Spring has finally sprung! Now that the days are warmer and flowers are blooming, it's the perfect time to take advantage of some of Northern New Jersey's most charming attractions. Experience the serenity of the Garden State, learn about storied local history, and gain an up close view of the state’s natural splendor.
Presby Memorial Iris Gardens
Channel your inner photographer at the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Montclair, a hot spot for painters and shutterbugs alike. Be inspired as you admire the hundreds of varieties of irises (pictured here) while strolling through this picturesque garden—we promise that you'll leave with a renewed appreciation for nature. Seeds and plants are available for purchase at the gift shop; take some home to grow your very own iris garden! Peak bloom for the irises arrives the third week of May, although the 2016 season seems to be five days ahead of schedule, with some miniature and standard dwarf irises already in bloom.
Searching for a unique Mother's Day activity? Presby is hosting a Mother's Day brunch and jazz concert from 10am to 3pm on May 8th, 2016. Don't miss the Family Garden Party on May 11th, 2016 at 11am, where children and adults can enjoy the fully bloomed irises, music, and refreshments. 474 Upper Mountain Avenue, Montclair; open dawn to dusk; $8.00 suggested donation per person
Cherry Blossoms in Newark's Branch Brook Park
Can't get enough of the seasonal floral beauty North Jersey has to offer? Pay a visit to Branch Brook Park in Newark to see the region's famous cherry blossoms! Washington, D.C. is famous for its cherry blossoms, but did you know Newark has even more cherry blossom trees than the nation's capital? The pink and white blooms form a beautiful backdrop to the park’s seasonal fairs and weekend activities. Check the events calendar, or simply head to the park anytime for a picnic or a run—the beauty of this 360-acre park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (the genius behind NYC's Central Park), makes for the ultimate spring day hangout.
Bonus: Branch Brook is easily accessible by public transportation: the Newark Light Rail stops right within the park. Lake Street & Park Avenue, Newark; open daily, 24 hours; free
Montclair Film Festival
Spring rolling in signals the start of what Montclairon's await all year: the Montclair Film Festival. Kicking off this year on April 29th and running until May 8th, the festival is filled with star-studded events like a screening of LIFE, ANIMATED, moderated by Stephen Colbert, with special guest Gilbert Gottfried, In Conversation with Patrick Wilson and Friends, In Conversation with Richard Curtis (also moderated by Stephen Colbert) and more. The annual House Party at the Audible Lounge is sure to please, featuring cocktails from Jersey Artisan Distilling and craft beer from NJ Beer Co.
Catch one of the 150+ films, especially the documentary centerpiece, Presenting Princess Shaw, and narrative centerpiece, Indignation. Locations throughout Montclair; consult the website for details.
Thomas Edison National Historic Park
Spring is the ideal time to visit historical landmarks and get a true sense of your local heritage. Few individuals evoke more New Jersey pride than Thomas Edison. Take a tour of Edison's laboratory on Main Street as well Glenmont, his expansive estate, in nearby Llewellyn Park, both in West Orange. Together, these buildings form the Thomas Edison National Historic Park. The grounds of the estate include the can't miss greenhouse and classic car exhibit—perfect for a beautiful spring day. Edison's factory showcases everything from phonographs, motion picture technology, automata, early robotic dolls, thousands of patents and blueprints, to a factory floor filled with Edison’s machinery.
The informative and interactive tours draw national and international visitors alike. Laboratory: 211 Main Street, West Orange; Estate: 37 Honeysuckle Avenue, West Orange; Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm; $10 per pass valid for 7 days; patrons under 16 are free
World of Wings
The ultimate spring mascot: the butterfly. To experience a truly unique attraction, make your way to World of Wings in Teaneck, a museum devoted to the colorful, fluttering creatures. World of Wings is home to hundreds of butterflies, representative of species from around the world. The staff advises arriving to the atrium in time to see some of the butterflies make their first flights around 12:30pm. Yes, butterflies will probably land on you, making for a wonderful Instagramming opportunity. Peruse the equally fascinating lizard and insect exhibits that surround the butterfly atrium.
