At Home in the Garden State

When you travel and you are from New Jersey, a familiar feeling arises when someone asks you where you are from – which is that of dread. This is actually a little disheartening considering that New Jersey isn’t a half bad state at all – we have brilliant beaches, intoxicating cities, and quaint suburbs. However, one thing that non-Jerseyans are often surprised to hear (and normally don’t believe anyway, even though it’s on our license plates) is that New Jersey is a true garden state. We are surrounded by rolling hills and colossal forests that make for great weekend getaways when the city becomes too much to bear. Now that spring is on its way, take the plunge and visit some of these green destinations. Drive over to Jersey. I promise you won’t end up in the Hudson.

1. Hot air balloon over the hills. Hot air ballooning is pricey, but it’s a pretty cool way to glaze over the green Jersey landscape (even if you can only afford to do it once). Hitting between 500 and 2500 feet and lasting around an hour, you can take a look at the reservoirs, mountainsides, and even nearby New York City from your balloon. Per passenger, you can pay $215 at Balloons Aloft located in Pittstown, about a half an hour southeast from Easton, Pennsylvania.

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 Image courtesy of USA Hot Air

2. Tube down the Delaware River. Get off the ground for a little bit by renting a tube, kayak, or canoe and sift on through the Delaware for an afternoon. You won’t have to be bogged by a guide and you can get out and swim (or sleep in the boat) as much as you like. It’s a pretty easy go too – no need to worry about trying to fight down some rapids. For between $26 and $51 per rider for a five to six mile trip (anywhere between 2.5 to four hours depending on your rental), you can visit Delaware River Tubing in Frenchtown, about 35 minutes southeast of Easton, Pennsylvania.

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 Image courtesy of NJ.com

3. Rent a cabin for non-camping. I don’t know about you, but my idea of camping is hanging out at the Hilton down the street with no pool access. However, there are alternatives. If you want to hang by the forest but aren’t too keen on sleeping in a tent (umm, there are animals and stuff out there) then consider renting a cabin, preferably one near actual stuff to do (and a pool). Check out the Countryside Cottages in Bartonsville, Pennsylvania which you can rent from $200 a night and stay close to the Tannersville Outlets, American Candle, tons of casinos, and Camelback Mountain Resort.

4. Horseback ride through the West. The West of New Jersey, that is. A great way to revamp your hiking habits is to ride a horse instead and get in touch with nature without ever having to touch the ground. For $40 for an hour ride and $180 for a day-long ride at Top View Riding Ranch, you can trek through the Paulinskill Trail and ramble through the river in Blairstown, about 25 minutes east of Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania.

5. Drink fine wines. New Jersey is literally littered with wineries, which isn’t particularly shocking considering the drinks we must consume to deal with the taxes in this state. Wineries are an awesome way to spend some time outside, drink something besides Barefoot, and eat some cheese. At Beneduce Vineyards in Pittstown, you pay $10 to sample several wines alongside cheeses and meats, get a glass to take home, and cruise the vineyard itself in a golf cart afterwards – unsupervised.

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6. Dance with wolves. Zoos not really your thing? It’s cool. Check out the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, about 15 minutes southeast of East Stroudsberg, and get on a guided tour for $15 for an hour and a half to see and learn about four different packs of wolves. At the Preserve, you can also do a 1/2 mile hike or hang out in the observation area.

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 Image courtesy of Lakota Wolf Preserve

7. Zipline down the mountainside. If the amusement park is a bit of a hike for you this weekend, consider taking your thrills to the skies by ziplining this great state and getting some awesome views of the mountains and countryside. For $65 a person, hit the Mountain Creek Zipline Tour in Vernon (one hour from Paramus) with ziplines ranging from 200 feet to 1500 feet suspended above a mountaintop lake.

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 Image courtesy of Advertiser News South

8. Take a hike (and skip the gym). Hiking is the easiest and cheapest way to get in touch with nature, especially in New Jersey, a state that is flooded with parks and trails that are tempting to get lost on. As Carrie’s crazy ex-boyfriend in Sex and the City once so eloquently stated, “Here’s a secret… hiking… is walking.” Anyway, you can find great hidden-away trails in most Jersey cities you happen to be in, however one favorite is Tourne County Park in Denville, about 15 minutes from Morristown. With 550 acres, a climb to the top of the park boasts phenomenal views of New York City in the distance.

9. Get on your old bike. Got a crappy old mountain bike? Bring it to your local park for a nice ride around and you won’t care when it gets dirty (or destroyed). Once again, parks run rampant in New Jersey, but a great spot for mountain biking is Schooley’s Mountain County Park in Long Valley (thirty minutes from Morristown) which you can tour for road bikes or mountain bikes around the lake, fields, and up the mountain itself for a spectacular view of the countryside below.

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 Image courtesy of Flickr User

10. Bring home dinner. If you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon hanging out by the lake with a beer in one hand and a fishing pole in the other, New Jersey is the place to be, loaded with lakes and filled with fish.  Lake Hopatcong in Hopatcong, near Jefferson and Sparta, is the largest freshwater lake in New Jersey and has tons of docking stations for boats, lakeside bars (check out the Jefferson House, a community favorite), and insane mansions to gander at as you attempt to catch dinner for the wife but end up stopping at ShopRite instead.

Article idea courtesy of Nick Hodgins

8 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing! Living in Montreal, I’m always the token New Jerseyan, and it does get a little tiresome explaining that the whole state doesn’t smell, just parts of the Turnpike.
    I hadn’t heard of most of this list, but you’ve definitely given me ideas for when I’m back home over the summer. I definitely want to taste some Jersey wine and run with wolves. :)

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