Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in North Bergen, NJ

  • Published 2023/02/04

North Bergen is one of the communities along the New Jersey Palisades Cliffs, which makes it fit for sightseeing along the Hudson River and for observing the New York City skyline and skyscrapers from the other side of the river.

As a small township, it’s understandable that its historic sites and landmarks are not as popular as those in other cities and towns in the state.

However, there is a side of North Bergen that makes it feel like a sleeping tourist hub in Hudson County.

For one, there is the James J. Braddock County Park, which is publicly one of the most well-reviewed parks in New Jersey.

There’s also the fact that the township has one of the liveliest urban centers in Hudson, where food and culture are seemingly at the forefront of every street.

On top of this, there is a fair number of attractions and free things to do in North Bergen, New Jersey, meaning you’re not required to break the bank to plan for a wonderful and memorable stay.

If that isn’t enough, there are places of interest just along the border or a little outside of it that are worth checking out!

Picnic at James J. Braddock County Park

The grounds of James J. Braddock County Park

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The 167-acre James J. Braddock Park, named after the former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion from 1935 to 1937, is located at the northern border of Hudson County, where it’s bounded by Bergenline Avenue on the west and 79th Street to the south.

It’s one of the largest and most stunning Hudson County’s parks and is home to the 16-acre Woodcliff Lake, another popular public attraction in North Bergen.

A trail at James J. Braddock County Park

Yingna Cai /

The park gets plenty of visitors all year round, especially those looking to take advantage of the nature trails underneath towering trees and cool winds.

James J. Braddock County Park also offers amenities and attractions such as playgrounds, a wildlife preserve, an arboretum, picnic grounds, and over 40 sports fields of a different varieties.

The waters of James J. Braddock County Park

Marcos Aspiazu /

Take a Relaxing Break at River View Park

River View Park is one of the favorite hangout spots of locals, where many choose to spend their day while enjoying a picturesque view of the Hudson River and its surrounding neighborhood.

It also makes for a good lookout place to observe the Manhattan skyline from this side of the pond, especially in the afternoon, when the park is typically at its most peaceful.

You can even use the binocular stations around the park for more pronounced imagery of the iconographic skyline.

It’s tempting to do some laps around the elongated park, but the benches under the shade aren’t too shabby either, especially if you want to simply unwind and take a break from it all.

River View Park is on Boulevard E.

Check Out the North Bergen Free Public Library

As the name suggests, North Bergen Free Public Library is open to the public every day of the week at varying hours that you can check via their official website.

Libraries usually don’t top the list of attractions for most travelers, but if you set aside time to learn local history as much as you can during your stay, then North Bergen Free Public Library is one of the places to be in the township.

The library first opened its doors on February 25, 1936, when it had 2,630 volumes to serve what was then a population of roughly 40,000.

You can easily access North Bergen Free Public Library via Bergenline Avenue.

Drive through the Scenic Boulevard East

Binoculars at Boulevard East

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Boulevard East, or officially John F. Kennedy Boulevard East, is a scenic county road just on the east of James J. Braddock County Park.

Parts of the boulevard run parallel to the historic Hudson River, with an elevated view that offers a panoramic vista of the river and the New York City skyline.

The road passes through several places of interest in North Bergen, including some of the city’s local parks, modernist high-rises, and rife neighborhoods.

Boulevard East runs through the municipalities of Weehawken, West New York, and Guttenberg before it ends at North Bergen, right at the James J. Braddock County Park.

Join the Community in the Tuesday Night Movie Series

If you want to enjoy a free outdoor movie on your North Bergen trip, summer is the ideal time to visit the township.

The community tends to come together every Tuesday night all summer long from June to August for a sponsored movie night at pre-announced locations.

The Tuesday Night Movie Series is usually held in the townships’ recreation parks and events grounds, where free popcorn and snack are also sometimes afforded to moviegoers.

The schedule for the Tuesday Night Movie Series is announced ahead of time via the official government website of North Bergen and other digital community channels.

See North Bergen’s Controversial “Stonehenge”

Far view of The Stonehenge

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Stonehenge is a residential apartment building on Boulevard East, which makes for a pretty cool backdrop if you are taking photos from Woodcliff Lake.

The “Stonehenge Incident” or the “North Hudson Park UFO sightings” made the place an unexpected attraction in the late 1970s and even today for those familiar with the incident.

On January 12, 1975, resident George O’Barski reported a UFO sighting across the street from Stonehenge, which was later echoed by independent witnesses after an investigation.

Not much else came out of it, aside from a book chronicling the incident and some publications labeling North Bergen as the capital of UFO sightings in New Jersey.

Run Laps in the County Park’s Nature Trails

One of James J. Braddock County Park’s most appealing attractions is its nature trail, especially the sections parallel to Woodcliff Lake.

The North Hudson Loop covers the distance around the park and is generally considered an easy route that takes about 40 to 50 minutes to complete.

The paved trail is open year-round and is accessible for strollers and wheelchairs, with the highlight being around the lake.

If you’re wondering, the Country Park was originally called North Hudson Park when it was built in 1910 before it was renamed after the lifelong North Bergen resident and boxing legend.

Spend a Lovely Afternoon near Woodcliff Lake

The 16-acre lake and centerpiece of James J. Braddock County Park arguably look wonderful throughout the year.

The quietness of the park and the frozen Woodcliff Lake make for a relaxing scene come winter, while the bustling wildlife in spring is a must-see imagery during the season.

The lake is on the shallow side, but bass is common here during the fishing season.

