This has been a long time coming. I have lived in NJ for more than half of my life, and to my shame have never visited Cape May. Until this last summer. We ripped off the band aid and rented an Airbnb.
First, where we stayed was outside of town, a short walk from the beach that is actually the Delaware Riverm delta. The place we stayed at was lovely. Here is what I would do differently next time: rent downtown Cape May. It just works better for our family, to be able to go and meander somewhere after the sun has set. While it was less expensive to rent in North Cape May, we did feel rather trapped at home when we got there after our adventures.
Mistake number two was that I had a cranky 15 year old with me, and he did not have any of his friends around, which made him even crankier. We lured him there with a promise of food and parasailing.
I also had a list of things that I wanted to do, and given that we were there for two nights, and just one full day, that list was jam packed. I realize that two nights are not enough. There were things on my list that we did not have time for. Cape May zoo and Cape May Bird Observatory were two places we did not have time to visit. On our long way down from Central Jersey, we wanted to stop at Barnegat Lighthouse and Lucy The Elephant. Unfortunately, they were under construction. Another thing to add to my next visit! We did stop by LBI, and went in for ice cream at the Skipper Dipper. Trying new ice cream places across NJ is my jam, and one day I will write a list of the best ones.
The first thing we did when we got to Cape May was eat out at the Blue Pig Tavern. It was worth it. The food was delicious, and the outdoor seating lovely. After, we enjoyed a nice walk through the downtown, and a walk on the beach.
Of course we got some ice cream before the night was done. Of course, we walked down to the beach front, to Fine Fellows Creamery. It was even better because we could cross the street and chill on the beach while eating ice cream.
We went for an early morning hike at Cape May Point State Park, visited the beach there, explored the bunker, and then climbed to the top of the lighthouse. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning.
After that we headed to parasail. I made reservations with Atlantic Parasail. I can’t recommend them enough. First, I had to reschedule due to weather and due to our own schedule issues a gazillion times. They were always accommodating, understanding and kind, and not once did they make me feel like the crazy, type A, overplanning person that I actually am. Secondly, once we made it there, everything was so much fun. I don’t love heights, but I love going fast. The boat ride was awesome, and while I was terrified to go up, once I did, it was amazing. They were thorough, knowledgeable and chill. If I were to recommend you do one thing there, this is it! Do it! You can check them out on their website.
We spent the afternoon eating lunch, walking around the downtown Cape May, enjoying the architecture, the cute little shops, and some delicious ice cream, and the beach, of course. In the evening, we went to Sunset beach where we got to have a magical moment – watching the sunset over the shipwreck (those that don’t know me, I have a thing for shipwrecks), with dolphins bouncing all around, and delicious fries.
After the sun has set we headed to Wildwood for the rest of the evening. It is not really my kind of thing, but it sure was pretty there, and it just felt like it is somewhere we should visit.
Finally, on our way back home we made a stop at Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, and had a nice time exploring the grounds around it.
All in all, I really enjoyed Cape May. It had a very relaxed vacation vibe, and I would definitely do it again.
We went to Allaire State Park a few years back, in the winter of 2021, because we just needed to get the heck out of the house and get some fresh air. It was quite a bit of a drive from our house.
What we found while hiking was a magical grove of trees, filled with magical beasts: Robinwood Dinosaurs. Everyone was amazed. There were happy little kids bouncing from dino to dino, exploring, and giggling. There were those of us who look like adults, but really are still kids inside, gaping happily.
It is one of those NJ spots that I was not going to write about. Mostly to keep it a secret and prevent crowds. When I heard that someone destroyed the Robinwood Dinosaurs, I was heartbroken. Currently, the artist, Robin Ruggiero says she does not intend to rebuild the sculptures. You can read more about it here.
Now what we have left are memories and photos.
Allaire State Park has many other great features to explore, however. If you go, there is a maze of biking trails.
An old railroad to explore.
Complete with a historic village and ample walking/hiking trails:
This August, I piled some teens into my car and took a drive down to Happy Day Farm. I really just wanted to see some flowers. We parked in a nice, open field and went to the admissions window. It is a nice walk to the admissions. Oh! An important thing to remember! They are cash only.
