The Best Things to do in Newark, New Jersey

The 15 Best Things to Do in Newark, New Jersey

Newark, New Jersey, didn’t always have the best reputation. Though it’s lived many lives since its founding in 1666, it’s known today by a rather unflattering nickname – Brick City. The nickname refers to the many brick housing projects that once sat in the city.

But the largest city in New Jersey is beloved by its inhabitants for its diverse culture, thriving art scene, and dedication to its people. As time has gone on, Newark has become revitalized once again by the many people who love this city and call it home. 

So, where should you begin? We’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Newark for you. If you stick to these fun and unique Newark bucket list recommendations, there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring Brick City!

The 15 Best to Do in Newark, NJ

1. Catch a Game at the Prudential Center

Best Things to do in Newark, New Jersey: Prudential Center

Years ago, New Jersey had several major sports teams. Nowadays, although teams like the New York Giants actually still play in New Jersey, the New Jersey Devils is the only team still bearing the New Jersey name. And the Prudential Center is where the Devils call home.

Located in the business district of Newark, this multi-purpose arena opened in 2007. Named for the financial institution Prudential Financial, it’s affectionately called “The Rock,” in reference to Prudential’s logo, the Rock of Gibraltar. In addition to hosting the Devils, one of the best teams in the National Hockey League, the Prudential Center is also where you’d go to watch the Seton Hall Pirates men’s basketball team.

The Prudential Center is not just for sports, however. You’ll also find everything from concerts to ice skating shows throughout the year at this arena. The Prudential Center is widely credited as being one of the major reasons for the revitalization of Newark as an entertainment hub, so if you’re planning a trip here, the Prudential Center offers a long list of fun things to do in Newark.


2. See a Show at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center

Unique Things to do in Newark, New Jersey: Performing Arts Center

The Prudential Center isn’t the only place you can go to see a show in Newark. Visiting the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, also known as NJPAC, is one of the coolest things to do in Newark if you love live performances. 

NJPAC is truly unique as it defines itself as a cultural institution. This non-profit arts organization welcomes diverse artists to lead public conversations through their performances.

Cool Things to do in Newark, New Jersey: New Jersey Performing Arts Center

This location actually boasts three theaters. The Prudential Hall, also known as the Betty Wold Johnson Stage, is the largest, with nearly 3,000 seats, a giant glass chandelier, and more classic theater elements. 

The Victoria Theater, also known as the Lizzie & Jonathan Tisch Stage, is smaller and made for performances of chamber music, jazz, and dance. In the Chase Room, you’ll find a space built for intimate gatherings, like small film screenings. 

NJPAC hosts several unique series and festivals throughout the year. In November, you can pay homage to the jazz greats with the TD James Moody Jazz Festival. October welcomes the largest poetry festival in North America, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, which features more than 120 poetry events over four days. 

If you’re a classical music lover, you’ll adore seeing the New Jersey Symphony, NJPAC’s resident orchestra. But no matter what you’d like to see – from comedy shows to ballet to live performances of podcasts – there’s something for everyone at NJPAC.


3. Make Your Own Art at the Newark Print Shop

Must do things in Newark, New Jersey: Newark Print Shop
Images courtesy of Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau

The ultimate goal of the Newark Print Shop is to promote the fine art of printmaking by providing a learning community with access to professional facilities. This non-profit shares one-of-a-kind exhibits throughout the year, but the Newark Print Shop is perhaps best known for its Print Club.

Each week, the Print Shop opens its doors to the Print Club, one of the most unique things to do in Newark. It allows amateur printers to learn more about how to make this art. You’ll reserve your spot online, upload your image, and then plan your appointment to bring your art to life. You’ll learn from professionals how to make these vibrant and beautiful prints!

Newark, New Jersey Bucket List: Newark Print Shop

The Newark Print Shop also offers homeschool classes throughout the year. With the P.R.I.S.M. Printmaking class, children ages five to 10 will learn all about the different arts of printmaking, including monoprinting, relief printing, intaglio, and screenprinting. 

Your child will learn to experiment with color and expression from two professional artists. With the Y.E.S. Program, kids ages 10 to 14 will explore the entrepreneurship side of printmaking, learning empowerment through the business of art!


4. Explore the Newark Museum of Art

Best Things to do in Newark, New Jersey: Newark Museum of Art
Images courtesy of Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Newark Museum of Art is an exploration of how art displays the diversity of cultures around the world and throughout time. This colorful location boasts several buildings and outdoor spaces to explore. In the Main Building, you’ll find the special exhibitions galleries, which always have new immersive experiences to explore, filled with hands-on activities to study art, nature, culture, and more.

