Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Paterson, NJ

  • Published 2023/03/29

Paterson, New Jersey, is a small industrial city across the river from New York City.

It boasts a population of more than 150,000, though you wouldn’t know it by walking around the city’s starkly beautiful streets.

Paterson was once known as the Silk City because of its booming silk industry in the 19th century.

Paterson is best known for abandoned buildings, left to crumble and rust since the Industrial Revolution.

From historical sites to family-friendly attractions, Paterson has it all.

For example, you can visit one of the many museums or historical sites.

If you want to enjoy some time outdoors, take a nice walk, sit under a tree, and read a book at the parks.

Finally, if you need retail therapy, there are plenty of stores.

Paterson has plenty of attractions that will make you come back again and again.

Here are the best things to do in Paterson, NJ:

Go Hiking at Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

Scenic view of Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

Brian Logan Photography /

You will have fun in Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park if you love waterfalls.

The falls themselves are a sight to behold, with the rushing water plummeting over 70 feet into the lower pool below.

The view from above is spectacular.

It’s even more gorgeous when you see it straight on, as the water flows over smooth rocks and down into the basin below.

A small trail allows visitors to walk up to the falls, letting them feel its mist and hear its roar.

Welcome sign of Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

EQRoy /

The area also has a guard rail and fences, keeping you from danger.

Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park has paved trails and walkways that allow visitors to explore the area while learning more about nature.

Walking tours and ranger-led activities help you understand why this area was crucial to the country’s economy.

Beyond being beautiful, these waterfalls have a rich history that goes back centuries.

Today these falls have been designated as a National Historical Park, protected by the National Parks Service.

It’s open to visitors year-round, so you can visit it anytime.

Cascades of Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

Adonis Page /

Walk like Royalty in Lambert Castle

Exterior of Lambert Castle

Zeete, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The best part about Lambert Castle is that it’s not a castle.

It’s shaped like a castle and built like one, but it’s not an actual medieval castle.

In 1892, the house was built as a private residence of a silk magnate, Catholina Lambert.

In 1976, Lambert Castle became a historic landmark; it’s currently a museum of the city’s industrial past.

The tower of Lambert Castle

Zaigoat, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The interior boasts beautiful Victorian architecture and home decor, and each room features period pieces that showcase Paterson’s history in textiles and manufacturing.

Visitors can also see many artifacts from people who lived during this period, like the original fixtures and furniture that Lambert once used.

History buffs will appreciate how well this site has been preserved and how much information they’ll learn about that period.

Samuel Holt portrait in Lambert Castle

Skihound24, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

See the Latest Blockbuster at Fabian 8 Cinema

If you live near Paterson, New Jersey, there’s a place to enjoy movie magic and maybe even make some new memories with the people you love.

Fabian 8 Cinema is a small theater in downtown Paterson that has provided entertainment to the community since 2010.

Check out this local movie theater; you can’t beat its classic charm and delicious food!

Learn City History at Paterson Museum

Exterior of the Paterson Museum

EQRoy /

Stop by the Paterson Museum for an educational look at the city’s unique history and the Industrial Revolution that made it what it was.

It’s where the past and present collide, leaving visitors with things to see and do that are unlike anything else in the area.

The city of Paterson was the site of America’s first planned industrial city.

The museum features the city’s involvement in technological advancements since its founding in 1925.

A display in the Paterson Museum

Tomwsulcer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Find permanent exhibits that feature the Curtis-Wright aircraft, textile machinery, submarines made by John P. Holland, and many more.

The museum also has a small collection of photographs from Patersonians who have done significant things.

It has since become a fixture in the community and a hub for historical information about the region.

The Paterson Museum is a beautiful place to visit if you are interested in learning more about Paterson’s history.

An early submarine displayed in the Paterson Museum

Tomwsulcer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit Hinchliffe Stadium

Hinchliffe Stadium, home of the New York Black Yankees, New York Cubans, and Newark Eagles, is one of the few remaining stadiums that hosted Negro League baseball games.

It was one of the venues for the Colored Championship of the Nation in 1933.

In 1932, this 10,000-seat stadium opened and later became a venue for many historical events.

The building is still wrapped in history and the ghosts of days gone by.

It’s easily one of the most incredible places you’ll ever visit.

Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you’ll at least find the stadium’s historical significance interesting.

Tour the Danforth Memorial Library

Exterior of the Danforth Memorial Library

Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most people know that they’re supposed to visit the Danforth Memorial Library when they’re in Paterson.

The Paterson Free Public Library’s history began in 1885 when the residents of Paterson voted for its creation.

In 1984, the National Register of Historic Places added the library to its record.

This gem is a great place to start researching Paterson’s history.

It’s not only large but it’s also filled with bookshelves on every wall and several cozy reading chairs scattered throughout the room.

Enter the library to find four floors of bookshelves teeming with books.

Likewise, you’ll find records, videos, comic books, and board games here.

