Winter Fun, 5 Ways
Aspen ski trip canceled? Try a new outdoor activity that will banish cabin fever and keep you moving.
Bergenites spent much of 2020 cooped up indoors, riding out the height of the pandemic from the safety of our homes. Now, following a brief warm-weather respite, Quarantine 2.0 looms large as winter makes its return. But if you’re not quite ready to hunker down and hibernate, a little cold and a few snowflakes shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the outdoors. Of course, COVID- related orders may cancel many outdoor activities and travel plans, but a plethora of fun and adventure opportunities still awaits—all within driving distance. Here are five easy, inexpensive activities to try:
Fair weather camping is ideal, but pitching a tent when conditions aren’t favorable can make for a more memorable trip. KOA (Kampgrounds of America) operates more than 500 North American campsites year-round, and two nearby locations—East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and Plattekill, New York—are popular spots for winter camping. Each is equipped with tent sites for those willing to test their mettle against the elements, but they also include heated cabins for folks who want the “glamping” experience. KOA grounds also feature clean restroom facilities and showers, general stores and firewood delivery.
Sure, folks in Minnesota and Wisconsin have been at it for years, but you don’t have to visit Great Lakes country to enjoy this increasingly popular sport. In fact, when conditions are right, anglers of all skill levels can set up their shelters and catch plenty of small and largemouth bass at nearby Lake Hopatcong. Members of the lake’s Knee Deep Club (kneedeepclub.org) can provide interested fishermen the scoop on fishing reports, techniques and equipment. According to the Ramsey Outdoor store, a drive north to Lake Champlain or Oneida Lake in the Syracuse, New York, region will give ice anglers a shot at hooking walleye, perch and pike, among other species.
Social distancing at Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park will likely be a concern this season, but you can avoid the worry and continue your outdoor ice-skating tradition on this side of the river. Though public skating is in question this year at Englewood’s Mackay Park, a session with the family is still possible nearby. Jersey City has a pair of open-air venues, Charlie Heger Ice Rink and Newport Skates, that offer public skating and lessons while ensuring safety for all participants. A drive down the Shore takes you to the Asbury Hotel Ice Rink, which has rentals, a fire pit area and a food truck. For a seasonal, lodge-like experience, the outdoor rink at Bear Mountain offers views of the park.
It’s hard to beat a fall hike—there’s something special about crisp autumn air and dramatic fall colors—but a trek through snowy woods in winter comes close. To experience it properly, though, you’ll want to strap on a pair of snowshoes to your boots. With a quality set of snowshoes, available at stores like Ramsey Outdoor and REI, you can traverse trails and reach destinations you never thought possible without high-stepping through mounds of powder. (You’ll likely still work up a sweat, though.) You can try snowshoeing in your backyard or any public park such as Van Saun in Paramus or Overpeck in Leonia, or head to Bruce Lake in Pennsylvania’s Delaware State Forest on a weekend excursion. The snow-shoe trails here are not groomed—motorized vehicles, bikes and other modes of transportation are prohibited—and highlight the forest’s beauty.
Like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing is allowed in public parks—no chairlifts, no permits needed. On any given snowy day, cross-country skiers will descend on the trails that cut through the woods of Palisades Interstate Park. Families who wish to load up the car for a getaway can escape to South Mountain Reservation in West Orange, which has 19 miles of skiable carriage roads and trails, or the High Point Cross Country Ski Center in Sussex. The latter is dedicated to cross-country skiing, with daily fees to explore the trails, lessons, equipment rentals and more.
By Darius Amos