17 Best Things to Do in Passaic County, NJ

Passaic County, NJ
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Passaic County is a lovely destination in northeastern New Jersey, just over the New York state border.

The area’s earliest known inhabitants were the Delaware Indians.

Founded in 1837, the county was named after the Passaic River that borders its southeastern region.

Manufacturing industries powered the development of the county in the 19th century.

There are 16 municipalities in the county offering a wide range of recreation and leisure activities.

Its northern area has stunning natural attractions, trails, and outdoor destinations.

The county has a rich arts and culture landscape, with numerous historical sites, art establishments, and cultural spots.

Here’s a list to help you explore some of the best things to do in Passaic County, New Jersey.

Tour the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

Scenic view of Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park
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Discover the county’s rich history at the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park.

Established in 2009, the park is home to the waterpower system that fueled the industries of Paterson, America’s earliest planned industrial city.

Marvel at the stunning 77-foot-tall falls of the Passaic River, one of the country’s largest waterfalls.

View of Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park
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This natural resource was designated as both a national natural landmark and a national historic landmark.

Join a public walking tour and learn about the falls’ significant role in pioneering the country’s earliest industrial area.

If you prefer to explore the park at your own pace, you can go on a self-guided tour using the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park mobile guide.

Beautiful yellow flower at Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park
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Take the Kids to Dundee Island Park

If you’re looking for a kid-friendly spot to explore, check out Dundee Island Park.

This county recreation area features a modern playground, a spray park, and a soccer field.

Watch your kids run around the park’s fun and beautiful space.

The sprinklers turn on during summer, so your kids can relax during their playtime.

You can also go on a river walk or check out the public art.

It also has designated spaces for art activities and exercise.

There’s a concession area where you can get some quick bites to refuel.

Dundee Island Park is located in Passaic City.

Admire the Charming Flowers of the New Jersey State Botanical Garden

Picturesque view of the New Jersey State Botanical Garden
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Spend a day among the gorgeous flowers at the New Jersey State Botanical Garden.

It has over 90 acres and over ten gardens featuring various trees, shrubs, plants, and evergreens.

Wander around and admire the gardens' colorful, elegant, and mesmerizing views.

See the Crabapple Vista with its lovely stretch of pink blossoms.

Brick house at New Jersey State Botanical Garden
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If you're into nature photography, the scenes in the garden are a delight to capture.

Visit in the summer and see the vibrant display of daylilies.

If you want to know more about the flowers, you can join a guided tour of the gardens.

You can find the New Jersey State Botanical Garden at the Ringwood State Park in the borough of Ringwood.

New Jersey State Botanical Garden during autumn
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Enjoy a Relaxing Day at Mayor Dunleavy Memorial Park

Spend a quiet day enjoying the natural landscape at the Mayor Dunleavy Memorial Park.

This serene park in Bloomingdale covers over 40 acres of woodlands with surrounding wetlands.

Take a leisurely hike along the trail loop, spot some birds, and appreciate the scenery.

There are also connecting trails across the park that you can hike if you’re looking to explore more of the woodlands.

The Mayor Dunleavy Memorial Park is located along Glenwild Avenue in the borough of Bloomingdale.

Dive into Baseball History at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center

Learn about the inspirational story of one of America’s baseball icons at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center.

Known as the country’s winningest baseball player, Yogi Berra won ten World Series with the Yankees.

You can view artifacts and photographs at the museum documenting his life and career.

There’s also an interactive pitching exhibit where you can check how well you can throw!

The museum also hosts various rotating exhibits about baseball history and sports.

You can find the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center within the Montclair State University campus in the township of Little Falls.

Step Back in Time at the Dey Mansion Washington’s Headquarters

Facade of the Dey Mansion Washington’s Headquarters
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Revisit the Colonial Era when you visit the historic Dey Mansion Washington’s Headquarters.

Built in 1770, the mansion was the residence of Colonel Theunis Dey.

For several months in 1780, it served as the field headquarters of George Washington.

Take a tour of the historic house and see artifacts from the 18th and 19th centuries, including art pieces, furniture, household items, firearms, and farming tools.

You can check out its various programs and events throughout the year.

In 1970, the house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Dey Mansion Washington’s Headquarters is located in the township of Wayne.

Visit the American Labor Museum

Learn about labor history at the American Labor Museum.

The museum is housed at the historic Botto House, the venue of the 1913 silk workers' strike, a crucial turning point in the country's labor history.

Visit the museum’s permanent exhibit on the history of the labor movement and learn about the stories of early immigrant workers.

Glimpse into the past as you see the historic balcony where union leaders addressed the crowds during the landmark strike.

You can also explore the museum’s furnished period rooms to see early 20th-century furniture and other household items.

The landmark property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 for its significance in social history and industry.

The American Labor Museum is along Norwood St. in the borough of Haledon.

Experience the Pristine Beauty of the Apshawa Preserve

View of the Apshawa Preserve
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Go on an exciting adventure at the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford.

The preserve protects over 500 acres of the diverse habitats of the New Jersey highlands.

Head out on the trails for a day of outdoor recreation.

Water gushing through the rocks at Apshawa Preserve
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You can explore on foot, bike, or ride horseback.

Take in the beauty of the preserve’s unspoiled landscape, featuring the sugar maple and oak trees that make up its hardwood forest.

Access to the Apshawa Preserve is via Northwood Drive.