The reason I wanted to go there is for my weekly nature fix. Normally, I enjoy a hike or an evening on the beach, but I figured let’s do something different. What I enjoyed about the farm is the diverse fields they have there: corn, lavender, zinnias, sunflowers, blueberries, raspberries and fruit trees were all around us.
The admission price was $10 to pick the zinnias, and $15 to pick the sunflowers. I completely understand why the farm needs to charge an admission. People just show up to take photos and don’t pick any flowers constantly. In fact, there were a lot people there whose intention was to take beautiful photographs. We wound up just paying to pick the zinnias. Which were absolutely gorgeous and lasted a very long time. When I say a long time, I mean about 2 weeks. That is unheard of when you buy them in a store!
We lounged for a bit by the lavender field, and watched the dragonflies. We were too late for the lavender season, you can check their website to see what’s in season.
Because the sunflower fields are quite a distance away, most people ride on the hay wagon to get to them.
On the way to the zinnia field we saw a well maintained blueberry field stretching in both directions. Of course, the zinnia fields were beautiful, and we enjoyed spending about 20 minutes picking the flowers. There are cute little props throughout the fields: doors, this little beetle, swings. Makes for fun photos.
Since we didn’t pay admission to the sunflower field, we couldn’t go in. We walked past them on the way to the car, and they are indeed very beautiful. Also, sprawling across quite an area. Happy Day Farm is a beautiful spot, and if my teens were into the idea of meandering through the sunflower field, I would absolutely pay the admission fee for us to go in. They, however, enjoyed seeing the fields while driving past them.
I am still reluctant to call it a vacation. Our road trip from NJ To Florida and Tennessee was definitely a road trip, an adventure. In March 2021, we peeled off the bend aid, packed the car, and left NJ for a road trip down to Florida and Tennessee on the way back to NJ. I am writing it here not just to share, but also to remember all the fun things we did, and do it again one day. I won’t lie, I was anxious to travel after what everyone went through in 2020. Things were still fairly shut down. Crowds made me nervous before the shut down, and, as you can probably imagine, that did not improve after. However, we traveled by car, largely cooked our meals in the condo, and spend 99 percent of our time outdoors.
We also contemplated camping. For about a second. It would cost only a fraction of the price, and we are not unfamiliar with it. In fact, some of us prefer it. However, since we went while college was in session, wifi was a requirement. So we rented a space that had a kitchen and a condo. As you are reading this, remember, at this point, we are traveling with adults and teens. No more little ones.
But let me begin in the beginning.
Drive from NJ to Florida.
Sometimes I wonder if we are all nuts around here. This was certainly one of those moments. We have three drivers right now. To make a 24 hour or so drive down to Florida we decided to go overnight. After a full day of work for all of the adult people here, we packed our car, and left at about 7 pm. We rotated drivers, and at any time always had 2 people awake in the car. It was still absolutely exhausting. We drove through the night, the first 12 hours. I got the graveyard shift, which I found to be rather pleasant.
At about 3 am we pulled into South of The Border for a bathroom break. It is not my cup of tea, but it did look very interesting and different in the middle of the night. We made no stops other than to use the bathroom and refill the car.
At 7 am we pulled into Savannah.
Savannah is a beautiful city. It is not without it’s issues, like any other city. For example, I love NYC, but I know there are some issues that run really deep there. Savannah is not very different in that. However, it is beautiful. It is so incredibly beautiful. I would love to spend a few days there on my way up or down next go around.
As you probably know, for us it often comes down to food. Naturally, the first thing we did was breakfast. It was 7 am, and a quick search online led us to Two Cracked Eggs. They were open at an unreasonable hour, and the food was delicious. I tried grits for the first time.
After breakfast we took a walk along the river:
Then drove off to see the Forsyth park. I would have liked to do more in Savannah, but we did need to hit the road, and I was not leaving without seeing the Forsyth park. So we settled on a few hours of walking around the park. I have a thing for places that I have seen in photos, books, magazines, calendars and movies. It is a lot like meeting a celebrity (something I don’t care much about when it comes to humans), except it is a place. I had the same exact feeling seeing the Portland Head Light or climbing to the top of the Empire State.
