Summer months are always brisk, sometimes brusque, positively entertaining, incredibly lively and most certainly memorable! You’ll be genuinely spoiled for choice with a calendar that is choked with events throughout the sunny months in Garden State. It’s hard to complain about free live entertainment in scenic parks throughout NJ, food and wine tasting events, cultural festivals, new exhibits that local museums, fairs, a hot-air balloon festival and July 4th fireworks. You’ll regret missing the fanfare if you’re in town.
It’s also the time of the year that parents and teachers organize field trips for their kids or students, taking their pick from a long list of top American tourist temptations like Adventure & Safari, Casino Pier & Breakwater Beach Waterpark, Crystal Springs Family Waterpark, Fantasy Island Amusement Park, Field Station: Dinosaur, The Funplex and many more! If it hits your fancy, you’re encouraged to tour NJ’s top breweries, lofty lighthouses, magnetic arboretums, and gardens, or you can take a trip to Adventure Aquarium, Jenkinson Aquarium, American Labor Museum, Liberty Science Center, or the Doo Wop Experience Museum. Poke around small neighborhoods and communities and they might spring a few pleasant surprises at you. You’ll just never know what’s around the corner, so, be adventurous.
1. The Princeton Festival
McCarter Theater Center, Matthew Acting Studio, the Princeton Theological Seminary’s Miller Chapel, the Princeton Abbey and The Lawrence School’s Clark Music Center
91 University Pl, Princeton, NJ 08540
(609) 258-2787 / (609) 759-0379
Prized as one of the local’s highest operatic achievements, The Princeton Festival is a 4-day event that has won over the hearts of the Jersey Arts Organization and The New York Times. Its highly-rated endeavors are always rave-worthy and easily bagged the People’s Choice Award for past notable productions like Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Handel’s Ariodante, The Rake’s Progress, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The premier performing arts festival offers eight different types of performing styles, having evolved from its more meager and conservative lineup of the past, and it boldly features both nationally renowned and aspiring artists in its productions today.
The summer event is anchored by A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Madama Butterfly, as well as a raconteur show backed by The Metropolitan Opera. Although the main event of the festival will take place at McCarter Theater Center, the stages at Peter and Will Anderson Quintet will be taken up by the likes of Concordia Chamber Players, Baroque Choral, piano recitals, instrumental concerts, competitions, 15 free lectures, master classes, previews and workshops creating a splash in the music scene throughout the pristine town of Princeton.
During its early years, it was a small program launched by its founder, Richard Tang Yuk; today, it has a longer tentacle-reach effect.
2. Rock, Ribs & Ridges Festival
Sussex County Fairgrounds
37 Plains Rd, Augusta, NJ 07822
If badass barbecue was to meet with funk music, it would be right there at Rock, Ribs & Ridges Festival. It’s worth 2 days of mouthwatering BBQ served up by the best chefs from all across the country while the atmosphere if ramped up by a boisterous grilling session and an outdoor concert.
Held on the Sussex County Fairgrounds and presented by Franklin Sussex Auto Mall, we’re anticipating a jam-packed event featuring Southern cuisine and music from the likes of Grand Funk Railroad, George Thorogood and the Destroyers at the heart of Northern New Jersey. The renowned country musicians will be accompanied by hand-picked, fresh-faced, up-and-coming artists too. The titles that the chefs and greasy, hard-working pitmasters will covet for include the ‘Best Ribs’, ‘Best Sauce’ and ‘People’s Choice’ award.
Camping, if you’ve not gotten the memo, is the best way to enjoy the exciting event, turning the weekend party into a week-long one. The bonus in its location is that the campgrounds are only a 3-minute walk from the venue; when you’re done with the epicurean riff-raff, the campsite is, thankfully, only a crawl away.
3. New Jersey State Fair
State Fair Meadowlands
1 MetLife Stadium Drive, East Rutherford, NJ 07073
When the sun is out and the kids are itching to get out of the house, grab the bottle of sunscreen, pop something simple into the microwave for dinner, then head out to the State Fair Meadowlands for fun rides, free entertainment, and shopping galore. The biggest, value-for-money 18-day New Jersey event features over 150 rides by the largest Kiddieland in New Jersey, which includes the back-by-popular-demand racing pigs.
