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Great Historic Day Trips in North Jersey

Historic sites for every type, right in your own backyard.

Credit: Jared Kofsky
Credit: Jared Kofsky

Written by Laura Kiniry

The greater New Jersey area is filled with American and cultural history, with everything from Revolutionary War sites to the labs of legendary inventors easily accessible on one tank of gas or less. Here are some historic homes, museums, and military sites in northern New Jersey that'll have you singing the praises of the Garden State. The best part? You can get to all these destinations on one tank of gas (or less).


Morristown National Historical Park's Washington Headquarters and Museum

30 Washington Pl.

Morristown, NJ 07960

(973) 539-2016 ext. 210

Why Go? It's here that General George Washington and his men spent a brutally cold six months beginning in December 1779. The headquarters and museum features several interesting galleries, “including the Military Gallery,” Park Ranger Kim Watts said. “Although not yet complete, it is open to the public.” The park also features the Ford Mansion, where Washington lived.

Must Do: Take a guided tour of the 18th century, Georgian-styled Ford Mansion, then swing by the American Style Gallery to see painter Gilbert Stuart's iconic though unfinished Washington portrait—the same one that appears on the dollar bill.

Insider Tip: Just an eight-minute drive from the headquarters, Fort Nonsense (which is also part of Morristown National Historical Park) offers Morristown's best views. On a clear day you can see all the way to NYC.

The Fine Print: The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Tours of the Ford Mansion take place six times daily on the hour, beginning at 10 a.m. (no tours at noon). Entry fee for both is $4.00 for adults 16 and up; cash or check only. Kids get in free.


Morris Museum

6 Normandy Heights Rd.

Morristown NJ

(973) 971-3700

Why Go? What began as a collection of curios has morphed into one of the Tri-state area's most diverse museums, with nearly 50,000 historic, cultural, and scientific objects that include vintage costumes, dinosaur skeletons, rocks & minerals, American Indian artifacts and more.

Must Do: Don't miss the museum's permanent exhibit, Musical Machines & Living Dolls: Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata from the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection. Both interactive and highly original, it features more than 150 automated musical instruments ranging from player piano rolls to one-of-a-kind cylinder music boxes. Daily demos take place at 2 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday.

Insider Tip: While there are definitely things to keep adults occupied, Yelper Hank C. said most of the museum's exhibits are actually meant to “impress kids” ages 3-8. The second and third Thursdays of every month from 5 to 8 p.m. are "pay as you wish."

The Fine Print: Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; closed Monday and major holidays. Adults $10; seniors and children 3-12 $7; children under 3 free.


Thomas Edison National Historical Park

211 Main St.

West Orange NJ

(973) 736-0550

Why Go? The park encompasses both Thomas Edison's industrial research laboratory—where the inventor worked until his death in 1931—as well as Glenmont, his 29- room Queen Anne-style mansion. History buffs will be happy to find the largest single body of Edison-related material in existence, including an exact replica of Edison’s Black Maria—the world’s first motion picture studio.

Must Do: “Take the cell phone tour!” said one Foursquare user, while another recommends catching Edison's 1903 silent film The Great Train Robbery in the laboratory complex.

Insider Tip: The museum now boasts two floors of Edison's main laboratory that were previously off-limits to visitors. Another thing to note: in order to visit Glenmont you must first stop at the visitor center at the Laboratory Complex (211 Main St.), where you pick up a car pass and ticket.

Fine Print: The laboratory is open Wednesday through Sunday 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Glenmont is open from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday, with house tours offered noon through 3 p.m. The overall entry fee for both is $7.00.


Fort Hancock

58 Macgruder Rd.

Highlands NJ

(732) 872-5970

Why Go? “Fort Hancock is such an important military installation because it's been active through every major war in American history,” said Daphne Yun, spokesperson for Gateway National Recreation. “It wasn't deactivated until the 1970s.” The fort was home to a military artillery testing proving ground until the early 20th century, and at one point housed Nike missiles set to intercept Cold War planes.

Must Do: Take a guided tour (1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily) of the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, America's oldest continuously operating lighthouse. Kids must be four feet tall to climb the tower.

Insider Tip: Guided tours of the Nike Missile site leave from parking lot L at Horseshoe Cove on various weekend days throughout the year.

The Fine Print: Fort Hancock and Sandy Hook are open daily 5 a.m. through 8 p.m. Entry is free, but there's a $15 parking fee Memorial Day-Labor Day.

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