9 Fun Family Trips

These Garden State getaways will have the whole family asking, “Are we there yet?”

Ocean City

Best. Boardwalk. Ever. (Plus one awesome elephant)

Stepping onto the boardwalk in Ocean City confers a pleasant sense of dislocation: Can this really be 2012, or have you and your family traveled back to a safer, gentler time, when fun meant pedaling a surrey along the boards, sharing a box of caramel corn and taking in the ocean views from the top of a giant Ferris wheel? (With nary a drink in sight—OC is a dry town.) This is a Shore spot that’s happy to show off its vintage good looks and share its old-fashioned good times—including concerts overlooking the ocean and an amusement park that caters to families (Gillian’s Wonderland) and the best homemade donuts on the Jersey Shore (Brown’s). A visit to Lucy the Elephant—the famous turn-of-the-20th-century building in close-by Margate that looks like, yes, an elephant—is the perfect way to supersize your trip. oceancityvacation.com; lucytheelephant.org



Canal-Side Charm Meets Outdoor Adventure

It may not be as famous as nearby Lambertville (or New Hope across the river in Pennsylvania), but this strollable town known for its Victorian ambience is every bit as charming and also offers a wealth of outdoor adventures for families, from walking or biking along the canal to tubing on the Delaware (don’t forget to grab lunch from the justifiably Famous River Hot Dog Man) to sightseeing from on high courtesy of Alexandria Balloon Flights in close-by Milford. And if a day in the great outdoors (or the great Frenchtown shops) has you searching for a comfortable place to spend the night, check in at the National Hotel New Jersey, where comfort (along with high style) is always in good supply. frenchtownnj.org; delawarerivertubing.com; njballooning. com; thenationalhotelnj.com


Tuckerton Seaport

Waterside History Comes to Life

If you and your family have a nautical bent or a passion for history, Tuckerton Seaport is sure to float your boat. At this 40-acre re-creation of a working maritime village on the shores of Tuckerton Creek in Ocean County, you can tour a fully operational boatworks, learn about shellfishing at Parson’s Clam and Oyster House, marvel at decoy-carving by master craftsmen, check out the historic Hotel deCrab, hang ten at the New Jersey Surf Museum, visit a circa-1835 sea captain’s house, peek into the 303-year-old Andrew Bartlett Homestead (the oldest house in Ocean County) and admire extraordinary examples of folk art (such as glassblowing, basket weaving and painting) at the Jersey Shore Folklife Center. Still haven’t satisfied your inner seafarer? Consider getting your sea legs back on a voyage aboard the seaport’s classic charter boat, Wasting Time. tuckertonseaport.org


Ocean City (left column); Frenchtown (center); Tuckerton Seaport (right)
Crystal Springs (left column); Stokes State Forest (center); Camden Waterfront Wonder (right)

Crystal Springs Resort

Paradise in the Valley

If you’re looking for variety, activity and relaxation all in one spectacular setting, you don’t have to go any farther than Crystal Springs. This top-flight resort, nestled in the rolling hills of Vernon Valley, comprises four hotels; two spas; a sports club offering tennis, yoga, Zumba, Pilates, spinning and more; seven premier golf courses (call ahead for in-room babysitting if your kids aren’t ready for the links); more than a dozen restaurants serving up everything from pizza and burgers to Tuscan-inspired dishes and organic, locally sourced artisanal cuisine; and did we mention the Biosphere, a tropically planted pool complex, with an underground aquarium, a 40-foot water slide, a jacuzzi in a grotto and a retractable roof? Just in case you’re still in search of things to do, there are great hiking trails, tours of the Kuser Bog Natural Area and horseback riding along ancient limestone cliffs. crystalgolfresort.com


Stokes State Forest

Adventure Along the Appalachian Trail

This 15,000-acre gem in northwestern New Jersey combines stunning scenery—the view at the summit of Sunrise Mountain, for example, and the waterfalls feeding Tillman Brook— with outdoor fun such as swimming and canoeing on Stony Lake (or sunning on its sandy beach), fishing on Lake Ocquittunk or Big Flat Brook, picnics along Stony Brook and hiking the world-famous Appalachian Trail. A visit to Stokes makes for a great day trip, but for a longer stay you can set up a tent or rent one of 10 furnished cabins (they’re rustic but include electricity, hot and cold running water and a wood stove for cooking). Check out the calendar at newjerseystatefair.org to see if your trip coincides with one of the many summertime events at the New Jersey State Fairgrounds in neighboring Augusta —including horse, dog and car shows; a crawfish festival; and, during August’s first two weeks, the New Jersey State Fair itself. state.nj.us/dep/parksand forests/parks/stokes.html


Camden Waterfront Wonder

Camden? A vacation destination? Absolutely!

