True to its moniker, the Garden State transforms its personality with the changing seasons. You’ll find New Jersey is a tried-and-true four-season destination with 130 miles of immaculate sand on the Jersey Shore in the humid summers, a gasp-worthy palette of autumnal colors in the refreshingly brisk fall, a festive holiday season (complete with spritely decorated Victorian homes in Cape May) to warm the spirits during the winter chill and delightfully lush blooms bursting with cheer in the temperate spring.
While those highlights showcase its persona, underneath it all, New Jersey’s urban areas are ready and waiting to entertain visitors any time of the year. Whether it’s the burgeoning cultural playground of Jersey City, the casino mainstay of Atlantic City, the Asian food hub of Fort Lee or the charming small town (complete with a red mill) of Clinton, any time of year is worth a visit to New Jersey.
Best time for beach days
Admittedly, there’s no relief from the mid-Atlantic’s humid summers in New Jersey — especially in July and August — when it can be scorchingly unbearable to step outside at times. That means that from Memorial Day through Labor Day, locals and travelers alike head to the state’s Atlantic Ocean shoreline for its idyllic beach weather, bringing in the crowds, as well as making it the priciest time to visit (be sure to book accommodations well in advance).
The storied Jersey Shore lives up to its reputation, especially lively Seaside Heights, bustling Asbury Park and family-oriented Ocean City, where boardwalk entertainment mingles steps away from the crashing waves. Belmar and Long Beach Island are favorites for those looking for a community vibe, while Sandy Hook offers more serenity.
The summer months bring outdoor festivals of all kinds to the shore, with many centered around Jersey’s legendary music scene (after all, it is home of The Boss, Bruce Springsteen), like the legendary Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park and the Barefoot Country Music Fest in Wildwood.
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Best time for autumn colors
As the temperatures dip, Mother Nature lets the Garden State showcase its flora. It doesn’t take much time away from the urban centers to become immersed by mountainsides and forests filled with multicolored leaves. Foliage lovers often head to states further north, making New Jersey an underrated destination in the fall which keeps prices for flights and accommodations reasonable.
Every part of the state brings a different take on what fall foliage means. On the north side, the 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap has 150 miles of trails and a boat landing to take in the ambiance from the Delaware River.
For those looking for more height, just north is High Point State Park with Jersey’s highest summit, Kittatinny Ridge, measuring at 1,803ft above sea level. Also in the area is the state’s largest lake, Lake Hopatcong.
In south New Jersey, Wharton State Forest— the state's largest tract of land — will immediately envelop you. Even further south, the Belleplain State Forest impresses with the Garden State’s greatest variety of habitats, including oak, cranberry, gum and red maple trees, all showing off their new hues.
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Best time for seasonal festivities
The cooler months can bring rain and snow — particularly in January and February — but the Garden State keeps the surprises coming with outdoor activities that are slightly unexpected. The often harsh temperatures and snow keep visitors away and make hotel and flight prices drop, but be aware that in some areas (especially around the shore), seasonal shops and restaurants may close their doors this time of year.
The solid ice on the lakes — including Allentown’s Assunpink Lake and Hewitt’s Wawayanda Lake — carve out ideal conditions for ice fishing. At the same time, Echo Hill Park in Flemington and Tenafly Nature Center in Tenafly offer maple sugaring programs.
While birding is a popular Jersey activity year-round because of the diversity of species (more than 230 identified in some years), winter is the right time to see bald eagles in the Delaware Water Gap and diving ducks and seabirds in Sandy Hook. For those really looking to dive into the season, polar bear plunges take place in Seaside and Stone Harbor.
Best time for outdoor wonders
Spring might be one of the most budget-friendly periods to visit New Jersey, with generally reasonable flight and hotel prices. Not only does the weather often hit just the right balance of moderate days with cooler mornings and evenings, but nature also burgeons with delights in all the right ways.
Perhaps the most impressive standouts are the 4,000 cherry blossom trees at Branch Brook Park, unexpectedly in Newark. Not only does it top Washington D.C.’s famed collection in numbers, but in variety too. The park also hosts a Cherry Blossom 10K run. Don’t miss the spring blooms in Middletown’s Deep Cut Gardens or Ringwood’s New Jersey Botanical Gardens.
