15 Best Museums in New Jersey

grounds for sculpture

Be sure to check the websites of each of these museums, shortages in staff and volunteers have reduced hours for many museums. – NJ Spots Editor

It’s time to explore beyond the shore! Whether you are looking for something to do on a rainy day or want to experience all the arts, culture, and history that the state has to offer. We suggest you head to one (or all) of these top 15 museums around New Jersey. Where you’ll find art, design, architecture, and of course, lots of activities those of all ages can enjoy, appreciate and remember around the Garden State.

Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park (Edison)

Honoring the man whose patents and inventions are still in use today, we would not have modern marvels like; cell phones, power banks, or even NetFlix without Thomas Edison. His brilliant and creative mind invented or refined things like electric power generation, lighting, sound recording, motion pictures, and even storage batteries. The Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park is a marvel of invention, research, and development. The 26-acre Edison estate houses a to-scale model of Edison’s laboratory, artifacts, and even early light bulbs. The hands-on demonstrations show how incredible some of the 1,093 patents Edison had are. Be sure to stroll through the beautiful Menlo park; maybe the spirit of Edison will inspire you to invent something great yourself!

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum (Ogdensburg)

Did you know that a small town in Southern New Jersey was once the site of the world’s richest zinc ore mine? The Sterling Hill Mining Museum in Ogdensburg has been carved by time and is a scientific marvel! A trained guide will walk you down over 1300 ft of tunnel inside the mine. Wear good shoes and traverse through mine galleries dating back to the 1830s, gaze at the intensely fluorescent zinc ore of the Rainbow tunnel, and visit both onsite museums to learn more about minerals and the history of the mine. Mineral collecting, sluicing, and discovery centers will entertain visitors of all ages. One highly recommended event is Halloween at the mine and the haunted mine tour, prepare to be scared!

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Old Barracks Museum (Trenton)

Get ready to dive deep into colonial-era New Jersey at the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton. Locally known as just “Old Barracks,” the history of this building runs deep! Initially built in 1758 during the French and Indian war, it became the first mass medical treatment center during the Revolutionary War. It also served to house soldiers, had a role in an anti-sufferage movement, and even held prisoners of war.

A visit to The Barracks transports you back to 18th-century life in New Jersey. A must-see event surrounds Patriots Week in Trenton, including battle re-enactments, musket demonstrations, and even a colonial ball!

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Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial (Camden)

The USS New Jersey was launched on the first anniversary of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1942, and is widely known as “the world’s greatest battleship” She traveled more miles, fought in more battles, and fired more shells than any other battleship in history! The interactive Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial is a floating piece of history.

Get an up-close look at the world’s largest battleship ever built. Lay in the bunks that the sailors did sit in the admiral’s chair, and see how the 16-gun turret was loaded and fired. For an even more in-depth visit to this fantastic piece of history, check out the Overnight Encampment Program and experience what life was like onboard the USS New Jersey like a true sailor!

Cape May Lighthouse (Cape May)

You may want to stretch before this one and get ready to get your step on. Join over 2.5 million others climbing the cast iron spiral staircase to the Cape May Lighthouse in the beautiful Cape May Point State Park. Take a slow walk around the base, and as you climb up, read the stories of the lightkeepers, the area, and how the lighthouse functions today and throughout its long, storied history.

At the top, catch your breath and take in the breathtaking view of Delaware Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and the surrounding park. Bring a picnic and spend the day exploring the miles of nature trails in Cape May Point State Park. For an experience, fewer than 2.5 million people have visited the lighthouse during one of the night climbs and see staggering views of the stars and full moon.

Want More? What To Do in Cape May During the Winter

Liberty Science Center (Jersey City)

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Located in Liberty State Park, the Liberty Science Center is a state-of-the-art science museum and an ideal spot for families with children in mind with its endless array of hands-on activities like Wobbly World and the Dino Dig Adventure. This captivating museum also boasts more than a hundred galleries and an IMAX theatre for one-of-a-kind experiences exploring the depths of the galaxies! The Liberty Science Center isn’t just for kids; check out LSC After Dark events every first and third Thursday for games, food, drinks, and more, only for the over-21 crowd! 

New Jersey State Museum (Trenton)

The New Jersey State Museum offers a glimpse into the state’s historical and natural past during the Revolutionary War. It houses a fine art collection back to prehistoric times. View New Jersey’s collection of 9/11 artifacts, photos, and stories from that historic day and its impact on the state. Meet New Jersey’s own Dryptosaurus, the world’s first known carnivorous dinosaur, reconstructed and displayed for the first time, and gaze up at a life-sized cast of New Jersey’s state dinosaur, Hadrosaurus Foulkii. They even have a Mosasaurus Maximus, A 50-foot marine reptile discovered in southern New Jersey. Wander through the collection of fine art, see a show at the planetarium, and view the science, art, and history of everything New Jersey.

