Despite what MTV might have people think, New Jersey is more than gyms, tanning salons, and laundromats. While travelers will indeed find all of the above, the East Coast state has so much more to offer. Scenic small towns dot the Atlantic coast. Fresh and delicious seafood fills the plates at top-notch restaurants, while comfort food favorites abound in the "diner capital of the world."

A diverse culture that's part hip and part old school give the state its charming, relaxed, and vibrant flair. These towns are sure to change the minds of anyone who might too quickly dismiss New Jersey as an ideal spot for a getaway.

Updated by Lauren Feather on February 22, 2022: New York City overshadows many other incredible destinations in its vicinity - one of which is charming New Jersey and its picturesque towns. At just a short distance from the big city, New Jersey offers a delightful mix of historic sites, quintessential American culture, beautiful nature trails, and excellent food, and the place is a great alternative for visitors wanting to discover real life outside of the tourist hubs. And with the gradual opening of borders and the numbers of travelers gaining tract, New Jersey will once again serve as a lovely escape for tourists looking for authentic American towns that are a stone's throw from the bustling epicenter that is NYC. This is why we've added even more wonderful New Jersey towns to this ever-growing list of those worthy of a vacation.

13 Lambertville

There is no shortage of scenery to enjoy in Lambertville, a small town located on the picturesque Delaware River. From preserved Victorian-era homes to nature-heavy views atop the Goat Hill Overlook, Lambertville has everything a person needs for some quality R&R. Superb antique stores, art galleries, boutiques, and cafes line the streets of the colorful downtown, while a collection of small-town diners and high-class restaurants come together to provide visitors with whatever they're craving during their stay.

Related: 10 New Jersey Restaurants On The Anthony Bourdain Food Trail

12 Montclair

Montclair is an area in North Jersey popular with Manhattan commuters who want to be close enough to the office without living in the chaos of the city. It's no secret that there's an abundance of suburban towns in New Jersey, however Montclair is different; there's actually quite a lot on offer to those who give the town a chance.

Spots worthy of a visit include the Van Vleck House & Gardens, which is a gorgeous botanical garden perfect for photographers and those in need of fresh air amidst lovely floral scenery, whilst the Montclair Art Museum is ideal for art lovers. Music and fans are also in luck, for the Wellmont Theater is the place to go after dinner for a live concert.

11 Spring Lake

Travelers will need to throw all their preconceptions about the Jersey Shore aside before visiting the beautiful and historic town of Spring Lake. The beaches are beautiful and quiet, lined with gorgeous seaside homes that will have guests considering a more permanent arrangement. Visitors can stroll the scenic boardwalk, picnic on the beach, and spend some time browsing the eclectic boutiques and drool-worthy candy stores in gorgeous downtown Spring Lake.

10 Princeton

While the beautiful campus of Princeton University is enough reason to visit, the Ivy League town has even more to offer than its number one attraction. History lovers will be buzzing as they tour the historic campus, whose Nassau Hall served as congressional headquarters for a short time in the 18th century.

The village also features the impressive Morven Museum and Garden, which exhibits five acres of perfectly manicured gardens and a collection of fine arts. Every university town needs an abundance of options for its students and visitors, so travelers will have no problem finding a hip eatery to grab some grub and unique boutiques to search for treasure.

Related: Academic Travel: Here's Why These U.S. Campuses Attract So Many Tourists

9 East Rutherford

For a bit more bustle, travelers can head to East Rutherford, where they will find plenty of attractions to fill up their time. The MetLife Stadium hosts various sports games, and the streets come alive during the New Meadowlands Flea and Street Market. There's fun for the whole family at the Nickelodeon Universe Amusement Park, including an interactive museum called Tilt. On top of all that, East Rutherford is also home to the world's first Oreo café, which serves an array of sweet treats featuring America's favorite cookie.

8 Vernon

Situated just an hour outside of New York City is the outdoor adventure area of Vernon - a superb town that promises epic activities to city folk. Winter is inarguably the best time to visit, when snow fanatics can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and tubing at Mountain Creek. Those visiting in the fall or spring also have a lot to do; the Stairway to Heaven Appalachian trail is a simply stunning hiking stretch that rewards adventurers with sweeping panoramic vistas of the entire town, along with its rolling hills, charming farms against a dramatic mountainous backdrop on the horizon.

