New Jersey November 09, 2017
New Jersey Has A Maple Wonderland That’s Simply Impossible Not To Love
When people think maple syrup, they often think of Vermont. While we absolutely get that, New Jersey offers mouthwatering maple syrup as well – made fresh, sometimes right before your eyes. There are several places in the Garden State where you can participate in the process, one of which is Howell Living History Farm.
Duke Farms is the former estate of heiress, socialite, horticulturalist, art collector, and philanthropist Doris Duke.
She inherited the property at age 12 when her father, James Buchanan Duke (a tobacco tycoon) passed away. Doris expanded on the property, building a conservatory and greenhouse. For a time, it was her primary residence. She opened its gardens to the public in 1964. After she passed, portions of the property were demolished but the grounds have once again become a haven for plant and animal life.
The estate is open to the public, free of charge, six days a week.
According to its website, Duke Farms "serves as a model of environmental stewardship and inspires visitors to become informed stewards of the land. It is a place of education, enjoyment and research that enhances the environmental health of the region." Absolutely lovely to explore, property highlights include a tropical orchid display, barns, lakes, the foundation of the Duke Mansion and a tiered waterfall that flows four times a day. You'll also find a variety of family friendly activities including a very special (free) tree adoption program and a sustainability scavenger hunt.
Other activities include a bikeshare program and geocaching.
Bike rentals are seasonal and end when the temperature dips below 40 degrees and/or the first snowfall. Rentals are $5 for two hours. Geocaching is a fun, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS devices to locate hidden caches (containers). Duke Farms has its own Geocache Challenge. If you can find them all, you can pick up a special completion token. You'll also find 18 miles of trails and seasonal opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Learning opportunities abound!
Duke Farms offers a wide variety of classes for families and adults. There's a nature story time, kids orchid club and night sky series that the little ones will love. Adults can enjoy educational workshops on subjects including bird watching and botany. You can also take guided tree hikes which are kind of a big deal here - the property is home to several of the oldest trees in New Jersey.
And you definitely don't want to miss the annual festivals!
There's a Firefly Festival in early July that celebrates the life of the lightning bug! Each October, enjoy Creature Fest, where you can visit with some "scary" plants and wildlife including poison ivy, a live wolf, some giant reptiles, a bat, a skunk, and more. Of course, for this article, I'd like to highlight the Sugar Maple Celebration.
The Sugar Maple Celebration is held annually in mid-March.
You'll get to learn all about the process of harvesting and producing maple sugar.
Participate in activities and nature hikes focused on wildlife, tree identification, best forestry practices, and climate change as it relates to the Sugar Maple and our native forests.
You can also buy locally-sourced syrup and special maple-flavored treats!
For more info on the Sugar Maple Celebration, check out this short video:
Duke Farms Sugar Maple Celebration from Duke Farms on Vimeo.
A fun event that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike, it’s a perfect end-of-winter activity. You can visit Duke Farms daily (except Wednesdays) all year at 1112 Dukes Parkway W, Hillsborough Township. You can also look out for maple sugaring events at Howell Living History Farm, Reeves-Reed Arboretum and Lusscroft Farm. For fall fun, check out this list of
day trip ideas in New Jersey.