Most New Yorkers think less than favorably of our Garden State neighbor. But if you can get past the ingrained refusal to speak nicely of New Jersey, there’s a whole new world to discover over the bridge and through the tunnel. (Not to mention that it’s one of the nearest options for a getaway from NYC.) Whether you’re jonesing for a day trip from NYC or want to escape for an easy weekend jaunt, check out these destinations for beaches near NYC, epic concerts and delicious dining.
RECOMMENDED: Find more weekend getaways from NYC
Best weekend getaways in NJ
60 miles from NYC
Bruce Springsteen’s old stomping ground (he even named an album after it) is an LGBT-friendly beachfront town full of relics from the ‘80s. And it’s on the verge of a major revival, dubbing itself the next Fire Island as it preps major revitalization projects. Both driving from Manhattan and taking NJ Transit from Penn are about 90 minutes.
What to do: Catch a show at the place made famous by the Boss: the Stone Pony (913 Ocean Ave; 800-745-3000), which opened its doors in 1974 and still hosts legendary acts like the Indigo Girls and the Violent Femmes.
Where to eat: Grab lunch at the Twisted Tree Café (609 Cookman Ave; 732-775-2633), which offers a wide selection of healthy but hearty salads, soups, wraps and smoothies. Still hungry? Go upscale with an eclectic dinner of Mezcal shrimp and Korean spare ribs at sunny eatery Cross & Orange (508 Cookman Ave; 732-361-5502).
Place to stay: The newly opened Asbury Hotel (210 5th Ave; 732-774-7100) has a gorgeous pool, two rooftop restaurants and custom-made mattresses—what more could you want? You could also grab seven of your friends and go the bunk-bed route if you want a super-cheap stay.
130 miles from NYC
Ah, the East Coast’s Las Vegas. Atlantic City, once filled with corruption, has slowly turned itself around after nearly getting abandoned. The town is quickly becoming a (dare we say it?) hot destination for well-heeled New Yorkers. Don’t worry, though—there’s still plenty of down-and-dirty spots in good ol’ AC.
What to do: If you’re not there to gamble, you’re not completely out of luck. During the day, hit up the tasting room at the Bellview Winery (150 Atlantic St; 856-697-7172). For a taste of high culture in a tables town, spend an evening at the Atlantic City Ballet (2301 Boardwalk; 609-348-7201).
Where to eat: A visit to the Iron Room (648 N Albany Ave; 609-348-6400) will put you in a Boardwalk Empire state of mind, with its old-timey cocktails and speakeasy vibe. Then head to dinner at Dock’s Oyster House (2405 Atlantic Ave; 609-345-0092), arguably the classiest venue on the strip. And the reservation-only, cash-only restaurant Chef Vola’s (111 S Albion Pl; 609-345-2022) is a secret local fave.
Place to stay: The place to be in AC these days is the Water Club Hotel (1 Borgata Way; 609-317-1000), a lofty spot owned by and adjacent to the nicest hotel on the East Coast strip, the Borgata. Want an option that won’t break the bank? Chelsea Pub and Inn (8 South Morris Ave; 609-345-4701) is right off the boardwalk and an upgrade from skeevier bargain chain hotels.
160 miles from NYC
Known as an all-American summer getaway, Cape May is steeped in Victorian-era charm. A four-hour drive from NYC, this Southern Jersey beach town is one of the country’s oldest resort vacation destinations and offers a lot more than bars and beach-combing.
What to do: When not at the beach, indulge your inner child at Morey’s Piers amusement park in Wildwood (3501 Boardwalk; 609-522-0079). If you really want to get to know your surroundings, hop on a Trolley Tour (1048 Washington St; 609-884-5404).
Where to eat: At Union Park (727 Beach Ave; 609-884-8811), chef John Schatz has made a name for himself with grub like the heirloom tomato burrata and Kobe beef burger with chipotle ketchup. Meanwhile, the line at HotDog Tommy’s (319 Beach Ave; 609-884-8388) speaks for itself. Get there early—and prepare for a Tommy’s versus Nathan’s debate.
Place to stay: Sandpiper Beach Club (11 Beach Ave; 609-884-6579) offers a range of rooms and suites, along with its own pool and gym and access to beach service. There’s also easy access to the restaurants at its sister properties, the Beach Shack and Congress Hall.
95 miles from NYC
Less than 10 miles from Pennsylvania, it makes sense that this Jersey town feels more Philly than tristate. Filled with Revolutionary-era relics, Haddonfield draws history buffs and lovers of quaint towns alike, and the tree-filled town boasts more than 200 stores, coffee shops and outdoor cafés, making for a more peaceful stroll than, say, down 5th Avenue.
What to do: Visit the spot where the state of New Jersey was created at one of the area’s most historic buildings, the Indian King Tavern Museum (233 Kings Hwy E; 856-429-6792). Don’t forget to check out the mysterious tunnel, which historians believe was used for a variety of purposes, including a jail, an underground railroad and a beer cellar.
Where to eat: Little luncheonette the Apron (47 E Kings Hwy; 856-795-4333) draws a crowd with its $7.95 lunchbox deal of a homemade medium soup and half a sandwich. It’ll leave you with room for an upscale dinner at Italian eatery Da Soli (116 Kings Hwy E; 856-429-2399), which serves up classic delights like sausage and figs, handmade tagliatelle and Mediterranean clams.
