View of colorful houses in Cape May, New Jersey

Where to Stay in New Jersey (Best Areas, By a Local)

Let’s face it, New Jersey (a.k.a. the Garden State) has received a bad rep over the years. People often think that we have nothing to offer – but that couldn’t be further from the truth!

As a resident New Jerseyan for over 30 years, I’m here to help you find where to stay in New Jersey – and to discover the hidden, and not-so-hidden gems the state has to offer along the way!

From the famous Jersey Shore, to beautiful historical sites, to cosmopolitan cities featuring world-class dining, there is a lot more to do in New Jersey than you think. And, in this article, I’ll help you discover all the best places to stay in New Jersey.  

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!

Best Places to Stay in New Jersey

Aerial view of Atlantic City in New Jersey
Aerial view of Atlantic City, NJ (photo: N.Kay / Shutterstock)

Just looking for a quick answer on some of the best places to stay in NJ? Check out some of my top picks:

If you’re looking for a more in-depth look, let’s do a deep dive of some of the best areas and neighborhoods my state has to offer.

6 Best Areas To Stay in New Jersey

Unassuming at first glance, New Jersey is actually much bigger and more diverse than a lot of people realize. There are a lot of fun places to visit in NJ!

We’re going to take a look at some of the best New Jersey has to offer, starting in South Jersey, then heading up North. When we’re done, I’m sure you too will fall in love with the Garden State.

Cape May

Southern New Jersey’s Seaside Resort Town

View of the street in Cape May and the clear blue sky
Cape May, NJ

👉 Best Area For A Quiet Getaway Near the Ocean | Best Cape May Hotels: ICONA Cape MayAngel of the Sea Bed & BreakfastLokal Hotel Cape May

Cape May is at the very bottom tip of New Jersey. Because it’s so far down, you don’t even feel like you’re in NJ anymore! But although this beautiful small town is far down the Atlantic coast, it’s not one to be missed. 

Sitting right on the Atlantic Ocean, Cape May gives you some of the most breathtaking views of the sea. Plus, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Cape May.

This quiet town is well-suited for older couples looking for a quiet getaway where they won’t be disturbed by rowdy spring-breakers. It’s also a great place for families to enjoy the Jersey shore without the typical crowding. Cape May is the perfect place for relaxation as you watch the waves on the sea.

Staying in Cape May makes it easy to get around too. Most parking is only a short walk from Cape May’s beautiful beaches. Popular restaurants and attractions are also within walking distance of one another. Speaking of restaurants, the world-class dining scene is not to be missed!

You can also visit West Cape May, which is a section with older farmhouses that looks like you stepped into an older time period.

To get planning, see my guide to the best places to stay in Cape May.

Pros of Staying in Cape May

  • Quiet, family-friendly atmosphere
  • Spectacular ocean views
  • Old town feel
  • Plenty of choices for fine dining 

Cons of Staying in Cape May

  • Far from many other parts in NJ
  • It may be too quiet for younger visitors
  • Dining can get expensive

📚Cape May Mini Guide📚
Best Area to Stay for Older Couples & Families
Google Map

Atlantic City

New Jersey’s answer to Vegas

View of the Borgato Hotel and Casino building in New Jersey
Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, NJ (photo: Racheal Grazias / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Shopping & NightLife | Best Atlantic City Hotels: Ocean Casino ResortClub Wyndham Skyline TowerBorgata Hotel Casino & Spa

Atlantic City is like Vegas, but with a waterfront view! Staying in Atlantic City means you get the best of both worlds. Not only do you get a taste of the Vegas glitz and glamour, but you get the beach and awesome boardwalk along with it. 

Atlantic City’s boardwalk is one of the most iconic in the nation – in fact, it’s what the game Monopoly’s board is modeled after!

Popular casinos such as Harrah’s and the Borgata make this a popular stop for gamblers. However, Atlantic City has more to offer than slot machines. Visitors come from all over for the dining, as well as the nearby shopping center.

Atlantic City offers a plethora of great resorts, food, shopping, and activities for literally every member of the family. When you want a vacation with a mix of fun and relaxation, Atlantic City is definitely the place to go!

Pros of Staying in Atlantic City

  • A taste of Las Vegas, but on a budget
  • Ocean views from many of the main hotels on the boardwalk
  • Activities for all ages

Cons of Staying in Atlantic City

  • Between hotels and dining, it can get expensive
  • The beach is nice, but certainly isn’t the best New Jersey beach
  • Parking is expensive

📚Atlantic City Mini Guide📚
Best Area to Stay for Shopping & Fun NightLife
Google Map

Princeton

Where to stay in New Jersey for history & golfing

View of a big Starbucks cup in Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton, NJ (photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Mature Tourists & History Buffs | Best Princeton Hotels: Princeton Marriott at ForrestralSonesta ES Suites PrincetonHyatt Regency Princeton

Located in Southern New Jersey, Princeton is about 13 miles from the state’s capital of Trenton. It’s far enough so you don’t get the rough city vibes from Trenton, but not too far should you want to pay the capital a visit.

