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Enjoy Springtime in New Jersey

New Jersey is ready to show its colors.

Though it’s cold outside now, spring and summer are on the way, bringing a burst of botanical beauty and eventful celebrations throughout the Garden State. From the beachside towns of the Jersey Shore to the suburban destinations just across the bay from New York, New Jersey destinations are preparing to welcome groups with warm weather and memorable experiences.

In the Wildwoods, groups can enjoy crowd-free beaches and numerous special events throughout the month of May. Nearby Cape May offers historic trolley tours and insiders’ insights into fishing traditions. And Atlantic City’s famous boardwalk comes alive with fun and games during the spring and summer months.

In northern New Jersey, groups will find a series of impressive gardens throughout Somerset County. And the town of Elizabeth offers world-class shopping as well as Hamilton history.

If your group hasn’t been to New Jersey recently, plan to take them to some of these destinations in spring or summer.

The Wildwoods

An outpost on the southern part of the Jersey shore, the Wildwoods has become a popular all-season vacation destination. During spring and summer, visitors can take advantage of its abundant beaches and numerous special events.

Lifeguards begin watching beaches in the Wildwoods in May, which means groups have about a month to enjoy the sand and surf before vacationers show up for the summer. If your travelers aren’t interested in relaxing on the beach, though, they may still enjoy an afternoon on the Wildwoods Boardwalk, which offers more than 100 rides and attractions and is open Easter weekend through the end of October.

In May, groups will find many special events to add some excitement to their Wildwoods vacation. The Spring Boardwalk Classic Car Show takes place over Mother’s Day weekend and is followed by Murder Mystery Weekend a week later. At the end of May, the three-day Wildwoods International Kite Festival is the largest kite festival in North America.

www.wildwoodsnj.com

Somerset County

Spring is a good time to visit Somerset County in north-central New Jersey. Somerville and surrounding communities are known as prime bird-watching destinations — the town of Bernardsville hosts the World Series of Birding in May — and a number of gardens throughout the area blend beautiful scenery with environmental sustainability.

Groups can combine a history lesson with spectacular greenery at Cross Estate Gardens, which is part of Morristown National Historical Park. The garden features a formal walled garden, a native plant garden, a wisteria-covered pergola and a mountain laurel allée. Another favorite garden destination is Peony’s Envy, which has one of the country’s most extensive collections of peonies and is available for daytime and evening picnics.

Among the biggest annual events in the county is the Tour of Somerville, a three-day festival that takes place over Memorial Day Weekend. This cycling race draws some of the best cyclists from around the world and features street fairs and other festivities for spectators.

www.visitsomersetnj.org

Cape May

At the southern tip of New Jersey’s Atlantic shoreline, Cape May is famous for its historic district and beautiful architecture. Spring and summer are the best seasons to explore Cape May and learn about its history.

Groups should start with a trolley tour offered by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts. These tours introduce visitors to some of the town’s most famous streets and landmarks throughout the historic area. Passengers learn about the importance of historic preservation in the community and see some of the less-visited architectural gems of this seaside town.

Next, travelers can learn about Cape May’s fishing industry, which has long been the economic backbone of the community. During a tour of the New Jersey Aquaculture Innovation Center, they’ll discover how Atlantic surf clams and oysters are commercially produced and harvested in the area. Follow that with a guided tour of Fisherman’s Wharf, home of the town’s commercial fishing fleet, to learn about how seafood gets from the ocean to the restaurants throughout Cape May.

www.capemaymac.org

Elizabeth

Just across Newark Bay from Lower Manhattan and Staten Island, the city of Elizabeth bills itself as New Jersey’s “starting point.” Visitors can discover historic neighborhoods, international culture, cosmopolitan dining and one of the largest outlet malls in the United States.

Groups will want to make some time to visit The Mills at Jersey Gardens, which is the East Coast’s largest indoor outlet shopping center. The mall features more than 200 outlet stores, including Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Coach and the country’s largest Tommy Hilfiger outlet. Since there’s no New Jersey sales tax on clothing or shoes, the mall is one of the most popular attractions in the region, drawing visitors from more than 150 countries.

For a more educational experience, groups can learn the story of famed statesman Alexander Hamilton at the Snyder Academy of Elizabethtown, where Hamilton attended school. There’s more Hamilton history at the Liberty Hall Museum, a 1700s house that was home to Hamilton and was visited by nine U.S. presidents.

www.goelizabethnj.com

Atlantic City

One of the most-visited destinations on the New Jersey coast, Atlantic City is famous for its multiple casinos as well as the Miss America competition, which takes place each year at Boardwalk Hall. But during the spring and summer, groups can also enjoy numerous outdoor attractions and activities in Atlantic City.

Since it was created in the 1800s, the Atlantic City Boardwalk has been one of the most popular attractions in the area. In addition to strolling the four-mile boardwalk to take in the sea air and scenic ocean views, visitors can enjoy numerous attractions. Steel Pier, one of three piers on the boardwalk, features carnival rides and midway games. An endless array of shops, restaurants and casinos can also be accessed from the boardwalk.

For a nautical adventure, groups can set sail on Cruisin’ One, the flagship boat of Atlantic City Cruises. The company offers dolphin watching, sightseeing cruises and happy hour excursions. And nature lovers will enjoy hiking at Atlantic County Park at Lake Lenape.

www.touratlanticcity.com

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.

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