Now that the hectic holiday season is behind us, it’s time to celebrate what can be the most wonderful time of the year – really. Don’t believe us? Check out (and hang on to) this handy guide of cool winter happenings and spots that will make this season full of warm and cozy fun.

Winter may bring chilly temperatures and snow, but there’s still plenty to do in SJ – no matter your age or interests. Some simple research will uncover many nearby treasures that come to life when the temperature drops. You may have to bundle up and bring along some Chapstick, but you’ll be lovin’ the cold weather in no time.

Grab the kids – and even the grandparents

A wintry scene at Grounds For Sculpture

A wintry scene at Grounds For Sculpture

Everyone loves the remarkable exhibits at Grounds For Sculpture (GFS) in Hamilton. You can stroll through the park’s 42 landscaped acres and admire the more than 250 outdoor sculptures, or enjoy one of the rotating exhibits on display at the six indoor galleries.

GFS also offers a wide assortment of unique winter programs for visitors of all ages. Events this season include ice sculpture demonstrations on January 12, a series of shadow-inspired family workshops in honor of Groundhog Day on February 1 and a family sculpture workshop where participants will create art from tire treads.

For a wet-and-wild time, hop over to Adventure Aquarium from January 17 through April 27 to check out its newest exhibit, Frogs: Nature’s Messenger. More than 20 species of frogs and amphibians of all sizes and colors (like the tiger-legged monkey frog and the enormous African bullfrog) will invade the aquarium in a series of interactive displays.

You can also take a walk on the wild side at the Cohanzick Zoo in Bridgeton. The free, family-friendly attraction is open every day from 9 am to 4 pm during winter months, and smaller crowds during the off-season give visitors a chance to leisurely explore the exhibits. The zoo is situated on 15 acres and is home to nearly 100 animals, including owls, ring-tailed lemurs, a black bear and a regal white tiger named Ganesha.

The Edelman Planetarium on the campus of Rowan University is another SJ spot for out-of-this-world fun this winter. From January 12 through March 9, the planetarium will present “To Space and Back,” a cosmic show exploring how space exploration is changing our lives. All shows are on Sunday afternoons at 3 pm, and admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids, Rowan students and seniors over 60. (Make sure you bring cash, because the venue doesn’t accept credit cards.)


Cool ice sculptures fill downtown Mount Holly during Fire & Ice

On January 25, cool fun will heat up Mount Holly during the annual Fire & Ice Festival. Watch as professional and amateur ice carvers transform 300-pound blocks of ice into crystalline works of art along High Street, then stroll through Mill Race Village for the Chili Crawl (you can sample chili while you shop!). The festival will also offer an assortment of hands-on activities from exhibitors like the Garden State Discovery Museum and the Philadelphia Zoo, and you can check out the entries for the gingerbread house decorating contest. (If you want to enter, pick up a kit at Mill Race Village shops. Entries must be delivered to the Burlington County College Student Gallery on January 23 or January 24).

More fun comes bouncing along when members of the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters invade the Wells Fargo Center for two shows on March 9 (12 and 5 pm). This year, the team is letting fans vote on new rules (they include Hot Hand Jersey, Make or Miss and Trick Shot Challenge) to be used in actual games. You can check out the details on this year’s “Fans Rule” and vote for your favorite crazy Globetrotters rule at then get your tickets to the game, where you’ll see the winning rules put into action.

Leave the kids at home

Long winter nights are also a great time to head out for some grown-up fun, either with friends or your significant other.

The Camden County Concert Series is bringing a number of popular acts to the Scottish Rite Theatre in Collingswood this season, including Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam on January 25, The Fab Four Beatles tribute band on February 9 and Steve Hackett on March 27 and 28.

For a more romantic evening, mark your calendar for Bordentown’s Chocolate Walk on February 7. That night, you can stroll along historic Farnsworth Avenue and visit businesses giving out free chocolate treats. After satisfying your sweet tooth, cozy up together for a horse-drawn carriage ride through the charming city.

You can also soothe the winter chill with a glass of wine from one of SJ’s wineries. Several local vineyards remain open throughout the winter months, including Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City. On January 18, head there to enjoy the Winter Wine Festival, which will feature tastings from a dozen wineries.

Bellview Winery in Landisville will host its Winter Weekend on January 25 and 26. From 11 am to 5 pm both days, you can taste wines from the winery’s extensive list and indulge in gourmet cheeses that will be perfectly paired with your wine selections.

Keep the romance going during the Wine and Chocolate Wine Trail Weekend on February 8 and 9. Each of the six trails features wine tastings and chocolate samplings, along with live music, tours and special meals from noon to 5 pm both days. Some of the participating SJ wineries include Amalthea Cellars, Auburn Road Vineyard and Winery, Cape May Winery and Vineyard, and Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery. You can get a map of the trails and descriptions of special events at each winery by visiting

Cool classes

As the weather turns colder and the days get shorter, it can be tough to keep the kids occupied. Help them beat boredom and cure cabin fever by registering for a fun activity, like the nature craft and story time at Palmyra Cove’s Environmental Discovery Center. The eight-week program for preschoolers runs from 10 to 11 am on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays January 6 through February 24. Each program centers around a nature-based children’s story, with a game and craft that ties in with the story (cost is $5 per child per week, or free for families with a Palmyra Cove Nature Park membership).

