Winter break is a great time for families to come together, go on fun trips and celebrate their accomplishments from the past semester. One of the benefits for those of us in the tri-state area is that our break falls just a few weeks after the winter break for most of the world, which means minimal wait time and maximum vacation time.
Unfortunately, living in the tri-state area also means dealing with cold winters. This can make it difficult to fully enjoy outdoor activities like hiking or walking, and many outdoor attractions, such as theme parks, are closed for the season. However, there are still some amazing winter activities that people in warmer climates can only dream of doing.
With that in mind, here are my recommendations for fun things to do with your friends and family before the snow starts to fall:
1) Campgaw Mountain Ski Area
Despite my dislike for the cold, I have always had a soft spot for snow. My favorite local spot for winter activities is Campgaw Mountain Ski Area in Mahwah, New Jersey. It’s just a short drive from Teaneck and has beautiful mountains for skiing, snowboarding, and, most importantly… snow tubing! Snow tubing is always a fun time for the family and Campgaw offers top-tier snow tubing. There is a conveyor belt escalator that takes you and your tube up to the top of the mountain, minimizing the strain of schlepping your tube. The drop is epic, and you go fast down the slope. If you haven’t visited it yet, I highly recommend designating a day to check it out and enjoy the winter sports.
2) Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience, Westchester
While Hogwarts might be in England, Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience is right here in New York. I recently visited this immersive and magical exhibit (as I wrote about in The Jewish Link Issue #458, November 10, 2022) and had a fantastic time exploring the decorated forest. The experience is fully interactive with staff teaching you spells, meeting fantastic creatures, and escaping giant spiders and werewolves. The attention to detail that was put into this limited-time event is staggering, and I was blown away. Whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not, you will certainly be spellbound by the Forbidden Forest Experience. Hurry though, the event closes at the end of January!
3) Enjoying Winter in New York City
Winter in New York City is a special time, and many of my favorite romantic comedies (check out my top 10 winter movie list for some recommendations) are set in the city. The city that never sleeps is especially beautiful during the winter months, with parks like Bryant Park and Central Park offering a variety of winter activities. For example, Bryant Park has ice bumper cars and free ice skating. I have gone running in Central Park in the winter, even once completing a 4-mile race that started on midnight New Year’s 2020 with fireworks bursting in the sky. Central Park in the winter is gorgeous, especially with some white snow glistening in the background. Beyond that, just viewing the skyline at night is really satisfying. If you want to see more of the city, consider taking a bus or boat tour for an added bonus. There is a reason why New York is such a tourist attraction, so make sure to take advantage of the fact that we live so close!
4) Bergen County Winter Wonderland
I actually have not yet gotten a chance to check out this local destination, but hope to spend a day there this winter break. From the photographs, it looks so cool (pun intended). There is an igloo, ice rink, and best of all, ice bumper cars. I’m a big fan of bumper cars and love crashing into my friends and family (and anyone else who gets in my way). I’ve never done it on ice, but I imagine it would be even more fun, with the slippery floor allowing for better speed and gliding. I am a bit scared of ice skating, honestly, but maybe I’ll give it a try, too. Hope to see you there!
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you always have to be cold outside. Topgolf is the premier driving range in the area. With heated booths and seats, you will be nice and toasty as you smack golf balls as far as you can. Topgolf also has a bar with refreshing beverages, which waiters bring out to your personal lounge table. I recently visited Topgolf for the first time a few weeks ago. We spent an hour there playing the unique virtual games that Topgolf offers to enhance the driving range experience, such as Angry Birds, Jewel Jam, Topshot, and more. Tip: Go on Tuesday nights and games are half off. Also, be sure to book a bay in advance, or you might have to wait several hours.
