"There's just never enough hours in a day..." Sound familiar? Sure, we're all busy, but quality family time is important, so how about a picnic? Grab your basket and head to one of the many Northern New Jersey parks listed below or more choices throughout the state. Or, how about throwing your summer-born kid a picnic birthday party? And for even more summer awesomeness, check out our New Jersey Kids Summer Activities Guide.
Bear Mountain State Park (Bear Mountain)
By crossing the border into New York, you are just a short drive away from Bear Mountain State Park. The park’s Perkins Memorial Tower offers amazing views of the park, Harriman State Park and also the Hudson Highlands. Bear Mountain boosts shaded picnic groves, a large play field, a swimming pool, biking (permitted on paved pathways only) and hiking trails, along with the Trailside Museum & Zoo. Paddle and row boats are available for rent at Hessian Lake. The Merry-Go-Round features 42 hand carved native animals including black bear, raccoons, bobcats, rabbits and more. The park is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to sunset.
Picnicking at Liberty State Park is often an all-day, family affair. Photo by Liberty State Park via Flickr.
Liberty State Park (Jersey City) The ultimate picnic location in Northern New Jersey. With panoramic views of the Hudson, the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, families can enjoy a quiet lunch before hopping on a ferry ride, playing at the Liberty Science Center, venturing over to Lady Liberty, walking through the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal or riding through the park’s flat walkways. Don't miss Empty Sky, the breathtaking New Jersey September 11th Memorial. The park is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Ringwood State Park (Ringwood)
If you're looking to stay local for a day trip, make sure to visit Ringwood State Park, which consists of Ringwood Manor, Shepherd Lake Recreation Area and the New Jersey State Botanical Garden at Skylands. Park hours vary throughout the year; operational seasonal hours are 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at these three areas. Picnic areas also are available at Ringwood Manor.
Shepherd Lake Recreation Area (Ringwood)
This property consists of a 74-acre lake with boating and fishing opportunities, hiking and biking trails, a playground, picnic tables and grills. Swimming is permitted from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day.
South Mountain Reservation in West Orange offers picnic spots, hiking, a zoo, and an epic playground. Photo by Mommy Poppins.
South Mountain Reservation (West Orange/Maplewood/Millburn)
This family-friendly area is home to a brand-new playground, Turtle Back Zoo, the Richard J. Codey Arena, Mini Golf Safari, Washington Rock Lookout historic site, 19 miles of hiking and waterfalls, plus 10 separate picnic areas. The largest parkland in Essex County, the South Mountain Reservation has picnic areas at Mayapple Hill, Turtle Back Rock, Oakdale, Tulip Springs and Shady Nook and Bramhall Terrace and Summit Field. Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Stokes State Forest (Branchville)
The gorgeous Stokes State Forest offers two large picnic areas at Stony Lake and Kittle Field. The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset – something you won’t want to miss from Sunrise Mountain. Kittle Field boosts a playgrounds, as well as baseball fields, while Stony Lake has 45 tables, with adjacent grills, conveniently near the beach. Open 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Van Saun County Park (Paramus)
Nestled within its 146 acres, Van Saun County Park has picnic areas around its attractions and amenities, along with a wide-range of activities for kids of all ages. On-site is the Bergen County Zoological Park, the historic Washington Spring Garden, a train kids can ride inside, carousel, pony rides,age-appropriate playgrounds with sprinklers (in summer), Walden Pond, and more. Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
This article was first published in 2013.
Top photo: Toddlers share a picnic lunch. Photo by Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr.