52 Great Things to do in Union County This Year

Here are 52 free and affordable things to do in Union County — many of which can only be found in Union County!

Please note: COVID-19 safety rules apply in 2022. Some activities may be modified accordingly.

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winter activities Union County NJ
1  Step out in style


UCPAC Union County, NJ credit Christina Wilson
Union County Performing Arts Center (photo: Christina Wilson)

Step out of winter’s chill and take in a show at the fabulous Rahway Theater, a genuine 1920’s vaudeville palace which features one of the few fully restored Wurlitzer orchestra-style organs (as in, 500 pipes plus percussion!) in the entire region.

The venue was slated for the wrecking ball in the 1970’s but local preservationists fought to save it. In 2006, Union County bought the building and launched a restoration project.

The Rahway Theater is now home to the non-profit Union County Performing Arts Center. All year long UCPAC hosts affordably priced shows featuring new rising stars and longtime favorites, including theater, music, dance, film, children’s shows, workshops and activities and the Sensory Friendly Theatre series, where each performance is a “judgement free zone” for everyone to enjoy.

The theater is conveniently located in the heart of the downtown Rahway Arts District at 1601 Irving Street, just two blocks away from Hamilton Stage where you can find even more entertainments and activities hosted by UCPAC.

Information: visit ucpac.org or call the box office, 732-499-8226.

2  See eye-to-eye with a turtle
Trailside Nature & Science Center, Union County NJ
Trailside Nature & Science Center

A crawl-through tunnel that lets youngsters cozy up to a tank full of turtles is just part of the interactive fun at Union County’s state-of-the-art Trailside Nature and Science Center.

Cruise the exhibits, partake in one of many modestly priced special events and classes, or enjoy the free Wi-Fi while you curl up in the warmth of our generously stocked reading room.

Trailside also offers guided hikes in the Watchung Reservation and many other outdoor programs, all year ’round.

Butterfly meadows, the Sensory Friendly Trail, the expansive Loop playground and picnic area, and the Master Gardeners’ Union County Demonstration Garden are all on or near the grounds.

Tracing its roots all the way back to 1941, Trailside is New Jersey’s very first natural history museum. It follows the National Park Service “trailside” model, aimed at helping residents to understand — and help to conserve — our natural surroundings.

Trailside is located  at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside. Admission is free every day (yes, free!).

Visit Trailside online, email trailside@ucnj.org or call 908-789-3670.

3  Go trainspotting, in miniature

Train Club 2014 collage Union County NJFor something really rare and unique to Union County, make your way to a modest little building tucked away in a corner of Union County’s Lenape Park behind the Home Depot on Route 22 East in Union Township, and there you will find the A. Paul Mallory Model Railroad Center.

Built and run by the nonprofit organization The Model Railroad Club, Inc., this hidden gem is well known among model train aficionados.

The display is open to visitors almost every Saturday afternoon for a modest fee.

Be sure to visit again right around Thanksgiving for the Railroad Club’s annual holiday-themed Light and Sound Show extravaganza.

For visiting hours, Light and Sound Show tickets, and membership details: visit tmrci.org.

4  Indulge your inner Brontë
Warinanco Park
Warinanco Park in winter (photo by Jim Lowney/County of Union).

Let your imagination run wild with a winter stroll through a Union County park. Where some see gloom, others see romantic echoes of our wilderness past. Thanks to generations of preservation-minded residents, our parklands now account for more than eight percent of the land in Union County — a remarkable achievement in this densely developed region.

For dog lovers: Let your best friend off the leash at the dog parks located in Warinanco Park and Echo Lake Park.

For a complete list of Union County parks, including maps and directions, visit ucnj.org/parks.

5  Outdoor fun for the whole family 

Trailside winter hike, Union County NJWhen certain members of the family start bouncing off the walls, bundle them up and take them on a  walk through the woods.

Hike all day on the miles of rustic trails in the Watchung Reservation, or hook up with our expert naturalists at the Trailside Nature & Science Center for guided walks and other outdoor fun.

