With New York City to the immediate north and Philadelphia to the west, New Jersey often gets overlooked as a vacation destination. This small state offers a lot of cities, rural towns, and beach communities for your family to enjoy a weekend break. Your New Jersey vacation rental can be a spacious house on the beach or a hideaway in a small town. When you start planning your trip, you want to keep this list of the eight best weekend getaways in New Jersey close by.

1. Ocean City

amusement rides in Ocean City
Source: Flickr/mbtrama

Located on a barrier island, Ocean City is one of the family-friendliest cities in the state. Find a vacation rental close to the beach and boardwalk to wake up each morning and enjoy your cup of coffee on the deck as the sun rises over the ocean. Rent bikes from Bob’s Bike and Surrey Rentals to ride on the boardwalk in the morning, and then pedal around town after it closes to bike traffic. Your kids will beg to hit the rides in the evening at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier and Morey’s Pier. Manco and Manco Pizza offers slices and entire pies or grab an Italian water ice from any one of a dozen places on the boardwalk to keep your energy up.

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2. Jersey City

Liberty State Park pathway
Source: Flickr/Luke H. Gordon

As the largest city in the state, you find plenty of hustle and bustle in Jersey City as you enjoy the shopping, sightseeing, and dining out at world-class restaurants. Just across the water, you can see New York City, and Liberty State Park is the best place to get a great view. When the weather is good, stretch your legs on the walking path or ride bikes in this park. There are frequent benches to rest and look out over the water to the Big Apple beyond. Book tickets for a show at the Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre or take a guided tour during the day.

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3. Cherry Hill

cherry blossom trees lining the street
Source: Flickr/sk

In Cherry Hill, the kids enjoy a range of activities while the adults can sample craft brews. Take the older members of the group to the Flying Fish Brewery and Forgotten Boardwalk Brewery for a tour and some time in the sampling room. You can even buy a pack of your new favorite suds. Kids enjoy visiting the Garden State Discovery Museum with its hands-on fun that teaches basic science concepts. Your whole family gets into the fun at the Playdrome, where you can bowl a few games or spend time in the arcade filled with the latest video games. Start each morning out with a hearty breakfast at The Turning Point.

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4. Atlantic City

Lucy the Elephant
Source: Flickr/Jim McIntosh

Try your luck with a weekend away in Atlantic City. It’s easy to spend the entire weekend in the casinos with numerous gaming floors available at the major hotels, including the Borgata and the Tropicana. Don’t worry if you’re not into gambling because there’s plenty to do with kids. Spend the day on the beach and enjoy the rides on the Steel Boardwalk in the evenings. Take the little ones to see Lucy the Elephant. This elephant shaped building stands six stories and was built in the 1880s. For a small fee, you can walk around the outside and pose for photos, or get a bite to eat at the concession stand.

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5. Cape May

Beach houses along the cape
Source: Flickr/mbtrama

Cape May sits on the southern tip of New Jersey and serves as the home to the United States Coast Guard Training Academy. The town offers a couple of beaches to spend your days soaking up the sun and splashing in the water. Take the older members of your family to the Willow Creek Winery for a tasting and bring home a couple of bottles. The Cape May County Zoo is a small zoological park with a some of your kid’s favorite critters. The golfer in your group can hit the links at the Cape May National Golf Club. The trolley makes navigating the town easy.

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6. Newark

flower garden in the park
Source: Flickr/xlquinhosilva

Newark might be a bustling city but it also has the highest number of cherry blossom trees than any other town in the country so expect to enjoy some green spaces. Branch Brook Park is the place to go to see the trees, take a walk, and enjoy a picnic lunch. Get dressed up for an evening of music at the Newark Symphony Hall. Hidden Harbour Tours offers boat rides up the Passaic River with stunning views of Newark and New York City. The boats have a small concession stand so you can get a snack on board. Families like to visit the Turtle Back Zoo with its small collection of animals, petting zoo, mini train, and carousel.

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7. Paterson Great Falls

Great Falls waterfalls
Source: Flickr/Tony Fischer

Breathe in the fresh air in Paterson Great Falls. This small town is the location of the Great Falls of the Passaic River, and you find the best place to see and photograph the falls in Overlook Park. Mary Ellen Kramer Park sits at the bottom of the falls, where you can feel a light spray of water from the falls and hear the roar of the water. Learn more about baseball and one of its most famous players with a tour of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center.

8. Trenton

Arches at South Riverwalk Park
Source: Flickr/Blake Bollinger

Hit the streets in Trenton, the state’s capital city, to learn more about the local and state history. You can check out the World War II Memorial and the War Memorial that’s dedicated to the New Jersey residents who fought in World War I. Take a tour of the Old Barracks Museum in a British built building that dates back to the 1770s and once housed soldiers in Colonial America. The New Jersey State Museum offers a planetarium, fine art, historical artifacts, and many other treasures.

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