Forsyth park was gorgeous. The old trees, the Spanish moss, azaleas, history, the fountains. It all came together in a magical way. We took a stroll all around the park, and some of the side streets. While in the park, we met an awesome artist working, and got some of her prints and stickers. Check her out here.
University of Florida
Sadly, it was time to leave Savannah, and face the fact that we had about 8 hours more to drive. At this point, the two days blended together. I hear not sleeping will do that to you. We broke the drive up by stopping at about half way point in the University of Florida in Gainesville. We were there to enjoy their Butterfly Rainforest. They also have an impressive art museum, but due to the time constrains, we had to be picky, and the bugs won. My husband decided to spend the time napping under a tree, while the kids and I went inside the museum. The museum was a lovely place to stop, stretch our legs and spend a few hours. There was a lot to see and explore. From fossils to butterflies.
The final 4 hours of our journey flew by quickly.
Sanibel was our final destination, and finally we made it. At night, in the dark. Upon a recommendation from a friend we booked Sanibel Moorings. Sanibel Moorings are a lovely condo development, which also happens to house the official Botanical Gardens of Sanibel (which is closer to a really beautiful and labeled grounds of the condominium than an actual garden, however, exceptionally beautiful nonetheless). Our rooms were efficient, clean, and comfortable. There was a kitchen, a bathroom, a pool, tennis courts, and a laundromat. What else can a girl want? Oh, yes, beach access, and a balcony. Those were most definitely there. The cost was manageable, especially when compared to some of the other places. I would stay there again in a heartbeat.
Sanibel, Day 1
After a full nights sleep, we were ready to take on the world again. First thing we did was take a drive down to Billy’s Bike Shop, and rented 4 bikes. Billy’s delivered the bikes to where we were staying. It was inexpensive and a minimum effort, as they also picked them up the day we were leaving. Coming from Jersey, my first question was, what happens if someone takes the bikes, and the answer was, ‘It doesn’t really happen here, and if they do, we will find the bike, eventually, somewhere on the island.’ I like that.
Then we drove down to the Bailey’s general store to get some donuts and key lime pie for breakfast, and post cards to send to kid’s friends (which we wound up driving back home. Oops). The key lime pie was delicious.
A friend recommended we go to visit J.N. Ding Darling preserve. We overshot our ability to bike on unfamiliar bikes. It was still a ton of fun. Biking to the preserve entrance was fine. Inside the preserve, we decided to bike the longer loop. Except it took hours, because we would stop every two seconds for a bird, an animal, an insect or plant. The volunteers in the preserve were amazing. They were fun to talk to, they had a lot of information, they were from all over the US. It really made my day to meet all the folks in the preserve and talk to them about nature. Biking back is where the tough part began. We were tired, hungry, thirsty, and biking uphill. We all lived though, so there is that.
On the way back we got super hungry. Luckily, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. When we rode up to the preserve we passed The Island Cow, grabbed a menu, and were pretty excited to give it a try. It had a lovely vibe, great seats outdoors, and delicious food. Our first time trying alligator meat (kinda like turkey). In fact, we enjoyed it so much after the intense bike ride that we came back there again.
After dinner, we drove over and enjoyed a lovely beach sunset on Bowman’s Beach (don’t forget to pay for parking!). This was actually my favorite part of staying on Sanibel. Bowman’s Beach is wonderful. We spent almost every evening there. You could see a great sunrise from where we were staying, but sunset was at Bowman’s Beach. In fact, we went to Bowman’s Beach every night that we were staying at Sanibel.
After the sun has set, we set out to find an ice cream shop. Sanibel’s Best Homemade Ice Cream was delicious.
Sanibel, Day 2
I would be wrong to say that we spent our second day on Sanibel. No, instead we drove two hours away to visit the Everglades National Park. I reserved bikes for us ahead of time, and boy, was I glad I did. After a leisurely two hour drive, we got to the Shark Valley entrance. We were supposed to pick our bikes up before noon. We picked them up at 11:45. This is the website that I got our rentals from.I also reserved a boat tour for 4 pm. I thought we would have a lot of time in between the bike ride and the boat tour. We didn’t have any time at all. In fact, we had to bike quite fast, considering how many times we stopped to look at a flower, or a bird, or an alligator.