It’s easy to overlook this gem when planning activities in Paterson.

However, with its distinguished architecture and fascinating exhibits, the Danforth Memorial Library is a must-visit destination in Paterson.

Stop by the Art Factory

Part of the Art Factory building

Jorge Aguillon Ruiz /

This community-oriented center is home to 300,000 square feet of historic factory loft space on a five-acre, 21-building campus.

The Art Factory is not just a place for the arts.

It’s for the arts, business and culture.

The facility provides space for artists, small businesses and clubs to rent at affordable prices.

The space has hosted everything from weddings to art exhibitions to fashion shows.

Wander the Art Factory for a trip through time.

See old brick buildings transformed into galleries or studios for local artists and creatives.

It’s a great place to view industrial ruins up close, but it’s also an exciting venue for events and performances.

Enjoy thousands of square feet of space you can use for any number of purposes.

The Art Factory is a former rope factory transformed into a space that preserves some of its industrial past on display.

Unleash Your Creativity in Plan It, Paint It

It can be hard to find something to do at night if you’re not into bars or clubs.

Moreover, it’s hard to find an activity that doesn’t break the bank, which isn’t a group of people sitting around drinking wine at someone’s house.

Plan It, Paint It is the solution.

It’s a friendly studio in downtown Paterson that offers an experience like nothing else in the area.

They also offer alcohol-free painting parties with open seating available to anyone who wants to come along.

PiP is about so much more than just having fun.

It’s about challenging yourself to try new things, having self-confidence in your abilities, and taking pride in your accomplishments.

The creative minds behind Plan It and Paint It want to bring people together to create something beautiful and unique.

Have Fun Outdoors at Garret Mountain Reservation

Barbour pond at Garret Mountain Reservation

Zeete, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Garret Mountain Reservation, a 568-acre park, is one of the best places to go for fun.

The park offers several trails that are great for hiking, including one that leads to the top.

See a gorgeous view of the city from atop its cliffs.

There’s also ample opportunity to enjoy nature as you walk through the woods.

View of the city from Garret Mountain Reservation

Sir Joseph, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s also an excellent spot for bird-watching since migratory and local birds flock there.

In addition to all this natural beauty, Garret Mountain has picnic areas if you want to bring a snack for a family trip.

You can also find the famous Lambert Castle in the Garret Mountain Reservation, which the workers believed was built to watch over his mills below.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing hike or something more adventurous like mountain biking, Garret Mountain Reservation has it all.

Do Retail Therapy at Center City Mall

Come to Center City Mall in Downtown Paterson if you want to experience this great American city.

There are tons of shops in this 320,000-square feet establishment, from high-end boutiques like Paul Smith and Chanel to local establishments like Camden Market.

Center City Mall is entirely enclosed by glass windows that let in natural light.

Enjoy all there is to do without worrying about being outside when nasty weather sets in.

You can grab a bite and have a drink at the food court restaurants.

Otherwise, browse the many shops until you find something interesting.

It’s where you could spend hours getting lost and finding new treasures around every corner.

Go Back in Time at the American Labor Museum Inc.

Exterior of the American Labor Museum

Dmadeo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The American Labor Museum is a great place to visit if you want to learn more about the history of labor unions and the workers’ movement.

The museum hosts various events and exhibitions throughout the year that encourage visitors to learn more about how unions have affected the history of America.

It takes you through the birth of unions, their evolution and expansion, showing you how much they have helped improve life in the country.

The museum also takes you through the dark days when workers suffered exploitation and abuse and the efforts to prevent those days from returning.

You can join a guided tour that will take you to the 1908 restored home of immigrants.

On tour, you can explore the furnished rooms with the original furniture and decorations from the early 1900s.

Step onto the historic balcony where union organizers addressed their members and the Botto family’s Old World Gardens.

The combination of art and history immerses visitors into Paterson’s rich past.

Take Pictures at Lambert Tower

The lambert tower at Garret Mountain Reservation

Zeete, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Paterson’s skyline is pretty striking in its own right, with buildings and bridges forming a dazzling collage of architecture and technology.

Still, there’s one spot where you can get the best view: Lambert Tower.

Built in 1896 on the Garret Mountain Reservation, the 70-foot tall tower was intended for the magnate Catholina Lambert.

Today, visitors enjoy taking pictures at the top of the observation tower overlooking Paterson’s downtown skyline.

Its location at the highest point of the park gives visitors an unparalleled view of Paterson and its surroundings, including many neighboring towns and cities.

The view from the top of Lambert Tower is one of the best in New Jersey.

Don’t miss the opportunity to climb down the spiral staircase inside the tower for a breathtaking 360-degree view of Paterson and its surroundings.

Unwind at the Bonfire Mofongo House

Are you looking for something to do in Paterson, New Jersey?

Bonfire Mofongo House & Lounge is your answer.