Related: This New Jersey Hiking Trail Takes Hikers Past The Ruins Of An Abandoned Castle

7 New Brunswick

Not to be confused with the Canadian region of the same name, New Brunswick is a trendy college town overflowing with history that dates back to times before the revolution. And with such history comes elegant buildings all beautifully preserved to this day. Of particular note, the breathaking 180 acres of pristine botanical gardens at Rutgers Gardens is a must when visiting New Brunswick, especially for those in need of tranquillity and Instagram-worthy scenery.

On the other hand, both history buffs and arts aficionados will definitely appreciate the State Theatre, which is interestingly one of the oldest theaters in the entire state - which also offers regular comedy shows, concerts, live plays, and musicals still to this day. And, if not for the historic architectural buildings, a vibrant arts scene, and sprawling gardens, then visitors should come to New Brunswick just for the food - there are numerous top-tier restaurants all serving up diverse cuisine that nobody paying a visit to the town can resist.

6 Watchung

The wealthy suburb of Watchung goes heavy on natural beauty, making it an ideal escape from everyday life. Nature-lovers will sing their praises when they see Watchung Reservation, a 2,000-acre paradise featuring scenic lakes, hiking trails, waterfalls, and more. A historic village sits inside the reservation, and guests can explore the deserted cemetery, church, and homes. There are also plenty of restaurants suited to any palate, including the upscale Water and Wine and the ever-delicious Better Than Philly Cheesesteaks and Wings.

Related: New Jersey Is Beautiful In The Winter, And This Reservation Is Proof

5 Hoboken

Travelers can enjoy the beautiful New York City skyline without getting into the thick of it in Hoboken, New Jersey. A glimpse of good old NYC isn't the only thing the Hudson River city has to offer. Washington Street is brimming with bars, international cuisine, boutiques, and top-tier nightlife. Visitors can stroll the waterfront boardwalk to admire the gorgeous skyline or even venture into the city for a day trip by bus or ferry. Hoboken pays homage to its most famous resident, blue-eyed Frank Sinatra, with a road, street, park, and restaurant named after him.

4 Barnegat Light

The friendly, hard-working folks in the tiny town of Barnegat Light are sure to make visitors feel right at home. The quaint fishing village on the tip of Long Beach Island features the beloved Old Barney, a towering red and white lighthouse built in the mid-19th century. Guests can enjoy some quiet time by the water at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park before grabbing a bite at Mustache Bill's, an award-winning 1950s-style diner that serves homemade comfort classics.

Related: These Retro Diners Will Make You Feel Like You Traveled Back In Time

3 Cranbury

A majority of Cranbury is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making it the ideal spot to enjoy modern comforts in a cozy setting. Cobbled sidewalks and vintage mile markers take visitors back to a simpler time. Several preserved pre-revolutionary-era homes give the town its quaint and alluring vibe, including the iconic Cranbury Inn, a popular wedding destination. Visitors will find peace at Brainerd Lake, a beautiful body of water that's transformed into a community ice rink in the wintertime. Cranbury puts on an impressive fireworks show over the lake and throws fun events at Village Park in the summer.

Related: This Is Why Atlantic City Is New Jersey's Mini 'Las Vegas'

2 Cape May

Cape May is a top destination for Jersey-bound wanderers for a good reason. The seaside city on the manmade Cape Island is the perfect combination of history and modernity. The streets are filled with colorful Victorian-era buildings known collectively as the painted ladies. Tourists flock to the pristine beaches to enjoy a salty breeze that's all the more refreshing with such a gorgeous backdrop. The National Historic Landmark town features an eclectic dining scene and excellent shopping at the Washington Street Mall.

1 Clinton

Clinton is yet another Jersey town dedicated to preserving its history. The charming village looks like a landscape painting come to life, a rural atmosphere decorated with a historic schoolhouse, blacksmithing shop, and Red Mill. The mill is among the top photographed places in the entire state, its red facade a delightful pop of color surrounded by towering trees and rushing water. A vibrant community of artists gives Clinton some modern flair, while Dickens Days transports visitors back in time with carriage rides, carolers, and Victorian actors.

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