For list of indoor and outdoor winter programs at Trailside visit Trailside online, email trailside@ucnj.org or call 908-789-3670.

6  Cut the ice
Warinanco Ice Skating Center Union County NJ
Warinanco Sports Center Union County NJ.

The new Warinanco Sports Center is iced up and ready for skaters all season long. Activities include open skating, group rentals, lessons, the annual George T. Cron high school hockey tournament, seasonal celebrations, events for people with disabilities, and more.

Not just for skating any more: the new upgrade enables the facility to be used all year ’round for public events and activities, and private parties and events, too. It features a spacious, modern lounge, dining, and free Wi-Fi, too.

The  Sports Center  is located in Warinanco Park at One Park Drive, in Roselle.

For more information and activity schedules visit warinancopark.com.

Please note: outdoor skating on County lakes is subject to ice conditions and is permitted only where posted.

skating center Union County NJ
Artist rendering of new Warinanco Sports Center.
7  Sled ’til you drop
Sledding in Union County, NJ
The scene at Echo Lake Park after a big snowfall.

Called “one of the best sledding parks in the area” by Patch.com, Echo Lake Park has been a winter tradition for generations of Union County residents. Echo Lake Park is conveniently located just south of Route 22 in Mountainside. The most popular slope is by the east end of the park near the Springfield border (photo by Jim Lowney/County of Union). 

For a list of permitted sledding areas in Union County parks use the searchable activities page at ucnj.org/parks. Please note that sledding is permitted only when sufficient snow cover is available.

8  Ski ’til you stop

Skiing photo by Tina Casey 2016

For nonstop cross-country skiing, glide all day along the trails in the sprawling Watchung Reservation.

Get out early enough and  you could be the first to experience something truly unique and exhilarating: breaking through fresh, untouched powder!

Cross-country skiing is permitted at several other County parks. For a list of permitted skiing areas in Union County parks, use the searchable activities page at ucnj.org/parks

Please note, downhill skiing is prohibited on all County property.

9  Get a jump on the baseball season
Roy White to speak at UCBA fundraiser, Union County NJ
Roy White, former Yankee All-Star and coach.

The timing is right for Valentine’s Day, so treat that special someone to a truly unique gift — tickets to the annual Hot Stove League Baseball Dinner.

Each February, the Union County Baseball Association hosts this annual fundraiser. Get your tix early and get ready for an exciting evening of food, fun, and baseball. The fundraiser celebrates top players in the countywide youth baseball league, and it often features fan favorite guest speakers from the big leagues.

Union County is proud to help support UCBA, which has provided youngsters with lifelong baseball memories since the 1930’s. For more information visit ucba-nj.org.


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spring activities Union County NJ


10  Take a (history) hike 

Meet the one of the most unusual “trails” in Union County: our own section of the National Parks Service’s Washington-Rochambeau Historic Trail.

The trail commemorates the 680 miles traveled by the combined armies of George Washington and Jean Baptiste de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau in 1781, ending in victory at Yorktown.

Retrace their steps by following the signs along Raritan Road and Lamberts Mill Road in Scotch Plains among other thoroughfares.

For maps and directions to paths, trails, and greenways in and around Union County visit online at ucnj.org/parks-recreation/paths-trails-greenways.

11  Spot signs of spring on the ground
Photo by Betty Ann Kelly.

Spot the first signs of spring throughout Union County’s 36 parks by looking closely at last year’s fallen leaves for colorful reminders that the warm season is approaching.

If the rustic trails are still muddied by spring rains, take a stroll along the many paved paths in Union County parks.

Help preserve our fragile forest understory by staying on the marked trails and paths.

For a complete list and maps of Union County trails, paths, and greenways visit ucnj.org.

12  …and in the air, too
Falcon chicks in nest, located on the roof of the Union County Courthouse Tower in Elizabeth (photo by Kathy Clark).

Union County is located on the Atlantic Flyway migratory route, and our parks system is dotted with lakes, ponds, and other features attractive to scores of bird species. Lenape Park, for example, is “a critical habitat for over 190 species of birds including many migrant songbirds from South and Central America,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

An ash throated flycatcher makes an appearance in Union County’s Lenape Park (photo by Tony Gregorio).

When it’s too cold for bird watching outside come inside to the Trailside Nature and Science Center, where you can watch the action around strategically placed bird feeders from the comfort of a picture window.

Spot peregrine falcons from the comfort of your own computer by tuning into the free Falcon Cam livestream.  It catches all the action in and around the peregrine falcon nest, located on the roof of the County Courthouse in Elizabeth.

Union County partners with the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Conserve Wild Life Foundation to help protect this fierce and fascinating creature. More info + free livestream: ucnj.org/falcon.

Read our birding reports and join a birdwalk, too. Bird reports and contact info: ucnj.org/parks-recreation/wildlife-management.

13  Make some four-legged friends

Watchung Stable collage

Find a stable full of friendly horses at Union County’s Watchung Stable in Mountainside. It offers lessons, camps, Scout activities, birthday parties, and special riding events for children and adults including guided trail rides through the peaceful woods of the Watchung Reservation and programs for people with disabilities.

Non-riders and visitors are always welcome to stop by and say hello. Watchung Stable is an all-seasons facility thanks to a new energy-efficient indoor riding ring added in 2016.

Watchung Stable is located at at 1160 Summit Lane in Mountainside. More informationand Troop Shows: visit ucnj.org, email stablequestions@ucnj.org or call 908-789-3665.

14  Take a picture perfect picture

Echo Lake Park gazeboSpring-flowering trees in County parks make a perfect backdrop for that special photo of that special someone. Find a plethora of blossoms around at Nomahegan Park and throughout our County parks system.

Look for early-blooming flowers and shrubs at the Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park and the Chatfield Garden in Warinanco Park, too.

For a more rustic effect, check out the colorful butterfly meadows in the Watchung Reservation, Warinanco Park, and other County parks.

The restored gazebo by the dam at Echo Lake Park is another favorite place for informal portraits, or simply taking in the peace and quiet of a beautiful rustic scene. 

15  Find a zen moment.

A peaceful woodland scene in Union County parks.

Here’s another unusual “trail” you can explore in Union County: the path to deep relaxation, under the guidance of a trained yoga instructor at the Trailside Nature & Science Center.

Trailside yoga classes are for teens and young adults with special needs, part of a growing roster of programs that include all Union County residents.

Find inclusive programs at other Union County facilities including the Warinanco Sports Center, Watchung Stable, and Ulrich swimming pool.

and our swimming pools, too.

For more information on other County recreation opportunities for people with disabilities and special needs, visit the new Office for People with Special Needs online or call 908-527-4781.

Trailside info: visit online, email trailside@ucnj.org or call 908-789-3670.

16  Go fish

Elks fishing derby Union County, NJ

Fishing is available at ponds and lakes throughout the County parks system. The County also partners with civic organizations to host fishing derbies for all ages and abilities.

Anglers, keep an eye out for the new “Reel in and Recycle” bins located at popular fishing areas. Put broken or unwanted fishing lines in the bins, and it will be collected and recycled into new gear and fish habitats.

Visit ucnj.org for a list of fishing sites in County parks. Please note, state fishing licenses are  required, except for persons under 16 or over 70 years of age.

17  Catch the teen spirit

Teen Arts festival Union County, NJ.Ever wonder what Picasso was up to in 7th grade? You can get a glimpse into the mind of a young artist each spring at the Teen Arts Festival. The two-day event takes place in March at the Cranford campus of Union County College. More than 4,000 middle and high school students participate along with a staff of professional artists.

For a schedule and more information including volunteer opportunities, visit the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs online or call 908-558-2550.

18  Release your inner archer

Archery Range, Union County NUThe Union County Archery Range at Oak Ridge Park in Clark is the only Olympic-scale outdoor public facility of its kind in the entire region. All levels of experience are welcome, and safety courses with equipment are offered for beginners age nine and up. 

