I think I've got a case of wanderlust-ness. Maybe it's the recent sunshine that has made me even more needy of spectacular experiences discovering my home state. These days I have a definite sense of urgency when it comes to adventure...an energy to explore. And now my mini me is getting in on the action -- my energizer bunny has become a full-fledged Mr. Adventure, trekking along hiking paths and throwing sticks into every pond and puddle he sees.
In the past week alone, we have traveled to and conquered: Abmas Farm (Wykoff, NJ), James A McFaul Enviornmental Center (also in Wykoff), Frelinghuysen Arboretum (Morristown, NJ), Grounds for Sculpture (Hamilton, NJ). So without further ado, check out my "mini" reviews of our tri-state adventures in case you are looking for a place or two, or three OR four to explore (with or without the kiddos)...
Petting Zoo and a Picnic
Got a few hours to spare this weekend? Head to Abmas Farm, a family owned farm that's open all year. When you arrive make sure you visit with the animals (the petting zoo is free) and buy some "feed" for the animals ($1 for 4 large crackers). Sheppie's little friend Harper is only 13 months and she had no trouble feeding the cows, even though she thought they were all big "dogs!" Website says they have a hay ride but it didn't seem to be running; maybe it was occupied by a birthday party. We didn't mind, we "hiked" around the grounds and built up an appetite.
Don't leave without picking up some tasty treats from Abma's Market. Everything is homemade. We bought all the fixins for sandwiches and ate outside at a picnic table. It was golden. If you need a moment to decompress before you leave, in the market you will find a little wine tasting kiosk from Tomasello Winery. We tasted a few ice wines, reds and rose. Hey why not? Fun all around.
Want to take the mini's on a hike but not sure how long they will last or if they will even enjoy it? Not sure you want to head into the woods quite yet? Go to James A McFaul Enviornmental Center in Wykoff -- a literal hop/skip/jump from Abma's. Shep had a blast on his first hike which was basically made up of a bunch of twisting and turning gravel pathways through the woods that all lead back to the main Environmental Center/lake. Along the way it felt like we were at a mini bird zoo as we stopped and peaked into various sanctuaries, saw fishes and turtles.
This place is a definitely hidden gem -- super serene for adults, yet full of ways for minis to get their hands dirty. And best of all, it's all FREE! We stayed for awhile, walking, talking and you guessed it, collecting sticks. A nice alternative to your typical park/playground day.
Friends With Nature
Fancy yourself a budding horticulturist? Maybe it's just nice out and you want to one with nature? Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown is the spot for you. Centered around an estate dating back to 1891, Frelinghuysen is named after the family that built the house and eventually passed it onto the Morris County Parks Commission.
Shep's definitely not a flower connoisseur. In fact, he could care less about flowers. He likes dirt and rocks. But at the Arboretum we find our own fun in the form of a bunch of maze-like moments...areas to walk and run through (see below). We leaped across rocks, ran thru hedges and zig zagged on pathways.
If copping a squat is more your speed. Bring some lawn chairs, balls, bubbles...anything you may need to keep the minis busy and enjoy yourself in the Arboretum's large field. They also have a cafe on the grounds. We picniced under one of the pretty gazebos surrounded by greenery.
Art In The Park
Fancy a little art but love being outside? No need to fret you don't need to be cooped up in a museum when there is a place like the Grounds For Sculpture. Just promise me you will reserve a full day for this excursion, especially if you don't live near Princeton (it took us a little over an hour to get to Hamilton, NJ from Essex County).
I've been talking about going to see the Sculptures for months and we finally made it on the most gorgeous day of the year (with my cousin Jessica in tow). $15 for adults/free for kids under 5, the Grounds are worth the drive. There is a European flair to this outdoor madness. As we meandered through the cherry blossoms, each turn unveiled a new masterpiece.
Sculptures are all branded with a green or red mark (touch/do not touch). I must say, this was confusing to my little man. There were a few tantrums due to confusion about why he could literally interact with some "cool" things and then not be allowed to get too close to others, but I wouldn't trade this trip in for a second. It was filled with surreal beauty.
Jessica and I have traveled the world together (back before we both had grownup lives) and it was our first time to bringing Sheppie along on one of our adventures. I can't tell you the names of any of the art and I for sure can't tell you any of the history behind the Grounds...but I can tell you that we had an awesome day being adventurers in full exploration mode.
I took hundreds of artsy pics; we lingered by some sculptures and walked briskly by (and through) others; we ate lunch among the art; we laid on the grass and sang songs; we came and we conquered. Then Shep took a 2 hour nap. Amen to days filled with sunshine, sculpture and family.
Trust me when I say, NJ isn't boring. Now go on and see for yourself...adventure awaits!