Let’s be honest, we could all use a vacation in the summertime. But if your budget, schedules and young kiddos aren’t in line with taking off in a plane or long car ride, don’t stress that you can’t get away. Consider a staycation! Thanks to our prime location in the Garden State, you can have sand between your toes, hike along scenic wooded trails, jump in a lake or walk in the footsteps of history for the day, all while feeling like you’ve been far, far away. What’s more, you don’t have to do any elaborate planning because I’ve done it for you! Read below for the perfect spots that satisfy any kind of family vacation craving, and bonus options if you find yourself wanting to spend the night.
featured photo via @collstraz
If you want to jump in a lake:
A recent epidemic of algae has forced many of New Jersey’s bigger lakes to ban swimming, so unless you plan to rent a boat on one and not swim, it’s probably wiser to stick with a place where you can get wet. Highlands Natural Pool in Ringwood is a spring fed swimming hole that’s a hidden gem where kids can take the “go jump in a lake” command seriously. Bring a cooler and map out your day. There are lifeguards and roped-off areas just like a pool, a sandy volleyball area, sandbox for littles and hiking trails that offer scenic views of New York City on site.
Just 25 minutes from Ringwood past the NY state border, The Waterstone Inn is situated among the shoreline of Greenwood Lake. Paddle out on a canoe or kayak right from the waterfront or venture out on a motorboat rental at the nearby marina.
If you want to be sun-up to sunset at the beach:
Skip the rowdy crowds and buzzing boardwalk and head to a quieter spot by the shore. Avon-by-the-Sea offers plenty of waterfront play with amenities, like a playground, pavilion with restrooms, free parking and no-frills boardwalk to make a day trip feel like a solid vacation. Start your morning perched out on the sand with a hearty breakfast with local favorite Avon Pavilion. The amazing views within a chic, whitewashed décor feels more Mykonos than Jersey Shore. Buy a badge, stake out your spot on the beach and then finally relax among the pristine shore renowned for its cleanliness and family atmosphere.
Avon Manor welcomes families and even has cottage rental options for when you need more space. A block from the beach with pool access, this spot has a complimentary putting green and bikes on-site. Check-in, then sit back for sunset on one of the largest wrap-around porches in the state, and you’ll instantly be in a vacay state of mind even if you’ve only escaped 24 hours.
If you want to relive history:
If your family is obsessed with history or just wants to appreciate our country’s roots, head to Morristown. Spend the day retracing Washington’s steps from his headquarters to Jockey Hollow, where revolutionary soldiers fought and lived during the brutal winter of 1780. The Ford Mansion, known as Washington’s Headquarters, is one of the oldest house museums in the US, and shows off the rooms restored to reflect what they were like during Washington’s stay. Make a burger pit stop at The Committed Pig, which boasts views of the historic Green. After, head over to nearby Jockey Hollow park, to see a short film about the war fought there and get up close to the authentic soldier huts.
Right down the road from Washington’s Headquarters is the Westin Governor Morris, which is a modern respite among the revolutionary past. Check out the outdoor pool and kids club. If you’re still on the history hunt, visit the 19th century restored Fosterfields Living Historical Farm and then head to Speedwell, where an interactive museum about the industrial revolution will delight all ages.
If you want to revel in the great outdoors
Pack a picnic and take a drive to Cheesequake State Park, known for its unique landscape. It has saltwater and fresh marshes with hardwood trees, positioning it among two different eco systems of the sea and forest. Start at the interpretive nature center where your kids can learn about the nesting osprey as well as other animals that populate the park. Then pick up a trail map and decide which of the five trails you can all enjoy; they range from easy to moderate with inclines and some allow bikes.
Roast s’mores and sleep under the stars at the on-site campgrounds (a reservation is required). With bathroom facilities and fishing spots nearby that include a kid-popular crabbing bridge, spending the night here can be just the place for your family to unplug.