Budget-Friendly Day Trips Near North Jersey

The best family-friendly day trips that won’t break the bank.

Credit: Northlandz
Credit: Northlandz

Written by Laura Kiniry 

Uncovering hidden local treasures doesn’t have to cost a king’s ransom. These wallet-friendly locales will give you a feeling of discovery on the cheap. The best part? These destinations are only a tank of gas (or less) away.


Palisades Interstate Park

2400 Hudson Ter.

Fort Lee

(201) 768-1360

Why Go? Sheer cliffs with panoramic vistas, wild Hudson River coastline, more than 30 miles of skiing and hiking trails and a scenic drive ideal for cyclists.

Must Do: Check out the weekend hikes guided by Eric Nelsen, the park’s historian. His topics include “Millionaires’ Row,” referring to the 15 Gilded Age mansions that once lined the Palisades.

Insider Tip: For something a bit challenging, try the Peanut Leap Trail. It’s only five miles round-trip but has an elevation gain of 1,400 feet.

The Fine Print: Parking fees are charged at some of the park’s picnic areas. Fees are waived for drivers 62 or older with a valid New Jersey or New York license.


495 U.S. 202


(908) 782-4022

Why Go? With hundreds of bridges and tressels, more than 4,000 miniature buildings and eight miles of tracks, Northlandz is one of the world’s largest ever model railroads. “The place is unbelievable,” Yelper Daniela D. said. “The effort, thought, time, money, etc., that was put into [Northlandz] is truly remarkable.”

Don’t miss: The 5,000-pipe organ that founder and owner Bruce Williams Zaccagnino—who opened the place in 1996—often plays.

Insider Tip: Zaccagnino suggests bringing along binoculars “for a closer look at the detail.’”

The Fine Print: Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays (closed Tuesday); until 5 p.m. weekends. Admission for adults is $13.75; seniors 62 and older, $12.50; kids, $9.75; under 2, free.

Red Bank

46 English Plz., Suite 6

Red Bank

(732) 741-9211

Why Go? Boutique shops, fine art galleries, wonderful antique stores and a great selection of restaurants.

Don’t Miss: The Broadway Diner, a classic 24-hour haunt. “Atmosphere is cheery,” Yelper Mark M. said, “’50s throwback à la jukebox at the table, [and the] pancakes are great—a little crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle.”

Insider Tip: Jack’s Music Shoppe has a great selection of hard-to-find recordings, both on CD and on vinyl. Keep an eye out for Bruce Springsteen perusing the racks.

The Fine Print: Metered parking is enforced throughout the borough Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parking is free on Sundays. It’s 25 cents for 15 minutes.

Mitsuwa Marketplace

595 River Rd.


(201) 941-9113

Why Go? Japanese Germanic, manga comics, bamboo blinds and an incredible food selection: everything from ramen noodles to takoyaki (fried octopus) snacks. “One of the closest places you can visit to get a taste and feel of Japan,” Yelp reviewer Ren N. said.

Must Do: Grab a meal at the food court.

Insider Tip: Both parking and a table at the food court can be pretty difficult to score on weekends. Opt for a weekday visit or skip the brunch hours.

The Fine Print: Open 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with the onsite restaurants open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 


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