Destination: Millburn/Short Hills

By William Uhl

The Millburn/Short Hills area may be best known for the Mall at Short Hills, and for good reason—it’s just as much a mall as it is a monument to prosperity. Pearl-white hallways are lined end-to-end-to-end with an endless assortment of stores and restaurants. Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton are minutes away from J.Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Gap. Food shops like Godiva, Teavana, and Forty Carrots and specialty stores like Tesla, Brookstone, and Bose pepper the halls with vibrant displays. When shopping turns tiring, attractions like the in-house photographic art gallery YellowKorner and the restaurant Legal Sea Foods provide a relaxing rest. Overnight guests even have a selection of nearby luxury hotels at which to stay.

However, there’s more to Millburn and Short Hills than the mall. Millburn, Short Hills, and the surrounding area hold a bevy of natural beauty. Not even 15 minutes away from the mall is its exact counterpart, the South Mountain Reservation. It has over 2,000 acres of primarily wild woods, creeks, and ponds, with hiking trails crisscrossing through the reservation. Deep in the heart of the preserve, hikers can find sights like the eastern ridge, which stands 550 feet above Millburn, or a 25-foot waterfall.

The South Mountain Reservation also has an array of man-made attractions, including a dog park, picnic areas, an archery range, and carriage roads for jogging, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. Like the reservation’s changing seasons, the Wildflower Sculpture Park constantly transforms itself with a new assortment of sculptures. The sculpture park features artworks that also function as bird habitats, or that call back to the land’s Lenape roots.

Adjacent to the reservation is Greenwood Gardens, a 28-acre public garden that mixes artistic gardening styles and plants from across the globe to create an almost otherworldly experience. Italianate garden terraces sit across from allées of London plane trees and Dianthus Kahori from Japan. Dew-dazzled hydrangeas, butterfly-bearing honeysuckle, and brilliantly blue borage flowers are just a few of the fantastical flora around Greenwood Gardens.

The Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary (CHA) is yet another local natural paradise. CHA focuses on ensuring its 16 acres are lush with New Jersey-indigenous plants. In the spring and fall, volunteers provide food supplies for the migrating birds that take refuge in the arboretum’s trees. Events mix education and entertainment, like “Fantastic Beasts of New Jersey and Where to Find Them,” which looks at lesser-known native critters, or like the Hot Apple Cider Night Hike, which offers Jersey Fresh apple cider alongside a Q&A about local woodland animals.

Whether you’ve been walking around the mall or the great outdoors, Millburn and Short Hills have no shortage of restaurants to rest your legs and fill your stomach. Pita on Essex is perfect for a quick and casual bite of falafel or shawarma. Arturo’s Osteria & Pizzeria has a pizza that needs no further advertisement than its savory scent – which you can smell before you even get in the door. Saigon Café dishes out authentic pho, rice noodle with grilled beef, banh mi, and more. Sakura serves late-night Japanese dinner and desert, including bento boxes and green tea ice cream, in a soft, relaxing atmosphere.

To cap off an evening of sightseeing and dining, the Paper Mill Playhouse is an excellent venue to rest your legs and escape from the outside world. Founded in 1934, the Playhouse has a storied history of bringing classics like You Can’t Take it With You and The Wizard of Oz to audiences, as well as bringing out new hits like musical comedy The Honeymooners. Regardless of whether you spend the day seeking out great deals or great views, be sure to close the night with New Jersey’s state theater.