1. The South Mountain Recreation ComplexLocation: 560 Northfield Ave. in West OrangeCost: Varies, depending on which activities you do. Check the website for specifics.Why it made the list: There are days worth of activities at the county-owned complex. You can head there three different times and get three totally different experiences out of it. Among its offerings - a treetop adventure climbing course (recommended for those who are not afraid of heights and who have some excess energy to burn); Waterfront fun with paddle boat rentals and fishing on the reservoir; good eats, either at McCloone's Restaurant or of your own creation on the outdoor picnic tables near the water; Aerobic fun for kids on the Regatta Playground or on the walking path around the water; and ice skating at the Codey Arena (just be sure to check the arena's schedule beforehand to see when skating is open to the public). That's all without the complex's main attraction, which is a day trip all in its own...2. The Turtle Back ZooLocation: 560 Northfield Ave. in West OrangeWhy it made the list: Technically part of the South Mountain Recreation Complex, there is more than enough to do at the TB Zoo to make it a trip in itself. In addition to the more than 100 different species of animals on display, the zoo also offers a reptile house, education center, carousel, and special events happening often. New exhibits are also popping up all the time, like the new giraffe exhibit and the planned injured turtle sanctuary, which is opening next year.3. The Newark MuseumLocation: 49 Washington Street in NewarkWhy it made the list: Though many don't realize it, this is the largest museum in the state and home to the 12th largest museum collection in the country. The Newark Museum is known for its extensive collection of art from around the world. Before you head there, check out our list of the top 10 exhibits to see there this summer.4. The Essex County Environmental CenterEnvironmental Center map. (Courtesy the County of Essex)Location: 621-B Eagle Rock Avenue in RoselandCost: Varies, depending on activityWhy it made the list: The county-run center offers a wide array of events for groups, kids, and adults, all aimed at environmental appreciation. County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo called the center "the premiere location for environmental education and nature appreciation...walk in our woods, discover habitats, get pointers on gardening, learn about nature photography and much more." A fan favorite is the summertime Butterfly Safari.5. Thomas Edison National Historical Park
Location: 211 Main Street in West OrangeWhy it made the list: A visit here is taking a step back into some of Essex County's most interesting history. The park includes a laboratory complex where you can learn about and experience Edison's many inventions, and tours of Glenmont Estate, including Edison's 29-room Queen Anne-style mansion.6. Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird SanctuaryLocation: 324 Forest Drive South in Short HillsWhy it made the list: It's one of the most interesting nature right-under-your-nose spots in Essex. Head to the Arboretum to check out multiple trails, and dozens of species of wildflowers and birds, and animal exhibits.7. The Montclair Art Museum
Location: 3 South Mountain Avenue in MontclairCost: $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniorsWhy it made the list: It's a great place to soak up Montclair's unique culture. A few years off its centennial celebration, the museum features unique exhibits and educational opportunities. This summer, be sure to check out the "Basket Mania" and Pueblo Pottery exhibits.8. Day of Mini GolfingLocations: Throughout the countyCost: Varies, depending on locationWhy it made the list: Whether you hit one mini golf course, or multiple, you can make a day out of a little friendly competition. Our recommendation for a unique mini golf experience? Monster Mini Golf in Fairfield. Stop by for an electric, indoor course.9. Greenwood GardensLocation: 274 Old Short Hills Road in MillburnWhy it made the list: The personal estate turned public garden is the perfect mix of outdoor fun and historical insight. It's a great spot for a low-key day out, or for a photographer looking for something picturesque to capture.