The online publication Inside Warren has released its 2022 list of the best "Hidden Gems" of Warren County. Explore Warren is sharing it with their permission, with our links added so you can learn more about these gems on this website. Find the original article on their site here.
By Jane Primerano and Cathy Miller, Inside Warren Staff
Even Warren County natives, let alone “newer residents”, may not appreciate the plethora of special gems the county has to offer. We spoke to a cross-section of Warren County residents to get their opinions on what might be considered the “Hidden Gems of Warren County” and got an interesting array of responses, from historical sites, to entertainment, food and retail establishments. After careful consideration, Inside Warren distilled a long list of suggested hidden gems into our 2022 Best of Hidden Gems, with a variety taking into consideration aspects of the answers we got. Keep in mind that some of these “hidden gems” won’t be so hidden to some people, or they may have “heard” of them, but our general guideline was that certainly most people in Warren were not aware of these gems.
In no specific order here are our Top 12:
The Toy Chest, Hope
In the era of online shopping, retail shops are fewer and farther between, but one entrepreneur put his faith in a brick and mortar store in 2015 and has a solid customer base to show for it. Kirk Perez bought an old house turned real estate office on High Street in Hope and, after some renovations that kept the flavor of the structure, opened The Toy Chest, selling toys and collectables in the old fashioned way while teaching his three children the rewards of a family business.
Perez admits he wasn’t aware of Hope’s connection with the movie “Friday the 13th” or with the number of people who buy their Christmas trees in Warren County when he moved his family to Frelinghuysen Township. He now stocks a wide variety of Friday the 13th collectables along with classic and new toys, puzzles, Legos, stuffed animals and many other products. He is finding many people love the in-person shopping experience as much as he enjoys providing it. For more information, go to thetoychestllc.com.
Lakota Wolf Preserve, Knowlton
Even more unusual than an independently-owned toy store is an enclave of major predators in the county. Jim Stein and Becky Mace operate the Lakota Wolf Preserve on the property of Camp Taylor Campground here. They have four packs of wolves, all subspecies of gray wolves, mixes of Arctic, British Columbian, Timber and Tundra wolves on the 10 acre property. All were born in captivity.
Visitors can take a 90-minute tour or a two hour photography tour to see the wolves often behaving like their canine cousins, the family dog. They wrestle and play-fight, recognize their caregivers and look forward to their meals. Tickets for a regular tour are $15 per adult and $7 for children 11 and older. Photography tours are $300. For more information, go to lakotawolf.com.
Oxford Furnace Lake, Oxford
Oxford is at the center of Warren County. Many people know about its famous furnace and the county’s house museum, Shippen Manor, but may not know about the lake that was created to prevent flooding in the furnace era. The 53-acre Oxford Lake is now a picknicking and hiking destination with swimming, kayaking and canoeing in season. Electric motor boats are permitted but no gas-powered boats.
The lake is an excellent source of bass, musky, perch, crappie, catfish, trout and bluegill, according to LakeLubbers.com, a fisherman’s website. The depth is 17 feet, according to fisherman.co. It is also considered a good ice fishing spot. Fishing maps of the lake are available at gpsnauticalcharts.com. The swim season runs through the summer, with day or season passes and kayak and paddle board rentals. For more information contact email@example.com.
Jenny Jump State Forest and Observatory, Hope
Jenny Jump is not only a state park with camping, hiking and cross country skiing, it houses the United Astronomy Club of New Jersey. The club leases property from the state Department of Environmental Protection and offers public programs on Saturday evenings from April through October. Each program features a presentation and an observation session.
The park offers 22 tent and trailers sites, two group campsites and eight shelters with woodburning stoves and bunks for four. There are car-top boat launches on both Ghost Lake and Mountain Lake and shoreline fishing on Mountain Lake and Lake Just-It. The state Division of Fish and Wildlife stocks trout in Beaver Brook every spring. Ice fishing for perch and pickerel is available in season on Ghost Lake and Mountain Lake. Hunting is also permitted during appropriate hunting seasons. The park is a favorable habitat for deer, turkey and small game. ATVs are not permitted. For more information, go to JennyJump@dep.nj.gov.
Bread Lock Park, Stewartsville
Some of the most intact sections of the Morris Canal are in Warren County. The premier park is Bread Lock Park at Lock 7 West. The name comes from the homemade bread and piece sold at the canal store. Park of the Morris Canal Greenway, the park is owned by Warren County and managed in partnership with the Highlands Community Service Project, the New Jersey Youth Corps and the Morris Canal Committee.
The park features hiking, horseback riding and picnicking and is the site of events throughout the year, most notably Park Fest which brings in music, games for children, food and special visits from Warren Arts, local authors and other guests. For more information, go to warrenparks.org
Orchard View Lavender Farm, Port Murray
Tucked away on a wooded, winding portion of Karrsville Road in Port Murray, is a real (purple) gem – not amethyst, but lavender! Since May 2015, Orchard View Lavender Farm has grown, harvested and maintained their lavender fields, and many perennial gardens, by hand, using organic methods, free of chemical pesticides/herbicides.