Besides winter activities, you could also spend your time off visiting indoor attractions that aren’t reliant on the weather. Here are my top 5 favorite indoor activities to do this Winter Break:
1) American Dream Mall
It took years for the American Dream Mall to open, but it was worth the wait. The mall features over a dozen incredible attractions, luxurious shopping venues, beautiful gardens, water fountains, and delicious food (many of which are kosher). During this Winter Break, there is no better place to be. You could easily spend two days visiting the largest indoor water park in the world, the DreamWorks Water Park, and the biggest indoor theme park in the Western Hemisphere, Nickelodeon Universe Indoor Theme Park. Although I have yet to visit either park, I plan to do so in the future because the rides look phenomenal. In addition to the Mirror Maze, TiLT Museum, and Blast 7D (see Jewish Link issues #458 and #461, November 10 and December 15, 2022), the mall also has an aquarium, an escape room, two mini golf courses, indoor skiing, the iconic Ferris Wheel overlooking the New York skyline, and more. There are several kosher stores such as Chickies, Goldie Lox, Cinnabon, Cotton Pop Shop, A’Jar Sweet Cream Factory, Dunkin Donuts, Red Mango and Oreo Cafe. You could probably spend a week living at the mall and still not have done everything it has to offer. It’s that awesome.
2) Go See a Show!
One of the features that makes New York so special is the incredible arts scene. I love going to Broadway shows and have seen many Disney productions such as “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “Mary Poppins” and “Beauty and the Beast,” which bring my favorite animated movies to life. My favorite Broadway show is “Dear Evan Hansen,” a modern musical about a teenager struggling with social anxiety who writes letters to himself about the good things that happen each day. The music was incredible and the show’s riveting and emotional plot brought me to tears. In addition to Broadway, I highly recommend checking out “The Blue Man Group.” I went to a show once and was blown away by the colors and hilarity of these unique entertainers who are completely painted blue. I also love going to The Metropolitan Opera and have seen “La Bohème,” “Rigoletto” and “Aida” with my grandfather. For a more family-friendly event, you might want to check out Disney on Ice “Into the Magic.” I have tickets to see the show this month, and am very excited. Shows are a great way to sit back and marvel at the stunning costumes, dance moves and music.
3) Supercharged Entertainment
Brand new in Edison, New Jersey is the world’s largest indoor multi-level go-karting track. There are two courses over 1,600 feet in length with a dozen turns. Each race lasts seven minutes and the winner is determined by the fastest lap time. Personally, I love go-karting and have been to several tracks in my life, but none look like they come close to this one. The cars and track are futuristic, with their shiny cars, unique steering wheel and flashing lights. The arena is dark, but with the overhead lights and lights from the cars, it looks like you are driving through city streets at night. In addition to the go-karts, there is also a bumper car game, a full arcade, a twist tower ride, axe throwing and a virtual reality simulator. With so much to do in one location, this is a surefire activity to try. I can’t wait to visit this place and show off my racing prowess.
4) Dave & Buster’s
It’s classic, it’s fun, and it’s always a great time. Dave & Buster’s (D&B) manages to blend the classic arcade vibe with a modern, upscale twist. I love going to the bar and ordering a Shirley Temple soda, feeling like a middle-schooler at a bar mitzvah party again. D&B is constantly updating their games to keep guests coming back to try more. In addition to trying the new games, I love playing classic games such as Deal or No Deal, Mario Kart, Skeeball, Air Hockey, and the Basketball Shooting Game. The prizes at D&B are top-notch, offering a wide variety of options from cute knickknacks such as board games, stuffed animals and swag, to full-on video game consoles or autographed baseballs. There are even some practical options like a travel pillow eye mask, which I use on every plane ride. There are D&B locations nearby in the Wayne and Palisades Malls, as well as Times Square. Tip: Be sure to go on Wednesday night, when games are half off.
5) Palisades Mall
With the rise in popularity of the American Dream Mall, the Palisades Mall has become an underrated place for a wide variety of entertainment venues. In addition to the aforementioned luxury arcade D&B, the Palisades Mall offers many fun and challenging activities for everyone. Some notable attractions include 5 Wits, a unique live-action adventure, Autobahn Indoor Speedway with go-karts that can go up to 50 mph, and the Game Show Room where you can participate in game shows as seen on TV. There is also an indoor ropes course, a comedy club, a bowling alley, an ice rink and mini golf. If you’re not in the mood for being active, you can sit back and relax at the AMC movie theater and watch the latest blockbuster film. (Surprisingly, there is no movie theater at the American Dream Mall so far.) In addition to all of the activities, there are also kosher food options such as the restaurant Mike’s Burgers, Cinnabon, and the convenience store Kosher Korner. The mall itself could definitely use some modern renovations, as it looks like it hasn’t been updated in decades. Still, with the food and activities, you should definitely visit this mall over your break.
By Zachary Greenberg