Don’t miss out on these five sculptures currently on exhibit at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton.

In a season typically filled with activity, it’s tough to be stuck at home without fall festivals, concerts, day trips and events.

But is it possible to stay away from crowds and safely enjoy some fall fun in the Garden State?

Definitely. Here are some destinations to check out: distant. 

Alexandria Balloon Flights, Pittstown

Anywhere from two to 20 miles will be covered with altitudes ranging from right above the treetops to thousands of feet in the air. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Alexandria Balloon Flights)

During a pandemic, being 500 to 2,500 feet away from strangers is nothing short of a dream — even if it happens to be a vertical distance. With a hot air balloon ride with Alexandria Balloon Flights, which takes visitors on one- to two-hour flights from Pittstown, you can do just that — and enjoy the view, too. 

READ: NJ balloon festival postponed until 2021

While moving at only about 10 miles per hour, you’ll see the rolling hills, sparkling streams and peaceful woodlands of the rural Hunterdon County landscape. Don’t wait, though — balloon season only lasts through October. 

Go: 48 Sky Manor Road, Pittstown; 908-479-4878,

Delaware Water Gap, Columbia 

Silverthread Falls at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. (Photo: COURTESY OF NATIONAL PARK SERVICE)

River tubing, hiking, camping, swimming and searching for waterfalls — these are just some of the activities available at the Delaware Water Gap, a picturesque spot where New Jersey meets Pennsylvania.

The gap, a quarter-mile wide and flows between the Kittatinny Mountains to the east and Blue Mountain to the west, is the best-known feature of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The park is 67,000 acres of land and water, with more than 100 miles of hiking possibilities — including 27 miles of Appalachian Trail.

Go: 1 Route 80; Visitor centers are currently closed; visitors are encouraged to check There is no charge to enter the park.

Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton. (Photo: ~File)

A museum can only have so much space for social distancing, but what if that museum was 42 acres? Grounds for Sculpture, an outdoor sculpture park with lifelike sculptures, head-scratching art installations, floral arrangements and 20-foot figures, all set within nature, is one museum that has more than enough room to breathe easy. 

READ: Explore art in its natural habitat at Grounds for Sculpture

There’s no set path at Grounds for Sculpture, so visitors can “take the road less traveled” and keep their distance from others. Due to the pandemic, Grounds for Sculpture is only offering advanced time reservations made online. All indoor spaces, including galleries and cafes, are closed at this time.

Go: 80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton; 609-586-0616,

The Hamilton-Burr Dueling Grounds, Weehawken

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The memorial of the famous “dueling grounds” in Weehawken. Alexander Hamilton’s bust is on a pedestal overlooking Manhattan. (Photo: Jennifer Brown/special to the record)

If the musical “Hamilton” has been playing on repeat from your Disney+ account, this location will need no introduction.

If your American history is a bit fuzzy, allow us to explain. Founding Father and former Secretary of State Alexander Hamilton was killed by then-vice president Aaron Burr in 1804. The two New Yorkers sailed across the Hudson to Weehawken for the duel, and you can visit the site of this macabre moment in history at the Weehawken Dueling Grounds. The spot, where a wooden ledge for dueling used to stand, is commemorated with a bronze bust of Hamilton.

Go: 24-96 Hamilton Ave., Weehawken;

Historic Smithville Park & Smith Woods, Eastampton

Historic Smithville is a great place shake off those Zoom sessions and commune with both nature and history. (Photo: Tammy Paolino/Courier-Post)

While any time in nature is well spent these days, it helps to throw in a little novelty and a lot of history. Listed on the National and New Jersey Registers of History Places, Historic Smithville Park is part of the Burlington County Parks System. Explore the beauty of the woods along the banks of the Rancocas Creek. And Smithville is a great place to learn about the early days of our state’s industrial past.

According to the website, “Smithville grew from a typical, small mill operation on the Rancocas Creek to a major industrial plant employing hundreds of workers in its shops and yards from the 1860s to the 1920s. Known for its high-quality woodworking machinery, the Smithville-Mt. Holly Bicycle Railroad, and the Star high wheeled bicycle, Smithville was also well ahead of its time in town planning, sustainability, and workers’ rights and welfare. Within its borders, it offered its residents and workers a variety of recreational, artistic and educational opportunities.”

That’s pretty cool, but equally cool is the 22-acre Smithville Lake, part of which can be traversed by a floating boardwalk. You’ll want your camera at the ready to capture sun-lit lily pads, wetlands, colorful meadows and old growth forest. And be sure cross the street for a stroll through Smith’s Woods, where you can access hiking trails or enjoy a socially-distant picnic.

Go: 803 Smithville Road, Eastampton. 609-265-5858;

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church labyrinth, South River

The labyrinth at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in South River. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church)

COVID-19 has taken an emotional toll on all of us. But labyrinths, which are one-way patterns that visitors walk or trace with their finger, offer a way to find your center — literally. 