Covering ten acres of beautiful grounds, Orchard View Lavender Farm has evolved into an oasis of serenity, with its soothing scent of lavender. Sit quietly or explore the surroundings, meditate or water paint. You can walk the lavender field, cut your own lavender bundles during bloom season, or visit the Lavender Farm Stand for handmade artisan lavender products and other unique handcrafted items. The Farm hosts special events throughout their season. Orchard View Lavender Farm is currently closed, but their online store is open 24/7. Regular hours resume in the Spring. For more information, visit www.orchardviewlavenderfarm.com.
Laskey’s Trains, Washington Borough
Located a stone’s throw from Washington Avenue (Route 57) within a small group of businesses at Star Plaza, Lasky’s Trains is a must-visit establishment for lovers of old stye toy trains. The shop sells collectible trains including Lionel, American Flyer and Marx, train set accessories, and also does repairs.
There once was a time that Lionel or American Flyer trains were found in almost every home. At Laskey’s Trains they remain alive and well. They do excellent repair work; one customer indicated that they brought in a 1957 American Flyer engine that needed to be cleaned and repaired. The work, the customer said, was excellent and the engine is working again like new. Shop hours vary so it is best to call before going. The phone number is 908-835-0799.
Roy’s Hall, Blairstown
The historic building that house’s Roy’s Hall on Main Street in Blairstown dates back to 1913 and was originally called Roy’s Theatre and featured silent movies. Much later it became The Blairstown Theater and a few years ago transformed into Roy’s Hall where it now hosts live musical acts, community events, and as a nod to Blairstown’s “movie history” shows Friday the 13th on Fridays when they fall on the 13th of the month. The intimate theater is the perfect venue to be up close and personal with national and regional acts. The theater offers an array of musical styles but is perhaps best known for bringing in top flight bluegrass and folk oriented acts such as The Seldom Scene (coming in March).
In the past they’ve had David Bromberg, Steve Forbert, Bill Kirchen, and many other big name performers. For more about Roy’s Hall and its current schedule, go to royshall.org.
Cafe 57, Washington Township
Cafe 57 is one of those places you may have driven by hundreds of times on Route 57 and for one reason or another never given it a second thought. But if you take the opportunity to stop in you’ll be amazed at the expansive menu, from breakfast to dinner, and did we mention freshly made baked goods! Perfect for take out the friendly service is known for being attentive and getting you in and out in a timely fashion (although there is some seating).
The menu is dotted with assorted breakfast options, sandwiches, wraps and other choices, and baked goods!. Customers rate the cheese steak sandwiches among the best, if not the best, in the region. The Cafe is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week, 7 to 7 on Saturday (closed on Sunday). Call ahead at 908-689-3019 or stop by. Cafe 57 is across the street from Warren County Community College. Cafe 57’s menu can be found on its Facebook page, Cafe 57 West.
Kilhaney’s Pickles, Hackettstown
A pickle store! Heck yeah! Located on Main Street in Downtown Hackettstown, Kilhaney’s Pickles offer a few surprises: Yes, a store that specializes in pickles can be a success; it’s not just pickles for sale as there are many other specialty featured items on their racks; and for those who have not tried a Kilhaney’s pickle, take our word – they are DAMN good!
Kilhaney’s, which has a second shop in Clinton, actually offers a host of different style pickles from the traditional such as Garlic to numerous pickles unique to Kilhaney’s like Sweet Heat, Freaky Tiki, Dutch Dill, Flower Power and Mango Tango. In store or online shopping, visit kilhaneys.com for details. You can also call 908-619-4913. They are open every day of the week except for Monday.
Donaldson Farms Summer Music Series, Mansfield Township
A lot of people have heard about Donaldson Farms in Mansfield Township. Known for its outstanding corn and pies, and other fruits and vegetables grown on the family-owned farm, it’s the summertime that Donaldsons comes alive in another way, one in which not everybody knows about. Every Friday night starting in late June through Labor Day Weekend the farm hosts a family-friendly Friday Night on the Farm music series, something many people do not know of if they live beyond the Hackettstown area.
Attendees can enjoy music from an array of regional musical acts from different genres such as classic rock, blues and country. Each week it is a different band. Among the favorite bands that appear annually are Bombed Opera and the Atlanta Cafe Band. Dinner food is for sale. The full line-up is usually scheduled sometime during the early spring. Visit donaldsonfarms.net for music schedule and everything else that Donaldsons has to offer
Red Wolfe Inn, Belvidere
Want steak? Or should we say, “Where’s the Beef?” The New York Times discovered the Red Wolfe Inn in Belvidere several years ago and gave the restaurant a major league great review focusing on its steak choices. People still rave about the steaks at this restaurant along Route 519. But it’s not just about steaks, The Red Wolfe Inn offers many other entrees, salads, etc. in its cozy dining room. There is a full bar and the service always gets a thumbs up.
While it is a steak house, dress is casual; no jacket and tie necessary! The Red Wolfe Inn is open every day for dinner but Monday. Reservations are recommended. Call 908-475-4772.