Historically, Woodcliff Lake was one of the country’s first public pools and was a hotspot for swimming and water sports in the early 20th century.

You can find Woodcliff Lake inside James J. Braddock County Park, where it’s surrounded by paved walkways for easy viewing.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

If you feel like the North Bergen township is a bit small to accommodate your wanderlust, you’ll be happy to know that there are additional attractions just 20 to 40 minutes away from downtown.

In fact, there are plenty of parks and historic places to go about in neighboring townships across Hudson County, some of which are essentially part of the North Bergen experience.

Visit Old Glory Park

Welcome sign of Old Glory Park

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If you are taking Boulevard East in or out of North Bergen, you’ll likely pass by Old Glory Park on the other side of the Hudson Palisades at the township of Weehawken.

The park isn’t as spacious as the others you’ll find on this list, but the elevation will give you a bird’s eye view of the surrounding neighborhood and the Hudson River.

The view from Old Glory Park

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Old Glory Park is an ideal spot if you want to take professional-looking panoramic photos of the skyline.

If you fancy staying around the area, you’ll also find plenty of restaurants around.

Stop by Donnelly Memorial Park

Christopher Columbus statue at Donnelly Memorial Park

Yingna Cai /

Donnelly Memorial Park is a small, family-oriented park in West New York, along Boulevard East.

The park is conveniently rich in shade and benches, which makes it an inviting place to relax and maybe take some souvenir photos with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop.

Additionally, there’s a children’s playground and a pet-friendly mini park for a complete family bonding experience.

Some people claim Donnelly Memorial Park provides a better view of the New York skyline over Old Glory or River View, although much of that likely comes down to personal preference.

Try Birdwatching at Mill Creek Marsh

Wetlands at Mill Creek Marsh

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Mill Creek Marsh is a nature preserve in Secaucus near its border with North Bergen.

The park boasts natural surface trails and wildlife, which makes it perfect for light runs and birdwatching.

A trail at Mill Creek Marsh

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Most notably, the open space along the Hackensack River invites migrating birds and monarch butterflies in fall, while passerines or songbirds arrive from the south in Spring.

Since Mill Creek Marsh is just past the North Bergen border, you won’t have to worry about being too far from the township when taking this side trip.

Boardwalk at Mill Creek Marsh

Jim.henderson, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit Schmidt’s Woods in Secaucus

If you’ve included the bordering Mill Creek Marsh in your itinerary, then the nearby Schmidt’s Woods in Secaucus could be another place of interest.

The park doesn’t have the “wow” factor in size, but the density of woodlands here makes up for that, especially in April when the Trout lilies are in bloom and blanketing the trails.

Speaking of trails, you’ll appreciate the wide nature trails in Schmidt’s Woods, whether you’re doing laps or taking a long walk around the woods.

At an ideal season, the majestic yellow-crowned night herons frequent the reservation to create their nests, while warblers are known to flock to the woods during springtime.

Snap a Photo of the Beautiful Weehawken Water Tower

Exterior of the Weehawken Water Tower

Jim.henderson, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Weehawken Water Tower is a few blocks from Donnelly Memorial Park and is relatively easy to spot not only because of the height of the structure but also due to its standout architecture.

Built in 1883, the roughly 175-foot brick tower is the sole remnant of what was once a water complex downtown, which was tasked to convert fresh water supply from the nearby Hackensack River.

The 19th century “Red Tower” was once listed on the Federal Maritime Chart as a landmark for ships heading south on the Hudson River to signal that they are arriving at the New York Harbor.

The Weehawken Water Tower was designed by Frederick Clarke Withers, who supposedly took inspiration from Italy’s Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

History marker of the Weehawken Water Tower

Acebarry, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit the Weehawken Waterfront Park and Recreation Center

Aerial view of Weehawken Waterfront Park and Recreation Center

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If you want to get a closer look at the Hudson River, the Weehawken Waterfront Park and Recreation Center at the base of the New Jersey Palisades cliffs is worth checking out.

Much of the space within the 13-acre park is occupied by two Little League fields, a synthetic turf soccer field, and a 400-meter-long, urethane-cushioned track.

Swing set at Weehawken Waterfront Park and Recreation Center

Yingna Cai /

Near the river is a lookout place with an unobstructed view of the Hudson River and the opposite waterfront.

You can find the Weehawken Waterfront Park and Recreation Center along Port Imperial Boulevard, which runs parallel but below Boulevard East.

Picnic area at Weehawken Waterfront Park and Recreation Center

Yingna Cai /

Take a Trip to Overpeck Creek

Wooden bridge at Overpeck Creek

FeldBum, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Overpeck Preserve requires a little more effort to get to from North Bergen, but the succeeding experience should make the trip worth it for outdoor enthusiasts.

This unique 125-acre preserve is a rehabilitated landfill that features non-tidal wetlands, streams, grasslands, and woodlands.

There are trails and water ports, too, if you’re up to rent on-site.

Exploring the grounds, though, should be a satisfying endeavor on its own because of the dynamic trails around the park.

It’s become difficult to imagine that Overpeck Preserve was once an over-polluted and neglected piece of land.

Final Thoughts

North Bergen is a small, idyllic township in an ideal location for exploring all the communities along the New Jersey Palisades Cliffs.

Rooting yourself here means you’re never that far away from other attractions nearby and close to a bustling town center.

There are exciting free things to do in North Bergen, New Jersey, but don’t stop yourself from getting more out of your little escapade to Hudson County by exploring nearby communities.

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