READ: Spiritual tune-up: Through NJ’s labyrinths, you’re found — not lost

One such labyrinth is at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in South River. The 44-foot outdoor, public labyrinth is in a quiet clearing with a design based on one of the most famous intact labyrinths in the world at Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France. A form of walking meditation,  a visit to this labyrinth — or the 82 others in New Jersey — ensures you’ll be going it alone. 

Go: 90 Leonardine Ave., South River; 732-254-1734,; accessible by well-marked pathway from the back corner of the parking lot (by the shed).

Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Preserve, Atlantic City

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Oceanville, NJ The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, nearly 50,000 acres set aside for local and migratory birds, is an amazing place. 041015 Photo: Tom Spader (Photo: Tom Spader, Tom Spader/staff photographer)

If your only idea of the Shore involves beach umbrellas and boardwalks, you’re missing out on some seriously beautiful solitude.

The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Preserve has long attracted birdwatchers both serious and aspiring. But in the year of coronavirus, it is a great destination for anyone who wants to avoid people but hang with some feathered friends.

The refuge is home to 47,000 acres of forest and marsh tucked along the coast about a half-hour north of Atlantic City. It is home to hundreds of migratory birds from osprey and herons to cormorants and tern.

Bundle up and visit in winter. You may not see osprey, but you can be on the look out for black ducks and Atlantic brant.

Before or after an 8-mile drive out among the osprey stands, you can take a hike or enjoy the picnic tables. 

Go: 800 Great Creek Road; 609-652-1665,

Liberty State Park, Jersey City

A woman runs along a trail at Liberty State Park as the cherry blossoms bloom on Thursday, April 2, 2020, in Jersey City. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/

Liberty State Park sits about as close as you can get to Manhattan without actually entering it. A spot of green among urban Jersey City, the park has gorgeous views of the NYC skyline, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. During your visit, you can spread out on the grass for a picnic, birdwatch, bring the kids to a playground, fish or crab, launch a boat, or jog, walk or bike on the paths.

Also at Liberty State Park is the “Empty Sky” Memorial, the state’s official Sept. 11 memorial. Two brushed stainless steel walls — 210 feet long and 30 feet high — are engraved with the names of the 749 people that lived in or who had a connection to New Jersey and died when the World Trade Center was attacked. It stands near the water at the park.

Go: 200 Morris Pesin Drive, Jersey City; 201-915-3403,

Navesink Twin Lights, Highlands

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The Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook. (Photo: Doug Hood )

Perched 200 feet above sea level, offering a bird’s eye view of Sandy Hook Bay, are the Twin Lights. The pair of lighthouses, said to be the first in the nation to house the Fresnel lens, are not identical: The south tower is square and the north octagonal, with keepers’ quarters in between. The current structure was built in 1862, replacing one built in 1828, and once served as the primary light marking the entrance to New York Harbor. 

The lights are no longer in operation, but the property is home to a museum housing lighthouse artifacts.

Across the Shrewsbury River and 15 minutes north is another spot perfect for social distancing: Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook. You can bike the path, bird watch, fish, boat or just walk the beach. And when you’re done, continue on for a few more minutes to Sandy Hook Lighthouse. It was the fifth lighthouse ever built in America, and the building survived an attack during the American Revolution.

Go: Twin Lights is at 2 Lighthouse Road in Highlands; 732-872 1814, Gateway National Recreation Area is at 26 Hudson Road in Highlands, 732-872-5916, and Sandy Hook Lighthouse is at 84 Mercer Road in Highlands; 732-872-5970,

Palmyra Cove Nature Park, Palmyra

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The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is treating trees that host the invasive spotted lanternfly at Palmyra Cove. A live insect and an egg mass were found at the Burlington County nature park. (Photo: Sheri Berkery/Staff Photographer)

Located right off Route 73 at the base of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge, this cove, a 250-acre area along the Delaware River, has plenty to offer. There are wide, level main trails, bird lists and other information available for those who are interested.

You can see animals in their natural habitats, including some variety of bird life, normally visible at all times. Wetlands, woodlands, meadows, wild creek, river shoreline and a freshwater Tidal Cove are the habitats the nature park includes. The park’s website says there’s a peregrine falcon nesting box on the bridge, and a web camera shows nest activity on monitors inside the visitor center.

The area is easily accessible to Route 130, as well as Route I-295 and Philadelphia.

Go: 1300 Route 73 at the base of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge, 856-829-1900;

Ramapo Reservation, Mahwah

Olivia Evans, 10, of Fairlawn, fishes over the bridge where she caught a bass last time she came to the Ramapo Reservation with her father in Mahwah, NJ on Thursday, February 23, 2017. Temperatures reached a high of 70 degrees across North Jersey for some unusually warm February weather. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/

Ramapo Reservation is set among the Ramapo Mountain range and features ponds, streams, waterfalls and the MacMillan reservoir. Five loop trails wind around the reservation; each offers a different scenic route. Some trails are easy and flat while others venture up into the hilly, rocky area. Bring your leashed dog and enjoy a hike or fish in one of the ponds.

Go: 608 Ramapo Valley Road, Mahwah; 201-327-3500,

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