There is nothing like summers in New York City—free concerts, outdoor eateries, cocktail hours on museum rooftops, and street festivals for all to enjoy.

But once in a while, even those of us who love the city the most need a little escape from it—whether to cool off at the beaches or just to get away from the noise and crowds and recenter ourselves while enjoying the serenity of nature.

One place to go is over the bridge to New Jersey.

There is a lot of green, natural space to cover in New Jersey. It has over 2.1 million acres of dedicated forest land—that’s 45 percent of the state. There are 9 national parks, over 72 trails covering more than 400 miles, and more than 20 waterfalls to venture to.

My own personal exploration has been a slow process simply because I tend to do a lot of repeat visits to favorite spots. But, my list is long and there is a special place in my heart for a few favorites.

The parks

The Pinelands National Reserve, which stretches over a total of 1.1 million acres, was the first National Reserve established in the country. Go for a day or a camping weekend. It feels a world away, but is less than a 2 hour drive from NYC. But, we’ve also loved the South Mountain reserve and the Great Swamp Natural Refuge, less than an hour from Manhattan, as well as hikes along the Appalachian trails shared with New York.


The beaches 

From Sandy Hook to Cape May, the Jersey Shore covers about 141 miles of coastal land, much of it open for all to enjoy. Whether you enjoy to spend the day walking the boardwalk and getting on rides, or prefer to take in the sun on the sand or in the waterparks, visiting the shore is worth it not just in the summer months, but all year long. It’s also a great time to seek out any one of the 11 lighthouses along the coast of the state.

Viewfinder Tip: The Delaware River is just one of the rivers in the state where you can plan a camping trip and some fun water activities.

The farms

There are over 9,000 farms in the state and quite a few of them offer visitors the option to pick their own seasonal fruits and vegetables. This fun activity is not only a good way to familiarize yourself with the local produce and connect with local growers, it’s also a great way to taste the best the state has to offer. Jersey Fresh is a great place to plan a farm visit.

Whether you have a day or a weekend, or are looking for a leisurely outing or a more adventurous excursion, your outdoor adventure is only a bridge and tunnel away.

What are your favorite outdoor escapes from the city?