The range was built with the generous assistance of volunteers in the archery community. Open seven days a week from dawn to dusk, it is fully accessible for persons using wheelchairs.

Get a permit to use the range all year for a modest fee, and by a safety course or showing other documentation of archery experience.

For more information visit ucnj.org or call the Parks Department, 908-527-4900.

19  Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

St Patricks Day Union County NJUnion County has one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in New Jersey.

Centered in Union Township, the festivities include a huge parade complete with bagpipes, drums, high school marching bands, local police and fire department units, veterans groups and many other organizations, floats and all the trimmings.

Dancers, music, stage performances, children’s activities and more round out the event.

For more information visit the folks at unioncountystpatricksdayparade.com.

20  Get in touch with nature
Wild Earth Fest wolf Union County NJ
This friendly wolf is a regular visitor to Wild Earth Fest.
Wild Earth Fest snake Union County NJ
Kids can meet snakes, turtles, and other animals at Wild Earth Fest.

If wild animals are your cup of tea, come to the Wild Earth Fest at the Trailside Nature & Science Center in Mountainside.

This family-friendly event is held every spring and it is packed with activities: live animal demonstrations, children’s crafts, music, eco-art, the “Recycling Olympics,” nature crafts for sale, and more.

Sign up in advance to enter into the annual Wildlife Photography Contest and Environmental Hero Awards (for more on those information call Trailside at 908-789-3670).

Don’t forget to stop by the “Touch a Truck” event next door in the Loop playground area — it’s free with your admission to Wild Earth Fest. 

Visit Trailside online, email trailside@ucnj.org or call 908-789-3670.

21  Get in touch with a truck

Touch a Truck Union County NJRight near the Wild Earth Festival you’ll find Union County’s own version of “Touch a Truck,” where kids can climb all over their favorites: fire trucks, emergency vehicles, construction trucks, and more. It’s a perfect chance to snap a great family photo.

The same modest admission fee gets you into both Touch a Truck and Wild Earth Fest.


22  Gather ye rosebuds…and tomatoes

spring garden fair Union County NJGardening enthusiasts gather at the Watchung Reservation each May for the Spring Garden Fair and Plant Sale, located in the Demonstration Garden near the Trailside Nature and Science Center.

Bring the kids for a fun afternoon, including children’s activities, gardening info, garden crafts, gently used books and tools, and baked goodies for sale — along with hundreds of plants.

Union County experts are on hand to share free gardening information and advice, and you can also get a tour of the new greenhouse and elaborate Demonstration Gardens, tended by the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County.

The Master Gardeners are the brains, hands, and hearts behind the fair. All proceeds go to fund their community projects, including the Demonstration Garden and  a horticultural scholarship.

Info: Call the Union County Extension, 908-654-9584 (press “4”) or visit the Extension online at ucnj.org/rce.

The Master Gardeners program is run by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County, a program of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, with the support of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

23  Paddle your canoe


paddle boats echo lake, Union County NJ
Pedal boating at Echo Lake Park

Launch a kayak, rowboat or canoe from the boat ramp at Lake Surprise in the Watchung Reservation, and spend hours paddling the mile-long lake. The ramp is located at the Tracy Drive bridge across the lake.

Keep an eye out for ducks, turtles, and even a heron or two. It’s just one of several waterways in Union County parks designated for boating. 

Before you take to the water, call the Department of Parks and Recreation at 908-527-4900 for information on filing the required Union County Boat Permit.

For a complete list of boating sites visit our Parks Activities page and search under “canoe.”

Find pedal boats at Warinanco Park and Echo Lake Park. For more pedal boat info call the Parks Department, 908-527-4900. 

24  Find your inner shredder

What could be a greater thing to do than helping to save the planet? Union County has been at the forefront of the recycling movement, and our free seasonal countywide recycling events are among our most popular programs. 

