Right off I-80 and just north west of New York City is Paterson, New Jersey. Jersey? Yeah, Jersey! You might have heard of Paterson in poems by William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg, or you might have heard mention of it on “The Sopranos.” Despite its proximity to the Big Apple, Paterson isn’t just a bedroom community full of weary commuters — it’s a city with its own unique flavor and its own array of places to go and things to do. To outsiders, New Jersey might be a tangle of highways (when someone says they’re from New Jersey, the jokester reply is typically, “What exit?”), but there’s a surprising amount of arts, culture, history, and outdoor fun. They don’t call it the Garden State for nothing, you know. When you’re rolling through Paterson, check out these stops.
Popular Tourist Attractions
Lambert Castle Museum
This 1892 structure is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s easy to see why. Currently a museum and library run by the Passaic County Historical Society, Lambert Castle is a stunning example of Medieval Revival architecture. The castle has been completely restored, and there are also many historical artifacts on display as part of rotating exhibits. It’s open Wednesdays through Sundays from 1:00pm to 4:00pm, and admission is five dollars for adults, less for seniors and children.
With fascinating exhibits detailing the region’s rich history, the Paterson Museum is a great place to spend an afternoon with the family. Displays include engines and vehicles made in the area, Paterson Colt firearms, a replica of a local textile manufacturer’s shop, a submarine, and much more. Plus, it’s not overwhelming, unlike a lot of big city history museums. The museum is open daily except Mondays, and admission is just two dollars for adults.
Great Falls National Historical Park
Smaller, less developed, and just as lovely as Niagara Falls, The Great Falls of the Passaic River and its surrounding national park features one of the largest waterfalls in the country. A statue of Alexander Hamilton watches over the site, and guests can marvel at the splendor of the cascading water. There are beautiful spots to check out throughout the park, so don’t forget your camera!
Campgrounds and State/National Parks
Mahlon Dickerson Reservation
Just west of Paterson in Lake Hopatcong is this amazing county park with lush greenery, over 20 miles of trails, and several high points for great views. There are 18 paved RV sites with electric and water hookups, and picnic tables and charcoal grills are widely available. Nearby, there are fields for kicking or tossing a ball around. If sleeping in the wilderness leaves you feeling at peace and refreshed, this is the campground for you.
Panther Lake Camping Resort
This campground is also west of Paterson in Byram Township, and it’s 160 acres of peace and quiet. The 45-acre lake on site is perfect for swimming, boating, or fishing. There’s also a pool, mini golf, playground, courts for all sorts of games, a camp store, and more. Full hookups — and cable TV! — are available.
The Great Divide Campground
This one is a bit more out of the way than the others (about 40 miles west of Paterson), but you may find it worth the trip. The Great Divide Campground is a huge, full-service camper’s paradise. There are 270 campsites, many with full hookups, plus restrooms, showers, and laundry available to guests. Amenities include a private lake (paddle boats are available), an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a playground, a game room, and a full schedule of activities.
Paterson Falls Film Festival
Cinephiles will want to check out the Paterson Falls Film Festival in September. Over the course of two days, more than 40 films are screened, featuring the best regional filmmaking talent. Or, if you’re a filmmaker, check their website for submission information — you could win prize money for your efforts!
The Lincoln Park Music Festival
Held every July in Newark, the Lincoln Park Music Festival is a three-day celebration of jazz, gospel, house, and hip hop music. There are kids activities, and the whole event is family friendly. Come and get your groove on.
Paterson, New Jersey may technically be a suburb of New York City, but it’s a worthwhile city in and of itself. Rich in history and full of natural wonders, Paterson is more than another exit on New Jersey’s many highways.