Exploring the Great Outdoors in West Orange, NJ, and Surrounding Areas

Exploring the Great Outdoors in West Orange, NJ, and Surrounding Areas

When you think of the East Coast, you think of a wide assortment of things: harbor towns, towering cities, and sprawling woods that once dominated the land some several hundred years ago. Although much of the East Coast has been shaped by industrialization, it retains much of its natural beauty. New Jersey is no exception. In fact, West Orange is one of New Jersey’s first and foremost townships for enjoying the great outdoors. Read on to discover just a handful of West Orange activities perfect for you and your family to enjoy.

Outdoor activities

Of the many West Orange things to do, embarking on a brand new adventure is some of the most fun you’ll ever have. Consider these venues to get your West Orange adventure started!

Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex

The South Mountain Recreation Complex is one of West Orange’s most popular destinations for recreational activities such as ice skating, hockey, paddle boating, and even a petting zoo. It’s also home to a public West Orange mini golf course for those who love a bit of golf!

Turtle Back Zoo

The Turtle Back Zoo is the largest attraction in all of Essex County, featuring not only a zoo but also a variety of other activities. The zoo is home to many animals, including gray wolves, emus, red pandas, and a variety of aquatic animals and reptiles, among others. When the zoo opened, it was home to 140 animals across 40 species, and within 10 years had grown to 850 animals and 275 species. Stop by to get to know animals from across the world. 

Additional attractions include the Mini Golf Safari, the Treetop Adventure Course, pony rides, boating, an aviary, and a butterfly tent. There’s always something to do at Turtle Back Zoo.

Lake Hopatcong Adventure Company

If you’re looking for an adventure on the lake, the Lake Hopatcong Adventure Company is the region’s premier tour agency dedicated to providing immersive fun. The company offers hydro biking, paddle-boarding, and kayaking, but it also offers hiking tours if you’d rather stay on land.

Public golf courses

Essex County is home to a few public golf courses for anyone who wants to get their swing on.

Rock Spring Golf Club

This club, established in 1925, has a 6,600-yard par-71 course. Rock Spring Golf Club is on a tree-lined site that’s one of only two public golf courses in the country that were designed by Seth Raynor. If you want to play golf while drinking in incredible Manhattan skyline views, this is the club for you. Visit their website to book a tee time.

Francis A. Byrne Golf Course

The second public golf course in Essex County is Francis A. Byrne Golf Course, which was designed in 1926 by Charles Banks. Originally a private club, it has been restored and opened to the public. 

Parks and reservations

West Orange and the surrounding areas feature dozens of parks and reservations dedicated to protecting the East Coast’s natural beauty and wildlife. To learn more about the landscape and the animals that live there, you’ll want to visit these places.

Brookdale Park

Brookdale Park is a 121-acre county park that is a mix of forests and lawns. There are trails going throughout the park, as well as tennis courts, soccer fields, playgrounds, and even an archery field, among more amenities. 

Verona Park

Verona Park is a beautiful park in Essex County that offers an ornamental bridge popular for photos, a children’s garden and playground, tennis courts, a fitness course, and a boathouse. It also hosts yearly events, such as the annual craft fair and several concerts at the park’s central gazebo.

Branch Brook Park

Branch Brook Park is the first county park open to the public in the United States. Today, it’s known for its 36-mile-long hiking trail and yearly cherry blossom-themed challenges and races. In April, the park is host to various events during the Cherry Blossom Festival. Visitors can participate in a bike race, 10K run, family day, and more. Branch Brook Park is a beautiful park with plenty of history worth visiting, especially if you want to involve yourself with the community.

Watsessing Park

Watsessing Park is a designated space for sports and outdoor recreation. It has over 69 acres of land featuring athletic fields, a bandstand, a children’s playground, and a senior citizen center. The park is perfect for winding down without having to traverse into the thick of the wilderness.

Monte Irvin Orange Park

The Monte Irvin Orange Park is a small outdoor park at the heart of the township. It offers athletic fields for football, softball, basketball, and soccer, as well as a playground for children. The park also features a fishing pond and a jogging path perfect for people who need a quick workout. Every summer, the park hosts free concerts open to the public.

Eagle Rock Reservation

Eagle Rock Reservation is a large forest reserve with over 400 acres of protected land and wildlife. The reservation is home to dozens of gorgeous scenic overlooks, a memorial in dedication to 9/11, trails for hiking and horseback riding, and a picnic area. The paths are friendly for hikers of all ages, regardless of personal ability.

South Mountain Reservation

The South Mountain Reservation is a massive nature reserve boasting over 2,000 acres of land. It has many distinguishing features that contribute to its popularity, such as scenic views, a dog park, a historic site, carriage roads for a variety of activities, a Girl Scout camp, a wildlife refuge, and the aforementioned South Mountain Recreation Complex. The reservation also hosts events throughout the year, depending on the season.

Hilltop Reservation

The Hilltop Reservation is a recent addition to the Essex County Park System, composed of land that once belonged to the county’s Hospital Center. Today, the reservation is a 284-acre nature reserve with small hiking trails and a diligent wildlife restoration initiative. There’s also a small dog park open until the early evening for pet owners who would like some fresh air with their four-legged friends.

Natural gardens

For a more relaxing venture, take a stroll through one of the natural gardens in and around West Orange and learn about the unique plant life that calls the region home. New Jersey is known as the Garden State, and these gardens show off exactly why the state earned that moniker. 

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

The Reeves-Reed Arboretum is a nonprofit garden open to the public from dawn until dusk. Although it’s most popular as a wedding venue, the arboretum is a lovely place on its own. It hosts small events throughout the year, including a Valentine’s Day-themed tea room, bird feeding and watching events, and activities for children.

Van Vleck House & Gardens

Formerly a private estate, the Van Vleck House and Gardens has entered the public sphere as a nonprofit community resource. The Montclair Foundation dedicates itself to preserving the estate’s botanical garden of ericaceous plants, some of which are several generations old. It’s a lovely, peaceful place to learn about these unique specimens and horticulture as a whole.

Greenwood Gardens

The Greenwood Gardens is a public garden with over 28 acres of spruce trees, wildflower meadows, ornamental trees and shrubs, moss-covered paths, and peaceful grottoes. The gardens are far removed from the humdrum of modern, everyday life, granting guests the opportunity to renew their minds and reinvigorate their spirits.

To learn more about West Orange, NJ real estate and surrounding towns, connect with local real estate agent Ilona Berlaga. With over $130 million in total sales and nearly 200 successful transactions, Ilona is a marked elite in the industry. Reach out to her today to get started on finding your own West Orange home or any other Essex, Union, Morris, or Sussex county properties!

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In addition to being an expert on the local real estate markets, she brings expertise to the transaction process, overseeing all steps and guiding clients to help assure a smooth and stress-free outcome. Ilona believes that patience is a virtue and honesty is an absolute.

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