5 Outdoor Winter Activities with Kids in New Jersey

by Tonya Staab

These five outdoor winter activities in New Jersey will have the kids getting outdoors, exploring, and away from video games.

Over winter break we took a road trip from Kentucky to New Jersey. It was Marisol’s Christmas gift as she has a friend there she really wanted to visit. We were staying in a hotel in Parsippany not far from their house for four nights and aside from going to a hockey game and hanging out with friends a couple of days had no itinerary. There was no way the kids were going to just stay in a hotel room staring at screens.

Each day I planned a hike. Sometimes Marisol was with us, but other times it was just the three of us. Here are five places we visited over four days.

Grace Lord Park, Boonton

This isn’t a large park, but there is a playground for little ones and a short walking trail. There are beautiful waterfalls, stone ruins, squirrels, and during winter we had a lot of fun playing with ice.

man holding block of ice in front of a waterfall
a waterfall and river flowing between barren trees and rocks
dam and waterfall flowing into a river
Man and boy walking along cliff edge through brush and barren trees
icicles hanging off wood
boy lifting ice off a rock pool with river in the background

The Fairy Trail at South Mountain Reservation, Millburn

I was able to catch up with a friend for brunch while we were in town and she recommended we head over to the South Mountain Fairy Trail that afternoon for a wander. Even in winter, it’s beautiful, albeit very muddy, so pack extra shoes.

There are lots of fairy homes to be discovered, and a small plank bridge to cross. As you get closer to the waterfall that goes into the Rahway River there are not as many fairy homes, but it is still a beautiful view. My map wasn’t working on my phone for the trail but Flynn was able to bring up his map on Pokemon Go so we could do the loop back to the car.

a fairy house on rocks in front of a tree with fall leaves all over the ground
a fairy home with a heart door in a mossy covered mound with rocks
boy walking on a plank bridge over a stream with a small fairy house in a tree stump by the water
the Rahway River flowing through barren trees with red and orange brush on the ground in winter
a downy woodpecker in fall leaves on the ground
waterfall into the Rahway River in New Jersey surrounded by barren trees and red and orange foliage in winter

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Morristown

Unfortunately, the cold kept most of the wildlife tucked in their homes where they could stay warm. We did spot plenty of squirrels, ducks, geese, and other birds though. The swamp was almost completely covered in ice and it was SO incredibly quiet walking along the boardwalks.

boy and girl walking along a boardwalk over a swamp surrounded by barren trees in winter in new jersey
reeds in front of an iced over pond at a swamp in new jersey
ice over branches coming out of swamp in new jersey
barren trees and swampland in new jersey in winter
boy observing wildlife through lens at the great swamp in new jersey
a squirrel on the branch of a barren tree in winter
ducks and geese at the great swamp in new jersey

The Raptor Trust, Millington

The Raptor Trust is a rehabilitation and education center for wild birds. There is an area you can walk through and see many birds such as the Snowy Owl, Vultures, Hawks, and other wild birds that are in the care of the rehabilitation center. There are signs everywhere to not touch the wire fences or make any noise as the birds spook easily. Leave a donation if you visit too. Oh, and don’t forget to peek into the bathroom where you’ll find photos of owls playing with toilet paper rolls. It’s the little things that amuse me.

snowy owl at the raptor trust
barred owl at the raptor trust
man and boy looking at birds at the raptor trust while a vulture watches them

The Friends of The Frelinghuysen Arboretum, Morris Township

Although there wasn’t a lot for us to do on the day that we visited The Friends of The Frelinghuysen Arboretum, we did have a lovely wander. They do have events and educational programs there so be sure to check out the dates for those before you go. We however just wandered around the gardens a little, Mike kept us amused by being a human sundial, and we learned about counting rings on trees to see how old they are.

learning about how to count rings on a tree stump to see how old it is
how to tell the time using a sundial
grow sign at The Friends of The Frelinghuysen Arboretum
red berries on bushes at The Friends of The Frelinghuysen Arboretum
a statue in the garden at The Friends of The Frelinghuysen Arboretum

We might do a lot of educational activities over summer break to stop the summer slide, but educational activities and getting outdoors in winter to stop that winter slide is just as important to us.

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