The fair opens its doors on June 21st and will feature a dazzling display of fireworks for July 4th. Before and after the celebration, rides that induce white-knuckled grips and neurotic fantasies (think Sky Ride and Batcopter) will be on site to keep everyone entertained. For the curious, there are daring acrobats, suspicious magicians, kid-friendly games, live animal shows, a sinful array of fine food and drinks and comfort stations throughout the 35-acre fairgrounds.
Because the schedule will almost always be different every day, visit their website for dates and time. The by-the-minute weather forecast will help you decide if you should head out or crawl under your duvet while sponsors will alert you about promotions and great deals.
4. Annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning
39 Thor Solberg Rd., Readington, NJ 08889
Ballooning is a big, traditional thing for local New Jersey folks. Ever since the first flight was taken by Jean-Pierre Blanchard over Delaware River from PA to NJ (where he was reportedly greeted menacingly with pitchforks), taking to the skies of New Jersey has become a tradition and pride. The hydrogen-fueled flight dates over 200 years ago and yet, it has only grown in size and popularity through the years.
The 36th Annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, together with PNC Bank, is one of the most expected events in a family’s itinerary. It is set to wow over 170,000 patrons during the event, with a twice-a-day hot-air balloon ride. Its accolades include being the recipient of the governor’s award for ‘Best Special Events’ and included into the list of ‘Top 100 Festivals in North America’.
The awe-inspiring spectacle, apart from featuring balloon rides, will also have family-friendly games, a human cannonball act, aerial performances, fun with Dr. Planet, juggling acts, amusement rides, a firework extravaganza, yoga sessions, a Running with the Balloons 5K run, kids’ concerts, contests, a live radio broadcast, mobile learning adventures, magic shows, knee-slapping comedic acts and much, much more.
5. North Wildwood Italian-American
Olde New Jersey Avenue, North Wildwood, NJ 08260
If you prefer something more close-knit and traditional, the Italian-American festival will be the perfect fit. The 3-day event celebrates the tradition, cuisine, culture, and entertainment befitting of Italian-Americans and it attracts more or less 75,000 people from across all walks of life.
After the welcome party, the grand procession in honor of Saint Anthony follows. Bands will perform, a live broadcast will be held, and then people are free to roam and enjoy everything from live entertainment, children’s activities, a grape-stomping event, and a messy and hilarious meatball relay race.
Serving as an impetus for those with Italian origins to learn and explore more about their culture, people are also attracted to the olive tree signings, raffles, and the Little Miss Italy contest. Nobody says no to free entertainment from local talents like the Bitter Sweet Duo, The Corner Boys, Johnny Taco, 99 Reasons, Goody Blue Shoes, The Aquanets, Philly Cruz and Just in Time.
6. Free Summer Concerts all around New Jersey
The sun is out, the entertainment is free, and the food nothing short of gastronomical. It’s specifically what nature ordered for summer. Whether you wish to take the money shot with your favorite local band or just pop the clutch and let life yank you by the shoulders, Garden State boasts of a wide range of concerts all around its parks. And here’s just a taste of it.
Rotary Park Bandstand
400-498 Lafayette St, Cape May, NJ 08204
The charming local green space has a bandstand used for such events. Grab a blanket or a beach chair, reserve a spot and you’re ready to let your hair down. No fanfare, no extravagance. You’re allowed to simply be outdoors with your favorite people and enjoy free entertainment all summer long. Featured performers include Doctors of Rhythm, Golden Eagle Bank, Mainliners Chorus, Marrington Band, Old School, Odessa Klezmer, The Capers, and many more
Sinatra Dr, Hoboken, NJ 07030
If they’re not pushing their physical limits with a run, they’re playing soccer with their friends, kayaking or languidly lying around while enjoying the awesome views of Manhattan over picnic food. This is the scene you can expect when you hit Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ. The waterfront park is also popular because it is clean, not too crowded (thanks to the spacious setting), has free outdoor performances all summer through and is bicycle- and pet-friendly. Summer sees the rolling out of the Sinatra Idol Contest, Hoboken Summer Bash, and performances by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, The Paul Simon Engagement, The Hoboken Mile Square Allstars, The Singadelic Big Band, etc. Visit their website for more information as scheduled performances are subject to change.
