New Jersey Date Night is a series on NJ Flavor by relationship writer Craig Rogers.

The holiday season seems a lot different this year. Yes, there’s still merriment (we see the lights from the safe confines of our vehicles) and there’s still joy (we know there’s a smile under the mask). There’s even still shopping, although most of it was accomplished online. From Zoom cocktail parties to a socially distant meetups over hot chocolate, we have to work a little harder to keep the season bright.

One thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the need for couples to break away from this new normal to enjoy quality holiday time. And when it comes to making a day of it, New Jersey has you covered.

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Get ready for a New Jersey Date Night that’ll last all day through!

Walk on the Wild Side

You might not be able to dance with them but visiting the wolves at Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia makes for a majestic afternoon. You and your date will get to learn all about these endangered creatures including the British Columbian, Timber and Arctic wolves. Be sure to have your camera ready! You might also spot other furry friends like foxes and bobcats. For more information and to book your tour of the Lakota Wolf Preserve, visit www.lakotawolf.com.

Keeping it natural is the rule of the day, and grabbing a beer and a bite at Buck Hill Brewery in Blairstown certainly fits the bill.  Their “Farm to Foam” philosophy using locally grown hops to create IPAs and seasonal specialty beers is sure to quench your thirst. The freshness continues with their menu, with tasty options like When Pigs Fly (pork “wings” with frizzled onions and your choice of sauces) and The Turkwich (turkey, spinach, tomato, bacon and garlic mayonnaise on toasted seven-grain bread). Save room for the peanut butter pie.

For more information about Buck Hill Brewery, visit www.buckhillbrewery.com.

Hikes and Bites

Staying in shape during the holiday season is always a challenge, so working a hike into your date gives you both fitness and fun! The Great Swamp in Morristown is a perfect place for a little brisk outdoor time.  This park features two miles of flat trails featuring breathtaking views of swamp, marsh, meadow and forest terrains.  You might even be lucky to spot a few woodland residents of this beautiful place! For more information, visit www.morrisparks.net.

All that walking is sure to build your appetite, so the obvious next stop is South+Pine, also in Morristown. Chef/Owner Leia Gaccione creates mouthwatering dishes to wow your date. Warm up with butternut squash soup with bacon apple jam and black pepper maple mascarpone. Main courses like chickpea curry and braised lamb shank with harissa tomato broth, spiced yogurt and mint are sure to hit the spot. 

When it comes to dessert, you just exercised so order two, like the dark chocolate brownie with graham cracker crumble ice cream, hot fudge and whipped marshmallow or spiced pecan pie with white chocolate pumpkin sauce and maple whipped cream.

For more information about South+Pine, visit www.southandpine.com.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Holiday shopping can be romantic thanks to Holiday Shopping in Haddonfield. The town features beautiful holiday lights, a sensational seasonal backdrop that can transform even the most cynical holiday Scrooge to Frosty the Snowman. With around 200 specialty shops and boutiques, you’re sure to spot that perfect present. For more information about shopping in Haddonfield, visit www.downtownhaddonfield.com.

The twinkling of the lights will match the sparkle in your date’s eyes when you dine at Leaf. Also in Haddonfield, this vegan restaurant serves up flavorful and innovative dishes. Appetizers include their “blue cheese” with flatbread, brussels sprouts, apples, walnuts, cranberries and maple-cayenne spinach, and artichokes with flatbread, caramelized pears, chicory, pistachios and balsamic glaze. Main courses include ravioli with almond ricotta and tempeh “rib” with parsnip purée, seared broccolini and fried shallots. Be sure to check out their desserts, including lime cashew cake.

For more information about Leaf, visit www.leafeatery.com.

Finding Tree Love

Chop your own tree The Perfect Christmas Tree Farm in Phillipsburg. This 40-acre farm is owned by John and Cynthia Curtis, and together they have a lot of experience growing perfect evergreens. Their trees have graced famous New Jersey homes including Drumthwacket and the Southern Mansion in Cape May. Check out their garlands and other holiday decorations, too. For more information about The Perfect Christmas Tree Farm, visit www.perfectchristmastree.com.

Finding “tree love” will work up an appetite, cured by stopping at The Brass Rail, also in Phillipsburg. Try one of their “pub pies” (pizza dough topped with marinara, provolone and your choice of extras ranging from pork roll to banana peppers) or perhaps their beer-battered fish and chips. If your date is really hungry, suggest the New York Strip Steak served on a bed of sautéed spinach and caramelized onions. Some cheesecake for dessert is the perfect ending to a perfect date.

For more information about The Brass Rail visit www.thebrassrailpburg.com.

Seeing the Light

Perhaps this “time out” we’ve experienced has created a lot of one-on-one time with your partner; so much so that seeing them daily is a blend of greatness with a heaping side of strange. Being in various stages of lockdown, combined with limitations on where we can go and what we can do, is stressful for even the strongest of relationships. 

What we can do to decrease the strange and improve the greatness of togetherness is to change up the location of time spent together. Planning a day trip, practicing all the necessities of pandemic safety, is a great way to accomplish this goal. Doing something different in a place that’s new provides a needed change of routine that stimulates all senses. It also allows you to see your love in a new and different light; illumination differing from that over your kitchen table.

Making a day of it might just lead you to discovering the brightest light of the season.

Craig Rogers is the guy who gets relationships write. Author of The 49th Challenge, Craig has written countless articles on dating, relationships and breakup recovery. To learn more about Craig, visit www.CraigRogers.nyc.

What’s your idea for a great New Jersey Date? Tell Craig all about it at crogersnyc@gmail.com.

 

More Date Night Ideas:

Flavors of South America

Meet Me for Happy Hour

New Jersey Date Night: Hey, Pumpkin!

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