Princeton is a somewhat small, diverse town that boasts a relaxed, attractive suburban flair. It’s quiet, but with enough activity that most younger visitors won’t find it too boring. 

Typically associated with the college of its namesake, Princeton has far more to offer than high-caliber education. It has a rich history that many love to explore as they visit the various historical sites.

Love to golf? Princeton is home to some of the nicest golf courses in the area. They’ve got a little something for every member of the family. However, if you or someone else you’re traveling with prefers a faster pace, you may want to venture outside of Princeton at some point. 

Pros of Staying in Princeton

  • Diverse, relaxed atmosphere
  • Great restaurant options
  • Plenty of historical sites
  • Beautiful architecture

Cons of Staying in Princeton

  • Can be pricey
  • Not close to beaches
  • Not much for younger, more active crowds

📚Princeton Mini Guide📚
Best Area to Stay for Mature Tourists & History Buffs
Google Map

Jersey City

Breathtaking views and quick access to NYC

View of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway and the skyscrapers around it
Newport, NJ Waterfront (photo: quiggyt4 / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Hipsters & City Lovers | Best Jersey City Hotels: Canopy by Hilton Jersey City Arts DistrictResidence Inn by Marriott Jersey CityDoubletree by Hilton Hotel & Suites Jersey City

Jersey City is in northeastern NJ, only about 30 minutes from NYC, and definitely one of the most popular areas for people looking for where to stay in New Jersey. It’s one of those hip, city-esque locations that gives you a taste of the Big Apple – without the hassle of all those taxi cabs! 

Jersey City is home to some breathtaking views of the Hudson River, as well as the epic NYC skyline. Grab a drink from Starbucks and take a walk along the waterfront in Newport. The views at night as you watch the City light up are especially dazzling, and one of the best things to do in New Jersey

One of the most notable landmarks is the iconic Liberty State Park. There you can catch a view of the Statue of Liberty right on the Hudson. The 9/11 Empty Sky Memorial where the names of NJ’s 9/11 victims are etched into the monument’s dark marble surface. 

The Newport mall close by is a favorite in the area with many great shops to choose from. 

Pros of Staying in Jersey City

  • Big City vibes
  • Lively nightlife
  • Excellent restaurants
  • Beautiful waterfront views

Cons of Staying in Jersey City

  • Parking can be a big challenge
  • Restaurant pricing is similar to New York City, so it can get expensive
  • Restaurants can get crowded
  • Areas not close to the Newport area aren’t the safest

📚Jersey City Mini Guide📚
Best Area to Stay for Hipsters & City Lovers
Google Map

Hoboken

A more affordable alternative to staying in New York City

The Lackawanna Station Clock in Hoboken, New Jersey
View of the Lackawanna Station clock in Hoboken, NJ (Brian Logan Photography / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Bars & Night Life | Best Hoboken Hotels: W HobokenThe Westin Jersey City NewportHyatt Regency Jersey City

Located not too far from Jersey City, Hoboken is also in Hudson County and is a popular place to stay in New Jersey for visitors looking to explore New York City (which is less than a half hour away via the Holland Tunnel).

Hoboken boasts many great dining options and gives you the East Side NYC feel without even crossing the Hudson, though. The beautiful brownstone architecture alone is one reason to visit. It’s also home to bustling nightlife with many bars having live music.

While you’re out enjoying the plethora of dining options Hoboken has to offer, don’t forget to stop by Insomnia Cookies. True to their name, they’re open until 3 am daily so you can enjoy one of their delectable cookies anytime. Get them warmed up and grab some cold milk and voila! If you’re lactose-intolerant like me, take a short walk to the CVS across the street and grab a milk alternative – Insomnia unfortunately only serves cow’s milk.

Pros of Staying in Hoboken

  • Great architecture
  • Practically minutes from NYC via train or car
  • Amazing restaurants

Cons of Staying in Hoboken

  • Parking is terrible; walk or use Uber
  • Some places are tight and can easily get crowded
  • Dining can get expensive

📚Hoboken Mini Guide📚
Best Area to Stay for Bars & NightLife
Google Map

Montclair

The perfect northern New Jersey summer destination

View of the Montclair Residences and the cars parked in front of it
Apartments in Montclair, NJ (photo: quiggyt4 / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Small Town Lovers | Best Montclair Hotels: The MC, Autograph CollectionResidence Inn by Marriott West OrangeCambria Hotel West Orange

Further into northern New Jersey, sits the small, yet upscale town of Montclair, NJ. Filled with boutique shops and restaurants featuring cuisine from all over the world, it’s a place many New Jerseyans love to visit.

The Spring and Summer months are especially filled with beautiful landscaping and music festivals featuring Jazz and other classics. You can spend the day exploring the shops and restaurants as you walk up and down the main road, Bloomfield Avenue. 