From spring through fall, Union County supports a series of free drop-off recycling events for personal documents with a secure paper shredder on site. We also offer free drop-off events for many kinds of household hazardous wastes.

And, we coordinate free drop-off locations for all kinds of scrap metal, which are available all year ’round.

For complete more details about all County-sponsored recycling programs — and a recycling directory for businesses — visit online at ucnj.org/recycling.

For questions about curbside household recycling in Union County, check out this easy-to-follow animated video:


25 Slide into your summer groove
Union County NJ Nile Rogers and Chic R&BBB
Nile Rogers and Chic headlined Rhythm and Blues by the Brook in 2011.

 As spring winds down, Union County starts to gear up for a great summer of free outdoor music and movies. Get a jump on the season with Rhythm and Blues by the Brook, our day-long music festival at Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield. It’s back on our calendar after a hiatus of several years, so join us to kick back and enjoy some great sounds in the relaxed atmosphere of Cedar Brook Park. 


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seasonal headlines summer


26 Take a sensory stroll

The new Watchung Reservation Sensory Trail opened in 2018. It is the first of its kind in the county and the most extensive one in the nation.

The trail is accessible to all visitors, seven days a week from dawn to dusk. It is located behind the Trailside Nature and Science Center at the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside.

The 0.3 mile loop stretches into the surrounding fields and features a central gazebo with a nature themed play area, talking kiosks, outdoor classrooms, interactive  musical components, raised garden beds and a 0.2 mile braille trail loop with guide ropes and educational features.

For more information visit the Trailside Nature and Science Center online.

27 Make a big splash
Ulrich Pool Union County NJ
Soaking up the sun at Ulrich Pool in Rahway River Park.

The Walter E. Ulrich Memorial Pool in Rahway River Park is open to all County residents and visitors. Swimming lessons are available for adult and little swimmers for a nominal registration fee, and there are programs for persons with disabilities, too.

While you’re lounging poolside, check out the free Wi-Fi

For pool info, or to  inquire about Lifeguard jobs, call 908-732-4045 or visit the Pools page at ucnj.org.

The Ulrich Pool opens for the season on or about the end of the school year, and closes at the end of August.

Please note: the Ulrich pool will close in mid-August this year for repair and renovation.

28 Make a little splash

Union County NJ Warinanco sprayground cropped

Speaking of water fun, new “spraygrounds” are popping up like mushrooms all over Union County parks. Our latest spray-play project is a gigantic new installation at Wheeler Park in Linden.  

Spraygrounds are generally turned on around the end of the school year, and stay on until the end of August. 

For a list of County playgrounds equipped with spray features visit the searchable Parks Activities page or call the Parks Department, 908-527-4900.

29 Tune in, fly a kite, do yoga
Summer Arts Fest B Street Band Union County NJ
The B Street Band rocked Veterans Appreciation Night at Union County’s free Summer Arts concert in August 2012.

Union County’s generous tree canopy can be tough on aerial recreation, but if you  want to send your kite aloft with minimal interference from our leafy friends, take a trip to our Oak Ridge Park in Clark. Once a golf course, Oak Ridge still shows its golfing roots with amazing vistas of open space and just a smattering of trees in between. 

Oak Ridge also hosts some of our Summer Arts series of free outdoor concerts each. The Summer Arts series travels to other County parks in July and August, so download a fridge-friendly calendar to keep track of the dates and locations.

For a rundown on all activities in County parks, visit our Parks Activities page.

30 Experience cinema under the stars

Union County NJ Dolphin Tale 2 (family flix 2015)

What could beat a free outdoor movie?

How about a free outdoor movie with yoga for kids! Catch our Family Flix series of free kids’ movies on Tuesday nights and join in a free session of gentle stretching and relaxation, especially designed for kids.

A free serving of popcorn for every child adds to the fun.

Yoga starts at 7:30 p.m. and the movies start at dusk.

Download a fridge calendar to keep track of the action, as the Family Flix schedule takes you to various County parks in July and August.

