Five years ago, comedian Jon Stewart ruled “Central Jersey does exist” on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, stepping in to resolve a controversy that had been simmering in New Jersey for years.
This year, just in time for Central Jersey’s 2023 harvest season, New Jersey made it truly official, by putting Central New Jersey on the state’s official tourism map, in a ceremony at the Wallace House in Somerville, one of General George Washington’s headquarters during the American Revolution.
While the debate about Central Jersey’s existence always has been tongue-in-cheek, the decision to make it official was based on the goal of bring more attention to the agricultural, historic, outdoor, and cultural assets of a region that has been a “best-kept-secret” of the Garden State, a well-deserved nickname that dates to the American Revolution.
Central Jersey’s farmers welcome millions of visitors from near and far to partake in the bounty—and fun—of harvest season, yet the region hasn’t gained the reputation of the Hudson Valley or the Finger Lakes in New York state. Just an hour from New York City and Philadelphia by train, car, or bus, Central Jersey is one of the most accessible agricultural areas in America.
At DiscoverCentralNJ.com you’ll find farms and orchards to please everyone, including families, friends, young couples, and seniors. In September, rainy weekends put a damper on Central Jersey harvest festivals, but expectations are running high for October.
Harvest season is about more than farms. While in Central Jersey you should be sure to partake of our local wineries and craft beverage makers, farm-to-table restaurants, historic sites, and very special places to stay overnight. Check out our interactive map to find lots of exciting things to do here.
Harvest festivals generally require the purchase of tickets, either in advance or on-site. Our favorite festivals can be found at these farms, listed in order of opening weekend:
- Norz-Hill Farm last year celebrated its centennial year, having been owned by the same family since 1922 in Hillsborough. Their Family Fun Fall Festivals start September 9 on weekends (10 to 6), expanding to include weekdays on September 25 (noon to 5) through October 31. Enjoy hay wagon rides, a corn maze, u-pick pumpkin patch, Kids’ Corner, and a food stand. They also offer Scare Farm, a popular Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night experience starting September 29 through Halloween. Buy tickets in advance here.
- Terhune Orchards and Winery, near Princeton, is the region’s agritourism leader, inviting thousands of visitors every year to a 250-acre family-owned and operated farm. Starting September 16, autumn brings Terhune’s Fall Family Fun Weekends, Saturdays and Sundays 10-5 through October, featuring live music, pick-your-own pumpkins, pumpkin painting, country food, pedal & play tractors, corn stalk & hay mazes, adventure barn & children’s activities, and a barnyard of farm animal. Admission discounts are offered with advance purchase.
- Snyders Farm in the Somerset section of Franklin Township offers a family-oriented Farm Festival weekends starting September 30 through October 29, from 11am to 6pm. Activities include pumpkin picking, hay rides , corn maze , sunflower trail , giant slide, lots of activities, food trucks , local breweries, and great photo op areas.
Even without festivals, many other Central Jersey farms offer a bounty of fresh food and experiences you will enjoy this time of year.
- Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse in Milford produces 100% grass-fed, raw cows’ milk cheeses, pastured meats, and rustic breads baked in a wood-fired oven. The farm has 60 mature cows, plus a new generation of Bobolink Grazers, the result of crossing modern dairy breeds with the ancient Kerry cattle of Ireland. Their farm store is open daily except Tuesdays. Tours on Sundays, weather permitting.
- Cherry Grove Farm is a sustainable dairy farm and creamery on 480 acres in Lawrenceville, making award-winning farmstead cheeses from grass-fed raw cows’ milk. The farm also raises heritage breed pigs, lambs, chickens, and beef cattle, raised without hormones, antibiotics or steroids. The Farm Store is open daily from April through December. They are offering cheese-making classes this fall.
- Gorgeous Goat Creamery in Stockton offers tours, hikes, and picnics with a growing herd of goats who will capture your heart! Purchase weekend tickets online. October tickets will be available starting in late September. They also are offering a special soap making class on September 24. They also offer a range of goat cheeses, soaps, and other products after your visit, or at one of several farmers’ markets.
- Griggstown Farm Market near Princeton sells its famous “Griggstown chicken” and other farm products using all-natural methods. The market sells seasonal fruit pies, pot pies, poultry sausages, quail eggs, and fresh seasonal soups. All products are prepared in a USDA kitchen at the Farm. Thanksgiving and holiday menus complement the farm-raised turkeys sold in November & December. Store open daily.
- Hidden Spring Lavender and Alpaca Farm is offering “walk with an alpaca” tickets every weekend this autumn. Although the lavender blooming season has passed, their on-farm store is chock full of bouquets, buds, oil, lotions, creams, moisturizers, hand soap, aromatherapy and bath and body items, lavender wreaths, dried Lavender, and more.
While you are in the area, be sure to enjoy New Jersey’s canal region, which features the 70-mile long D&R Canal State Park, traversing the entire region and is a great place to walk, bike, and paddle. Known mainly to locals, the D&R Canal State Park is the second-most visited state park in New Jersey, passing near or through quaint villages such as Millstone Borough, Rocky Hill, Lambertville, Stockton, and Frenchtown.
World-famous Princeton is one of the great Central Jersey towns, home to Princeton University, a vibrant shopping district, and the epicenter of the region’s dynamic farm-to-table restaurant scene. Many of those restaurants are participating in a Vegan Chef Challenge throughout September. Princeton’s centrally located Palmer Square offers live music every Saturday in Palmer Square from noon to 2pm starting September 16, and on Sundays 1-4 pm starting October 1. Across town, you’ll also find music and art events at the Princeton Shopping Center. And the Princeton Arts Council also offers events such as an art market and Halloween parade.
Historic Flemington is Hunterdon County, NJ’s beautiful county seat, with something for everyone. Stroll its tree-lined streets, where 65% of the borough is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Surrounded by 1,600 farms, Flemington has been the bustling agricultural and railroad hub of Central New Jersey for hundreds of years. It is now home to 450 businesses, including artisan coffee shops, farm-to-table restaurants, antique shops and boutiques, and craft beverages. A weekly farmer’s market on Saturdays at the old Stangl factory is popular among locals and visitors, and you can enjoy weekend excursions on the historic Black River & Western Railroad. Shoppers will especially enjoy sidewalk sales on September 23 and October 7-8.
Spend a few days in Central Jersey, and you’ll agree this special region really does deserve to be on New Jersey’s tourism map! If you’re as excited as we are about Central Jersey being on the official tourism map, consider visiting our friends at Old York Cellars to purchase their special edition Central Jersey Exists wines, with some of the proceeds benefiting non-profits working to keep Central Jersey’s canals and scenic byways beautiful.
For more information about everything to see and do in Central Jersey, visit discovercentralnj.com. This article is supported in part by a grant from New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel and Tourism.