Montclair is home to some rather upscale restaurants. Keep in mind then, that reservations may be required.

If you’re looking for a small town to stroll through on a warm Spring day and take in the sights, Montclair is definitely the best place to stay in New Jersey for you!

Pros of Staying in Montclair:

  • Great restaurants with cuisine from almost every part of the world
  • Relaxing atmosphere
  • Fun street festivals in the Spring & Summer

Cons of Staying in Montclair:

  • Parking can be iffy
  • It may be too quiet for more energetic individuals

📚 Montclair Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Small Town Lovers & Families
Google Map

Tips for Staying in NJ

👉 Read Next: The 22 Best Things to Do in New Jersey (By a Local!)

Check The Parking Situation

While most restaurants and venues in NJ have their own parking lots or ample street parking, this isn’t always the case.

In areas like Jersey City and Hoboken, parking can get darn near impossible. There’s nothing like the frustration of being out in Hoboken on a Friday night with friends, scouring block after block for a parking spot that won’t get you a parking ticket!

Save yourself the hassle and look into the parking situation before you go. Use a rideshare service such as Uber or Lyft if it seems like parking will be less than ideal. You’ll thank me later.

Choose the Right Season to Visit New Jersey

Aerial view of Princeton in New Jersey during winter season
Princeton in winter

Though you can visit New Jersey any time of the year, to get the most out of your trip, you want to make sure to plan your visit when we’re experiencing milder weather. Our climate shifts dramatically for each season. The best time to visit New Jersey is in warmer weather like Spring and Summer, so you can take advantage of everything that NJ has to offer.

Summers in NJ can be hot, humid, and downright brutal, especially in mid-late July. If you want to enjoy shore points such as Atlantic City and Cape May, summer is definitely the best time to come, but earlier – think June through early July.

If you’re not coming for the beach and want good sightseeing weather, Spring and early Autumn are your best bets for when to visit New Jersey.

Should you happen to be in the area during the colder winter months, you can enjoy ice-skating and indoor venues such as museums – just make sure to bundle up.

🚕 Read Next: Where to Stay in New York City

Don’t Skip The Parks!

Hot Air Balloons above the Branch Brook Park
Branch Brook Park during the Cherry Blossom Festival

They don’t call us the Garden State for nothing! While you’re in NJ, no matter where you stay, there are at least a few parks within walking or short driving distance. By all means, take advantage of this and add them to your list of places to go in New Jersey!

NJ’s parks are beautiful, and many even have lakes and brooks where you can observe ducks, geese, and the occasional swan! There are some you can even fish at.

Especially in the Fall, parks are the perfect spot to observe the changing colors of the leaves.

Joining us in the Spring? Don’t miss the Cherry Blossom Festival! These trees only bloom for a few short weeks, so pop over to Branch Brook Park and see them while you can.

Pop Into a Diner

View of the Tops Diner in New Jersey
The famous Tops Diner in Newark (photo: AnnaForlenza / Shutterstock.com)

Did you know that New Jersey is the Diner Capital of the World? With the biggest concentration of diners in the entire state than anywhere else, it’s no wonder! Seriously, each town has several diners. From Top’s Diner in Newark, to Huck Finn in Union, there is always one open. Check reviews before you go, however, because just because they’re so many, doesn’t mean they’re all good! 

However, if you love a nice diner meal, and you find a great one, definitely stop in! 

👉 Read More Guides By Travel Lemming’s Local Writers:

FAQ’s About Where to Stay in NJ

What is the nicest part of New Jersey?

The Jersey shore is one of the nicest parts of New Jersey, in my opinion. The towns along the shoreline such as Long Branch, Atlantic City, and Cape May, just to name a few, are among the favorites of locals and tourists alike.

What is the best downtown in NJ?

Some of the best downtown areas in New Jersey include Atlantic City and Hoboken. If you want a wide choice of dining and shopping, Atlantic City, NJ is a great all-around option for staying in New Jersey. If you’re looking for something with a more city-like feel, stay in Hoboken.

What is the closest city in NJ to NYC?

Several New Jersey cities are just minutes from New York City, including Edgewater, North Bergen, and West New York. A quick train, ferry, or drive can get you from New Jersey to New York City in under 30 minutes.

Can I stay in New Jersey to visit NYC?

Because most cities in Northern NJ are within a 30-minute drive or Uber to NYC, staying in New Jersey is an affordable option for those who want to take a day trip to New York City.

👉 Read Next: The 17 Best Places to Visit in NJ

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I hope this guide to the best places to stay in New Jersey has helped you figure out where to stay in New Jersey. For more NJ travel tips, see my complete guide to what to do in New Jersey.

From picturesque parks, to beautiful beaches, to delicious dining – New Jersey has a lot to offer. Pay us a visit, and you’ll see why we love our Garden State!

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