Echo Lake Park
Springfield Avenue, Mountainside, NJ 07092
An evergreen spot for the locals of Mountainside, NJ, the 16th best place to live in in New Jersey (according to New Jersey Monthly Magazine), Echo Lake Park, along Springfield Avenue, is a premier location for lakeside picnics, softball, running, ice-skating, paddle-boating, sledding and has amenities like fishing spots, playgrounds, water wheel facilities and lots of wide open space for family-friendly activities like kite-flying, frisbee and jogging.
Surrounded by small hills on its fringes, the New York skyline rounds up the experience. If you have a four-legged friend, bring them along to this pet-friendly park. This year, the park will host its normal calendar of summer events.
The Mountainside Summer Music Series is presenting a lineup featuring Pat Foley Band (June 30), Al Shafner and the Revtones (July 7), The Ross Livermore Band(July 14), The Gavel Project (July 21), The Riley Parkhurst Project (July 28), Crush: A Dave Matthews Tribute Band (Aug 4), The Jonathan Sarty Band (Aug 11), Shark Martin (Aug 18), Late Night Selfie (Aug 25), Studio Two – The Beatles Before America (Sep 1).
Hot Summer Nights Concert Series
356 Broad Street, Summit, NJ 07901
Ranked highly as a top summer event in downtown Summit, NJ, the Hot Summer Nights Concert Series brings in a smorgasbord of activities, food, drinks and live entertainment to the thousands who attend.
Hosted by Investors Bank, food trucks converge to serve not just delicious local food but also to hand out free ice-cream. You don’t have to be a kid to grab one. The Village Green venue is nestled amid rows of busy shops and restaurants around the city’s bustling city center. The quintessential setting welcomes people from all walks of life and age groups to join hands to enjoy the Screen on the Green movie series and celebrate life, laughter, great food, and revel in the awesome moment of community togetherness.
All concerts begin at 7pm sharp while the Community Night introduces locals to non-profit foundations to their missions.
7. Voices and Colors: Vietnamese Dong Ho
Wheaton Arts & Cultural Center
1501 Glasstown Rd., Millville, NJ 08332
A picture paints a thousand words… and in this case, a painting depicts a million other words. At Wheaton Arts & Cultural Center, folks are treated to an inside look into life along the southern bank of Red River, a river that snakes its way from Hanoi, Vietnam.
Creating highly descriptive wood carving and Poonah paper painting is a norm for the people of Dong Ho village (also known as Mai Village) and they’re right here in Millville. The folk paintings are famous both inside and outside Vietnam, showcasing the bucolic beauty of the village in their full and complete customary and festive glory. Each of the painting is painstakingly hand-made from woodcut printing papers.
The 80-year-old Vietnamese artisan, Nguyen Huu Sam, has been displaying thousands of such masterpieces in his house. Nguyen Huu Sam is a ‘living human treasure’; together with his collection of folk paintings portraying his home country, the exhibit sheds light into the ephemeral transformation of not just the country and its people, but also the world at large.
8. Are We There Yet?
Museum of Early Trades & Crafts
9 Main St., Madison, NJ 07940
The internet may have made the world smaller in the 21st century; back then, travel did. The current exhibit at the Museum of Early Trades & Crafts is ‘New Exhibit: Are We There Yet?’ and it features personal accounts of early 19th century travelers who had nothing but the shirts of their back when they made their way to New Jersey.
It offers an insider look into local transportation networks that helped build New Jersey’s economy, made easier by tools like a railroader’s equipment and a surveyor’s compass. As simple as they sound now, they were the backbone of an early traveler’s life and work. Things that we take for granted today: cars, trains, bicycles, planes, each of them mobilizing us in ways that would have made our ancestors green with envy. And yet, it allowed stagecoaches to pave paths and routes.
Apart from educating patrons about the early stages of traveling, the museum maintains a vast collection of tools of the trade, handcrafted items from early New Jersey settlers in their permanent exhibits, especially the local farming communities in the 1800s. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how such simple tools and methods contributed towards the modern developments of our current community.
The above events should be taking you around to some of the best places to experience Boston to the fullest. And you know the old saying about how ‘the more is merrier’? It’s true! Grab your family members or friends and come enjoy the beautiful city of Boston soon.