Known for its busy culture and heavy traffic, New Jersey often flies under the radar as a vacation destination packed with family-friendly activities. Here’s how to spend seven days in the Garden State.
Day 1 – Arrive in Newark
For this trip, book your flight for an arrival into Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and a departure out of Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). While the traffic in the Northeast can sometimes be a bear, book a rental car for a pick-up at EWR and a drop-off at PHL to make sure you have the freedom to explore. After you arrive into Newark, cross Newark Bay and spend the rest of your day viewing the Statue of Liberty from Liberty State Park. If you have time, take a ferry to Ellis Island and check out the National Immigration Museum. Ferry tickets to Ellis Island can be purchased through statuecruises.com.
For dinner, find one of the many eateries downtown in the nearby Jersey City, or head back to your hotel in Newark for some room service if you’re tuckered out after a day of flying and sightseeing.
Day 2 – Nearby Historic Parks
Wake up early and drive to Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park. Due to the possibility of dense traffic, plan for a 30 to 45-minute drive out of Newark to reach the park. Aside from its beauty, the massive waterfall in the park is 77-feet tall and was responsible for water-power development in 1792. According to information from the National Park Service (NPS), Paterson was America’s first planned industrial city. History buffs can also take advantage of Paterson’s close proximity to Thomas Edison National Historic Park, which is a short 20-minute drive south of Paterson Great Falls and allows visitors to view Thomas Edison’s home and laboratory.
Day 3- The Jersey Shore
For those less enthused by New Jersey’s history, it’s time to have lighthearted fun in Seaside Heights, famous for its debut in MTV’s Jersey Shore. Stroll along the Seaside Heights Boardwalk, grab a margarita at Spicy Cantina, and embrace your inner Snooki at Karma Nightclub for a taste of Jersey Shore nightlife.
Accommodations in this area might be harder to come by, especially in the summer months, so book in advance. With fewer hotels, consider using alternatives such as Airbnb or Vrbo for a short-term stay. My recommendation is to stay in Toms River, which is a short drive from the shore with a few more hotel options than Seaside Heights.
Day 4 – Six Flags Great Adventure
On day four, leave Toms River and head 43 minutes west to one of the East Coast’s most popular amusement parks, Six Flags Great Adventure. Looney Toons fans will appreciate the Bugs Bunny and Daffy-themed attractions. Not a fan of roller coasters? The park has plenty of options for those seeking less of a thrill. Ride a slower-paced family ride or stop by an animal exhibit to make the day fun for the whole family.
Day 5 – Atlantic City
After checking out of your Toms River hotel room or rental property, drive less than an hour south to Atlantic City for a Vegas experience on the East Coast. While there are tons of properties to choose from, spend a few nights at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. Aside from its prime location in the heart of the action, guests with a major sweet tooth have just a short walk to one of the best places to indulge your cravings. At the Sugar Factory, children can try their luck at devouring a gourmet milkshake or sundae, while adults can order one of the Factory’s many refreshing and creative mixed drinks served in a giant steaming goblet (I recommend the White Gummi).
Day 6 – Choose Between Casinos or Cape May
On day six, spend your day wandering around the many casinos in Atlantic City, or take a stroll down the boardwalk to relax before your trip comes to an end. Those looking to escape Atlantic City’s madness can drive less than an hour south to Cape May, a quaint town packed with Victorian houses along the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy a lobster roll at Quincy’s Original Lobster Rolls before returning to the chaos in Atlantic City for the night.
Day 7 – Depart from Philadelphia
With traffic in mind, plan for at least an hour-long drive west of Atlantic City to PHL to board your flight home. I recommend giving yourself twice as long as you think you need to protect yourself from missing your flight if you run into any traffic jams. North Carolinians arriving from PHL will appreciate the short 90-minute flight home, leaving them plenty of time to unpack and unwind before returning to work for the week.