Throughout the years of booking birthday photoshoots for two kids, I’d done all the usual spots, like the beach, a park, and a playground. So when it came time to schedule my daughter’s fifth-birthday photos, my photographer mentioned a gem of a setting I didn’t even know existed so close to home—Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown. Set on over 127 majestic acres, the Frelinghuysen Arboretum has serene gardens, grounds, and trails where families can go to relax, learn, and explore. Its location is Insta-worthy when in full-bloom with formal gardens of colorful flowers and has a unique history like much of Morristown. My family loved roaming the gardens, secret pathways, and admiring the mansion on a glorious spring day, and I highly recommend it for a photoshoot setting or a day out in nature. Read on to know more about Frelinghuysen Arboretum and what you can do during your visit.
featured image via Friends of The Frelinghuysen Arboretum
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Explore the rich history at Frelinghuysen Arboretum
The Frelinghuysen family spent 40 summers at Frelinghuysen Arboretum, formally known as Whippany Farm. Listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places, Frelinghuysen Arboretum was once the country home of George Griswold Frelinghuysen and his wife, Sara Ballantine Frelinghuysen. The mansion was built in 1891 and designed in the style of an English country estate, complete with federal urns, swages, and Ionic columns. A Palladian window overlooks the Rose Garden, and the Frelinghuysen family planted trees and shrubs around the estate that are considered essential to an English-style landscape. It’s no wonder almost every nook and cranny is an ideal spot for an afternoon tea party or picnic.
Must-see spots at Frelinghuysen Arboretum
There are several areas of the Arboretum that are worth the visit. The woodlands and meadows surround the Colonial Revival Mansion, and the mansion provides a regal backdrop. Your kids can run around while mom and dad sit royally in two wooden Adirondack-style chairs—it’s the perfect mix of poise and play. The Stone Maze was one of my daughter’s favorite spots, where she ran happily through the rock garden and pathway beneath the trees. My kids also like the pretty gazebo nestled in between foliage and wild grasslands. They have a table and chairs, making it a nice spot to take a break to soak in the scenery and snack. The Frelinghuysen Arboretum is full of hideaways and moments like this, and discovering them is part of the fun.
Stop to smell the flowers at Frelinghuysen Arboretum
The true show stoppers are the flowers that peak during the spring and summer months. You can find daffodils and tulips opening along with flowering trees like Cherry Blossoms and Magnolias. There are also more unusual plants and flowers, like the Purple Leaf Plum, Scarlet Storm Quince, and Rosegold Pussy Willow—keep an eye out for these unique blooms within the gardens. To know what to look for, download this self-guided tour map which gives you a guide about the different gardens and what areas to see. And for all the latest flower info, check out the Facebook page for updates on what seasonal flowers and trees are blooming.
What to know before you visit Frelinghuysen Arboretum
While all indoor activities are currently closed, the Haggerty Education Center on-site hosts workshops, establishing Frelinghuysen Arboretum as a regional center for horticultural activities. They have held events that include everything from plant sales (which is virtual this year) to bird watching and hope to resume in-person activities soon. The grounds are currently open daily from 8 a.m. until sunset with COVID restrictions, and all buildings are closed (which means there are no public restrooms). And if you’re thinking of doing a professional photoshoot, as I did, you’ll need a permit beforehand (our photographer secured ours for us).
353 East Hanover Ave, Morris Township, NJ 07960