31 Skate up a storm

Union County opened another new skate park in 2018. This one is located in Mattano Park at 360-484 5th Avenue in the southern corner of Elizabeth.

Mattano has something for everyone from all walks of life, including a sprayground and a fully accessible playground for children with special needs.

Another great park for skating and other activities is Esposito Park in Clark.

For a park-by-park list of all activities in Union County parks visit ucnj.org/parks.

32 Share lunch with Shakespeare

Shakespeare garden collage (tina)Cedar Brook Park is home to one of the finest  examples of an early 20th century Shakespeare Garden in the entire country.

Stop by with a picnic lunch on a sunny summer afternoon when the Shakespeare Garden is in full bloom, and enjoy this meticulously organized riot of color at your leisure.

The garden is open to the public from dawn to dusk every day and ample free parking is nearby.

The Plainfield Garden Club partnered with the Union County Parks Commission to install the garden almost 100 years ago, in 1927, and they have tended it beautifully ever since.

33 Find Your Inner Golfer
Galloping Hill Golf Course
Galloping Hill Golf Course

Union County’s two public golf courses combine the quality of private clubs with affordable fees and a welcoming atmosphere for all, under the management of the renowned firm KemperSports.

Our Ash Brook Golf Course in Scotch Plains offers a relaxed parkland style 18-hole course with Pitch & Putt.

A recent overhaul of our Galloping Hill golf Course in Kenilworth includes a new club facility and banquet hall that serves as the new headquarters of the New Jersey State Golf Association, and the highly regarded Red Knot gastro pub. “The Hill” welcomes all skill levels and ages with one of the most challenging 18-hole courses in the area, a practice course, all-weather driving range, PGA-certified instructors, the Learning Center with First Tee youth programs, and a TaylorMade Performance Lab.

34 Adopt a park (or a trail)

Hundreds of volunteers help to keep our Union County parks pleasant and enjoyable every year, by cleaning debris and repairing trails.

Our volunteers also work on habitat conservation projects like pollinator gardens and shoreline restoration.

Whether joining an afternoon cleanup to mark Earth Day or making a longer commitment, all are welcome: individuals, Scouts and other youth groups, school groups, civic groups and employer/employee groups.

For more information call 908-789-3683or visit ucnj.org/parks.

35 Choose to Reuse

One great thing to do this year — and every year — is to help Union County support the statewide “Choose to Reuse” anti-litter campaign.

With all the activities and running around of summer, the disposables easily pile up including single-use plastic bags as well as plastic water bottles, food containers, and cutlery.

Help keep our parks and neighborhoods clean by cutting down on single-use plastics in the waste stream.

Make your next picnic a zero waste event by packing reusable totes and washable food containers and dinnerware.

This year, Union County launched its own #MakeOneChange initiative to support Choose to Reuse. For more information visit ucnj.org/recycling.

36 Populate a ghost town

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of city life lies The Deserted Village of Feltville, a town rich in history but void of many people.

Established in 1845 by businessman David Felt as a planned community for workers in his paper mill, the village nestled inside Watchung Reservation wasted away after its sale in 1860. Purchased in the 1920’s by the Union County Parks Commission, Feltville has been the subject of on-going restoration efforts including a complete makeover of its huge former carriage house, Masker’s Barn.

Keep an eye out for  special events or come any time for a self-guided walking tour. The visitor’s center — formerly the community’s church and general store — includes historic exhibits and is generally open on weekends. 

To book Masker’s Barn for private parties, weddings, and  other  events call the Parks Department, 908-527-4900 or visit online.

37 Get a Master’s in Tree-ology

The Master Tree Stewards of Union County are volunteers whose wonderful influence is felt throughout our neighborhoods. Their mission is to help us appreciate and conserve our valuable urban and suburban treescapes, and to teach children about the importance of trees in the urban environment.

No previous tree experience is needed — anyone can join! A certification course begins each September, consisting mainly of guided walks through nearby nature preserves.

