From top to bottom, New Jersey has so many “wow” destinations that you never have to leave our tiny state to have a fantastic time.
As the cold winter wind blows, and we all suffer from cabin fever and seasonal affective disorder, a mini getaway might be just what Jack Frost ordered.
This month’s feature destination takes us far from the hustle and bustle and lights of the cities, the Shore, the Turnpike, and regular “rat race” NJ life. We are headed to the mountains of far northern New Jersey, a scenic and serene corner of the state perfect for relaxation and recreation alike. A luxe mountain getaway might be just the “wow” you need.
This article is part of a special series brought to you by the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism.
You may be surprised to find that some of New Jersey’s most lavish and magnificent resort hotels are located among the mountains and valleys of Sussex County.
Crystal Springs is home to both the luxury Grand Cascades Lodge and the comfortable, family-friendly Minerals Hotel. On the Mountain Creek side, The Appalachian offers slopeside accommodations right at the base of Vernon Peak.
Another potential option is renting a condo at the stunning Black Creek Sanctuary in Vernon.
Make sure you search around for deals and special packages. Some of the rooms, amenities, and views are truly spectacular.
Spas & Sports
Whether you’re planning a girl’s weekend, a solo retreat, or a special vacation with a special someone, you’ll find not one, not two, but three amazing spa and fitness facilities at Crystal Springs.
Reflections Spa is a full-service day spa, specializing in massages and relaxation treatments. Elements Spa offers a complete menu of both spa and salon services. And if you’re looking for a great workout, personal training, yoga classes, and more, be sure to check out Minerals Sports Club too.
Skiing, Snowboarding, and More
It’s winter. So why not indulge in some winter fun!
Mountain Creek is one of very few ski resorts located right here in New Jersey. Operating a total of 46 trails and 9 lifts, Mountain Creek has facilities for skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. In case the weather is not cooperative, they have snow-making capabilities ready to go. And they offer night skiing too. Lessons and equipment rentals are also available.
For those looking for more unique winter activities, check out the heated outdoor pools, snowshoeing, special shows and events, and (my personal favorite) curling!
No vacation would be complete without some culinary delights. And despite the fact you’re in the “quiet corner” of the Garden State, there are plenty of options to dine for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, dessert, and apres ski.
It’s hard to pick out specific recommendations, but I’ll try:
The Crystal Tavern is situated in the clubhouse at Grand Cascades Lodge. It is a classy farm-to-table eatery open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For breakfast, I would pick the “Latkes and Lox” entree, or maybe “Pumpkin Pancakes”. Their lunch menu has a variety of small plates, although I would not be able to pass up the “Smoked Turkey Panini” with raclette cheese. You have to go big with dinner – maybe the “16oz Bone-In Ribeye” or “Lobster Thermidor” or “Ricotta Agnolotti”. Of course, there is a full selection of craft cocktails, microbrews, and wines to complement your meal.
Also at the Lodge is The Wine Cellar, featuring a delectable assortment of wine from around the world. Their online wine list is literally 120 pages long. Tasting experiences are available. (Must be 21+ to visit.)
If you’re looking for an even more elevated culinary experience or the ultimate date night, consider Restaurant Latour. Featuring 3-course and 7-course tasting menus that change regularly. The food looks amazing, and the desserts sound exquisite. (Note: There is a dress code to dine at Restaurant Latour, and all guests must be 12 or older.)
On the more casual side, at Minerals Hotel, Kites – An American Grille is open all day for your dining pleasure. The breakfast menu really caught my eye. I would have a hard time deciding between “The Jersey Sandwich” with egg and Taylor ham (ahem, pork roll) and the “Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles”.
Come Back This Summer
Crystal Springs and Mountain Creek are magnificent, luxe winter season getaways. But did you know Sussex County is a great summer destination too?
Mountain Creek transforms into an outdoor water park during the warm weather months. Featuring the 450,000 gallon High Tide Wave Pool, Lost Island lazy river, Fishing Village kid play area, and water slides of all sizes.
Actually, some of those slides look pretty insane. The Colorado River slide simulates a 1,600 foot trek down raging rapids. Bombs Away ends in an 18-foot drop into a pool. Their Zero-G slide propels riders up to 50 mph. And H2Oh-No is equally nuts, plummeting sliders down a 99-foot almost-vertical drop.
For those looking for a much calmer spring and summer activity, Crystal Spas features six premier golf courses ranging from championship-quality to challenging to family-friendly.
Finally, my absolute favorite summertime activity in Sussex County is at Mountain Creek Resort. It is home to New Jersey’s only alpine roller coaster – a mountainside ride that lets you control the speed! It is so unique and so much fun, it landed squarely in the top 10 of my annual NJ’s Best Roller Coasters listing. What a “wow” experience – definitely worth a ride … or ten!