15 Things New Jerseyans Love About Spring

When the warm weather rolls around, the Garden State becomes a playground.

Today is the first day of spring, but there’s still snow on its way.

But cheer up! Here’s 15 things New Jerseyans look forward to each spring.

1. It’s finally time to start planting gardens in the Garden State!

New Jersey falls into hardiness zones 6 and 7, which means the last frost is usually around early May. Take a look at this bountiful South Brunswick home garden for a sneak peak of a successful homestead, and learn more about the lovely Readington Township 4-acre home garden below.

Ruthann and Daine Grey's garden in Readington Township.

Ruthann and Daine Grey’s garden in Readington Township. Credit: Laura Moss

2. Spring marks the start of CSA and farmer’s market season

Check out our list of popular farmer’s markets throughout the state, like the West Windsor farmer’s market at the Princeton Junction Train station.

Photo by David Michael Howarth

Photo by David Michael Howarth

3. Six Flags Great Adventure opens on April 3

Jackson is home to the world’s largest theme park. Kingda Ka holds the record for the tallest and fastest roller coaster in North America, blasting out of the gate from 0 to 128 mph in 3.5 seconds, and up 456 feet and back down again. Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom, a free-fall ride built underneath Kingda Ka’s infamous arch, is also the world’s tallest drop ride, with a 415 foot drop at 90 miles per hour. Don’t miss the Safari Off-Road Adventure and be sure to read our interview with Temple of the Tiger lead trainer Eric Orkney.

Zumanjaro Drop of Doom underneath the Kingda Ka 45-story arch.

Zumanjaro Drop of Doom underneath the Kingda Ka 45-story arch. Credit: Six Flags

4. Catching the Branch Brook Park Cherry Blossom Festival on April 11-22

Newark blossoms with pink petals every spring, culminating on April 19 for Bloomfest. The festival includes all-day live music, food vendors sprinkled throughout the park, a crafter’s marketplace and children’s activities.

Credit: Laura Baer

Credit: Laura Baer

5. Grabbing tickets to the Montclair Film Festival on May 1-10

Though Hollywood might be the entertainment capital of the world now, New Jersey is where the filmmaking industry was born. Thomas Edison invented the first motion picture machine in his Menlo Park lab in 1891, and built the first movie studio—the Black Maria—in West Orange in 1893. The term “cliffhanger” was coined in Fort Lee, as silent film actress Pearl White dangled on the Palisades cliffs in the 1914 black and white film The Perils of Pauline.

Montclair Film Fest 2014

Courtesy of Montclair Film Festival

6. Visiting our flourishing public gardens

This is the Garden State, after all. Check out our list of public gardens throughout the state, including the 96-acre New Jersey Botanical Garden in Ringwood, the Presby Iris Gardens in Montclair, Greenwood Gardens in Shorthills, Barton Arboretum and Nature Preserve in Medford, the Morven Museum and Garden in Princeton, Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton and the Willowwood Arboretum in Far Hills.

New Jersey Botanical Garden in Ringwood. Photo by Frank Veronsky

New Jersey Botanical Garden in Ringwood. Photo by Frank Veronsky

7. Bringing mom along for the Mother’s Day Wine Trail Weekend (May 9-10)

The New Jersey Wine Growers Association hosts its annual Mother’s Day Wine Trail Weekend at participating wineries, like Laurita Winery in New Egypt below.

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr Creative Commons

8. And even more wine at the Unionville Spring Wine Festival on May 9

The Ringoes vineyard hosts thousands for its annual Spring Wine Festival, featuring vineyard walks, winery tours, food vendors, live music, and, of course, wine tastings.

Credit: Unionville Vineyards

Credit: Unionville Vineyards

9. Enjoying world-class music at the month-long Raritan River Music Festival

The annual Raritan River Music Festival happens every Saturday in May (this year’s dates are May 2, 9, 16 and 23).

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr Creative Commons

 10. Not to mention biking along New Jersey’s countless trail systems

Duke Farms in Hillsborough offers bikes (for a $5 fee) to visitors who want to check out the property’s 12 miles of bike trails.

Photo by Laura Moss

Photo by Laura Moss

11. Burning taste buds at the annual Chili & Salsa Cook-off on May 17

The annual festival in downtown Toms River lines the street with spicy food vendors. Judges determine the best of the best, selecting the Best Salsa, Best Chili Verde and Best Red Chili. There’s also a People’s Choice category and the quirky Best Booth competition.

Photo by Vicki Pecchioli for Downtown Toms River

Photo by Vicki Pecchioli for Downtown Toms River

12. Flying kites at the Wildwood International Kite Festival on May 22-25

The wide Wildwood beaches are a perfect stage for the International Kite Festival, where thousands of people come to watch the skies.

Courtesy of Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority

Courtesy of Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority

13. Eating New Jersey’s signature meat at the annual Pork Roll Festival on May 23

North Jerseyans call it Taylor Ham. South Jerseyans call it pork roll. Others call it Taylor pork roll. But everyone enjoys it with egg and cheese on a roll (and a dash of salt, pepper and ketchup, please!). The second annual Pork Roll Festival at Mill Hill Park in Trenton celebrates this breakfast sandwich staple with tons of fun activities, including the Pork Roll Queen Pageant, live music, and a pork roll-themed art exhibit. Submit your best pork roll-inspired recipe by May 1 for a chance to win the festival recipe contest.*

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr Creative Commons

14. Catching the Cajun flavor at Michael Arnone’s annual Crawfish Festival on May 29-31

The Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta channel the flavors of a Louisiana bayou each May for the Crawfish Festival, serving up swamp delicacies like shrimp creole, crawfish pie, alligator sausage, crawfish po-boys, fried chicken and jambalaya. This year’s live music lineup includes Dr. John.

Photo by Andrea J. Bartholomew Photography

Photo by Andrea J. Bartholomew Photography

15. And last but not least, Memorial Day Weekend at the Jersey Shore.

We all have our annual Shore traditions. Summer kicks off early with Memorial Day falling on May 25.* The Hop Sauce Festival on Long Beach Island, now in its second year, is a new festival for craft beer and hot sauce enthusiasts. See you there on May 30!

Fishing at sunrise in Spring Lake

Fishing at sunrise in Spring Lake

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments!

*This post has been updated to reflect new information.

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  1. New Jersey Wines

    Thanks for making us a part of this! For those looking to beat the crowds at the beach, we are launching our new “Blues, Wine & BBQ” festival over Memorial Day Weekend at Schooley’s Mountain Park in beautiful Long Valley, Morris County. The winners of the NJ Wine Competition will be awarded, and we will announce the winner of our annual passport wine trip giveaway! http://www.newjerseywines.com/event/blues-barbecue-wine-festival-at-schooleys-mountain-park/

  2. Peter

    You missed going to the target range do some shooting when the weather gets nice.

  3. hf201

    The Crawfish Festival really is one of the great events of the year in New Jersey – always great music and great food and I literally don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone there who wasn’t having a great time.

  4. GetOutsideNJ.com - Jeff

    Great post! We’ll be sharing this with our fans soon!

  5. Burt Patalano

    You missed Frenchtown…the secret beside the River. Actually not a secret anymore. Frenchtown is rated one of NJ’s top 10 destinations!

  6. Hop Sauce Fest

    Thank you for including Hop Sauce Fest. We are really working to curate a great event this year. The event is May 30, the first weekend AFTER Memorial Day. We have 12 amazing hand crafted hot sauces, seven original bands on the VW stage, 30 craft beers, and 12 fantastic local food vendors, a bunch of great new things to do, and all on beautiful LBI.