For more info contact Jim Nichnadowicz at the Extension,  908-654-9854 or Nichnadowicz@njaes.rutgers.edu, or visit ucnj.org/rce.

38 Get a Master’s in Garden-ology

Master Gardeners of Union County, NJIf you love getting your hands dirty, this is the volunteer program for you! No previous experience needed — experts from Rutgers University will train and certify you as a Master Gardener.

The Master Gardeners are one of Union County’s most beloved volunteer organizations and their beneficial touch is felt in neighborhoods everywhere.

Among their many projects are thousands of pounds of produce and flower cuttings donated to local food banks and cancer centers from the beautifully tended — and deer proof — Union County Demonstration Garden located by the Trailside Nature & Science Center in Mountainside.

More info: visit ucnj.org/rce or call the Extension office, 908-654-9854.

39 Find yourself at 4-H

Union County NJ 4-H open house collage 2015

The great American tradition of 4-H youth clubs is alive and well, and living in Union County.

Archery, Lego Robotics, Cooking, Engineering, Pets, STEM and Fashion are just some of the topics to explore in small groups headed up by local volunteers. 4-H members can also invent a topic of their own choosing.

Union County 4-H runs concurrently with the school year, kicking off in mid-September. For more information and to get on the 4-H mailing list, contact  the Extension, 908-654-9854 or visit ucnj.org/rce.

4-H, Master Gardeners and Master Tree Stewards are all supported in part by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders through the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County.


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seasonal headlines fall 

40 Find your palette

Echo Lake collage

As the days grow shorter, take a stroll through our Union County parks and fill your senses with the changing colors. Each of our parks has a unique character all its own. Pictured here are scenes from Echo Lake Park in Mountainside, where the 9-11 Memorial provides a setting for quiet reflection. 

Parks maps and directions: ucnj.org/parks-activities.

41 Ride the East Coast Greenway

East Coast Greenway Union County

Cool, crisp fall days are perfect for bike riding, and it just so happens that Union County hosts part of one of the longest bike routes in the U.S., the East Coast Greenway.

The East Coast Greenway is a national bike route of epic proportions. It stretches from Maine to Florida.

If you’re not up for the whole 2,900 mile journey, grab a helmet and hit the Lenape Park section for a quick family-friendly tour through parts of Cranford, Kenilworth, Springfield and Union. 

For more details about the East Coast Greenway and all trails and paths in Union County parks visit ucnj.org/parks-recreation.

42 Have some sensory friendly fun

sensory friendlyUnion County’s popular Sensory Friendly Theatre series provides theatre-goers of all ages with a welcoming, supportive and judgement-free atmosphere in which to enjoy live music, dance, and other kid-friendly performances from top-notch touring talent.

Sensory Friendly Theatre is scheduled periodically throughout the season at the beautifully restored Rahway Theatre, located in the heart of the Rahway Arts District and run by the non-profit Union County Performing Arts Center.

For this season’s schedule and ticket information visit ucpac.org or call the box office, 732-499-8226.

43 Cross four centuries in two days

Drake House, PlainfieldIn October, Union County’s annual Four Centuries in a Weekend program takes you on a whirlwind self guided tour of Union County’s most popular historic sites, complete with docents in period costumes, entertainment, special events, a time-traveling “passport” for children, history trading cards to collect, and National Park Service stamps at selected sites, too.

For dates and  information visit the Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs online or call 908-558-2550.

44 Have an old fashioned hay ride

hay rideMid-September kicks off a series of hay rides, which continue in October. Take your seat on a bale of hay in our open-air wagon, sit back and enjoy a unique view of our County parks. The rides are scheduled to include daylight sessions in the early evening as well as after-dark jaunts for the adventuresome.

The series includes old-timey music, singalongs,  hot chocolate and marshmallow roasting, too.

The rides sell out quickly and all tickets must be purchased in advance. Follow Union County on social media so you can place your order as soon as they go on sale.

