The mercury has passed the 90-degree mark on thermometers all over Northern New Jersey. While we're sure you're no stranger to a hot and humid summer, with the forecast set to "scorching" before the season has officially started, you might be stressing about how you'll manage to keep cool. Chill out with all the air conditioning your heart desires at these fun places to beat the heat.
The Only Sweating You'll Do Is Deciding Which Summer Steal to Take Advantage of at Two of Northern New Jersey’s Largest Malls
Visit Garden State Plaza for a truly expansive shopping experience.
From upper-upscale stores to Jersey outposts of NYC restaurants, this behemoth has it all. Treat yourself to frozen yogurt at 16 Handles after traversing the collection of shops, or take one to go for the sweltering walk to the car (sadly, parking might be a bit difficult). Just remember: Garden State Plaza is closed on Sundays, as are many other businesses in Bergen County, due to the county’s blue laws. The AMC movie theater on site offers IMAX and 3D movie options, as well as standard screen experiences. (1 Garden State Plaza Boulevard, Paramus; Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 9:30 pm; closed Sundays; movie times run later and vary by date)
For a slightly different flavor, try The Mill at Jersey Gardens, a 200-store Elizabeth mall comprised largely of outlets—savings upon savings await you. If you’re looking for the perfect graduation or Father's Day present, you may be able to nab it here for less.
The Mill is more easily accessible for North Jerseyans than other popular outlet malls in our region, such as Woodbury Common and The Crossing. Restaurant fare tends to reflect a typical mall food court experience, but this mall is also home to an AMC movie theater with IMAX, 3D, and standard movie options.
(651 Kapkowski Road, Elizabeth; Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 9 pm, Sunday, 11 am to 7 pm; movie times run later and vary by date)
Cornhole, Schmorn-Hole. Frisbee, Schmizzbee. Fun Can Be Had Inside, Too!
Trade in those flip flops for some neon bowling shoes at Hanover Lanes. (Just remember to bring socks!) A game room, sports bar, and “full-service grill” make this spot a great summer hangout—a BBQ without the bees crawling into your soda can if you will. Lanes stay open late (until midnight or 1 am, even on weeknights). If you find yourself scoring strike after strike, joining one of Hanover Lanes’ summer bowling leagues might be right up your alley. Bonus: there is a multitude of Summer Specials to take advantage of, including "Quartermania" on Tuesday nights: $8 cover charge, but each game is $0.25. (19 NJ-10, East Hanover; open daily, 10 am to 12 am; admission varies according to night; shoe rental is additional)
Just a short drive from Hanover Lanes on Route 10 is The Funplex, an arcade complex. There are plenty of activities to occupy kids, including the one-of-a-kind Foam Frenzy where kids can blast foam balls at different targets and each other, an interactive obstacle course, and MaqiQuest, a medieval fantasy land come to life.
