As lockdown comes to an end and restrictions are raised, it’s time to start planning how you’ll spend your newly found freedom. Luckily, there are a ton of summer activities that allow you to enjoy some time out of the house while style practicing safe social distancing, especially if you live in the Morristown New Jersey Area and don’t have time to make to the Jersey Shore.
Northern New Jersey offers residents a variety of different summer activities whether you’re planning a family day out on the town or want a day for yourself. Not sure where to start? No problem! Here are the top places to visit in Northern New Jersey this summer!
Turtle Back Zoo
Located in Essex County, the Turtle Back Zoo is an ideal destination for animal-lovers and nature explorers alike. The 20-acre park, founded in 1963, hosts up over 200 different species and is home to over 1,400 animals. It’s easy to make a day of a visit to this sprawling zoo. The recently added picnic pavilion and playground are the perfect resting place to have a meal and rest your legs before enjoying the rest of the zoo!
Recent renovations have increased the space available for the zoo’s growing collection of animals. Not to mention, the animals that call this zoo home are housed in naturalistic habitats that mimic their settings in the wild. You can visit the habitats of giraffes, jaguars, kangaroos, and even penguins. If you’re a fan of the exotic, the reptile house in the zoo features a Komodo dragon!
Liberty State Park
Liberty State Park in Jersey City is arguably the most famous park in the state of New Jersey. It opened back in 1976, and since then has been selected as the location for numerous concerts, been featured on film and television, and has hosted many professional sports games.
Though it’s got an incredible history on paper, the park is even more impressive in person. The park features two famed walkways: the Liberty Walkway and Freedom Way. These walkways offer visitors exquisite views of the Hudson River waterfront. It also features a direct line to the Statue of Liberty Overlook, so you can spend time taking in the beauty of the celebrated monument.
You’ll find signs of the park’s history scattered throughout its grounds including a fifty-foot stretch of train track that was once a section of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The Communipaw Cove section of the park features 36-acres of nature preserve, so you can enjoy tons of greenery and small wildlife. Regardless of what activities you end up enjoying, the 1,212-acres of Liberty State Park is an excellent summer destination.
Take a Hike at the Watchung Reserve
If you’re looking for an outdoor escape that’s just as beautiful in the summer months as it is in the winter months then the Watchung Reserve is a perfect match! Nestled in the Borough Watchung, the 1,945-acre expansive grounds are perfect for hiking the trails inside the park.
It’s not uncommon to find someone riding a horse along the trails, as there are 26 miles of horse riding trails within the Watchung Reserve. If you’ve been searching for an area to take your children, the reserve also features a large park called the Loop.
Plan a family meal to eat at one of the picnic areas as your children release all the pent up energy of quarantine. As Watchung is a nature preserve, it’s a great place to partake in the observation of native species including the Northern Cardinal, White-tailed Deer, and the Painted Turtle.
Beyond just watching, there are plenty of physical recreational activities including boating, kayaking, and fishing at one of the many bodies of water located on the grounds.
Turkey Brook Park
The sweeping 267-acre grounds of Turkey Brook Park can be found just outside of Morristown in Mount Olive Township. The park has been open to the public since 2003. Though the park is new, it’s steeped in history and outfitted for modern recreation and enjoyment. The grounds are perfect for a variety of activities for those who are looking for some physical exercise.
Within the grounds, you’ll find four full-size soccer fields (one turf and three grass), two full-sized baseball fields, two football fields, and 2 softball fields. When restrictions ease, Turkey Brook will be the perfect destination for a family ball game, catch, or a simple run. You can bring along your four-legged family friends, as well, as the park is also home to the Mount Olive Dog Park.
For the history buffs, the Turkey Brook Park is home to the Seward Mansion which was built back in 1858. It’s currently being restored to its former glory and will be reopened to the public once the restoration is complete.
The Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township
For those who wish to enjoy the natural beauty of carefully curated plant species, the Frelinghuysen Arboretum is the perfect destination. Despite the restrictions, the Arboretum has been maintained and is likely to open at some point during Summer 2020. That said, it’s not to be missed!
The arboretum was born from a love of all things horticultural by one Matilda Frelinghuysen. She passed on ownership of the arboretum to the public after her death, and since then, the rolling 127.48-acre grounds have become home to a wide variety of plants that have been enjoyed by Morristown residents since 1969.
In the warm months, there is a breath-taking burst of color and greenery that can only be witnessed at Frelinghuysen. It’s a picturesque landscape with the sounds of birds echoing across the grounds, earthy scents, and quiet groups enjoying the view. Not to mention, it’s also the site of a wide array of outdoor events including an annual plant sale, horticultural club meetups, and free tours of the grounds.
Morristown National Historic Park
The kids have been out of the classroom for a while now, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance to learn! Morristown is the site of significant historical occurrences, particularly those that occurred during the Revolutionary War. That’s why it’s earned the title of a “Historic National Park,” in fact, it was the first park in the United States to earn that designation back in 1933.
There are four sites within Morristown National Historic Park that are historically significant: Jockey Hollow, Fort Nonsense, The Ford Mansion, and the New Jersey Brigade Encampment Site. Take your family to explore the place where the U.S.’s first president, then General Washington, survived through the coldest winter on record with a group of around 1,900 soldiers in December 1779.
Beyond the historical significance, the park also features expansive grounds and trails for residents to enjoy. During the summer months, the park also hosts outdoor events such as the annual “Bat Walk” observing the nine native bat species in New Jersey and participation in Bell Ringing Ceremonies.
Foote’s Pond Wood
Foote’s Pond Wood has undergone significant renovations and been given the “facelift” treatment. Currently, the 14-acre park is one of the most popular stops for Morristown residents. Perhaps you want to take up birding. Foote’s Pond is a great place to start!
Local wildlife can be easily identified and watched from one of the many benches around the park. Better yet, recently installed birdbaths are commonly frequented by American Goldfinches, Robins, and even, the Red-bellied Woodpecker.
However, birds aren’t all you’ll see! Turtles and frogs are also easily spotted and will keep children enthralled (from a distance!). Foote’s Pond is stunning in the summer months. Once Spring has sprung, wildflowers including purple coneflowers and daisies adorn the pathways and trails. Not to mention, stately established cherry trees and dogwoods provide tons of shade alongside their glorious foliage.
Ride your bike to the park and safely store it at one of the new bike racks — then you’re free to enjoy the locale on foot. In short, Foote’s Pond Wood is the place to be!
Loantaka Brook Reservation
Whether you’re out alone for the day or want to spend some socially-distant quality time with your loved ones, a bike trail is the way to go. Luckily, if you’re located in Morristown, there’s no shortage of scenic trails to enjoy in your leisure time.
That said, if you’d like to go for a pleasurable bike ride, Loantaka Brook Reservation should be at the top of your list. Loantaka features five miles of nature trails, which is perfect for a short walk, jog — or bike ride!
Since the start of quarantine, many people have dusted off their old bikes and hopped on for a joyride. Cruising around on a bicycle is also one of the “safe” recreational activities — it’s not exactly easy to get within six feet of someone when you’re cruising along.
If you’re more of a four-legged rider, the reservation hosts Seaton Hackney Stables, which offers horseback riding. Whatever activity you choose to do at the park, Loantaka is the perfect summer destination for Morristown residents.
This is by no means a complete list of the plethora of outdoor activities available in New Jersey. Regardless of what you’re looking for, the Garden State is sure to offer something that meets your needs. Happy Summer!