It’s the perfect place for visitors looking to experience a restaurant that’s part-Caribbean, part nightclub.

Listen to live music, dance parties & other events at the Bonfire.

You can enjoy a drink or two with your friends at the bar while you listen to the music or join the crowd on the dance floor.

Every weekend, Bonfire hosts the best bands in New Jersey and an incredible DJ to keep the dance floor shaking.

Bonfire has a full bar with great cocktails from skilled bartenders.

Likewise, their Caribbean fare will transport you to the islands as soon as you take your first bite of mofongo or jerk chicken.

There’s also a small outdoor patio area, open during good weather and available for use anytime by reservation.

Stop by the Bonfire Mofongo House and Lounge whether you’re looking for a drink after work or a party all night long.

Explore the Westfield Garden State Plaza

Interior of the Westfield Garden State Plaza

quiggyt4 /

Westfield Garden State Plaza is the largestshopping center in New Jersey.

The plaza sprawls across a whopping 2 million square feet, so shopping or dining there might be a little intimidating.

Visit Westfield Garden State Plaza to find nearly every brand name store and restaurant you can imagine.

Find high-end fashion to casual apparel, electronics, sporting goods, or even some less-practical things like art supplies and electronics.

You can also check out smaller stores that sell toys or jewelry.

With over a hundred shops to explore, it’s no wonder that so many people flock to this mall.

Do Recreational Activities at Pennington Park

Located along the Passaic River just a few minutes from Paterson Great Falls Park lies Pennington Park.

Because of its riverside location along with its sprawling sports amenities, this is one of the most popular places to hangout in Paterson.

Pennington Park is known for their huge soccer and baseball fields where you can enjoy as a player or as an observer.

Besides that, there are also cool tank displays here for the younger kids and teens to see and learn from.

Pennington Park also has a playground and several walking trails that let you enjoy the river.

Chow Down at Noches De Colombia Paterson

Noches De Colombia Paterson will bring out the foodie in you, as they’re known for heaping piles of Colombian food.

Authentic and affordable, Noches De Colombia Paterson is the perfect place to have a feast if you’re famished during your trip.

Whether it’s steaks, seafood, pasta, or deep fried food, they have all the classic Latin food here.

The drinks here are also a must-try, making the restaurant a great place for a late night out with friends or family.

Noches De Colombia Paterson is located in the bustling streets along 21st Avenue.

Taste Latin Fast Food at Banana King

While New Jersey and likewise Paterson are filled with tons of Latin American influences, most especially in their food culture, very few can embody it like Banana King.

If you’re not from New Jersey or New York, chances are you haven’t tried Banana King—a local fast food chain that’s meant to bring authentic Latin American food.

Some of the must-try items in Banana King are their pincho de carne (pork pinchos), chicken sandwiches, and their crowd-favorite empanadas.

If you’re feeling thirsty, the fast food chain is also known for their shakes and juices that come in a variety of flavors.

Banana King can also be found along 21st Avenue, so pay a visit if you haven’t tried it.

Take a Breather in Eastside Park

Signage of Eastside Park

Zeete, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Eastside Park is a neighborhood city park in Paterson, found along McLean Boulevard by the Passaic River.

It’s one of the oldest parks in New Jersey, dating back to the late 1800s.

While there’s not much historical remnants for you to explore, the serenity in Eastside Park is a great way to accentuate your itinerary.

The park is known to be peaceful, but it doesn’t fail in offering you activities as it also has various sports fields and courts here.

Perfect for relaxation or exercise, consider visiting Eastside Park.

Have a Taste of Jamaica at Mammas Kitchen

Do you love Jamaican food or are interested in trying it? Mammas Kitchen is one of the more underrated dining spots in Paterson.

They serve authentic Jamaican food here that’s becoming more and more well-known throughout Paterson, especially their jerk chicken and oxtail.

While rice and peas may not sound like a showstopper, it’s also one of the bestsellers of Mammas Kitchen that keep customers coming back.

Other sides like their mac n’ cheese and chicken soup will round up a hearty feast in this restaurant.

Visit Mammas Kitchen along the discreet corners of Vreeland Avenue.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Cool Down in the Ice Vault Arena

The Ice Vault Arena in Wayne, New Jersey, has been around since the 80s.

It’s 13 minutes away from Paterson.

Today, the Ice Vault offers more than just a chance to strap on some skates and stomp around in circles until you fall.

The rink has fun programs like public skating lessons, ice shows, hockey games, and more.

Bust out those skates or blades you haven’t worn in years!

You can even rent skates on-site if you didn’t pack your own.

They also have an entire bar inside the arena.

Grab something special for yourself or your friends without leaving the building.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are a resident of New Jersey or just visiting, you should make sure you visit the city of Paterson at least once in your lifetime.

The city’s rich history, culture and natural landscapes are sure to impress.

It’s a great place to spend a day with the family, and you should visit this beautiful city.

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