Adults and kids alike can enjoy a rousing game of laser tag, bumper cars, a free fall, 4D rides, and go-karts, not to mention the main attraction: a huge arcade filled with everything from classic video games, Skee Ball, and air hockey to claw machines and high tech games. There's also a water park—The Splashplex—on the grounds with water slides, a waterfall pool, and cabanas. Bonus: Diamond Gymnastics and its Rock Climbing Center are right next door if breaking a sweat, albeit indoors, is still your thing. (182 NJ-10, East Hanover; Monday through Thursday: arcade opens 9 am, all attractions open from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm; Friday: arcade opens 12:00 pm, all attractions open from 4:00 pm to 11:00 pm; Saturday: all attractions open from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm; Sunday: all attractions open from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm; admission and parking are free; visit the website for pricing on individual attractions as well as value pricing)
Three Words: Frigid Movie Theater
If you can’t decide between dinner or a movie for your summer night date night, why not do both at the same time? Reserve seats at the AMC Dine-in Cinema in West Orange, where you can luxuriate in the reclining seats as you’re served yummy fare and libations (21 and older, of course) by the attentive theater staff. Going to the movies always seems to be the ultimate "cool off" activity, doesn't it? We always find ourselves bringing a sweater, year round. So, escape the heat in your air-conditioned seat as you immerse yourself in one of this summer’s exciting blockbusters. (495 Prospect Avenue, West Orange; hours based on movie times; admission: tickets vary by show, theater, and time and must be purchased ahead of time either online or at the theater as each ticket is for your individual reserved seats)
Hook Yourself up to an Ice Cream IV
No list of noteworthy Northern New Jersey spots would be complete without a quintessential ice cream shop. Hop over to one of Jersey's oldest and most revered: Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionary, a greasy spoon where the sundaes are old-fashioned and sloppy and oh-so-delicious. The homemade candy and sweets, including luscious fudge, are not to be passed up, either. Holsten’s, which first opened its doors in 1939, is famous for more than its long-standing history as a family favorite ice cream shop: Fans of “The Sopranos” will recognize it as the setting for the notorious final scene of the series, a draw that the owners celebrate and visitors pay homage to daily. Yes, the onion rings are worth ordering, and yes you can sit in the booth. (1063 Broad Street, Bloomfield; Monday through Saturday, 11 am to 11:30 pm; Sunday, 12 pm to 10 pm)
If Staying Inside Isn't Your Thing, but Idling in the Sun Isn't Either, Make a Splash at These Aquatic Attractions
Get your splash on at Action Park in Mountain Creek, one of Northern New Jersey's premier water parks. This popular park is filled with thrilling rides for all ages. Whether you're frolicking in the 450,000-gallon wave pool, free falling from the 23-foot cliffs into the water below, or careening down one of the many fun-filled water slides the park has to offer, you're sure to have a blast. One such slide is the famous H-2- Oh-No!, which rises 99 feet in the air, making this speed demon the 7th tallest water slide in North America. The white water rafting slide is a great group activity—just prepare to get soaked! The trees in the park provide moderate protection but don't forget your waterproof sunscreen for those sunny areas, especially the lounging area on the perimeter of the wave pool. (200 Route 94, Vernon; check the website for specific hours; full and half day admission tickets are available with seniors' and children's prices reduced; see www.actionpark.com for complete ticket information and reduced rates for ordering online)
For a laidback local excursion, spend the day at Tomahawk Lake water park. A wooded area filled with picnic tables surrounds a lake used for boating and the park's unique water slides. Between tubing or diving down the rides, try pedal boating or some time relaxing on the beach. Grab some cheese fries from the snack bar, lie back, and you'll almost forget you're not on a tropical island. Beach cabanas and tables with umbrellas nearby complete the scene. (155 Tomahawk Trail, Sparta; see website for hours; Adults: Monday-Friday: $14, Saturday-Sunday and Holidays: $12; Children 8 and under: Monday-Friday: $12, Sunday and Holidays: $11; boat rentals are extra)
If chlorine's got your skin saying "heck no", hit up a swimming hole. The Highlands Natural Pool in Ringwood is a membership-funded, mammoth-sized, freshwater pool. Don't fret: visitors are welcome and simply need to pay a nominal fee to be able to enjoy chemical-free dips, ping-pong tables, a playground, hiking trails, and a picnic and barbecue area. According to the pool's website, it was carved out of the hillside in 1935—talk about all-natural. Schedule a swimming lesson or take a lifeguard training course (information here). (180 Snake Den Rd., Ringwood; check website for hours)
Treat Yourself to a Night on the Hudson River
What better way to cool off than sailing along the Hudson, wine in hand, with the wind blowing through your hair? Once you've had your fill of arcade games and water parks, class it up with a dinner cruise on the Cornucopia Princess. With a range of sailing times and ticket prices all under $75, this affordable and romantic excursion offers patrons beautiful skyline views, delicious buffet or plated meals, and dancing, if you and he or she is so inclined (a live band or DJ plays all sailings). For a more casual experience, book a lunch or brunch cruise. (401 Riverview Drive, Perth Amboy)