Parks and Rec(ommendations): Dates, Day Trips and Destinations to Get You Outside This Summer

No more pencils, no more books… schools almost out for Summer! Time to fill your days with fun activities. It’s the perfect opportunity to explore everything our state has to offer. If you’re anything like me, though, your reality will be lounging by the (energy-efficient) pool with a book or worse, in front of the TV. No! Not this year! This year will be different! With so much out there to do and see (and learn!), it’s a shame not to take it all in.

It’s impossible to list all the amazing things there are to do in New Jersey- pick a town and you’re sure to find some quirky and fabulous sight with a story to tell. That’s one of the many things that makes NJ so great, isn’t it? While I can’t list all there is to do in NJ- heck, I’m not even going to list more than a few things- I can share with you a few of my favorite summertime activities.

Leonard J. Buck Garden

Have you ever discovered a place that made you feel like you have stepped into a fairy tale? For me that place is Leonard J. Buck Garden in Far Hills, NJ. Brimming with flowers and wildlife, I feel like a fairy princess each time I walk down those first few steps. Operated by the Somerset County Parks Commission, the garden is 33 acres of wooded trails, streams and wildflowers all set amongst several magnificent rock features (which look incredibly natural- you’d never know they were placed there!). These rock outcroppings allow for rock gardens filled with exotic and rare plants which are truly stunning. Seriously, get your cameras ready! Every day, it seems, something new is in bloom, so this is the park that keeps on giving. The park is free and definitely worth a visit or two!

Summer with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra

Fresh air, good company and the sounds of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra sweetly playing you a tune! Once again, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra is offering their summer concert series and it’s not to be missed! Beginning June 23rd enjoy a “Road Trip Across the U.S.A.” as they share the scores to Lincoln, Rodeo and, a personal favorite, Beauty and the Beast. Wonderful evenings are sure to be enjoyed by the whole family!  Bring a picnic (maybe a bottle of wine?) and get there early for a great view of the festivities. Most shows are free and a few shows even feature a display of fireworks! Does it get any better than that?

Howell Living Farm

Need a break from the chaos of the 21st century? Technology breathing down your back? I get it, you just need to get away for a little while! Take a step back in time to a simpler time. The year is always 1900 at Howell Living Farm, where they reenact the past on a living, working farm! Check out Howell Farm as it was between 1890 and 1910, see how they farmed the crops, took care of the animals (say hi to those animals, too!) and hang around for some very cool- and educational- events. Don’t miss the July 7th Summer Barn Dance, the August 5th Honey Harvest (more on the benefits of honey here) or, the crowd favorite, August 25th Nocturnal Nature Walk. So, turn off that iPhone and take a trip out to Howell Living Farm in Lambertville, NJ. You’ll leave all your worries behind!

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (Outdoor Stage)

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” A summer’s day spent at the outdoor stage of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is an awesome day so, yes please! This is such a fun event, even if you aren’t really into Shakespeare. Seeing his plays acted out (and executed so well) with the added bonus of being in a grass-and-stone amphitheater is such a cool experience! This year’s show is Shakespeare’s classic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and previews begin on June 14th. I have no doubt it is going to be a crowd pleaser! Tickets are $37 each, $30 for those under 30 years old and free for anyone under 18! What a deal, right?! Plus, you can make a night out of it and bring a picnic and some wine (definitely some wine!) and enjoy all the midsummer night has to offer!

Grounds for Sculpture

Add a little culture to your summer with the Grounds for Sculpture park and museum. This 42-acre park is located in Hamilton, NJ and boy, when I say it has it all do I mean it! Sculpture gardens, museum tours, art exhibits, restaurants- it’s all here! As if that weren’t enough, the events that this park holds are amazing! Unfortunately, their van Gogh pop-up restaurant has recently sold out but, no fear, they have tons of other incredible events. Be sure to check out their August 8th “Cocktails from the Garden” event where you can learn all about organic gardening specifically for cocktail creations (right up my alley, right?!). Looking for something a little more family-friendly? Don’t miss their August 10th outdoor movie night where they are screening one of my all-time favorite movies- Ferngully: The Last Rainforest! If you are going to visit the park, however, it’s important to pre-purchase tickets as they are dated and timed and required for entrance. Children under 5 are free!

Mad Lavender Farm

We’re all mad here- mad for lavender! I am so in love with the idea of this farm I can’t even tell you! Mad Lavender Farm in Milford, Nj is a pick your own lavender farm! How much fun is that?! We all know the benefits of lavender (tension and pain relief, soothes skin irritation, helps digestive problems, etc.) so how great is it that there is a farm, right in our own backyard, where we can pick our own organic, pesticide and chemical-fertilizer free lavender? They also have raspberries available (in season) for picking and offer some great events as well (sign me up for the Goat Yoga- I love Dwarf Nigerian goats!). Support a small business and definitely check them out! Hours vary by season so visit their website for more information!

See, isn’t that better than sitting in front of the TV all summer? There is so much to do and so much fun to be had in NJ- celebrate where you live by enjoying your state! I have no doubt that you all have so many other great recommendations and I would love to hear them. Help me fill my weekends with exciting things to do in the Garden State by sharing your thoughts and ideas in the comments section! Happy Summer!

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