Reservoir at Apshawa Preserve
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View the Exhibits at the Passaic County Arts Center

Spend a day of art appreciation at the Passaic County Arts Center.

Dedicated to promoting Passaic's creative scene, the art center hosts various art exhibitions, events, and educational programs.

Visit its gallery and look at its contemporary art exhibits, where you can admire paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other artworks.

Housed at the historic John Rea House, the center also hosts art festivals, where you can enjoy outdoor live music, food trucks, art demos, and handicrafts.

You can find the Passaic County Arts Center along Goffle Road in the township of Hawthorne.

Marvel at the Garret Mountain Reservation

View from the Garret Mountain Reservation
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Go on a scenic hike at Garret Mountain Reservation.

Sitting over 500 feet above sea level, this popular county park features 300 acres of green spaces, recreational areas, overlooks, and historic sites.

Choose a trail and spend the day exploring the park’s beautiful surroundings, initially landscaped by the renowned Olmsted Brothers.

Stone tower at Garret Mountain Reservation
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The park also offers a great venue to observe birds like herons, warblers, and migratory birds.

You'll be treated to scenic city views and the New York skyline at the overlook.

The Garret Mountain Reservation is in First Watchung Mountain within the borough of Woodland Park and Paterson City.

Play at the Preakness Valley Golf Course

Play golf at the Preakness Valley Golf Course, which opened in 1931.

This county-operated golfing facility features two full-service 18-hole courses.

Book a tee time at the Par 70 east course and enjoy a challenging game.

You can also play a round at its lovely west course.

While the course was officially established in the 1930s, the golf club dates back to the 1890s, making it among the earliest clubs founded in the country.

You can find Preakness Valley Golf Course along Totowa Road in Wayne.

Explore Art in Nature at the Laurelwood Arboretum

Mushrooms at Laurelwood Arboretum
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Enjoy the landscapes at the Laurelwood Arboretum in Wayne.

This public park features a 30-acre botanical garden with vibrant seasonal blooms.

It is home to a sculpture trail, where you can enjoy the view of sculptures that complement the garden’s natural landscape.

You can go on a guided trail tour to learn more about the art pieces and the artists behind them.

The Laurelwood Arboretum is located along Pines Lake Drive West.

See a Play at the Star Royale

Spend an evening of entertainment at Star Royale.

This community-based theater stages various productions, from musicals to plays and other family-friendly shows.

Catch a show while visiting Pompton Lakes and get a glimpse of the area’s local creative scene.

It also offers a dinner show package you can enjoy with family and a chance to sample the local dining scene.

Star Royale is located along Wanaque Avenue in the borough of Pompton Lakes.

Go Fishing at Long Pond Ironworks State Park

Beautiful view of the Long Pond Ironworks State Park
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Head north of the county for a day of fishing at Long Pond Ironworks State Park.

The park is home to Green Turtle Pond and Monksville Reservoir, known for excellent fishing opportunities.

Launch from the boat ramp and spend the day fishing trout, bass, walleye, and big muskellunge.

Trail along the Long Pond Ironworks State Park
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If you’re visiting during winter, you can also go ice fishing.

In the summer, you can rent paddleboards to soak up the sun at the reservoir.

Situated within the fascinating remnants of a historic ironworking community, you can also explore the park’s historic district.

Long Pond Ironworks State Park is in the township of West Milford.

Barn at Long Pond Ironworks State Park
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Have a Fun Spooky Time at Brighton Asylum

If you’re a fan of haunted attractions, make sure to visit the Brighton Asylum.

This spooky destination is popular in the state and has been featured in various media.

Experience its haunted houses walk-through during the Halloween season.

If visiting outside the season, take your friends to a fun and thrilling day at its escape rooms and other haunted offerings.

There are also special spooky events you can check out, such as Christmas and Valentine's holiday haunts.

You can find Brighton Asylum along Brighton Avenue in Passaic City.

Take a Summer Trip to Wawayanda State Park

Nature trail at Wawayanda State Park
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Take a restful summer vacation at Wawayanda State Park.

Located in West Milford, the park features scenic hills surrounding Lake Wawayanda, a stretch of the Appalachian Trail, and other incredible natural areas for recreation.

The park’s quiet charm makes it a relaxing destination to enjoy your summer getaway.

Vibrant sunrise at Wawayanda State Park
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Swim at its beautiful white beach and soak up the sun.

Have a nice summer picnic at the lake’s beautiful northern shore.

You can also grab some bites at the food concession area near the beach.

Wawayanda State Park is in the neighborhood of Hewitt.

Boats docked at Wawayanda State Park
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Try Local Craft Beer at Ghost Hawk Brewing Company

If you’re exploring Clifton or nearby areas for the day, check out the hand-crafted beer of Ghost Hawk Brewing Company.

This local microbrewery—the county’s first craft brewery—opened in 2019.

You can find over ten craft ales and lagers in its lineup.

Stop by its beautiful taproom for a pint and unwind after a tiring day of exploring.

If the weather is nice, you can enjoy your drink at its outdoor seating area.

The brewery sells some of its beer in cans, so don’t forget to pick up a pack to enjoy back home.

You can find Ghost Hawk Brewing Company along River Road in Clifton.

Final Thoughts

Passaic County is a beautiful destination to explore for a vacation.

Outdoor recreation and leisure opportunities await from its stunning nature parks and preserve fascinating historic sites and fun, family-friendly city attractions.

Start planning your visit now and experience some of the best things to do in Passaic County, New Jersey.

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