Long ago, Chester, NJ was known as Black River, coined by the Minisink Indians for the area called “Alamatunk,” which meant “black earth bottom” – or Black River. Later, the name was dropped, and it was referred to as Chester, the name of the town in England where the town’s residents were originally from. Businesses such as blacksmiths, inns and taverns flourished in the area; orchards and dairy farms dotted the landscape. Today, many of the historic buildings remain, as do the farms, and the town has retained much of its old charm and is a perfect family day trip destination. Read on for what to do and where to go!
Hike at Black River County Park and the adjacent Kay Environmental Center (200 Pottersville Rd); play at Chubb Park and Playground (Route 24, 1/2 mile west of Route 206); amble along trails at the or Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center (Long View Road). Willowwood Arboretum (300 Longview Road), a 130-acre garden that has over 2000 varieties of plant, is open 365 days a year.
HISTORY AND EDUCATION:
See a working Gristmill at Cooper Gristmill (66 Route 24) and learn about the history of milling from costumed docents. Saturdays and some Sundays during the fall learn about apple pressing at Hacklebarney Farm Cider (104 State Park Rd).
Browse the collections of antiques at the Chester Antique Mall (427 State Route 24) or check out a variety of crafts at Chester Crafts and Collectibles. (28 Main Street) The Chester Theater Group (54 Grove Street) puts on plays several times a year.
PICK-YOUR OWN FUN
Riamede Farms (122 Oakdale Road) offers apples, pumpkins and hayrides during October; Alstede Farms (1 Alstede Farms Lane) opens in May and runs through November for all sorts of pick your own goodies, from strawberries, potatoes, melons, blueberries, apples and pumpkins. Activities on the farm run through Christmas. Fun includes Harvest Festivals, pony rides, bounce house, and County Christmas with Santa.
November 28-December 14 - Country Christmas with Santa at Alstede Farms
December 7 – Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
Spring: Lamb Shearing at Cooper Gristmill
Summer: Military Life at Cooper Gristmill
Visit Black River Candy Shoppe (44 Main Street) – with over 900 types of candy available there is something for everything. If ice cream is more your style, check out Taylor’s Ice Cream Parlor (18 Main Street)- they’ve got over 48 homemade flavors. The Sweet Spot Bake Shoppe (57 Main Street) offers cakes, cookies and other baked goods (and was the winner of Food Networks Cupcake Wars)