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The first days of school are now behind us. We have settled our seating charts, learned our schedules, and we are well on our way to adapting to our new students (and even the new rules of our pandemic influenced classrooms). After a long period of virtual or hybrid learning and lock down schedules, most of us are back to full days, full classrooms, and full schedules.

Albeit tiring, there is something so nice about attempting to return to normal. I am not just talking about the routines behind our classroom doors. Have you begun to return some normalcy to your own personal life and routines? Many of us have differing feelings as the pandemic continues swirling around us. Nonetheless, I want to encourage all my teaching friends to grab your mask- or not, travel outside or inside if you are comfortable, and get outside of your home again.

Understandably, you may not be ready to brave the airports yet, but this is  a great time to load up the kids in the car, pack a picnic lunch, put the windows down, and day trip through the tristate area! So many beautiful and amazing places to visit, close enough for any weekend itinerary, and some even for a quick after school adventure. As we open our normal classrooms this fall, let’s try to bring some healing back to our everyday lives and enjoy some Fall fun.

 

Explore a river town surrounded by mountains!

  • Over the summer, I took my kids drifting down the Delaware on tubes. We passed through the historical town of Lamberville, NJ. A quick walk across the bridge will bring you to the Pennsylvania side and New Hope, PA. These are adorable towns to walk through with plenty of quick shopping stops and gorgeous fall foliage all about. If you have the time, you could even hop on the train for a quick trip!
  • The Delaware Water Gap is an old family favorite for us. We can hike up the side of a mountain, walk near the water’s edge, drive through the falling foliage, and stop at the shops and local bakeries.  Did you know that the Delaware Water Gap is actually nowhere near the state of Delaware? A “water gap” is when a river carves a notch through a mountain range- and this gap is located at the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and cuts through the Kittatinny Ridge leaving a large, picturesque gap with Mt. Tammany on the New Jersey side, and Mt. Minsi on the Pennsylvania side. The surrounding area provides some great and fairly easy family friendly hiking opportunities!

 

Feeling adventurous… How about a bike ride at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, NJ?

  •  Situated on nearly 3,000 acres, at Duke Farms you can discover wildlife, water falls, explore old ruins, or check out their farm market, classes, or orchid green houses.  It is free to enter and park, but the bike rentals are $7 for a 2-hour rental per adult ($5 for under 18). The bike rental is open Tuesday- Saturday 10-4  and  are located about 3/4 of a mile from the Orientation Center inside the gates. They have adult- and kid-sized bikes, and even tricycles available!

 

Everyone needs some good, old-fashioned fall farm fun!  Many local farms feature classic autumn fun, creating corn mazes, amazing pumpkin patch experiences, and pony rides, hayrides, and more.

  • Alstede Farms in Chester NJ has pick your own apples and pumpkins.  Check out the corn mazes and the sunflower fields before visiting the animals and petting zoo. End your farm trip properly with a stop at  the farm store for organic fruits and veggies, local honey, homemade pies and cider donuts before heading home.
  • Heaven Hill Farm in Vernon NJ throws a Great Pumpkin Festival every year, with more than 30 family-friendly activities, including pony rides, hay maze, milking cows, monster slingshots, and barnyard sports ball-cade. While there is no pick your own produce available, they do have a fully stocked market you can stop in before heading home.
  • Johnson’s Corner Farm in Medford NJ has so much more than pick-your-own produce. Enjoy a sunflower stroll, explore a corn maze, and discover the barnyard with a hayride included to many locations. Fall Festival Weekends also includes live music, moon bounce, and a food tent.
  • The Historic Villiage of Allaire is a living history museum, located in Farmingdale, New Jersey. It includes a museum, multiple buildings from the 1800’s, and a working train. Historical actors and guides provide visitors with a unique look at life inside an industrial village in 1836. This fall they offer history filled autumn events running from spooky, to plain old fun. Caramel apples, pumpkin muffins, BIG cookies, and other apple treats are for sale at the bakery, as well seasonal gifts at the General Store. Tickets are for sale for the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, An Evening with Edgar Allen Poe, Night of Fright, and 1830s All Hallows Eve Celebration events.
  • Argos Farm in Lacey NJ offers tons of family fun all around the farm, including a pumpkin patch, the Hay Mountain, Cow Train, Double Hay Slide, corn pit, corn maze, Pedal Carts, pony rides, and pig races. Stop and see the animals and find a snack at the market to finish off your day.

 

Trains are always fun, but how much more when you are winding through the golds and reds of the changing trees to climb out at pumpkin and corn maze adventures? Check out these fall train rides!

  • The great pumpkin train at the Delaware River railroad excursions in Philipsburg, NJ.  Every child picks their own pumpkin from the patch from the glade in front of the century-old Carpentersville Lime Kilns. Dating to before the Revolutionary War, the lime kilns are the oldest and largest left in existence in New Jersey.
  • Pumpkin Train in Flemington, NJ, will take you to Everitt Farms at Pumpkin Junction. Your train ticket includes a round-trip fare plus admission to a corn maze, a tractor-pulled wagon ride, and other fall activities. You can park directly on the farm if you prefer to skip the train.
  • Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Jim Thorpe, PA doesn’t actually take you to pumpkins or a farm, but it does pick you up in a vintage coach built as early as 1917, and narrate a 70-minute, 16-mile round-trip ride following the majestic Lehigh River over bridges, through Glen Onoko, and into the Lehigh Gorge State Park. After the ride, enjoy all that the beautiful and historic town of Jim Thorpe has to offer. You won’t be disappointed in this town at any time of the year.

 

Autumn is the best time to take a hike to a WATERFALL when the weather is cool and the leaves are changing. These are just some of the scenic falls we have here in New Jersey.

  • Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park is a national treasure located right in the heart of the city, and steps from easy parking. There is no hiking required here, just a lot of well-maintained stairs to go up and down. If you never made this trip, it is worth your while.
  • Boonton Falls are situated just off the main street in Boonton and once powered the New Jersey Iron Company. They are easily accessible from each side of the Rockaway River, inside Grace Lord Park and are surrounded by historical sites including the ruins of the old factory.
  • Buttermilk Falls is the tallest waterfall in New Jersey, and only steps away from parking. If you want the falls, without too much of the work of a hike, check Buttermilk Falls out.
  • Hacklebarney State Park was a mined iron site in the 19th century. It has 5 miles of hiking, which include the falls flowing around the boulders down the ravine. This is a longer hike than others on my list. To see the gorge and falls, take the Sierra Trail loop.
  • The Watchung Reservation has waterfalls to visit and so much more! Before or after a hike to the falls, be sure to enjoy the science center, Lake Surprise, the Deserted Village of Feltville, and the Watchung Stables.
Author

Jessica Cicalese-Kurtz, MA, k-12 Teaching and Technology; BA, k-8 Education; BS, Biology, Science and Engineering, is a middle school teacher at Toms River Schools. Jess is also a K-8 science curriculum writer for Toms River Schools and Ocean County, as well as an independent science workshop creator and presenter. She is a freelance writer, wife, and budgeting mom of four who loves to travel, enjoy nature, connect with animals, and read.

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