Washington Crossing State Park
Titusville (Mercer and Hunterdon counties)
Size of park: 3,126 acres
For history buffs (or parents who want to give the kids a dose of Jersey history), Washington Crossing State Park is a great fit. This is the area where George and his ragtag army of 2,400 men crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night 1776. The next morning, they marched nine miles for a surprise attack on the Hessian troops in the Battle of Trenton—a turning point in the American Revolution. Nearly 235 years since that frigid winter, the riverfront park still offers plenty to do, especially in the fall.
Established in 1912, the park (open daily 8 am to 4 pm, with no entrance fee in the fall), boasts forests of red cedar, eastern white pine, Japanese larch, Norway spruce, and red pine, plus fifteen miles of trails for hiking and biking, two and a half miles of equestrian trails, and open groves for picnicking and outdoor games.
The park’s Nature Center occupies 140 acres where you can observe wildlife in its natural habitat. Stop by the Nature Center for environmental exhibits and events, or try a family nature walk. For the best views of fall foliage reflecting on the water, follow the pedestrian bridge walkway to the banks of the Delaware River.
With three major picnicking areas (equipped with pavilions, tables, and grills), it’s easy to spend the day. If you’re inclined to sleep over, the park has four group campsites (open through October 31).
The Visitor’s Center (open daily, 9 am to 4 pm), features a special exploration of America’s “Ten Crucial Days” during the winter of 1776, which includes events of the crossing, the Battle of Trenton, and the Battle of Princeton. On most Saturdays, the staff also hosts musket-firing demonstrations in full colonial garb out in the field. Before departing, step back in time at the park’s historic Johnson Ferry House (circa 1740), which hosts history demonstrations, including a fall harvest feast on November 20. And don’t forget a return trip on Christmas Day, when you can see the annual re-enactment of that famous 1776 crossing that helped shape our country.