If you’re savoring every last bit of the strange summer of 2020 as we head into Labor Day weekend, we are right there with you. Before you break out the backpack and lunchbox (or gear up for a remote start to the year), here are some fun ways to make the most of the final days of summer vacay.

Squeeze in a Day at the Beach or Lake

The beaches of the Gateway National Recreation Area, like Sandy Hook, are less commercial (you’ll only find a few food trucks, playgrounds and picnic areas) and tend to be less crowded than popular beaches like Asbury Park and Wildwood. Park in lots C, D, E or I and head right to the waves, rent a bike and travel a paved path through the dunes or launch a canoe or kayak into Horseshoe Cove. 

A scenic view of the Sandy Hook lighthouse at the Gateway National Recreation Area. ISTOCKPHOTO.COM / ANDYKAZIE

If you’d rather head to a NJ lake, you can take in gorgeous Appalachian views while relaxing on the shore of Lake Marcia or boat and swim Lake Hopatcong (just look out for areas that are closed for swimming due to a harmful algal bloom). With COVID-19 restrictions, beaches and lakes have reduced capacity rules and will close parking lots once the max is reached. Head out early to avoid having to turn back around.  

Hit a Drive-In Movie

Drive-in movies have made a huge comeback this summer. The kids will love the novelty of watching a film on a huge screen with the sound playing through the car radio. NJ has one permanent drive-in theater in south Jersey, the Delsea Drive-In Theater, and the Warwick Drive-In is just across the border in New York. Towns across the state have also created pop-up theaters showing everything from Grease and Dirty Dancing to recent blockbusters like Frozen II.

Get Outside in Nature

Get the kids up and moving with a hike around one of New Jersey’s trails. Take in some unbelievable rock formations, like the Tripod Rock, at Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area or go on an easier hike around Trout Brook and the Lamington River at Hacklebarney State Park. 

New Jersey is also home to 12 National Parks and many have now reopened for visitors. Learn the history of the Revolutionary War at the Morristown National Historical Park. Here, you’ll see the huts that soldiers lived in at Jockey Hollow during the 1779-1780 winter encampment. Take in a stunning 77-foot waterfall at the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park where you can also learn about founding father Alexander Hamilton.


You can also visit one of NJ’s stunning gardens or arboretums. The Frelinghuysen Arboretum boasts beautiful rose gardens and Grounds for Sculpture mixes art with nature. Take a day trip to Longwood Gardens in PA to explore 1,100 acres of indoor, outdoor and fountain gardens. 

Like NJ beaches, some parks and trails have a limited capacity and often meet it quickly, so make sure to head out early.

Hit the Rides at an Amusement or Water Park

Plenty of amusement and water parks in and around New Jersey are now safely welcoming guests. Take a sweet trip to Hershey Park, find thrills at Six Flags Great Adventure or get behind the wheel of a truck at Diggerland. For the littles, Sesame Place is also open.


Cool off while zipping down slides or lounging on the lazy river at a water park. Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags, Mountain Creek, Splashplex and plenty of other favorites are open. Don’t miss out on the first season of the Water Main at Diggerland. If your kids aren’t quite big enough for water park rides they can still get in on the fun at one of NJ’s spraygrounds.

Head Out to a Farm

There are dozens of locales where you can pick your own fruits and veggies (right now is a great time for blackberries and apples are coming soon). Head out to the fields to get your hands dirty harvesting crops that you can take home to eat right away or turn into a delicious pie.

Sunflowers are just about to bloom at farms across the state. The Sussex County Sunflower Maze is now open for visitors and Alstede Farms is hosting special Sunset with Sunflowers events and PYO sunflowers. Sunflowers make for beautiful photo ops that you won’t be able to stop sharing anytime soon and the kids are sure to love the chance to explore fields of the giant flowers.

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