While most of us New Jerseyans have heard of Morristown, this little gem is a secret to much of the world. When tourists come to the Garden State, it’s often to see the bigger cities surrounding us or visit our beautiful shore towns. Historic Morristown, with its 18,000 residents, often gets overlooked. Even those of us familiar with Morristown may not know all that it has to offer. Here are 20 things to do and see in Morristown, the “Military Capital of the American Revolution.”
1. Ford Mansion
One of the town's most popular attractions, this stately mansion served as the winter headquarters for George Washington between 1779-1780. It now operates in conjunction with the Washington's Headquarters Museum and is furnished as it would have been during Washington's 6-month stay. Established as a museum site back in the 1870s, this house was one of the first house museums in the United States.
2. Jockey Hollow
While Washington stayed in Ford Mansion, his troops were housed in Jockey Hollow. You'll find a reconstructed hut here to get an idea of the conditions soldiers lived in. Huts were typically 14' x 16' and housed 12 men. Each hut had a dirt floor and a fireplace, any furniture was built by the soldiers themselves. There were once over 1000 huts on the property.
You'll also find the slightly fancier Wick House here, pictured. This home was built sometime between 1747-1750 by a fairly wealthy farmer - Henry Wick. Several majors and generals briefly called this spot home during the Revolutionary War including Major Joseph Bloomfield who went on to become the 4th Governor of New Jersey.
3. Fort Nonsense
I love the name, but its origins are unknown. The area was originally called Kinney's Hill, and its elevated location made it an ideal spot for a lookout. Its primary purpose was to serve as a retreat, but the British never attacked Morristown. Though it went unused, it still offers some scenic views.
4. Morris Museum
This magical museum is housed in the historic Twin Oaks mansion and offers a little bit of everything. You'll find over 40,000 unique objects ranging from rocks and minerals to model trains, and interesting exhibits of art, science, culture and history. This museum is home to one of the largest collections of mechanical musical instruments in the country, along with the Bickford Theatre, which puts on performances throughout the year.
5. Morristown Game Vault
This recently opened attraction housed in the former PNC Bank building is already garnering some serious praise. You'll find a collection of over 85 retro arcade games and pinball machines that visitors of all ages can enjoy. Games date back to the 1970s, although there are also several more modern favorites in the mix.
6. Historic Speedwell
Speedwell Village is a National Historic Landmark comprised of nine buildings furnished to depict life at Speedwell during the early 19th century. These buildings include the Vail House, a restored home which serves as a museum, the Wheel House, which features an operational 24-foot waterwheel, and the Factory Building, pictured. The Factory Building is where Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail first publicly demonstrated the electric telegraph.
7. Frelinghuysen Arboretum
This 127-acre park is open daily to the public, free of charge. It features several gardens including collections of ornamental grasses, summer shrubs, flowering plants and fruit bearing trees. You'll also find a selection of entertaining events and numerous hiking trails. Check out "Flowers Galore Tea and Tour" on select Wednesdays, with May 11th being the next available date.
8. Mayo Performing Arts Center
This small town theater brings in some big names; Jewel, Jennifer Nettles, Kathy Griffin and Kevin James all have upcoming performances. You'll also find high quality theater with shows like "Let It Be," a celebration of The Beatles, and "Mama Mia."
9. Loantaka Brook Reservation
A great picnicking spot offering grills, restrooms, and a playground, you'll also find 5 miles of trails for hiking, biking, rollerblading and horseback riding.
10. Seaton Hackney Stables
Speaking of horseback riding, the Seaton Hackney Stables are located adjacent to the Loantaka Brook Reservation. They offer group and private lessons, schooling shows, trail rides, birthday parties, equestrian summer camps, and specialty riding clinics.
11. The Seeing Eye
The national non-profit organization is headquartered in Morristown and offers those interested a chance to visit. Public programs are held every Thursday and once a month on Saturdays. The program includes a presentation by an instructor with a Seeing Eye® dog and a question-and-answer session with a Seeing Eye graduate. You can also learn about ways to support The Seeing Eye.
12. Glassworks Studio
Glassworks Studio opened in December 2002 as the only public, walk-in glass fusing studio in the country. Now you can find similar studios everywhere, but Morristown is home to the first. They offer walk-ins, parties, group events and classes. Design your own unique creations or learn to "paint" using crushed pieces of glass.
13. Lewis Morris County Park
Did you know Morristown is also a beach town? Kind of... This 1,154-acre county park is named for New Jersey's first governor. It features trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, and a swimming beach with paddle boating on Sunrise Lake.
14. Acorn Hall
Acorn Hall is an 1853 Victorian Italianate mansion that operates as a museum. Tours of the home are offered, and there are also several exhibits which highlight Morris County history and Victorian culture. You'll also find gorgeous gardens and access to the Patriot's Path trail.
15. Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen
This 4-part concept restaurant is one extravagant eatery. Housed in the historic Vail Mansion, you'll find The Vail Bar, The Oyster & Wine Bar, The Dining Room and The Rathskellar. Amazing architecture, unique works of art, and fantastic food abound.
16. Morristown Green
The historic town center hosts numerous events throughout the year and has won several awards for design. George Washington once camped here, and the location was used as a ground for executions until 1833.
17. Fosterfields Living Historical Farm
This working farm has been in operation since 1760. An interactive experience for visitors, you can see cows milked the old fashioned way and butter churning in action. Stuck in time, the farm operates as it would have between approximately 1890-1920 featuring antique machinery and methods. There are also several authentic structures on the property including a 1920s farmhouse and The Willows, a Gothic Revival-style mansion built in 1854.
18. Macculloch Hall Historical Museum
This magnificent museum's collections focus on art and history, with exhibits featuring the work of famed cartoonist Thomas Nast. Adult admission is $8 but discounts are available for students and seniors; access to the surrounding gardens is free. Enjoy tours, talks and unique events including National Public Gardens Day. On May 6th, you can meet a beekeeper and see honeybees in action, explore the garden in a scavenger hunt and talk about dirt with a soil scientist. The event is free, so check it out.
19. Wightman's Farms
This modern farm is the place to be each fall. Visitors can enjoy pumpkin picking, a corn maze, hayrides and farm tours. In the spring and summer, stop by the farmers market and take the opportunity to pick your own herbs and flowers.
20. The Madison Hotel
You can easily spend several days here and may need overnight accommodations. While there are several chain hotels in Morristown, the local Madison Hotel provides an experience like no other. Elegant and architecturally stunning, amenities include a fitness center, pool, complimentary continental breakfast, business center and room service. You'll also find the award-winning restaurant, Rod's Steak & Seafood Grille.
Art, architecture, history, culture, entertainment, and a wide variety of cuisine… What doesn’t Morristown have to offer? Everyone in New Jersey should visit this truly spectacular town, and it’s definitely worthy of being a destination for tourists from all over. Morristown may be just under an hour from New York City and under 90 miles from Philadelphia, but it certainly holds its own as an incredible place for a weekend getaway.
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