In the Garden, you’ll find the Fire Museum, dedicated to the heroism of the city’s firefighters, and the Old Stone School House, the oldest standing school building in Newark. You’ll also find unique sculptures built among lush foliage.

The North Wing contains rotating exhibits, as well as permanent installations exploring contemporary art, America through the centuries, Asian art, and Tibetan Buddhism. The South Wing is where you’ll discover the Alice and Leonard Dreyfuss Planetarium, with showings filled with planetary exploration every Saturday. The South Wing is where most events are held, including Family Saturdays, where the museum provides a full day of fun activities for the whole family.

The last building is the Ballantine House, a brick and limestone mansion built in 1885 for the Ballantine family, who were celebrated Newark beer brewers. Now a part of the museum, it holds the Ballantine House Galleries, which include works from the museum’s global art collections.


5. Attend an Event at the Newark Moonlight Cinema

Fun Things to do in Newark, New Jersey: Newark Moonlight Cinema

In 2020, filmmaker Ayana Stafford-Morris and real estate developer Siree Morris saw an opportunity amid the COVID-19 pandemic to create a space to highlight the Black community around them and in Hollywood. They started the Newark Moonlight Cinema, a drive-in movie theater that set out to highlight Black filmmakers, actors, and actresses while also building a place where their community could gather together in safety.

When 2022 arrived, many people asked the owners if they intended to open up again for shows. However, Stafford-Morris and Morris decided it was time for their mission to continue in a different way. Now, the Newark Moonlight Cinema holds seasonal events. Despite this location no longer being a drive-in, it’s worth keeping an eye on them to see what they create next.

Newark, New Jersey Bucket List: Newark Moonlight Cinema

In the winter of 2022, the Newark Moonlight Cinema was transformed into a winter wonderland with Dasher’s Lightshow. Illuminated with dancing lights, this space became a drive-through light show. 

You could take a photo with Santa before heading out in your vehicle to watch the night sky light up while listening to Christmas carols. It was a truly magical place, and it just goes to show that Stafford-Morris and Morris have a lot more planned for the Newark Moonlight Cinema in the future!


6. Listen to Live Music at the Newark Symphony Hall

Best Things to do in Newark, New Jersey: Newark Symphony Hall
Image courtesy of Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau

Built in 1925, the Newark Symphony Hall is a performing arts center that’s been a part of the National Register of Historic Places since 1977. This magnificent neoclassical building is a center for community enrichment. Born as the Salaam Temple, which became known as “The Mosque,” it quickly became the center of Newark’s live entertainment scene. 

During the Great Depression, the Salaam Temple survived as the Griffith Music Foundation took over and turned it into a place where artists of all kinds wanted to add it as a stop on their tours. The New York Philharmonic, Placido Domingo, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, and Judy Garland are just some of the famous names who have graced the stage at the Newark Symphony Hall. 

Stepping inside this hall is like stepping back in time and becoming a part of history. Today, you’ll continue to find famous names at this theater, as well as educational outreach programs inspiring the youth of Newark.


7. Admire the Cherry Blossoms in Branch Brook Park

Newark, New Jersey Things to do: Branch Brook Park

Listed on both the New Jersey and the National Registers of Historic Places, Branch Brook Park was originally an Army training ground during the Civil War. It’s since become a 360-acre urban escape filled with lush greenery. 

In the Music Court sections, you’ll find the park’s mascots, the iconic Prudential Lions, which have stood in front of the lake for more than 50 years. You’ll also discover an education center in this charming area of the park, too. 

In the middle of the park is the Lenape Walking Trail, which is a two-mile loop with exercise stations that include directions on how to do each movement safely. In the Children’s Garden area, there’s half an acre of plant beds and planting, giving children an outdoor classroom to learn about nature and gardening.

But the best time to go to Branch Brook Park and what makes it one of the most unique things to do in Newark is its collection of cherry blossom trees. Having over 5,000 in more than 18 different varieties, this park boasts the most extensive collection in the United States!

The best time to see the cherry blossoms is in April during the park’s Cherry Blossom Festival, when the trees are in bloom. The festival also includes the Cherry Blossom 10K Run and the Cherry Blossom Bike Race.


8. Journey Through Time at the New Jersey Historical Society

Located in the former headquarters of the Essex Club, the New Jersey Historical Society is a museum and lecture hall dedicated to New Jersey’s unique culture and history. The museum features rotating exhibits that dive into New Jersey during important points in history, celebrate New Jersey’s nature, and discuss the lives of significant figures in New Jersey’s past. 

