Trust us: As much as you want to stay inside, these winter activities are well worth heading outdoors for.
See the Great Falls
72 McBride Ave., Paterson
Did you know Paterson was America’s first planned industrial city? This gorgeous spot on the Passaic River is one of the state’s National Historic Parks. Most people don’t think to visit in the winter, but the falls are glistening with ice this time of year. Take a tour (on your own or with a guide) of the park and surrounding area, both rich with culture and history.
Run a 5K
Packanack Community Church, 129 Lake Dr. E., Wayne
John F. Kennedy Blvd., The Promenade, Sea Isle City
We know, just walking to your car in frigid weather can be the worst. But you’d be surprised what a crowd and some hot cocoa can motivate you to do! Get your steps in with the fam at the Penguin Pace 5K in Wayne on February 1. The run ends with an indoor hot cocoa party. Registration is $33. Or check out the Polar Bear Run/Walk for Autism on February 16 in Sea Isle City. After the run, head to nearby heated tents for live music, a buffet, awards, prizes, magicians and face painting. Admission is $25-30.
Skate at an Outdoor Ice Rink
151 Parsonage Rd., Edison
95 River Dr. S., Jersey City
50 Chelsea Ave., Long Branch
Try teaching the kids to figure eight on a rink with a view. Skip the local hockey arena and head to Roosevelt Park’s family rink in Edison, which overlooks the lake. Admission is $5-6 plus $5 skate rentals. If you want to go bigger than a lake, try Newport Skates in Jersey City ($8 admission, $7 rentals) or Ice at the Pier in Long Branch ($10-14 admission, $4 rentals). Newport faces the Hudson and NYC, while the Long Branch spot is complete with an ocean view. Both have tons of nearby shops and restaurants your crew will love, too, so don’t head home without exploring.
Go Horseback Riding
440 South St., Morristown
Does it get more majestic than horseback riding through a snowy landscape? Book your ride ahead of time at Seaton Hackney Stables’ Loantaka Trails. Riders of all skill levels will be led by an instructor. Rates differ based on the number of riders in your party.
Immerse Them in Nature
42 Lilac Dr., Flemington
1020 NJ-31, Lebanon
165 Hobart Ave., Summit
Learn all about NJ’s native owls at Owls of Hunterdon County at Echo Hill Park in Flemington on January 16. Chief naturalist Tom Sheppard will give a presentation, then teach the kids about ecology through activities and listening for owl calls. On February 4, try Pottery in the Woods: Garden Markers at Lebanon’s Hunterdon County Arboretum. Kids ages 6 and up can work with clay and learn how to carve and etch their own garden signs. On February 26, ages 3 and up can take a nature walk at Reeves-Reed Arboretum’s Oaks and Acorns—Mardi Gras. They’ll tell stories and work on an art project, plus celebrate with purple, yellow and green colors.
Hang at the lodge, cruise the mountain or ride the ski lift at Campgaw Mountain. You can have all the same mountain fun you’d have at a PA spot without leaving the state. Mountain Creek is another NJ fave, especially given the many events held during the winter. Kids haven’t gotten their snow legs yet? Sign them up for lessons. If they’re not ready for skiing, tubing is a great way to have care- and skill-free fun. Both these parks have tons of tubing lanes and magic carpets (those carry them back up to the top of the hill!) to make soaring on fresh powder a breeze.
Tap a Tree to Go Maple Sugaring
313 Hudson Ave., Tenafly
1112 Dukes Pkwy. W., Hillsborough
190 Lord Stirling Rd., Basking Ridge
There are tons of NJ spots that’ll teach the kids to tap trees, collect sap and make fresh maple syrup. Some spots will let you taste the difference between fresh and store-bought sweet stuff, while others will send the kids home with maple syrup they collected themselves. On February 2, you can take on maple sugaring at Tenafly Nature Center. They kids will learn to identify trees and boil their own syrup (through March 29). Head to Duke Farms in Hillsborough on February 15 for its annual Sugar Maple Celebration, where kids can see live demos, learn about tree identification and more. You can also head to the Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge on Saturdays and Sundays from February 22-March 15 to learn about the history of maple sugaring in the outdoor sugar shack.
Try Low-Impact Paintballing
625 Macopin Rd., West Milford
56 Weaver Rd., West Milford
Kids ages 8 to 12 can try paintball (you’ll have to sign a waiver) on Battle Creek’s paintballing fields. The low-impact version of the sport features smaller and lighter paintballs that make less of an impact when they hit a target (aka a lower ouch factor). If they’re ready for the full experience, bring your 10- to 16-year-old to dominate the field at NJ Paintball Club instead.