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Montclair Art Museum (Montclair)

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This eclectic museum houses notable American art and Native American objects of history, antique jewelry, and plenty of educational programs for children and families. The Montclair Art Museum is a bright, airy museum that takes you from contemporary perspectives to paintings of the local area and region to exquisite Native American history to observe and admire. On select weekends there are family-oriented programs where one can partake in hands-on activities from drawing and painting to even pottery. Countless other creative events are happening every month; view the entire calendar here

New Jersey State Police Museum (Ewing Township)

The New Jersey State Police Museum delves into the history of the State Police and the history surrounding crime detection. For those who have a keen interest in mystery or crime cases this museum is for you! Examine the display with evidence, photos, and even the infamous ladder from the Hindibury baby kidnapping case. Witness vintage police cars and other rare finds like an electric chair from 1907 nicknamed “Old Smokey.” The various exhibits will allow a greater insight and understanding of being in the police force and what it takes to be a cop. 

Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum of New Jersey (Teterboro)

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Located at the Teterboro Airport, the Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum of New Jersey contains notable vintage model aircraft, an interactive aerodynamics experience, and other artifacts and exhibits to discover and explore. One can learn about flying a plane to the history of their ingenuity as a modern marvel of innovation. Marvel at the first American hovercraft and the X-15, a hypersonic rocket power aircraft. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made here!

Franklin Mineral Museum (Franklin)

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For geology enthusiasts, the Franklin Mineral Museum is a science museum that offers a history of the region’s zinc mines as well as the field of geology. View different types of minerals and crystals that lay beneath the surface that await to be explored and gain a deeper understanding of the nature of the Garden State. Collect rocks, go on a fossil dig, and even pan for gems at this interactive and informative museum! 

Princeton University Art Museum (Princeton Campus)

Located at this prestigious ivy-league institution, the Princeton University Art Museum is a free admission and open-to-the-public museum that offers over 80,000 ancient pieces and contemporary artworks in a medieval atmosphere. Wander past incredible artifacts of ancient history or admire modern art masterpieces. The museum is located within the charming grounds of the university, where one can feel transported into a fairytale (and check out downtown Princeton while you’re at it, even during the winter!)

Suggested Reading: Discover The Princeton Suspension Bridge

Grounds For Sculpture (Hamilton)

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Explore acres and acres of artistic masterpieces are a sight to behold! Grounds For Sculpture is a bountiful outdoor park for contemporary sculptures, which includes two museums and an arboretum. Wander past unique forms of modern artwork, sit and enjoy the scenery with a good book in hand, write, or enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds of this majestic place you might even get lost! Enjoy a spectacular meal at Rats Restaurant, voted the most romantic restaurant by Philadelphia magazine, or sip a coffee in the beautiful Van Gogh Cafe. 

Suggestion: Read Our Guide for Grounds for Sculpture

Garden State Discovery Museum (Cherry Hill)

This unique children’s museum offers interactive exhibits, including hands-on activities for families and bringing them into a world of creativity and imagination. The Garden State Discovery Museum allows one to discover the state’s history, culture, and art from a children’s perspective, emphasizing the educational roles of learning and providing a safe and interactive environment where kids can experiment with art supplies, perform on the theatre stage, and even cook! 

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02/18/2024 02:11 pm GMT

Newark Museum (Newark)

Located steps away from the Rutgers University Newark Campus and Washington Park is the largest museum in the state, the Newark Museum. An art museum that houses American art, plenty of unique finds and artifacts, a planetarium, and even an interactive nature exhibition. Gaze past impeccable sculptures and art, or grab a seat at the planetarium for beautiful displays of nature and the galaxies beyond! A must-visit is the Animal Kingdom interactive experience going on through May 2024. Fun for all ages, this excellent living art exhibit lets you draw and create underwater creatures and watch them come alive and swim around you in the digital aquarium. Crawl through caves to study ancient cave drawings. Discover how humans affect the animal world. Learn more about animal conservation. 

These fun and interactive museums offer a little something for everyone, from art and culture to nature and history across New Jersey. They’re all ideal for families and those of all ages to discover and explore and grow a more profound admiration and appreciation of the Garden State. All of these will make your visit an enjoyable and memorable one! Are you looking for more inspiration? Just Google “museums near me” when you’re in New Jersey for even more fun to uncover. 

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