NEW JERSEY - Yes, the Garden State is known for its malls. The state actually has more than 50 with some larger than others. However, New Jersey doesn't hold the honor of opening the first indoor mall, Minnesota has that. New Jersey opened the second. The Cherry Hill Mall first unlocked its doors in 1961.
Black Friday sales have been all over the television for weeks. Today's Thanksgiving paper was stocked full of retail ciculars. Sure, Black Friday is a day off from school and work, but there is nothing that says that it has to be spent shopping. Here are some fabulous ways to spend the day after Thanksgiving that don't involve a mall or a department store.
- Catch a ride on the New Hope & Ivy Land Railroad. Okay, this is technically located in New Hope, Pennsylvania, but it is right across the bridge from Lambertville, New Jersey. Walk across the Delaware River along the bridge that connects the two towns. The railroad offers hourly excursions along its scenic railroad. The kids can see and chat with the big guy in red, sing holiday carols and have hot chocolate and cookies. Adults will enjoy the picturesque scenery of beautiful Bucks County outside the window of an old-fashioned train car. Great thing to do with relatives or for a romantic date.
- Experience the Delaware & Raritan Canal Trail. This trail is 77-miles long and stretches between New Brunswick and Trenton. It is ideal to walk, bike or jog. Dogs are welcome, but need to be leashed. Pack a lunch and head out. Princeton, Lambertville and Griggstown are picture perfect spots to pick up a section of the trail.
- Lace up the skates. Lakes don't freeze very often in New Jersey to support ice skating and especially not in November. However, there are some great indoor rinks throughout the state that are a fun way to spend an afternoon for families and couples. ProSkate in Monmouth Junction, the Armory in Red Bank and the Old Bridge Ice Arena are all ideal spots. The rink in Old Bridge is an indoor/outdoor one. All are open on Black Friday and offer public skates.
- Climb a lighthouse. The Gateway National Recreation Area in the Highlands is crazy in the summer, but ideal in November. Climb the country's oldest working lighthouse, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. Then, walk or bike around the seven-mile trail. Enjoy a stroll along one of the many beaches. It's free too! The Twin Lights, another NJ lighhouse, is a right across the highway. They just opened a newly renovated museum to go along with the lighthouse.
- Enjoy a museum or aquarium. While the malls are packed, New Jersey's many museums and aquariums will be open. Head to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City or down the shore to the Jenkinson's Aquarium in Point Pleasant. Jenkinson's is just the right size for young kids and the beach is just steps away. The Zimmerli Art Museum on the campus of Rutgers University and the Princeton University Art Museum are two fun places for art lovers.
- Get a jump on the holiday decorating. Yes, it feels a little abnormal to have 60 degree temperatures in November in New Jersey. However, putting up the outside decorations in 60 degrees is a lot more comfortable than 30 and 40. Take advantage.
The Thanksgiving weekend forecast in the Garden State is gorgeous. Why spend it trapped inside a mall or department store with endless lines and cranky sales clerks and customers? Get out, enjoy the weather and the wonderful activities New Jersey has to offer.