45 Rock the (Watchung) Reservation


For more seasonal fun with a kid-friendly focus, check out the annual Rockin’ the Reservation event on the grounds of the Trailside Nature and Science Center each September.

The 2019 event featured pumpkin painting at the Pumpkin Patch and a Build-Your-Own-Scarecrow station along with pony rides, a hands-on music Tent, crafts for children, and performances for all ages — from rockabilly to flamenco dance and magic, too.

Find out about this year’s Rockin’ the Reservation by calling the Parks Department at 908-527-4900.

46 Walk the dog


Dog lovers can give their best friends free rein at Union County’s two dog parks, at Echo Lake Park in Mountainside and at Warinanco Park in Roselle.

Both dog parks feature large and small dog areas with all the amenities.

For a park-by-park list of all activities in Union County parks visit ucnj.org/parks.

47 Have a haunted hayride

Haunted Hayride collage

As Halloween nears, climb aboard a hay wagon for a “Haunted Hayride” through the Deserted Village of Feltville after dark, where at every turn you will encounter the ghostly presence of former inhabitants and visitors. The ghost of David Felt himself will guide you among the spirits of the past, each of whom portrays an eerie reminder of actual events that took place among the humble wood frame dwellings hidden away deep in the forest.

Like our “regular” hayrides and campfires, the Haunted Hayride sells out quickly and only advance tickets are accepted during the event. Follow us on social media to find out when tickets go on sale.

48 Sail your pumpkin

Pumpkin Sail a few pumpkinsEvery year on the night after Halloween, families from all over Union County gather at Echo Lake Park to bid their Jack O’ Lanterns to bid farewell.

As the sun sets, each pumpkin is placed on a float and pushed gently out into the lake, lights blazing, to join hundreds of others in a beautiful display of seasonal cheer.

The Great Pumpkin Sail includes all the trimmings including live music, fun photo ops, hot chocolate and marshmallow roasting.

Tickets are available only on an advance basis and they go quickly, so keep an eye on our social media to find out when ticket sales begin.

Note: all pumpkins are collected for recycling by County staff the day after the event.

49 Release your inner rock hound

Rock ShowEach November, the Trailside Nature & Science Center hosts the annual Rock, Gem and Jewelry show featuring hundreds of items from around the world.

Stay and enjoy the regular museum exhibits, too. Trailside is free and open to the public every day, and admission to the show is free, too.

Visit Trailside online, email trailside@ucnj.org or call 908-789-3670.

50 Celebrate the season, on ice

Union County’s Warinanco Ice Skating Center is renowned for its memorable family-friendly holiday events.

Come join us each December for the annual “Celebrate the Season” event.

Modest admission fee includes skate rental, ice time, a cookie and hot chocolate, plenty of fun photo ops and of course a chance to skate with Santa and his elves.

Please note: all tickets must be purchased in advance.

Visit the Parks Department online at ucnj.org/parks or call 908-527-4900 for ticket info.

51 Have a historic holiday

holiday treeEvery year just before the Christmas holiday, the historic Union County Courthouse rotunda is the scene for a traditional tree lighting and holiday singalong featuring an enormous tree donated by a local resident.

The Courthouse is conveniently located at 2 Broad Street in the heart of the midtown Elizabeth shopping district, so come and enjoy the festivities while you’re out rounding up last minute gifts and goodies.

While you’re in the neighborhood, explore 400 years of  midtown Elizabeth history with the “Elizabeth at the Crossroads” self guided walking tour.

Follow us on social media for this year’s singalong date and time, or visit ucnj.org.

52 Explore every corner of #ucnj 

union county map 1923

Hundreds of local and community events take place every year in the municipalities that make up Union County, reflecting our rich history and cultural diversity. Check our Cultural Connections calendar to keep up with concerts, theatre, film, art exhibits and many other activities in all 21 towns.

Get around Union County by car, bus, train or bicycle — see our ConneXions page for all travel options.

Use the Department of Energy’s handy Alternative Fuel Locator to find public EV charging stations in Union County and beyond.