And older kids can let their imaginations run wild during the Burlington County Footlighters’ Weekend Workshop. Each Satur-day morning class (Feb-ruary 1 through March 1, with a $125 tuition fee for five sessions) will let them explore their acting ability and experience the techincal aspects of theater, like stage management and set design. At the end of the session, students will stage a performance for family and friends.

Kids learn even while school is out during winter-break camps at Fernbrook Farms Environmental Education Center

Kids learn even while school is out during winter-break camps at Fernbrook Farms Environmental Education Center

Winter-break camps at Fernbrook Farms Environmental Education Center in Bordentown keep learning going even when the kids don’t have school. The camps will be held Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 20) and Presidents Day (February 17). During each session, kids ages 6 to 14 can follow animal tracks in the snow (or mud), make winter bird feeders, tap sugar maple trees to make syrup, visit the farm animals and much more. The cost is $76 for the regular day (8:30 am through 4 pm), though early- and after-care is available for an additional fee.

The entire family can enjoy creative fun by enrolling in one of the many classes and workshops offered at the Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown and Collingswood. Classes for kids include comic book illustration (for ages 10 to 16 on Mondays, January 6 through March 10), projects in clay (for ages 9 to 13 on Saturdays, January 11 through March 15), and drama and creative move- ment (for ages 8 to 12 on Saturdays, January 11 through March 15).

Classes for adults include clay tile-making (Wednesdays, Jan-uary 8 through March 12) and photographic-inspired painting (Tuesdays, January 7 through March 11).

If you want to improve your skills in the kitchen, Burlington County College has a variety of culinary courses, including a one-session basic knife skills class (February 1), a five-session class on cake baking and decorating (Sundays, February 22 through March 29), and a one-session class covering vegetarian cooking for non-vegetarians (Saturday, January 25).

Get outside!

Don’t let the chilly temperatures keep you from enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors this season. Bundle up, grab your gear and head out to do some exploring at one of SJ’s many parks. Fort Mott State Park in Pennsville is open year-round and has ample trails for cross-country skiing and snow shoeing, as well as several hills that make for great sledding.

Bass River State Forest, Belleplain State Forest and Wharton State Forest are also places where cold-weather enthusiasts can enjoy snowmobiling, snow shoeing and cross-country skiing in a serene setting. If you want to take a few days to connect with nature, Wharton State Forest has more than 30 tent and trailer campsites available all year.

Discover maple sugaring at Rancocas Nature Center

Discover maple sugaring at Rancocas Nature Center

The entire family can explore the flora and fauna of winter at Rancocas Nature Center in Westampton. The full moon night hike on January 26 is a special way to explore the center’s trails and look for signs of the animals that remain active during the winter months. On February 16, spend a sweet afternoon learning about maple sugaring, observe a tapping demonstration and enjoy a maple syrup tasting. To ward off the chills, the center will have an old-fashioned campfire burning.

The center’s Nature Explorers series also gives kids the opportunity to look and listen on guided nature hikes on the first Saturdays in January and February. The January 4 hike will teach kids how to spot animal tracks, active nests and burrows, and provide tips on listening for signs of animals’ presence. The February 1 outdoor trek will focus on looking for animal activity, early-emerging plants, and winter berries and buds.

And while many animals hibernate during the winter, the season is actually an ideal time for birdwatching at various SJ parks and nature preserves. Ducks, loons and various gulls often make appearances along the Delaware River and Rancocas Creek at Amico Island Park in Delran, and lucky visitors may even catch a glimpse of bald eagles soaring overhead.

The 600-foot-long floating boardwalk on Smithville Lake at Eastampton’s Historic Smithville Park gives birdwatchers a great vantage point to observe migratory waterfowl that winter in SJ. A walk in the park’s woods will also reveal birds like doves, wrens and chickadees, and sometimes even wild turkeys.




Winter Fun at the Shore

There’s so much more to the Shore than beaches and boardwalks, and winter is a great time to explore the sights and sounds without the crowds.

For a history lesson the entire family will enjoy, head to Tuckerton Seaport. The 40-acre village is located on the Barnegat Bay and brings the Shore’s unique maritime heritage to life with hands-on exhibits like a decoy collection, a houseboat from the 1800s, a replica clam and oyster house, and a sawmill. The seaport also holds special events throughout the winter, including the Cocoa Cup Mini-Golf Tournament held February 14-17. (Winners earn chocolate prizes!)

An off-season visit to the Shore also lets you see lots of local wildlife. Every Saturday morning in January and February, naturalists at the Cape May Bird Observatory can help you spot wintering waterfowl and songbirds among leafless branches. The observatory also hosts a number of special bird-watching events, including a workshop on wintering hawks, eagles and owls.

And speaking of wildlife, the Cape May County Park and Zoo remains open year-round and is free to visitors. Set within a 200-acre park, the zoo is home to more than 500 critters (including a baby giraffe that was just born in September). Winter hours at the zoo are 10 am to 3:45 pm, though the park is open from 9 am to dusk.

For an adults-only night, check out a concert at Boardwalk Hall (upcoming shows include Marc Anthony on February 8 and Luke Bryan on February 15) or have some laughs at the Borgata Comedy Club (comedians appear every Monday-Thursday). Before you head out, get a drink and a bite to eat at The Bar at FIN inside the Tropicana –  the bar has delectable specials every Wednesday through Sunday night (and the restaurant is a Best of SJ winner).

January 2014
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