You’ll also find a one-of-a-kind artifact collection, which the Historical Society began preserving back in 1845. The collections in this museum are incredibly diverse, from teapots made by early American silversmiths to paintings of the former Great Falls of the Passaic to military uniforms from the War of 1812. 

Visiting this museum is one of the best things to do in Newark for any history lover. For those looking to dive even further into history, the museum also has archives filled with over 1,700 manuscript groups, including diaries, letters, and architectural drawings, as well as the original charter from King Charles II deeding the lands that would become New Jersey. 


9. Marvel at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Best Things to do in Newark, New Jersey: Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Another spot that’s a must on your Newark bucket list if you’re a history lover is the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the fifth-largest cathedral in North America. It’s the current seat of the Archdiocese of Newark, and this French Gothic Revival church is truly an architectural masterpiece. 

Construction of this massive monument began in 1898, but it wasn’t until 1954 that it was completed and received a dedication by Archbishop Thomas A. Boland. Built next to Branch Brook Park, it was constructed upon the highest peak in Newark and covered 45,000 square feet. It’s equal in size to London’s Westminster Abbey and taller than St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. 

All are welcome at this location, but perhaps the best time to visit is during the Cathedral Basilica Concert Series, which begins every September and includes nine full-length concerts featuring world-class artists. 

If you’re looking for free things to do in Newark, these concerts are totally free to attend. Or you can go to the half-hour recitals on Wednesdays at noon, which are followed by an optional tour.


10. Visit the Grammy Museum Experience

Cool Things to do in Newark, New Jersey: Grammy Museum Experience
Images courtesy of Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau

Located at the Prudential Center is the Grammy Museum Experience, an inside look at the Recording Academy and one of the most unique things to do in Newark. The museum includes rotating featured exhibits, like “Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles!” 

This exhibit takes you back to the early ‘60s, during the years when Beatlemania was at its highest in America. It shows off Beatles-related pop culture artifacts, including letters, instruments, posters, photographs, and more interactive displays. From Paul McCartney’s original lyric sheets to handwritten setlists for former concerts, you’ll see things here you can’t see anywhere else. 

The museum also hosts events tied to the featured exhibit, like conversations with Beatles historians. The museum is open from Thursday to Sunday, so if you have a game or show you’re going to see at the Prudential Center, grab your tickets to the museum and head to the arena early to spend an afternoon here.


11. Take a Mural Walking Tour

Best Things to do in Newark, New Jersey: Mural, Walking Tour

There are hundreds of murals and art installations around Newark to marvel at. Off of Orange Street and University Ave alone, you’ll find the floral Oldest Memories, the vibrant Norkaleidoscope, and the pops of color of the Cosmic Microwave Background. Or you can head closer to Broad Street to see the stained glass-like Guardian of the City, the Underground Railroad quilt on A Path to Freedom, and the inclusive Migration Is the American Way

Many of the murals you’ll find in Newark pay homage to the history and culture of the area. So taking a mural walking tour is a bit like exploring both a history museum and an art museum, and it’s one of the best Newark activities for any arts and culture lover. 

Newark Arts put together a Public Art Map to help you take this self-guided tour yourself. You’ll most likely not be able to see all of the murals on your trip to Newark, but going on this one-of-a-kind Newark sightseeing tour will allow you to get a greater feel for the culture of this unique city.


12. Play at the American Dream

Cool Things to do in Newark, New Jersey: Nickelodeon Universe American Dream

Located in nearby East Rutherford, the American Dream is one of the coolest things to do in Newark if you’re traveling with kids. What exactly is the American Dream? A mall? An amusement park? It’s a little bit of both and so much more! 

At the Avenue, you’ll go shopping at stores filled with high-end brands. But there’s a lot more to do here than go shopping. At Nickelodeon Universe, the biggest indoor theme park in the Western Hemisphere, you can climb to the Shrine of the Silver Monkey on the Legends of the Hidden Temple Ropes Course, soar like an Airbender on Aang’s Air Gliders, and help the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the Shredder, the world’s tallest and longest free-spinning coaster. 

Then, head to DreamWorks Water Park, the largest indoor water park in North America, filled with water coasters themed to beloved DreamWorks productions like Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda. Keep the fun going in two mini-golf courses, Angry Birds Mini Golf and Blacklight Mini Golf, or get lost in the Mirror Maze.

Over at Big Snow, North America’s first and only indoor, real-snow, year-round ski resort, you can play in the snow, take on the slopes, or learn to ski and snowboard. For more winter-themed, year-round fun, you can skate at the Rink, an NHL regulation-sized ice skating rink. More into summer fun? You can learn to surf at the American Dream’s indoor freshwater wave pool!

