Nature finds for weekend fun in New Jersey

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This is one of the first years we have been home all summer. We have loved it though at first it was hard.

For my kids the start was bumpy because they suddenly found themselves with not much to do (I also didn’t sign them up for all-summer camp!) and most of their friends had gone away somewhere. The start was a bit bumpy for me too, home all day with two restless boys and tons of work to do. 2 months in we are learning to balance it all and find ways to make the most of summer here in our New Jersey home, which I still feel we take for granted far too often.

I say this because New Jersey is beautiful, of course, but it’s also vast and has a lot to offer. Being home has opened us up to exploring all those beautiful little pockets right at our doorsteps. Sometimes, if we travel a bit further from home, we make a weekend out of it and book a hotel for the night. A sort of staycation of sorts.

If you’re like us and don’t want to venture to far, but want to enjoy the outdoors with your loved ones, here are some of our favorites spots.

A regular for us is the South Orange Reservation, but the loop is short and can get a bit boring after a while. This pushed us to find a few others and though our list of favorites is still growing, here are the ones that I would recommend to both locals and visitors to the

Duke Farms is a favorite of ours for walking or riding. Ride through the 2,470 acres and explore the history of this estate. Pack a picnic, find a tree to sit under and enjoy the afternoon. It’s not too hilly, so even little kids will enjoy it and because there are no cars (other than the occasional tram-car) you are free to go as fast as you want.

Watchung Reservation consists of 1995 acres in preserve Union County, NJ. There are 13 miles of trails for hiking with the History Trail, a 6-mile trail that visits and identifies historic sites in the park, being one of its most popular. There is also a 13.5 mile bike loop near the park for those who would rather experience it that way.The Loantaka Brook Reservation‘s bike trail is one of my absolute favorite. The tall trees that hug the trail make for nice shade and a cool breezy experience as you ride through. There’s opportunity to do everything there, from cross-country skiing to horseback riding to hiking. Dedicating an entire day to explore the 744.38 acres is fun and easy to do. Bring a picnic!

The best is when the whole family can get out there together. 

If you really, really enjoy biking and are curious about New Jersey, I recommend signing up for the annual Tour de Farm NJ. Whether you take a weekend to ride 14 miles or feel you can take on 75 miles, the challenge is up to you. Cyclist ride through the picturesque countryside so few have discovered in New Jersey and stop in some local farms along the way. It might not be something my younger kids can do just yet, but it’s certainly on my list as a fun summer activity in our area!



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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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