride -- just watch out for the mountain man and other bandits!

Recommended Hotel: Residence Inn Mt. Olive at International Trade Center

Allaire State Park

Allaire State Park is more than hiking trails, lakes (where you can canoe and fish), picnic pavilions, playgrounds and campsites (though you should take advantage of all the above). The park also features Allaire Village, a former industrial community turned living history museum. Tours are led by period-clad guides, and include visits to a working blacksmith shop, general store and more. Allaire Village also hosts festivals and seasonal events throughout the year.

Recommended Hotel: Chateau Inn and Suites


Diggerland offers children (and adults!) a unique opportunity to operate full-size construction machinery (with supervision, of course) via a variety of interactive rides. Other amusements include Dumper Trucks and mini-Land Rovers, both of which involve obstacle courses. There are also several attractions just for little builders, such as Dig-A-Round, a carousel, and Kids" Zone, a playground. In fact, most of the park"s rides cater to the small set, with a minimum height requirement of 36 inches (42 or 48 inches for select rides). Diggerland has four parks in the U.K, but the location in New Jersey is the only one in the U.S.

Recommended Hotel: Staybridge Suites Philadelphia - Mt. Laurel

Sahara Sam's Oasis

Close to Diggerland, Sahara Sam"s Oasis is an indoor water park (with a few outdoor attractions available during the summer). The fun includes FlowRider, the only indoor surfing simulator in New Jersey; Mount Kilimanjaro, a family tube ride; Crocodile Flats, an obstacle course on the water; and Nile Mile, a 350-foot body slide. You"ll find traditional water park features, too, including a lazy river, kids" play area, hot tub and cabanas, for rent. Most of the rides have a minimum height requirement of 42 inches, though a few only require riders be at least 36 inches. When fingers start to shrivel up, visit the onsite arcade or grab a slice of pizza at the Desert Palm Café.

Recommended Hotel: Hyatt house Mt. Laurel

Storybook Land

Step into your favorite children"s tales at Storybook Land, a small, outdoor collection of themed rides in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Rides include Tick-Tock Clock Drop, Beanstalk Bounce, Happy Dragon, Turtle Twirl and Tea Time. Most rides require a minimum height of 36 inches, making the park ideal for families with little ones. Storybook Land offers four onsite eateries, along with seasonal events; try to visit for the Christmas Fantasy With Lights in December - all rides are open and Santa Claus pays a visit!

Recommended Hotel: Homewood Suites by Hilton Atlantic City/Egg Harbor Township

Grounds for Sculpture

Prepare to be amazed at Grounds for Sculpture, an outdoor collection of some-270 giant statues. There are permanent pieces of artwork on display, though much of the attraction includes rotating exhibits. Popular displays have included Seward Johnson: The Retrospective, with a 26-foot tall, 36,000-pound statue of Marilyn Monroe, as well as bronze figures of other icons. Organized tours are available, though self-guided explorations are more fun. Additionally, Grounds for Sculpture features a top-notch restaurant (best for families with teens), Rat"s Restaurant, along with three casual cafes.

Recommended Hotel: Princeton Marriott at Forrestal

Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari

Did you know the world"s tallest and fastest drop ride, Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom, is located in New Jersey? You"ll find it at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson. The giant park features 13 roller coasters -- including the all-new El Diablo -- along with tame rides for little ones and attractions just for families. Plan to embark on the Safari Off Road Adventure, too (included in admission), but arrive early to avoid long wait times. Like most amusement parks, Six Flags Great Adventure also offers shows, shopping and dining options aplenty.

Recommended Hotel: Holiday Inn East Windsor

Clementon Park and Splash World

Smaller than Six Flags Great Adventure -- though equally worthy of a visit -- Clementon Park and Splash World offers a mix of thrill rides, family rides and children"s rides. It also offers water rides at Splash World, an adjacent water park. There, families can cool off on waterslides, tube rides and a lazy river; there"s also a separate playground for young kids, with a pirate ship replica, wading pool, dump buckets and more! Clementon Amusement Park is located about 15 minutes from Diggerland -- hit both attractions in one trip!

Recommended Hotel: Wingate Vorhees-Cherry Hill/Mt. Laurel/Philadelphia

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