15 Best Things to Do in New Brunswick, NJ

New Brunswick, NJ
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The city of New Brunswick, New Jersey, is an unassuming town that’s bursting at the seams with history, culture, and adventures.

Serving as the county seat of Middlesex County, New Brunswick is aptly named Hub City because of the many things going on in every corner.

It’s also the home of Rutgers University, one of the oldest educational institutions in the country and the largest one in the state.

In fact, many of its campuses are located in various parts of New Brunswick, making the place a bustling college town.

And because of these characteristics, the city has become a place where human talent, skill, and creativity are nurtured.

So you can expect a youthful vibe that’s in stark contrast with the historic structures and sights.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Brunswick, NJ:

Smell Fragrant Blooms at Rutgers Gardens

View of Rutgers Gardens
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If you’re already missing nature during your tour of New Brunswick, then make a stopover at Rutgers Gardens.

Unsurprisingly, the outdoor attraction is part of the Rutgers University system.

But unlike the previously mentioned museums, this one is focused more on nature and the land.

View of Rutgers Gardens
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It serves as the official botanical garden of the university, covering an area of 180 acres and sitting next to the Raritan River.

Here, you’d find a wide range of plant species cared for by horticulturists, biologists, and ecologists under the university’s employ.

View of Rutgers Gardens
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Bamboo groves, woodlands with native American trees, flower beds bursting with color, and showy bushes near streams are just some of the sights to expect.

There are also engaging and educational programs where you can interact with plants under the watch of the caretakers.

See Fossils at Rutgers Geology Museum

Front View of Rutgers Geology Museum
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Rutgers Geology Museum is, as you may deduce from the name, another Rutgers University facility located a block away from Zimmerli Art Museum.

And while the latter is focused on human creativity, Rutgers Geology Museum houses collections that showcase the natural history of New Brunswick and the rest of the region.

So you can expect exhibits under fields like paleontology, anthropology, and of course, geology.

Interior View of Rutgers Geology Museum
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During your tour, your eyes will be immediately drawn to the fossilized mastodon that unofficially serves as the facility's main attraction.

This was found by a farmer in Salem County, and it’s estimated to be at least 10,000 years old.

Other displays include dinosaur bones and tracks, human skulls, an Egyptian mummy, and many types of rocks and minerals, some of which exhibit unusual colors under fluorescent light.

Marvel at Human Creativity at Zimmerli Art Museum

View of Zimmerli Art Museum
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As mentioned, many of Rutgers University’s facilities are scattered all over town, and one of these is the Zimmerli Art Museum.

Its complete name is Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, but the latter half is more popular among students and locals.

The expansive facility is home to a vast collection of works displayed within the halls and rooms, which add up to 70,000 square feet of space.

With more than 60,000 permanent pieces, the attraction is one of the largest institutions of its kind in the area, so be prepared to spend a few hours exploring the collections.

They include art from various eras and countries such as Japan, France, Greece, and Russia.

You’d find age-old paintings, intriguing sculptures, original illustrations for children’s books, and beautiful photographs.

For a more interactive experience, join one of the workshops offered by the museum that is open for all ages and skill levels.

Have a Fun Family Day at Boyd Park

View of Boyd Park
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There’s no shortage of riverside attractions in New Brunswick, and one of these is the scenic Boyd Park.

The award-winning, 20-acre outdoor destination is a local favorite for its family-friendly amenities and beautiful sceneries.

It’s where you can get gorgeous views of the Raritan River and the New Brunswick skyline at the same time.

View of Boyd Park
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The park is also teeming with historical structures, such as a swing bridge, canals, and towpaths that have been around for decades.

Be sure to read the signposts that detail the exact history of each display.

Aside from these sights, the park has an abundance of green spaces, picnic benches, well-paved trails, and an amphitheater where live events are held.

See New Perspectives at Crossroads Theatre Company

New Brunswick is a hotspot for performance art, and one of the main hubs for this practice is at Crossroads Theatre Company.

This award-winning facility has been around for half a century and for many years has served as the venue for memorable and eye-opening performances.

Most of these shows focus on African American culture and life, with celebrated actors and playwrights telling heartfelt stories that have earned praises from audiences and critics alike.

But the shows are not limited to theater plays, as the facility is also the home of the American Repertory Ballet and the Princeton Ballet School.

So on occasion, you can catch a dreamy and sophisticated dance recital of talented ballerinas.

Check out their calendar to see the dates of upcoming shows and plan accordingly.

Visit the Sights of Buccleuch Park

The Buccleuch Mansion in Buccleuch Park
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Buccleuch Park is another outdoor destination that also sits next to the Raritan River.

Within the 78-acre space, you will find verdant and spacious grounds, scenic trails, and wooded areas with shady spots.

It’s the perfect place to unwind and spend a day with your family.

Check out the playgrounds, flower and rock gardens, and picnic pavilions scattered in various parts of the park.

For those into sports, the attraction has several facilities that you’re welcome to try, including baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and basketball courts.

The highlight of this park is Buccleuch Mansion, a stately and historic structure that’s considered one of the city’s oldest landmarks.

After it was converted into a museum, the mansion now accepts tours so you can check out colonial furniture, dining ware, architecture, and other artifacts.

Cruise the Waters of the Raritan River

View of Raritan River
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Raritan is one of the major rivers in New Jersey, and it’s fed by waters from mountains in the middle of the state.

A segment of it creates the border that divides New Brunswick with places like Edison and Heartland Park, and it serves a vital economical purpose to this area.

But it’s also a favorite for adventure seekers who want to try water-related activities during their tour of the city.

Some of these include boating, kayaking, and canoeing to the beautiful areas away from traces of human development.

View of Raritan River
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One of these spots is the segment next to Rutgers Gardens, which has tree-lined banks from both sides and a peaceful ambiance.

