When you Google, “Things to do in New Jersey”, most of the recommendations are summer-time activities – the Jersey Shore, Atlantic City Boardwalk, Six Flags Great Adventure, Patterson Great Falls, for example. When we were looking for activities to do in the wintertime, it was a bit more limited. But we’ve managed to keep ourselves occupied with some great outdoor and indoor activities.
Tenafly Nature Center is a non-profit, independent, member-supported nature preserve located in Bergen County, New Jersey. During the year, they run a range of activities for children, including Nature Day Camps, trail hikes, and scavenger hunts. Tenafly also has trails for hiking that are open daily, one hour after sunrise until one hour prior to sunset. Admission for non-members is $2 per person or $10 per household. Admission goes back to their conservation efforts, education programs, and maintenance of the preserve. During the winter, their easy and well-marked trails are a great way to get outside and get some fresh air. We did a few of the trails during our 1.5 hour hike and they were all very mild with little incline. We saw a bunch of families out and about as well, so it’s definitely family friendly. The grounds were excellently maintained and very well-marked.
Turtle Back Zoo is a zoo located in West Orange, New Jersey, and is part of the Essex County Park System. The Zoo is open daily from 10am to 3pm during the winter months and is home to over 1400 animals, including several hundred birds in a free-flight aviary. Highlights include an African Penguin exhibit with underwater viewing, the cutest Prairie Dogs, and a ton of colorful Flamingos. During the holidays, they run a Holiday Lights Spectacular Fridays through Sundays, where the entire Zoo is illuminated and there are meet and greets with Santa. The Zoo is very well maintained and is a great winter-time activity with many indoor exhibits to warm up.
Maple Sugaring is a great activity that you can do starting mid-winter, with tours running typically from February through March. Many places all over NJ run tours where they allow you to see the entire process from start to finish – from gathering the maple sap to the production process. Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center, for example, runs tours that allow you to identify and tap maple trees, collect sap, and make real maple syrup over a wood-fired evaporator. Happy Day Farm‘s maple sugaring tour includes a tractor ride to their “sugar bush”, an educational tour, and access to their friendly farm animals.
And lastly, just across the Hudson in the Bronx is the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show, which typically runs from mid-November to mid-January. The train show features model trains zipping through more than 190 replicas of New York landmarks, each re-created from natural materials such as birch bark, lotus pods, and cinnamon sticks.