The bike ride through the Everglades was marvelous. It was 15 miles, and with so much to see along the way. Florida sun is not the most forgiving, so make sure to slather lots of sunscreen on! We saw so many amazing birds, plants, and creatures. We got to climb the observation tower. It was really more than I could ever imagine, and so different from what I am used to!
We had just enough time to finish our bike ride, hop in the car and drive over to Everglade City for the boat tour. It worked out fine, but next time around I would prefer not to get there 15 minutes before the deadline, and start our day sooner.
The boat ride was delightful. The captain was knowledgeable. We got to see the Everglades from the water. There were dolphins playing with the white water from the boat along our ride. We saw more birds. Everyone relaxed under the boat’s awning. We all needed a minute to sit and chill after a combined 40 mile bike ride in the past two days.
Finally, we made it home, and for dinner at The Island Cow again. What can I say, we liked it there. Then back to Bowman’s Beach for another glorious sunset.
Sanibel, Day 3
This was our last full day on this beautiful island. It was a down day. We watched the sunrise, swam in the pool, did laundry, ate delicious food. I had a list of things I wanted to do before we left. First we rode our bikes to the lighthouse, and spent some time exploring it, and the beach around it.
Then we rode through the town, did some souvenir shopping at the few stores that line Periwinkle Way. We also went on a search of a piano, as one of my people stayed away from an instrument for far too long (apparently 5 days is a maximum). My favorite shop was Gene’s Books, and Gene’s Books Too is where we found the piano. We also spent a lot in the book store. Everyone found something they wanted to read, or give someone something to read, read in the car, and back in NJ. Gene’s Books had something for everyone. Botany, bird identification books, books on stars, a section on Norse Mythology, a collection of jazz CDs, a book written about Sanibel by a local. There was something (or several somethings) for everyone.
At the end of the day, we took a drive to Captiva, and wanted to try the Bubble Room. The dinner reservations had too long of a wait, so we had some cake in the little desert shack next door. Then back to Bowman’s beach to watch another gorgeous sunset.
Day 5: Travel day
Nothing like waking up at 5 am, and driving for 12 hours to Tennessee. I have to be hones, it wasn’t so bad. I also have to admit, I wasn’t quite prepared with anything fun. All we did is pack every snack we could in a bag we could access, and we drove through until we reached Pigeon Forge. We were starving and wound up
The burgers were delicious. We were exhausted. The drive to the cabin we rented was fun at night, up a windy road. Usually, I don’t bother with mentioning where we stay, but this place was accommodating, and quite lovely. The year before, we were supposed to go down there, but then Covid happened, and they were super nice about cancelling. There were real people on the phone, and it was just really easy to deal with them throughout. Even in the dark we could see the awesome views. A thunderstorm started when we arrived, and our cabin happened to have awesome views, and we got to watch a storm unfold over an open horizon. A great end to a long drive.
Great Smokey Mountains, Day 6
On this day there was nothing but rain all day. What I discovered about that area of TN is that the mountains and the roads are all jumbled together. If you want to go someplace, you better make sure you stop at every place you plan to stop at, and don’t come back to your temporary home until you are done. There are no quick rides to the store, or to the park. To just come down from where we were staying would take 15 minutes. So we planned accordingly. Considering the rain, we decided to drive through the Great Smokey Mountain National Park and stop along the way for a bit of sightseeing, and then see where the rest of the day takes us.
There is a scenic loop for seeing the park in the car, however, due to rain, and flooding it was closed. We drove all the way to the loop through the park, and that provided some incredible views. In a few spots we were actually able to pull over and explore. The park is gorgeous. The air is wonderful. It TASTES good (I know it’s an odd thing to say, but it’s true).
Afterwards, we drove to the Smokey Mountains Knife Works. If Costco, Ikea, and a knife museum had a baby, I imagine that’s what it would look like. It was a wonderland! Seriously. And I only use knives to make sandwiches. There was so much stuff happening. Sculptures, singing animals, dishes, toys, butterflies, rocks, historical stuff, did I mention the singing animals? And of course, knives. Thousands of different knives. It was a fun rainy day activity.