Place to stay: Travel back in time at the Haddonfield Inn (44 W End Ave; 856-428-2195) a B&B built for relaxing and unwinding. Enjoy a cozy weekend breakfast followed by leisurely reading the paper on the front porch. Ahh.
6 miles from NYC
The birthplace of Frank Sinatra, Hoboken is vibrant and chock-full of Italian influences, with a nightlife that packs comparable bang for not quite as much buck. It’s just a stone’s throw (a 20-minute drive sans traffic) from NYC’s Meatpacking District, and the Path train from 33rd Street will get you there in under 30 minutes.
What to do: Grab dinner and a live show at newly re-opened music venue Maxwell’s Tavern (1039 Washington St; 201-653-7777), then barhop along Washington Street. Don’t forget to take in the view of Manhattan from Castle Point Lookout before you head back home.
Where to eat: In the mood for something different? Go all-out at swanky Havana-inspired restaurant the Cuban (333 Washington St; 201-795-9899), which serves up authentic meals and deluxe cocktails. Or take advantage of the shorter-than-NYC lines and grab a slice at Grimaldi’s (133 Clinton St; 201-792-0800).
Place to stay: The W Hoboken (225 River St; 201-253-2400) is the area’s only option outside of an Airbnb—and while it ain’t cheap, it sure is stunning.
60 miles from NYC
The upscale beach town known for its bustling Pier Village full of shops and restaurants attracts both families looking for R&R and singles in search of a hot nightlife scene. Driving to the tony town from the city will take you a little over an hour, or the Amtrak from Penn Station will get you there in 90 minutes.
What to do: You don’t come to Long Branch unless you’re looking for some beach time. Weekend day passes for adults cost $7, and the area now offers umbrella and chair rentals. Once you’re burnt to a crisp, grab a bike from the Peddler (150 Ocean Blvd N; 732-229-6623) and ride along the boardwalk.
Where to eat: Chef Pat Trama serves upscale Tuscan fare in an intimate setting at Trama’s Trattoria (115 Brighton Ave; 732-222-1121). If you’re a brunch fiend, you can’t beat McLoone’s Pier House (1 Ocean Dr; 732-923-1006), with sweeping views of the ocean and a $33 all-you-can-eat buffet complete with a raw bar station.
Place to stay: The chic Bungalow (50 Laird St; 732-229-3700) is a treasure, with lovely rooms, an adorable lobby and, for an additional fee, access to the private beach club. For a more affordable room, try the area’s longtime B&B Cedars & Beeches (247 Cedar Ave; 732-571-6777).
17 miles from NYC
Perhaps best-known as Yogi Berra’s longtime residence and a hot spot for fictional mob boss Tony Soprano, Montclair’s strong suburban vibe meshes with its rich cultural history. With acres upon acres of parks, plenty of funky restaurants and great music venues, the town (only a 35-minute drive or train ride from the city) is totally worth scoping out.
What to do: Get a history lesson by perusing the baseball great’s legacy of sportsmanship and the stories of other famed sluggers at the Yogi Berra Museum (8 Yogi Berra Dr; 973-655-2378). Later, catch a concert or comedy show at the Wellmont Theater (5 Seymour St; 973-783-9500)—Thomas Edison attended shows there in the 1900s, and now it hosts the likes of Ghost, Whitesnake and Andrew Dice Clay.
Where to eat: For brunch, the classy diner-style eatery Toast (700 Bloomfield Ave; 973-509-8099) is not to be missed. Even after its chocolate chip pancakes, you’ll still want to sample the Instagram-famous, cereal-coated doughnuts from Montclair Bread Company (113 Walnut St; 973-509-2525). If breakfast foods aren’t your thing (who are you?), the lunch menu at Tinga Taqueria (215 Bellevue Ave; 973-509-8226) has a varied selection of fresh, affordable south-of-the border eats.
Place to stay: The soon-to-reopen Georgian Inn (37 North Mountain Ave; 973-746-7156) is Montclair’s most notable B&B. The historically landmarked, eight-room mansion offers both studios and suites with TVs, kitchenettes, Wi-Fi and private baths in the midst of the manse-dotted streets of Montclair.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Montclair Film Festival
50 miles from NYC
This artsy urban enclave sits on the southern bank of Jersey’s Navesink River. Known for its galleries and playhouses, it only takes an hour by car or 90 minutes from Penn Station on NJ Transit to get to this town’s vibrant music and theater scene.
What to do: The draw to Red Bank in the summer is by far the live entertainment and festive activities showcased out on the sidewalk’s Streetlife exhibits. Stroll the bustling streets while stopping to eat, drink and shop every Saturday evening from 6 to 9pm in June, July and August.
Where to eat: People freak out for the burgers and divey feel of Jamian’s (79 Monmouth St; 732-747-8050). Oh, and there’s also $3 drafts at happy hour and free live music every single night. If you’re looking for something more mellow and less meaty, try popular vegan eatery Good Karma Cafe (17 E Front St; 732-450-8344) for breakfast or lunch.
Place to stay: Sister hotels the Molly Pitcher Inn (88 Riverside Ave; 732-747-2500) and the Oyster Point Hotel (146 Bodman Pl; 732-530-8200) have the monopoly on non-corporate Red Bank lodging, and both have beautiful river views, making them popular for weddings.