Want to enjoy the great outdoors after a long winter? Here’s 7 scenic and fun spots to enjoy with the family.
By Sarah Einhorn
At the first opportunity, as soon as the weather warms up a bit, I like to go on outdoor trips. I really look forward to the warmer weather on Pesach (hopefully!). Here are 7 parks I recommend. They’re free and fun, tried and true. I tried to choose places in a variety of areas around NY and NJ so something might be close to home for you.
Bowline Point Park: Haverstraw, NY
There are three playgrounds and volleyball courts at this scenic park adjacent to the Hudson River. Each playground is geared to different ages, with one playground that is handicap accessible, and one especially for the toddlers. The playgrounds are located near an outdoor pool and water slides which are open during the summer.
There is also a fishing pier and a beautiful scenic path alongside the Hudson River. Plenty of picnic tables and grills are spread throughout the park. In addition, there is a covered pavilion and a gazebo, each with plenty of tables, although permits are needed for all groups of 5 or more entering the park.
When I visited the park in the fall it was empty and quiet. It was tranquil and relaxing. There was no one collecting parking fees. I imagine that it is full during the summer months and swimming season.
Croton Gorge Park: Croton-On-Hudson, NY
Croton Dam is the highlight of the 97 acre Croton Gorge Park. The park has many hiking paths as well as a bridge over the impressive dam from the Croton River above. There is a playground and picnic tables near the dam, and the park is very popular for fishing. Swimming is not allowed in the river. There are open fields that are great for flying kites or playing games. The Croton Dam was originally built in 1842 to supply New York City with water. When it was unable to supply enough water, the Cornell dam was built instead. The beauty of the Croton Dam still remains to be enjoyed by visitors.
Englewood Cliffs Park and Picnic Area: Englewood Cliffs, NJ
The park at Englewood Cliffs is one of our favorite spots for a summer barbeque. It is a scenic riverfront park with beautiful views of the nearby George Washington Bridge. There are plenty of picnic tables and a few grills. Visitors are allowed to bring portable grills as well. There is a walking path alongside the Hudson River as well as a path that leads up almost to the foot of the George Washington Bridge. The park is a popular fishing destination as well.
Driving down to the park from the street above, there were waterfalls cascading down the sides. There is also a boat basin with a full service marina.
Grant Park: Hewlett, NY
I couldn’t believe what a beautiful park I came across in Long Island when I was in the neighborhood for an appointment.
I was surprised to see an outdoor ice rink at the park when we visited in the winter. In the summer the rink is transformed into a skating rink.
The park is located on a sprawling 35 acres. There are multiple playgrounds for all ages, with a separate enclosed playground for the very little ones.
There is a sports complex with fields for baseball, basketball, tennis, paddleball and a skating area. There is also an adult workout station. Picnic tables and grills are near the beautiful lake. Fishing is permitted in the lake or a walk on the path is fun too.
Saddle River County Park: Bergen County, NJ
The Saddle River County Park is a 577 acre park which consists of five separate parks, with bike paths, streams and tributaries connecting them. Each of the parks, aside for the Fairlawn Park, has a playground. Some have ponds and picnic areas.
So far I’ve been to the Wild Duck Pond Area, The Dunkerhook Area, and the Glenrock Area. Each of the parks is enjoyable in its own right.
The Ridgewood area park, also known as the Wild Duck Pond, has a playground, pond, picnic area and a bike path that runs alongside a stream. The path connects to the Glen Rock and Dunkerhook areas.
The Dunkerhook Area features a playground suitable for young children, picnic tables and a waterfall a short walk or bike ride from the playground area. There are signs at the bike bath entrance that have the distances of each place and directions posted. The Dunkerhook bike path connects to The Glen Rock Area, The Wild Duck Pond and the Fairlawn Area.
The Glen Rock Area has a pond with a sprinkler in the center. There is a large covered picnic area and a playground more suitable for older kids than the Dunkerhook area. The biking path connects to the Wild Duck Pond Area and the Dunkerhook area.
Currently I have not visited the Fairlawn Area, the Otto Pehle Area, and the Rochelle Park Area. Once I do, I will be sure to post it on my website.
Walkway Over the Hudson and Upper Landing Park: Poughkeepsie, NY
We finally went back to the Walkway over the Hudson after hearing from many people how much they’d enjoyed it. I went back reluctantly, since I had been especially impressed during my first visit in October, 2010 (shortly after it opened).
What I did not have during that first visit is what made this visit so much better – a 21 story high glass elevator which takes you down to the Upper Landing Park. The Walkway over the Hudson is a bridge formerly used for trains going from Poughkeepsie, NY to Highland, NY. The bridge was restored and redone to be used by pedestrians as a walkway.
The total length of the bridge is 6,768 feet at a height of 212 feet. It is the longest pedestrian bridge in the world! The walkway is open year round but is closed when there is inclement weather. Biking and rollerblading are allowed, however motorized vehicles and activities are not permitted. There are signs posted at the entrances of the Walkway with instructions for the “Talkway over the Walkway” a guided cellphone audio tour.
In the city of Poughkeepsie the Leisure Ride Bike rental is located just 6 ½ miles and bikes can be rented there to be driven to the Walkway.
Winward Beach Park: Brick, NJ
Winward Beach Park, located near Lakewood, NJ, has a great combination of activities for all ages. The park includes an updated playground with a very cutely designed section geared to the real little ones. There are also picnic tables, and a gazebo.
There is a swimming beach with volleyball nets and a fishing pier. Beaches are staffed with lifeguards all week from June 13 to Labor Day Weekend and are open weekends from Memorial Day until Labor Day from 8:45 am – 4:45 pm. During swimming hours a beach pass is needed in order to enter the beach area. However, before or after swimming season (in the spring or fall) the beach area is generally not full.
For as long as she can remember, Sarah has loved getting out and seeing the world. She launched beentheredonethattrips.com to share her firsthand experiences and recommendations on where to go and what to see.