After, we headed to cook whatever food we had with us from NJ and FL, watch the sunset, and enjoy the got tub.
Great Smokey Mountains, Day 7
This was the last full day that we were spending in TN, and the weather was gorgeous. Of course we wanted to go hiking. The night before, I spent some time looking for a hiking trial. Here is what I wanted: a moderate trail, that is not crowded, has some water along the way, around 5 miles, and is known for wildflowers.
We ended up on the Little River Trail. It was perfect, and had everything we wanted. The amount of wildflowers we saw was unprecedented. There were hardly anyone on the trail besides us. 5 miles does not take most of the day, but we spent most of the day there. We explored every nook and cranny, found and identified plants, hopped over, crossed and fell into refreshingly cold rivers, stopped to catch our breath and relax, hopped along the rocks up a waterfall or two. It was a wonderful hike!
After the hike, we went to The Apple Valley Creamery for some delicious apple ice cream, and some cakes for the ride home the next day.
Final sunset in Tennessee:
Day 8: Shenandoah National Park
Our driving day! It was time to go home, everyone was ready to get back. On our drive home we drove through the Skyline Drive, and stopped for a hike at Shenandoah National Park.
There isn’t much I can say about the Skyline Drive, other than it was beautiful, and we wanted to stop at every single observation area.
We chose to hike the Blackrock Summit Trail because it was easy, short, simple, and had great views. It was all those things and more. At the end of the trail, there is a fun pile of rocks to climb.
After this hike, it was only about 4 hours home, so we were back for dinner!
Our visit to The Waterloo Village was one of those in-the-middle-of-the-pandemic-most-things-are-still-closed field trips. The world was still recovering from the shock that Covid-19 brought to our lives. Most things were open for outdoor only, no gatherings, 6 feet apart activities. We headed over to The Waterloo Village because it was a place we have never explored before, it looked quiet, and pretty. We really just wanted to spend a day exploring something new, and not sitting at home.
The Waterloo Village was just what we needed. It was quiet, beautiful, with historical buildings scattered over winding paths. There was a lake, a dam, bridges, flowers. birds and trees to look out for. Once again, we were there with two teens, and they enjoyed themselves. We (boys included) made flower crowns, hiked, found remnants of a tow bridge, skipped rocks, found different species of birds and plants. We never found the recreation of the Native American village, however, so next time we’ll just have to look harder.
Currently, the village is an open air historical museum and is part of the Allamuchy Mountain State Park. It does have a history, and as with any such spots, it is always good to read about the history before going.
After we had our fill walking around the Waterloo Village, we drove off to visit High Point. On the way, we picked up a cup of coffee and lunch from the Holland American Bakery, which is always delicious.
Deep Cut Gardens is one of those great gems in the state of New Jersey. Located in Middletown NJ it is a fun spot to explore. First of all, it is free to visit. They offer some great programs for the public, especially for the gardeners out there. I especially am amazed by the seed exchange program. What a great idea! I, personally, love that they have a website where they list many species of plants that grow in the garden. You can see everything that is happening, as well as information for your visit here.
What I liked best about this spot is how much it had going on in a relatively small space. It was beautiful and clearly so well loved. The garden is also very accessible. There was about an hour and a half worth of walking about. The walks were easily accessible and can be done with the smallest of kids. Some of the spots are downright magical.
My friend and I were there with our two teens, and they enjoyed themselves. They liked the bonsai tree collection, and the cacti room; the thing they loved the most was the koi fish. In fact that’s where we spent the most time.
After the garden we headed down to Sandy Hook for some beach time.
The garden is free to explore. My advice is before you go, read up on the history of the garden. At some point it belonged to Vito Genovese, and has a cool and long history. Not unlike Duke Farms.
The summer is here, and it is the perfect time to think about where you would like to take your family. In the past I have created a list of Free and Inexpensive Places To Visit In and Around NJ, now here is 5 awesome field trips you can take in our great state. These are not free, and many places require admission. I grouped them by the area, and mostly these are in NJ (with maybe one where you have the option to step across the border to PA), and you will also find recommendations for food, as well as additional things to do. These amazing NJ daytrips are personal favorites, they are beautiful, with lots to explore, and generally avoids crowds, and absolutely worth the drive. Of course, there are many more places around here, and I will mention a few at the end!
