If you’re flying into Newark Liberty Airport or driving with the family through New Jersey on your way to scenic spots along the coast, you might not think about pausing to explore Newark, New Jersey before moving on. Well, listen up, because you’re missing out if you don’t stop and see what this little “big city” has to offer. Check out a few of the best family-friendly attractions in Newark.
Branch Brook Park
If you visit in the spring, make a detour to Branch Brook Park to see the 5,000 Japanese cherry trees in bloom — it’s one of the largest displays in the country. Pack a picnic and some bikes or balls to toss around in the grass, and watch for brides and grooms taking wedding pictures among the trees. The streams, ponds, and lakes in this 360-acre county park add to the appeal. At chillier times of year, head to the park’s indoor roller rink to rent some skates and show off your roller derby skills.
Passaic River Fun
Check out Newark by boat with a ride on the Passaic River. Newark Riverfront Revival (NRR) hosts boat rides to connect locals and visitors to the river, and it’s a great way to learn more about the city’s history, ports, and environmental programs. If you’d rather stay on dry land, Riverfront Park is nine blocks long, with two playgrounds, a baseball field, basketball and tennis courts, a soccer field, and an open grassy area.
Entertainment & Arts
NJPAC and Prudential Center
Performing arts are huge in Newark, and the impressive New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and the Prudential Center are out to prove it. Pick up tickets for a one-off performance like “Video Games Live,” or see “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” in concert. Prudential Center hosts some big sporting events and concerts throughout the year. Pack your horns and tail tp cheer on the New Jersey Devils, enjoy some laughs with the Harlem Globetrotters, or watch the eye-popping spins and jumps at Disney on Ice.
There’s a long list of things to see and do at Newark Museum. Wander through galleries filled with Native American art and sculptures, gaze at works by American painters like Georgia O’Keeffe, and check out rooms in the 1885 Ballantine House, an upscale Victorian home that merged into the museum during an expansion.
The museum’s MakerSPACE program adds a hands-on element to museum exploration. Go back and forth between the museum’s artwork and crafts, and then create your own using a variety of materials and techniques, including tools and 3D printers. Don’t miss a planetarium show, which focuses on the sky with fun tales and fables added to the mix.
Whether it’s blowing glass, creating beads with flame working, or making serving dishes on kilns, you can get down to some serious family bonding over colorful fire at Newark’s Glassroots studio. It’s open to the community with a focus on local youth. Even without parents along, kids can take classes, go to summer camps, and attend parties at Glassroots. Roll up your sleeves, and get ready to leave your Newark trip with some beautiful homemade keepsakes.
End with Something Sweet
Nasto’s Ice Cream Co.
After a day of exploring, get a treat from a Newark legend: Nasto’s Ice Cream Co. Founded in 1939 — and still in the same corner spot on Jefferson Street — it serves up all types of old-time desserts along with plenty of ice cream and Italian ices. The refrigerated cases hold ice cream cakes, tartufo, cannoli, cake rolls, and even a few regular cakes — but it’s best known for ice cream. Depending on the day’s selection, you might find exotic flavors like avocado, red bean, sweet corn, green tea, fresh cantaloupe, pineapple, and sea salt caramel pretzel.
Do you have your own family favorites in Jersey? Share your Newark outings with us on Twitter.