Camden’s spruced-up waterfront is the perfect spot for an unexpected family adventure. Start your trip with a tour of the Battleship New Jersey, America’s most decorated battleship and now a fascinating museum, then spend the night on board (or, if you’d prefer something a bit more luxurious, there’s the Hyatt Regency just across the water in Penn’s Landing). The next day, choose from a spectrum of urban delights: a trip to the brilliantly renovated State Aquarium (where you can book a swim with the sharks), a boat ride to Philadelphia on the River Link Ferry, a concert at Wiggins Park or the Susquehanna Bank Center, a minor-league baseball game at Camden Riversharks Stadium or a stroll through the Children’s Garden, where you’ll find a carousel, a butterfly tent, a tree house, a train ride through a miniature landscape and all manner of theme gardens, including Dinosaur, Irish Faerie, Picnic, Storybook and Fitness. camdenwaterfront.com




Grounds for Sculpture (left column); Morristown (center); Cape May (right)


Grounds for Sculpture

An Awesome Array of Outdoor Art

You don’t have to be an art lover to find something to love at this magical al fresco museum in Hamilton. The gorgeously landscaped grounds are laid out to create a surprise around every corner. There’s a pettable bronze panther, a massive head rising from a shaded lily pond and sculptor Seward Johnson’s 3-D re-creations of classic paintings like Monet’s “Japanese Bridge” and Seurat’s “Sunday in the Park,” which invite onlookers to jump into the picture. You’ll also find an excellent cafeteria, an outdoor café overlooking a pond filled with enormous lotus plants, special exhibits in the Domestic Arts and Museum buildings and 35 acres in which to roam, ramble and be amazed. Grounds for Sculpture is a perfect day-trip destination, but if you’re looking for a longer getaway, you could spend the night in Princeton, 20 minutes to the north, which offers first-rate accommodations, dining and family-friendly attractions, such as the governor’s mansion and the Princeton University Natural History Museum. groundsforsculpture. org; visitprinceton.org



Small City, Big Fun

New Jersey has its own Mo’ Town, and while it can’t bill itself as the birthplace of R&B, it has lots of other great things to strut about, including wonderful shops and restaurants lining the town green; the Morris Museum, which houses an extraordinary array of fine art, costumes, dolls and toys, scientific materials and the amazing Guinness collection of musical instruments and automata (mechanical figures); and a wealth of performances for young people at the Morris Museum’s Bickford Theatre and the Mayo Performing Arts Center. There are pastoral pleasures as well, among them beautiful Jockey Hollow, a great hiking spot and part of Morristown National Historic Park (don’t miss the restored cabins that housed George Washington’s men during the winter of 1779); Ford Mansion, where Washington himself spent the winter (guided tours are available) and Fosterfields, a working turn-of-the-century farm. morristourism.org


Cape May

The Cape to Escape To

Cape May takes everything New Jersey has to offer to vacationers—the history, the great outdoors, the family fun, the Shore—and wraps it all up in one glorious Victorian package. From the town’s famous open-air trolleys and jaw-dropping architectural gingerbread to broad, beautiful beaches, whale watches and kayak nature tours to the zoo, the Aviation Museum and historic Cold Spring Village, there’s something here to excite and delight everyone in the family. If you’re looking for a hotel with the feel of a resort, try Congress Hall, where you’ll find a pool, spa, fitness room, shops, three restaurants, a nightclub and Club Congress Hall, an evening program just for kids. Feel like venturing farther afield? Hop the Cape May–Lewes ferry for a day trip to one of the country’s oldest towns, Lewes, Delaware, famous for its fun shops and restaurants and its historic homes (including one whose stone foundation still bears a cannonball lodged there during the War of 1812). Bring along your suits and enjoy the surf at Cape Henlopen State Park, home to breathtaking beaches lined with submarine- spotting towers left over from World War II—one of them open to the public. capemaychamber.com; lewes.com


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