New Jersey has lots of outdoor treasures for your family to visit. Go off the beaten path to discover these hidden gems.
Bluebird Farm Alpacas
44 Willow Ave., Peapack
Visit this 11-acre farm in April and early May when the alpacas are at their fluffiest and the kiddos are guaranteed the best selfies ever. Choose from an open farm weekend or a private session where you’ll learn to handle, feed and pet these adorably friendly creatures who are far less feisty (and spitty) than their llama cousins. Check out the barn shop for a behind-the-scenes look at how sheared alpaca fibers are spun into yarn.
Presby Memorial Iris Gardens
474 Upper Mountain Ave., Upper Montclair
This park is open year-round, but in full bloom come mid-May. See more than a thousand varieties of irises that bloom into over 100,000 flowers.
PHOTO COURTESY OF Lakota wolf Preserve
Lakota Wolf Preserve
89 Mount Pleasant Rd., Columbia
This is a hike the kids will never forget. Sign up for a Wolf Watch tour, walk through the preserve and learn about the animals’ eating habits and behaviors. During the tour, your crew will get a chance to see British Columbian, Timber and Arctic wolves and watch how they interact with each other. You might even spot a fox or bobcat.
The Raptor Trust
1390 White Bridge Rd., Millington
A treasure for animal lovers, The Raptor Trust focuses on the care and rehabilitation of injured birds of prey, like hawks, eagles, falcons and owls.
700 Garretson Rd., Bridgewater
Since 1995, New Jerseyans have traveled to this magical playground to watch their kids ride zip lines, explore a pirate ship and crawl through a network of tire-padded tunnels. They can also climb ladders, towers and spider webs, or catch some air on swings, tires, monkey bars and slides. The best part? It’s all free.
High Point State Park
1480 Rte. 23, Sussex
This state park in the northwest corner of NJ is home to outstanding views, a gorgeous lake and picturesque hikes. The 220-foot obelisk marks the highest point in the state, and it’s also a monument the kids can climb. During warmer months, you’ll want to swim in Lake Marcia. In the fall, visit to see the foliage at its peak.
Teaneck Creek Conservancy
20 Puffin Way, Teaneck
Once a junk-filled wasteland, this nature preserve opened in 2006. It’s since become a go-to spot for locals featuring primo bird-watching, a butterfly garden, hiking trails and unique artwork, which makes for some pretty scenic walks. Though Teaneck Creek Park is currently closed for maintenance, Puffin Way and 5 Pipes reopen March 22.
Lower Cross FArm
Lower Cross Farm
9 Lower Cross Rd., Saddle River
NJ is filled with some of the best stables and equestrian spots in the country, including this Bergen County farm where your kids can learn to ride, show jump and take care of horses.
Deep Cut Gardens
152 Red Hill Rd., Middletown
The Garden State has no shortage of beautiful places to marvel at flowers (like the New Jersey Botanical Garden, Duke Farms and Grounds for Sculpture), but we especially love this Monmouth County spot. You’ll find 52 varieties of roses spread across the gardens’ 54 acres. Beyond reveling in its beauty, you’ll also appreciate the passionate horticulturists who’ll teach you how to grow beautiful blooms at home.
THE Wildlife Conservation and Education Center
The Wildlife Conservation and Education Center
303 Midland Ave., Garfield
There are many conservation centers in our home state, but this one specializes in bats. The curator loves them so much that he’s been dubbed “New Jersey’s Bat-Man.” His staff is passionate about teaching kids (and adults) all about these misunderstood creatures, too, now at a newer and larger location in Garfield.
Jersey Shore Pirates
281 Princeton Ave., Brick
Take your little swashbucklers on a “real” pirate ship! Perfect for birthdays, this boat will take you out on the high seas to search for sunken treasure. The kids and their mateys may have to fight off Pirate Pete during this hour-long adventure.
PHOTO COURTESY Freehand Custom Carvings
Freehand Custom Carvings
117 Fredon Springdale Rd., Newton
This sculpture gallery is filled with intricate wood creations by head artist Brett McLain, all crafted by chainsaw. Marvel at the carvings, tour the gardens and maybe even see an artist in action.
Great Off the Beaten Path Museums in NJ