Ok, maybe I am cheating a little. While Lambertville is a New Jersey town, New Hope, right across the bridge, is PA. I have written extensively on where to go and what to see there, however, here is a more fine tuned list. What to do: If you have little ones, go visit Howell Living Historical Farm. It is about a 5-10 minute drive south of Lambertville downtown, and is always an amazing time. Another thing you will find near Lambertville is the Golden Nugget Flea Market. It is on only on Wednesdays or weekends, and is at it’s best on Sunday. It is a fun way to spend a few hours, and perhaps a few dollars. Mostly, I like it because you find all sorts of weird things, and meet some really fun people. Like the time we met the guys that started the Weird NJ magazine, Mark and Mark. Downtown Lambertville is fun to explore. I especially like taking a leisurely walk up N Union Street. Cross over the bridge to New Hope, PA. Lots of quaint little shops and restaurants.
Where to eat: Our favorite spot to eat is The Landing Restaurant, best in the summer, when you can sit outside right over the Delaware river. For desert we go to Nina’s Waffles for delicious waffles and ice cream. If hiking or biking is your thing, then you should definitely go for a hike along the canal, if you head South on the Lambertville side, you will come to an abandoned train cart, which is most definitely interesting.
One of my favorite spots in all of NJ is Sandy Hook. We like to come at least once a week. Sometimes we bring our bike and bike the length of the park (roughly 14 miles). Sometimes we come for the beach, and later to watch the sunset. Once or twice we have been there for the lighthouse tour. We have also before come to canoe the bayside at a very low cost with the rangers, that is especially fun when the kids were little. There is an official kayak rental at Sandy Hook, but we have always done the free trip by the NPS, you can find the details here.
Where to eat: We love Bahrs Landing restaurant for sea food. Their popcorn shrimp is delicious. On the way home we like to stop at the Polar Bear Ice Cream shop on rt. 35. It is no frills, and they accept cash only.
Other interesting things nearby: If you are coming down to Sandy Hook from the north, make sure to stop at Deep Cut Gardens. Read up on the history first. It is a lovely space to visit, but if you know the history, it makes it even more fun. Hartshorne Woods Park is always a nice hike. Twin Lights Historic Site is a good place to check out as well.
The first time I went to Princeton with a friend, I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that we were still in NJ. The campus looks like something from Harry Potter. The area surrounding Princeton has so much to offer that it is difficult to put into one paragraph. I will tell you what our perfect day looks like in Princeton, and then add more things to see below. Our perfect day looks like this. Go kayaking along the canal with Princeton Canoe Rental. That takes about an hour. Then go out for lunch. Our favorite places is Jammin Crepes, and we like savory crepes, because we must leave room for ice cream. When the kids were younger, after lunch, we would head down to Jazams to browse some toys and books. As they got older, we often take our food and head to the Freedom Fountain to eat it. Then we spend some time walking around the campus and just taking in the beautiful architecture. When it opens back up from repairs, Princeton Art Museum is amazing, and has an excellent collection of art. Finally, we come back to the Bent Spoon for ice cream.
Where to eat: I mentioned Jammin Crepes, but there is a plethora of delicious restaurants in Princeton. We have enjoyed Diesel and Duke for a good, inexpensive burger. The Alchemist and Barrister for a more fancy dinner out. Small World Coffee for a good cup of coffee, and of course, The Bent Spoon.
Other interesting things nearby: Head over to the Terhune Orchards to pick your own variety of fruit, wine tasting, and to pet cute farm animals. Grounds For Sculpture is about 15 minutes down rt 1, and is a separate field trip in it’s own right. Princeton is chuck full of historical tours, Drumthwacket included, though kids might find Drumthwacket a bit boring.
Clinton has a lot going on. It took us forever to explore it in more detail. First, the Columbia Trail is a lot of fun. After the hike, ice cream at the Gronskys Milk House always hits the spot. We like to walk around Clinton, and explore both The Red Mill Museum and The Hunterdon Art Museum. Both are not too big, and not super expensive. Clinton itself has an adorable downtown. We usually buy lunch in one of the cute cafe’s downtown and eat by the riverfront. For the evening, personally, I enjoy watching the sunset at Spruce Run State Park.