Little ones will love the LEGOLAND Discovery Center, where they can meet LEGO characters, ride on the Imagination Express, and explore Miniland, a recreation of New York City and New Jersey from over 1.5 million bricks. 

At Sea Life, you’ll discover thousands of sea creatures living inside NYC-themed exhibits. The TiLT Museum brings murals to life in a 3D street chalk museum. Finish your day off on the Dream Wheel, a massive Ferris wheel that will give you a breathtaking view of NYC.


13. Eat in the ‘Diner Capital of the World’

Unique Things to do in Newark, New Jersey: Eat Your Way Through the Diner Capital of the World

By the 1970s, fast-food places had all but replaced diners in the United States, but that’s not the case in New Jersey. The state is known as the “Diner Capital of the World,” with over 500 diners throughout New Jersey. If you’re visiting New Jersey, you should take in the diner culture of the Garden State.

Over in East Newark sits a true staple of both Newark and New Jersey in general. Tops Diner has been serving up American classics since 1942. Open every day from 8 am to 11 pm, this diner boasts a massive menu, so you’ll find something that will suit even the pickiest of palates.

In downtown Newark, you’ll find the Deluxe Diner, serving diner specialties since 1969. This family-owned diner is great all day, but it’s especially known for its breakfast. Treat yourself to the shrimp and grits or the corned beef hash and egg platter.


14. See the Animals at the Turtle Back Zoo

Fun Things to do in Newark, New Jersey: Turtle Back Zoo

In nearby West Orange, you’ll find the very best zoo in New Jersey, the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo. Here you’ll find 20 exhibits with over 30 different species. Learn how the zoo is working to save an endangered species at the Sea Turtle Recovery exhibit, hop on a pony ride at the Essex Farm exhibit, and meet the endangered African penguins at the Shores of Africa exhibit.

If you’re up for a challenge, take a journey through the trees on the TreeTop Adventure Course. Or if you’re visiting with little ones, they’ll love to climb aboard a trip through time in the Prehistoric Playground or ride along the Endangered Species Carousel. For a relaxing trip around the zoo, hop on the Zoo Train, which gives you a beautiful tour of the South Mountain Reservation. 

Newark, New Jersey Bucket List: Turtle Back Zoo

To keep the fun going, play a round of 19 holes on the award-winning Essex County Safari MiniGolf course or rent a swan-shaped paddleboat to get out on the water. The zoo also boasts two restaurants, as well as a yearly food and drink festival, Turtle Back on Tap.

If you’re visiting during the holiday season, be sure to stop by for the Holiday Lights Spectacular, a free event featuring over 50 illuminated winter and animal characters. Take your little one to meet Santa, popular princesses, or the not-so-jolly Grinch. Or sit back and watch ice sculpting demonstrations. Each weekend of the holiday season brings something different, so be sure to check the calendar before you go.


15. See the NYC Skyline from Eagle Rock Reservation

Also in West Orange is Eagle Rock Reservation, a 408-acre park along the Watchung Mountains that offers one of the best views of the Manhattan skyline. One of the best Newark attractions, the park contains a segment of the 36-mile Lenape Trail, which connects 18 parks and 11 municipalities in Essex County, New Jersey.

If you’re ready for a two-hour, four-mile hike, tackling this trail is one of the most unique things to do in Newark. From the parking area, head toward the 9/11 Memorial, which is located at a panoramic viewpoint that offers a beautiful look at the New York City skyline, including where the World Trade Center once stood. 

Then, head north toward the Highlawn Pavilion and beyond the awning toward the Lenape Trail. The yellow-blazed Lenape Trail runs parallel to Crest Drive and follows a wide path along the side of a hill. 

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Newark. What’s your favorite thing to do in Newark?


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Author

  • Jacqueline Gualtieri

    Jacqueline is a writer and editor pursuing the freelance life to explore the world. Born and raised in New Jersey, she spent her college years in Boston before settling down with her partner and puppy in Monterey, California.

    When she’s not writing, you can often find her planning her next trip. Road trips are her favorite, whether it’s driving across the country or simply exploring a new city in her own backyard. She loves uncovering the history of every new place she goes.

    Jacqueline has a restless passion for learning and makes it a goal to pick up a new skill every year. She’s picked up embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and cross-stitching, but she’s hoping to master more languages to help her in her travels. She’s also a published author, with short stories and poetry appearing in several anthologies.

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