Summer is here … so here’s where to go!

Memorial Day weekend may not be the seasonal start of summer, but for any frequent New Jersey road-tripper, it means we finally have reason to dust off our flip-flops, re-apply the sunscreen and start planning for the summer. 

After a crazy winter and spring of worrying about interest rates and how to handle rising home costs, we decided finding some opportunities to put the market behind us could do some good. So here’s what we came up with for anyone needing ideas for hitting the road in the coming months. We’re using Maplewood/S. Orange as a common point of departure, hoping it will provide a decent estimate of travel time to each suggestion.

Care to join us?

Lakota Wolf Preserve

Columbia, NJ – slightly over one hour from Maplewood/S. Orange

Best for: the whole family

A keystone species and one of the most misunderstood predators on the planet, the gray wolf has become a tremendous tourist draw in the mountain west, and a symbol of successful ecosystem rehabilitation. But now you don’t have to travel to Yellowstone National Park to see them. 

The Lakota Wolf Preserve has collected and cares for a number of wolves gathered from various organizations, zoos and places unable to offer them what’s needed for long-term health. It offers tours of its reserve, photography programs and other ways to learn about this incredibly important member of our natural world.  

Tuckerton Seaport & Bayshore Museum

Tuckerton, NJ – 1:30 from Maplewood/S. Orange

Best for:  the whole family

A testament to the coastal history of The Garden State, this popular destination celebrates boating nostalgia alongside programs highlighting New Jersey’s tidal environments. The experience starts with an hour-long ferry ride and from there, it’s all up to you. Wave riders can spend time browsing the East Coast’s rich relationship with surfing, while kids can hop on their second boat of the day to tour Tuckerton Creek. 

There’s a nature trail for those needing to up their step count, a replica of one of the region’s oldest hunting clubs, a wooden boat construction workshop and locally-souced market and cafe when its time to grab lunch and coffee. And lastly, don’t forget to stop into the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve for in-depth displays of ocean systems from one of the world’s most recognized marine scientists.   

Grounds for Sculpture

Hamilton Township, NJ – a little over an hour from Maplewood/S. Orange

Best for: older kids and adults; art lovers

If art is subjective, then get ready to be subject to all kinds of it at one of the east coast’s most unique sculpture parks. There are more than 300 works on the sprawling, tree-lined acreage that range from exotic masterworks to towering oddities. Whatever your preference for artwork may be, it’ll be here. 

Founded in 1989 and later opened in 1992 on the former grounds of the New Jersey State Fair, Grounds for Sculpture celebrates the importance of public art, its place in our national discourse and offers an outlet for pieces not always suited for metropolitan museums—partly because of their size. 

The Raptor Trust

Millington, NJ – 20/25 minutes from Maplewood/S. Orange

Best for: the whole family

In the same way the Lakota Wolf Project aims to educate people about wolves, the nearby Raptor Trust is all-in on our local population of eagles, hawks, falcons and owls. Now almost 40-years-old, the non-profit avian rehabilitation center offers free medical care to injured birds, often found hurt or young and alone by private residents. To the best extent possible, the birds here are offered extensive veterinary care with the intent of being released back into the wild. 

The organization may have more than 50 birds being cared at any time, and those birds who won’t make it on their own serve to educate the public on their hunting habits, threats to their existence and their role in the greater regional ecosystem. 

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

New York Cityabout 50 minutes from Maplewood/S. Orange

Best for: older kids and adults; history buffs

This well-funded and highly regarded display of American firepower and military history is sure to stick with you after a visit. If you’ve never set foot on an aircraft carrier, then be ready to be awe-struck at the sheer size and scope of what’s around you. These massive boats have endless hallways, nooks and rooms to explore, and every part of it will have you wondering what it takes for these vessels to operate.

But it’s not all about the boat. The museum also houses the Space Shuttle Enterprise, another gargantuan example of motorized wonder that served as the basis for decades of NASA-powered space travel. 

And if space isn’t what thrills you, consider heading in the exact opposite direction to see the Growler, a high-speed, seriously equipped guided missile submarine. It’s been said that our entire government is capable of being run by our exceptionally secret sub-surface fleet of Navy vessels, and that most people would be very surprised to learn just how close to the shore these prowling protectors are often operating in their effort to monitor threats to our homeland security. 

It doesn’t get much cooler than this place.  

Wild West City

Stanhope, NJ – about 45 minutes from Maplewood/S. Orange

Best for: the whole family

A little hokey but a lot of fun, this live-action trail-through-time proves you don’t have to head west to actually head west, as the saying goes. 

Based on the (in)famous Dodge City, Kansas, Wild West City is all you need to experience what it “might” have been like to live in a time without structured justice, internal combustion engines and the iPhone. Through a number of live-action shows, displays and interactive exhibits, visitors can have as much fun here as the saloon keeper will allow.

The part-theater, part-historical record park has been around since the 1950s, when Hollywood’s love for the western culture captured the country. In between the shootouts and wagon rides, you can learn about Native American culture and explore exhibits with actual 1880s memorabilia. 

There’s simply no way a kid can’t have fun here. 

If you know of some more off-beat locales to add to our summer road trip list, please let us know. And of course, if you want to take a road trip around the area to look at some homes, we’re more than ready to join you. 

You can email Allison at [email protected] to arrange a time to talk.

The Allison Ziefert Real Estate Group is a top producing real estate team based at Compass in Short Hills, NJ. We are local market experts, specializing in real estate and homes in Maplewood, South Orange, Millburn/Short Hills, Montclair, West Orange, NJ and the surrounding towns. We are driven by earning great testimonials and referral business from happy clients. You can read our testimonials here.