For a special treat, bring kids to the popular bounce room where they can pretend to fly just like the butterflies they learned about. Consult the full calendar for hours and event information. This spot is also a wonderful birthday party location for your nature-loving kids! 1775 Windsor Road, Teaneck; Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm; $11 special admission price for all ages through May 29, 2016 (otherwise, $11 for children, $16 for adults, and $14 for seniors and students); bounce room admission is $5 and scooter rentals are $3
Morristown National Historic Park
New Jersey played a crucial role in the founding of the United States. During the Revolutionary War, then General George Washington and his soldiers trained and fought key battles here. Ford Mansion, part of Washington’s Headquarters Museum, housed Continental Army soldiers, as well as George and Martha Washington and their many guests, aides, and servants. The mansion is decorated as it may have been during Washington's tenure in the 18th century. Tours start at the Museum Building, which was designed by John Rusell Pope, the same architect behind the Jefferson Memorial, the National Archives, and the west entrance of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Artifacts that belonged to Washington himself, as well as from his time, abound. Jockey Hollow (including the Wick House, which served as a site for Washington's army's to chop down trees for shelter and heat, is now open to the public and is decorated as a general's headquarters), Fort Nonsense (Washington's winter camp), and The New Jersey Brigade and Cross Estate Gardens (occupied by Jersey troops in in 1779-80 and now reachable by hiking trail) are also part of the park and all worth a visit.
30 Washington Place, Morristown; Wednesday to Sunday, 9:30am to 5pm; $7 per person
Craving a visit to wine country without the hassle and expense of traveling? Take a stroll through Sussex County’s own Ventimiglia Vineyard. This quaint vineyard, situated on 50-acre Rocky Ridge Farm, offers tours, picnics, and tastings, and is owned by a local family who always makes you feel welcome. Leave with a bottle of the popular 2013 Buon Giorno, a white with notes of honeydew. Looking to make a wine-themed weekend out of your visit? This vineyard is just one stop along one of North Jersey's wine trails, with Cava Winery and Westfall Winery nearby.
If you can't seem to find time to make it to Ventimiglia's. you can purchase the wine at Gary's Wine & Marketplace on Rt. 23 in Wayne. 101 Layton Road, Wantage; 12pm to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday; $5 per person for a wine tasting and tour
Ringwood State Park
Before it gets debilitatingly hot, consider a hike through Ringwood State Park, a sprawling 4,044-acre park filled with opportunities for outdoor and aquatic sports, and two historical mansions, Skylands Manor and Ringwood Manor. Consult the map for specific trail information and scenic viewpoints. Ramapo State Forest, Ringwood; open daily; free during the week; $7 parking for out of state visitors on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day; $5 parking for NJ residents; seniors 62 and over can get their parking fee waived
Skylands Manor and the New Jersey Botanical Gardens
Skylands Manor is a mansion surrounded by the famous 96-acre New Jersey Botanical Gardens. The Manor, built in the 1920s, was designed by esteemed architect John Russell Pope, who was responsible for the aforementioned Washington's Headquarters Museum. While absorbing the vibrancy of the many flowers and plant species in the Botanical Gardens, you might get lucky enough to catch a wedding. The Gardens also host a multitude of Spring events, such as hikes, walks, and plant sales. 5 Morris Road, Ringwood; 8am to 8pm daily for most of the year; 8am to 6pm daily in the winter; free for the botanical garden; prices for manor tours: adults: $7, seniors (62+): $5, youth (13-18): $5, children (6-12): $3, children under 6: free
Ringwood Manor also has a connection to George Washington. Engineer Robert Erskine, who became General Washington's Geographer and Surveyor General for the Continental Army, oversaw the critical ironworks that took place inside the mansion. It served as an industrial center for nearly 200 years before becoming a lovely summer home. Enjoy the grounds and unparalleled views of the Ramapo Mountains from this quintessential part of Ringwood State Park. Tours of the Manor's spacious rooms are given hourly from 10am to 3pm with a break during the noon hour.
1304 Sloatsburg Road, Ringwood; Wednesday-Sunday 10:00 am to 3:00 pm; closed Monday and Tuesday; $3 for adults, $1 for children 6-12, free for children under 5