Kyle and I had the chance to fly back to NJ this past week to visit some family and friends, and what a wonderful time we had.
Being back in northern New Jersey (where I grew up) I was so inspired by all the beautiful green trees and grass and my million happy memories there that I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite places and things about New Jersey with you.
1.) Sandy Hook. This has to be number one, because Kyle and I were married here! Sandy Hook is insanely awesome. There are huge rocks to climb on, sun on, lose your friend's frisbee next to, take photos, or take in the gorgeous hazy view of NYC. At the tip of Sandy Hook there is an abandoned military base called Fort Hancock with really cool old broken down buildings. I love to stare at these houses and imagine soldiers living in them back in the day, waking up to have coffee with the gorgeous view of the Atlantic ocean in front of their home.
2.) Island Beach State Park. Another absolutely beautiful place to go soak up the sun and breathe fresh, salty air. The sand is a lot finer here than Sandy Hook, and there are tons of shells to be found. There are full fledged showers and changing rooms here too, which is nice if you want to go out to eat afterwards and not be sandy and salty. Although I personally like to be sandy and salty for as long as possible =).
3.) Stephen's State Park. Ahhh, what a little green haven. This place is a tiny park with a river running through it and some trails through the forest. There are picnic tables and benches scattered throughout, and a really fun playground- even for bigger kids! If you go here, bring sneakers to walk on the trails but expect to take your shoes and socks on so you can hop on the stones in the river! This place holds so many memories for me. Sometimes I would just go and park my car under the million green leaves and write in my notebook thoughts about life. Lots of times I'd go with friends and have a picnic! One time I went there to go running with Kyle and ended up getting stung by a bee and running faster than I've ever ran to get away!!
4.) Hot Dog Johnny's. I had to resist the urge to put this all in capital letters, so great is my love for this tiny hot dog place. Literally, they only have hot dogs, fries, birch beer in frosted mugs and buttermilk. I don't get the buttermilk thing but everything else is awesome. You'll see rustic picnic tables, famous t-shirts for sale, and a swingset that I've swung on since I was probably 6 years old.
5.) Hacklebarney State Park. This is a seriously amazing park. It also has a river running through it and I would say it's bigger than Stephen's State, with lots more extensive hiking trails. This is also a great place to come and just sit on a huge rock and think about life, or have picnics with your friends, or try to forge your own trail through the hills and woods.
6.) Cliff's Ice Cream. A tiny ice cream place that still makes their own homemade ice cream that will blow you away. There are a million flavor selections, but I can barely ever stop myself from getting mint chocolate chip, my favorite. Watch out for the lines of mini baseball players when you go, this place can get crowded! Grab a cone and have a seat on picnic tables with drops of melted ice cream!
7). The Boardwalk. We usually always went to Point Pleasant, another magical place where you can happily walk around in your sunburnt, sandy state, devour cotton candy, caramel apples, pizza, or funnel cakes, and waste your money in the addictive arcades. Every summer I would buy an ankle bracelet with little beads and shells in one of the cute shops and wear it until I had to go back to college in August. August, always the death of summer in those days, but not anymore!
8.) Swartswood Lake. This is another park and a great option if you don't have time to drive to the ocean! You can swim in the lake, and they have a nice beach and also have showers and changing rooms. You can also play sand volleyball, hike, picnic, ride bikes, or do water sports like kayak. Be careful though, Kyle and I were riding bikes deep in the forest here one time, and we came across a black bear! I think he was a baby because he was just a little bigger and rounder than a black lab, but still, I was freaked out.
9.) Frenchtown. Oh this place is so cute it's hard to even describe. Just a tiny, adorable town right on the Delaware River with trendy shops and cute little cafes. Great to park and walk around with a friend and a coffee in hand. I love Frenchtown more than normal because it's home to a camp, New Life Island, that I spent some awe-inspiring days learning about having a personal relationship with Christ and catching fireflies. If you are feeling adventurous, you can also rent tubes or rafts to go down the Delaware in around here, and it's so much fun!
10.) My childhood home. My favorite place in all of New Jersey is the home I grew up in, on a corner lot in a quaint development. There is lots of green grass, a fire pit in the backyard, an evergreen tree that my brother taught me to climb, a rock shaped like a toilet (really!), and even my old swing that my dad said is a hazard now and has to be cut down. I was blessed with an idyllic, wonderful childhood, and I cherish my memories in that home.