Finally, summer! Throughout the Garden State, there are experiences that are tried-and-true, but then there’s also the new. Do something different this year. Pick a day, take a drive, explore, be amazed, relax, enjoy.
Farms, balloon festivals, 4-H Fairs, Double-A baseball — that’s the Skylands. Also, there’s cave spelunking in Sussex County’s Sterling Hill Mining Museum. In Morris County, delight in the Chester Music Festival and Fosterfields Living Historical Farm, and pretend you’re in Athens watching The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey actors perform on an outdoor stage. Traveling through Somerset County, catch a Somerset Patriots game, take a yoga class with goats, or spend a weekend night in Downtown Somerville, which hosts bands, vintage cars and extensive dining options. In rural Hunterdon County, your countrified tendencies are satisfied under the stars listening to music at Deer Path Park, cheering on competitors in the annual Great Rubber Duckie Race alongside Clinton’s historic Red Mill, or biking the towpath of the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park, which begins in lovely Frenchtown.
Notable monuments, botanical gardens, city tours, horse racing, theater, nature walks and Hackensack River eco-cruises comprise a region spanning from historic Cranbury to the recreational pleasures of Mahwah. Take in the views atop the American Dream Observation Wheel at the Meadowlands or from a seat on a Statue Cruise from Liberty State Park. Learn about our first colonial capital with a self-guided walking tour of Elizabeth. If waterfront dining or kayaking is in your plans, you can’t beat the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway area. Stop by Jersey City’s Journal Square for a delicious dessert — oh, and take a selfie with the 14-foot-tall statue of baseball great, Jackie Robinson. The Newark Black Film Festival and MTV Video Music Awards return to this large metropolis in 2022. In New Brunswick, it’s all about shows and outdoor dining in the city that Rutgers University calls home. Nine miles up the road from there, settle in for an outdoor theatrical experience with a Plays-in-the-Park performance in Edison’s Roosevelt Park.
Delaware River Region
Don’t let the Ivy League sophistication of Princeton, with its many wonderful shops and museums, distract you from visiting other places, like the Howell Living History Farm, Trenton City Museum, Grounds For Sculpture, Baldpate Mountain or Trenton Thunder Ballpark around Mercer County. Travel farther south, and the scenery changes to forests, wetlands and berry farms in the Pine Barrens. Head west to the Delaware River waterfront of Camden to tour the Battleship New Jersey looming large at 887 feet long, or the undersea world of Adventure Aquarium. Nearby Gloucester County hosts the annual Butterfly Festival in July. About a half hour farther south in Salem County is Pilesgrove’s iconic Cowtown Rodeo and overnight nature glamping in Pittsgrove.
It’s all about the beaches and boardwalk fun in Ocean and Monmouth counties — especially if surfing in LBI (Long Beach Island) or the Belmar Pro event gets you amped. Relax and breathe in the cool, ocean air while watching movies on the beach in Seaside Heights, or shopping for antiques in Point Pleasant Beach. Come for the chowder and fresh seafood but stay for the expansive views atop the many lighthouses dotting the shoreline, including the nation’s oldest at Sandy Hook. Pinball, eclectic restaurants and The Stone Pony bring visitors to the thriving beach town of Asbury Park. Inland, fairgoers attend the annual, five-day Monmouth County Fair in Freehold in July. Keep Waretown on your radar for Alpaca farm tours at Out Of Sight Alpacas and bluegrass music Saturdays.
Greater Atlantic City Region
Our shores are all so different — but, then again, you probably already know that. Besides swimming, fishing and boating in Atlantic City, nightlife, gaming and spa options abound. It’s also home to the largest arcade on the East Coast, Lucky Snake. If you can handle the 228 steps, check out the great views from the Absecon Lighthouse at 171 feet above the city. Coming in July? Head indoors for the National Sports Collectors Convention. August? Save the date for the Meet AC Atlantic City Airshow on Aug. 24.
In this same region is the sprawling 250-acre Renault Winery, second oldest in the United States, bordering Egg Harbor City and Galloway Township, which hosts a variety of events for all ages nearly every week. The grounds were recently built out for festivals with festoon lighting, an outdoor bar, tenting and parking for hundreds of visitors to the hotel, golf course and special events, like live entertainment, beside fire pits and cabanas. In addition, every day is wine tasting day here.
“We want people to rediscover Renault,” said Rob Pattillo, vice president of hospitality, about the year-round seasonal programming. Visit renaultwinery.com for more information.
Southern Shore Region
Just thinking about picturesque Cape May conjures up days filled with shopping, whale watching, railbiking, concerts, golf and visits to the zoo. For birders, the Bayshore Scenic Heritage Byway from Cape May Point State Park leads to the shoreline of Delaware Bay, with wildlife observation platforms within the migratory American Flyway. Sunbathers on Wildwood’s free beaches often end their day with a stroll on the award-winning boardwalk. Love to grill? Satisfy your taste buds during the New Jersey State BBQ Championship (July 8-10). Want to party? The Beach Boys will be at the Wildwoods Convention Center (Aug. 27). Be sure not to miss the world’s largest boat parade in Ocean City in July.
“Each of New Jersey’s six diverse regions offers fun summer adventures, whether you visit us for a day, weekend or weeklong trip,” said New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism Executive Director Jeff Vasser. “From hiking the rugged terrain of the Appalachian Trail to climbing the tallest peak at High Point State Park to fishing and watersports along the historic Delaware River to soaking in the sun and sea air on any one of our many beautiful beaches, New Jersey promises to top your ‘must-do’ exploration list this season.”
This summer, it’s easy to fill up your calendar app with outings. Now, it’s time to explore New Jersey.
Debra Stevko Miller has a degree in journalism from Rutgers University and is a member of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. Besides crafting feature stories and profiles for various publications, she also founded BiosToGo.com and has dabbled in scriptwriting and children’s picture book poetry.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of Explore New Jersey, a travel booklet produced by Jersey’s Best.