This time of year is also the peak viewing season for the spring bird migration. Among some of the best spots are Institute Woods in Princeton, South Cape May Meadows in Cape May and the Meadowlands, which run through 14 municipalities, most with the New York City skyline in the background.
As the snowiest part of the year kicks off, New Jersey celebrates its winter wonderland.
Key events: Vernon Lights Festival in Vernon, Winter Festival in Lambertville-New Hope, Fire and Ice Festival of ice sculptures in Mt. Holly
Skiing, snow tubing, ice skating and ice fishing — the shortest month is prime time to indulge in Jersey’s greatest snow adventures.
Key events: Glen Ridge Antiques Show in Glen Ridge, Wassail Festival at Terhune Orchards in Princeton, New Jersey Home and Garden Show in Edison
While the weather can swing both ways, March might be the truest shoulder season, that in-between time to capture both the tail end of winter and the very first hints of Spring.
Key events: Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park, Pi Day Celebration in Princeton, Lines on the Pines in Galloway
The Garden State starts to flex its muscles in April, with rainy days giving way to pops of color—including one of the most spectacular floral festivals in the nation.
Key events: Asbury Park Music + Film Festival, Exit Zero Jazz Festival in Cape May, Cherry Blossom Festival in Newark
May is a popular month for birding, hiking and biking. Memorial Day Weekend officially ushers in NJ’s beach season.
Key events: Food Truck and Craft Beer Festival at Skylands Stadium, New Jersey Renaissance Faire in Bordentown, Wildwoods International Kite Festival in Wildwood
As the temperatures climb, so do the beachgoers. But really, any reason to get outdoors is lovely, whether it’s renting a Citibike for a ride along the Hoboken waterfront or taking the family for a fun day at South Mountain Reservation, complete with a zoo, train, paddleboats and a fairy trail.
Key events: Rock, Ribs, and Ridges Festival in Augusta, Rockabilly Uprising at Historic Smithville in Galloway, Big Greek Festival in Randolph
Start the month off with a bang on the Hudson River waterfront with the Jersey City Fourth of July festival with fireworks from the renowned Grucci. Then seek out summer adventures for any niche, from high-flying hot air balloons to a beer festival aboard a battleship on the Delaware River.
Key events: Fourth of July Fireworks in Jersey City, New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Readington, NJ Beer Festival in Camden, New Jersey Sunflower Festival in Chester, Night in Venice in Ocean City
The oppressive weather is no excuse not to get outside with festivities touting nature, food, sports, and more.
Key events: Watershed Butterfly Festival in Pennington, New Jersey State Fair in Augusta, Seafarer’s Weekend at Historic Cold Spring Village in Cape May, Northern Trust PGA Tournament in Jersey City, Crawfish Fest in Augusta, Atlantic City Airshow
The slight relief from the summer heat brings more activity, like Somerville’s three-day Labor Day bike race and festival — one of the longest-running in the country.
Key events: Labor Day Lobsterfest in Bradley Beach, Festival of the Sea in Point Pleasant Beach, XPN Music Festival in Camden, See.Hear.Now Musical Festival in Asbury Park, Sunflower Festival in Upper Freehold
Dive into the cozy colors of the fall throughout the state, from the High Point State Park in the north to Parvin State Park in the south.
Key events: Chatsworth Cranberry Festival, Brews Cruise in Pitman, Chowderfest on Long Beach Island, Running of the Far Hills Race Meeting in Far Hills
As the scarves and gloves come out, the holiday season shows its early signs. Embrace it by shopping at the boutiques in Hoboken, Ridgewood or Red Bank — or go big at the nation’s second-largest mall, American Dream.
Key events: Great Pumpkin Festival at Heaven Hill Farm in Vernon, Winterfest at Diggerland in West Berlin, Jersey Shore Restaurant Week
It’s the most wonderful time of the year to be in New Jersey for festivities that warm the holiday spirit—don’t forget the winter coat and hat.
Key events: Dickens Festival in Medford, Winter in the Pines in Hammonton, Magic of Lights in Holmdel
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