Hopatcong State Park The expansive park at the lake's southern end is a popular spot among out-of-towners, but shouldn't be ignored by locals.  Address: Lakeside Boulevard, between Brooklyn-Stanhope Road and Center Street, Landing. Phone: 973-398-7010 Website: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/hopatcong.html Cost: $10 on weekends; $6 on weekdays; $3 for those who walk or bike in (from Memorial Day through Labor Day) It seems like an obvious place to visit, but many local residents leave Hopatcong State Park to the out-of-towners and find other places to play. True, the 159-acre park can be mobbed with visitors on beautiful weekends or on holidays, its entrance tied up with a line of cars that stretches to Route 80. But that doesn’t mean it should be banished from the lake to-do list completely. In fact, it’s so worthwhile that we’ve made it the first destination in our Excursion section, which will post a new fun place to go on or around the lake every Thursday. The park provides all of the basics that you’d expect to find at a public waterfront spot: there is a ramp to launch boats seven days a week; a beach for swimming, sunning, and volleyball playing; and plenty of places to fish. But even those who want to get a break from the beach area have plenty of options. A lush, forested hill on the east side of the park has a bunch of picnic areas with grills, and there are picnicking spots along the Muscanetcong River, which flows from the dam on the west side of the park. The property also includes two playgrounds, several basketball courts, a large field for kickball, ultimate Frisbee, soccer, or other games, walking paths near the water and along the hillside, and a quaint bridge over a babbling stream. A broad bathhouse complex at the edge of the parking lot has public restrooms, showers, changing areas, a first-aid area, and a concession stand where visitors can buy food and beach supplies.  The Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum also stands on the property, which is a destination in itself (stay tuned for more information on that). Skip it on busy summer weekends, but don’t ignore the State Park altogether—it’s a worthy destination for a quiet, lazy summer day. And in the fall, winter, and spring, it’s a lovely outdoor destination with an even lovelier price tag: free.

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