And after much restoration efforts that continue today, the river has maintained a healthy population of freshwater fishes.

You can try catching smallmouth and largemouth bass, pikes, catfish, and other species swimming during your boating trip.

Catch a Stunning Performance at State Theatre New Jersey

Front View of State Theatre New Jersey
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Established in the 1920s, State Theatre New Jersey is one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the city and in the state.

And it’s one of the largest too, seating more than 1800 people at a time.

Over the years, it has been cared for by many owners, undergone renovations, and even faced closure after being outcompeted by newer theaters.

But it has survived and has elevated itself as a New Brunswick institution, serving as the venue for high-caliber performances of all types.

Interior View of State Theatre New Jersey
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Aside from engaging theater plays, the theater holds live concerts, orchestra performances, dance recitals, comedy shows, and Broadway musicals.

Many well-known personalities have graced its stages, such as Ringo Starr, Bruce Springsteen, and Jay Leno.

Visit their website today and check out the upcoming performances if you plan on catching one!

Catch an Entertaining Show at Stress Factory Comedy Club

Spend a night laughing your worries away by paying a visit to Stress Factory Comedy Club.

And no, they don’t manufacture stress here despite what their name might suggest.

In fact, this is where your anxieties and troubles will disappear.

The club is a famous location in the whole state, as it has a reputation for hosting veteran comedians and up-and-coming performers who eventually make their name in the industry.

Chuckle, giggle, and chortle as they act out skits, try improvs and do stand-up performances that are sure to have you rolling on the floor.

While watching, order some of their delicious selection of American staples and refreshing drinks.

These are the perfect complement to a night of laughter and fun!

Marvel at Shows at Mason Gross Performing Arts Center

View of Mason Gross Performing Arts Center
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Compared to the other performance art facilities mentioned on this list, the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center focuses more on what most people might label “sophisticated.”

It’s part of the Rutgers University system, serving as a learning facility aside from being a tourist attraction.

A wide variety of art is practiced here, with spaces dedicated solely to a particular practice or area of interest.

Some of these are music, theater, visual art, and dance.

The public is welcome to come and watch some of the performances that show off the level of skill and talent honed in the center.

Catch the jazz concerts, theater plays, dance recitals, and art exhibits done by veterans and students alike.

Visit the Kirkpatrick Chapel

View of Kirkpatrick Chapel
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While the official name is Sophia Astley Kirkpatrick Memorial Chapel, this historical destination is better known simply as Kirkpatrick Chapel.

And like most other attractions in New Brunswick, it’s part of the Rutgers University system.

While it serves mainly as a place of worship, it has also become a library, gathering place, and even a location for educational lectures.

Upon arrival, you’d immediately notice the Gothic architecture of the exteriors, which were meant to reflect the masonry of the other structures nearby.

The interiors is a breathtaking place to behold, with majestic columns, stunning stained-glass windows, and a red motif all over the walls.

Perhaps the best quality of this chapel is that it’s a place for all faiths, which is in line with Rutgers University being a nonsectarian institution.

It’s an ideal arrangement given the diverse groups of people that call New Brunswick home.

Other Things to Do Nearby

After your adventures in New Brunswick, why not check out these other attractions a few minutes away?

Go Hiking at Rutgers University Ecological Preserve

View of  Rutgers University Ecological Preserve
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Even in neighboring Piscataway, there are still facilities under the Rutgers University system.

One of these is the Rutgers University Ecological Preserve, a large natural attraction sitting on the bank of the Raritan River opposite New Brunswick.

With an area covering 370-acres, the preserve has various habitats and land features that have made it an important ecological hotspot in the region.

It has also become a favorite hiking and mountain biking spot for students and locals alike because of the challenging terrain.

While exploring, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to encounter the woodland creatures living here, such as birds, small mammals, and colorful insects.

Reach Farrington Lake Via Bicentennial Park

View of Farrington Lake
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One of the tributaries of the Raritan River is the scenic Farrington Lake in East Brunswick.

But before you enter, explore Bicentennial Park first.

While it’s a beautiful destination by itself, with lush greenery and nature trails, it serves mostly as an access point to Farrington Lake.

View of Farrington Lake
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It’s a reservoir named after a New Brunswick mayor and serves as a main water source for the surrounding cities.

After launching a boat or a kayak from Bicentennial Park, you’re welcome to explore the length of the lake, which is surrounded by an uninterrupted tree line.

The best time to visit is during fall when the mirror-like surface reflects the changing colors of the foliage.

See Colonial Homes at East Jersey Old Town Village

Colonial Homes at East Jersey Old Town Village
Zeete, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

East Jersey Old Town Village is an open-air interactive museum located in Piscataway.

Here, you can immerse yourself in the architecture and lifestyle of Raritan Valley societies, all the way from the colonial era.

The most prominent attractions here are the reconstructed structures that replicate the vernacular architecture style typical during the bygone eras of New Jersey.

Stay Awhile at Donaldson Park

View of Donaldson Park
John B. from Highland Park, NJ, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Donaldson Park is a large outdoor attraction in Highland Park, sitting right next to the Raritan River.

It’s a well-known destination that families and Rutgers University students frequently visit, owing to the gorgeous scenery and many modern amenities.

It has the staple picnic grounds, lush sports fields, and courts, but most people visit it because of the accessibility to the river.

There are no other places in the vicinity where you can walk right into the shores of the river,

so most visitors come here to relax on the small beaches and listen as the water rushes in front of them.

Final Thoughts

As the hub of human talent and colonial history, New Brunswick has a lot of hidden wonders that are well worth the trip.

From performance art centers to nonsectarian chapels, from geology museums to comedy clubs, there’s something for every preference here.

So check out this list and add the top spots to your itinerary today!