It's hard to sum up Holmdel Park in Monmouth County. There's just too much there.
Spread out over its 565 acres, there's Longstreet Farm, a functioning farm with animals and a farmhouse prepared for visits; the David C. Shaw Arboretum; fishing; picnic areas; four tennis courts; two large playgrounds with child-friendly cushion mats beneath the swingsets, jungle gyms and outdoor mazes; ice skating and sledding in the winter; and 10 miles of hiking and biking trails.
"Holmdel is great, unless you run cross-country," said Brett Landry, a photographer from North Middletown. "'The bowl (a zone with a large hill and a deep valley below)' will get you every time."
The feel of Monmouth County in the 1890s has been preserved at Historic Longstreet Farm, located directly inside the park. Interpreters in period dress show both daily and seasonal agricultural and domestic activities. Children marvel at the pens of livestock, the hen house, the cows and horses that are kept in the stable on the premises, and the occasional peacock or two seen strolling about.
Chris Holmes of East Windsor recalled a recent visit to the park.
“I was there last year—the adoption agency that helped us adopt our son held a picnic for the families," he said. "I liked it and would go more often if it was closer.”
But if you've got a day trip in mind, it may not feel very far at all. That's why we've selected if for this installment of Day Tripper, a weekly look at destinations that are out of town, but in reach, and worth the trip.
DAY TRIPPER DIGEST
Estimated Travel Time: 1 hour
Why it’s Worth the Trip: There's so much to do in one place. Holmdel Park is the place where you break out your football, kites, or beach blanket. You can lay in the sun without getting sand stuck in your shoes.
How to Get There from Here: Detailed driving directions
You’ll Probably Get Hungry: The Garden State Parkway can lead you to several places to eat, and State Highway 35 is a short drive away, but a better idea would be to pack a bag of charcoal, a cooler with drinks, hot dogs and hamburgers, and use the many stationary grills the park has provided for visitors. Bring your barbecue with you for your visit to Holmdel Park. However, the public relations officer for Monmouth’s park system, Karen Livingstone, reminds visitors that no alcoholic beverages are allowed on the property. A list of Holmdel Park’s rules and regulations can be found at here.
While You’re in the Area: The park is easily accessed from the Garden State Parkway and there are many stops a visitor could take along that route, including the Monmouth Mall and the PNC Bank Arts Center. However, Holmdel Park itself is set back into the town and is somewhat secluded.
Longstreet Farm was among the largest farms in Holmdel, owned in 1806 by Hendrick Longstreet. During the 1890s, it was owned by his daughter, Mary Ann Longstreet. By this time she was already in her 70s, so the farm was managed by Hendrick's great-grandson, Jonathan I. Holmes, who was in his 20s. It is generally assumed that the town Holmdel got its name from the Holmes family, although there have been conflicting reports over the years as to the veracity of the claim.
During the 1890s, Longstreet was a general farm on which tenant farmers raised cereal grains, livestock, and potatoes as a cash crop. Today, the farm, barn, stable and farmhouse welcome visitors to experience how life was back in those times. Guides in period dress lead guests through the house and grounds, all carrying period-relevant artifacts of the time.
"The things we grow are either consumed on site in programs and demonstrations," Longstreet Farm supervisor Sean O'Herron said. "We run a variety of foodways demonstrations in our summer kitchen throughout the year, and during the summer we also have week-long day camps that make snacks during the week and prepare lunch on Fridays. The day camp participants assist in the lunch with cooking and also by gathering produce from the garden and crop fields."
But most of the employees weren't expert farmers when they got there, he said.
"Very few of our employees, either full- or part-time, come to work here with much of an agricultural background," he said. "Most people come here with a background in history. "
Longstreet Farm is generally open daily through the year from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is free of charge to enter. From Memorial Day through Labor Day the farm is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The farmhouse is open weekends and holidays, noon to 3:30 pm, or by reservations. For reservations and information, call 732-946-3758.
The David C. Shaw Arboretum, also on the grounds at Holmdel Park, was established in the fall of 1963, and its 22 acres have hundreds of species, cultivars and varieties of ornamental trees and shrubs.