Where to eat: We enjoy Gronskys Milk House for ice cream, but for lunch like to pick a place in town, take the food and eat by the river. Riverside Coffee and Tea always has something delicious. Christie’s Artisan Bread and Pastry Shop has sandwiches and other yummies that we have enjoyed in the past.
This area has so much going on that you might have to choose very carefully. First, Turtle Back Zoo. I often have a hard time going to zoos, something about a zoo I went to in my childhood in a different country that traumatized me for life, but Turtle Back Zoo’s more recent focus on education and rehabilitation is a welcome reprieve. Not far away from the zoo, you can hike through the beautiful South Mountain Reservation. Mind you, both of these are a lot of walking, so if it were up to me, I would probably pick one. Nearby is the Montclair Art Museum, as well as the Thomas Edison National Park for a more educational experience. Once you are in Montclair, make sure to stop at Applegate Farms Ice Cream shop. Montclair downtown is fun to explore, and we like to stop at the Montclair Book Center.
Where to eat: Well, I don’t know, to be honest. We usually pack a cooler with lunch when we go to the
zoo, and then get ice cream.
Other interesting things nearby: If you are there in mid May to mid June, stop at the Presby Memorial Iris Garden. Van Vleck arboretum is down the street from that and is a lovely place to spend about an hour or so. Kips Castle is fun to explore. The first floor of Kip’s Castle is open for self-guided tours Tuesday through Friday from 12:00pm to 3:00pm from May 1st – October 31st, and the grounds are open all day long and offer a beautiful view of NYC. Don’t forget the Paterson Falls (which are totally on my list as soon as they open back from the pandemic!). Essex County Sculpture Park is also nearby.
If you head in the direction of Chester, NJ, you will find a lot of exciting things. First of all, my favorite thing to do in that area is explore the Willowwood Arboretum. More recently, we hiked a challenging and rocky hike in Hacklebarney Park; it was excellent. Stony Hills Farms have a fantastic corn maze in the fall. We like it best in the dark. Head over to Alstede Farm to pick your own fruit. While in downtown Chester, we like to peruse the cute little shops on Main Street. Black River Candy Store and Oddfellas are both awesome.
What to eat: Taylor’s Ice Cream is one of my favorites, their blueberry cheesecake is delicious. If you don’t mind a 20 minute drive through the countryside, we usually visit Bella’s Burger Shack for lunch.
Cape May is on my list of places to visit this summer! I have been meaning to go there for ages, and hope to make it down as soon as the summer is officially over. If you have any suggestions on what I should see while there, leave a comment!
Other places worth visiting:
The list above is limited, of course. NJ is an amazing state, with incredible places to explore. Here is a few more that are absolutely worth visiting.
This past summer (2018), I was determined to familiarize my youngest with the NJ Transit. Of course that means we had to go into the city. One of our destinations was the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our visit to the Met Museum was an experience worth having. First, from where we live, it is not easy to take public transportation to get there. It is a long bus ride, a subway train ride, and a few miles walk across the Central Park. The walk would have been nice, except that day the weather decided to be hot and humid. That is exactly what we signed up for.
***Please note that all the photos in the museum were taken for personal use and without a flash.***
Morning after we finished our crazy single day adventure at Washington D.C.we headed out, sore feet and all, down to Chincoteague Island. It was a three hour ride, which was not bad. Remember, this was mid May, so the weather was rainy, foggy and chilly. Not beach weather at all. I am very happy that we had this magical fog with us on the island. It was cool, and beautiful.
This was quite the trip for our family. It has been a while since we planned something quite like this, and I have to tell you, next time, I need to do a way better job planning. The idea was to drive down to D.C., spend some time there, and then head over to Chincoteague Island to spend a few days there. We picked May, because it is off season, and everyone here was able to get away for a bit.
We headed out Friday late afternoon. The plan was that in order to avoid the rush hour traffic around D.C. we would drive to Longwood Gardens (which is about half way between us and D.C.) and spend a few hours watching the sunset there, then head back out to Washington closer to nighttime. It was the right call. Longwood Gardens was as beautiful as always.
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