Summer in Sparta

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    "This cozy town tucked in the hills off Route 15 in Sussex County revels in its woodsy locale," wrote New Jersey magazine, in March 1999, when it ranked Sparta as one of New Jersey's top 25 greatest towns. Whether you're new to Sparta, a native, or a visitor, don't pass through town this summer without checking out these hot haunts, in and around Sparta. Welcome! Route 15 leads right into Sparta, with two exits to choose from. One takes you into the business district and the other into the heart of town. But be warned! Our fine police frequently patrol the highway and can often be seen strategically positioned in particular areas. Grin and Bear it Deer and the occasional black bear can also be seen along Route 15. Although the deer are quick on their feet, the bear can also be seen tactically positioned in the wooded areas along the road or slowly lumbering on their way. You'll have a good chance of spotting wildlife in all its glory if you find yourself on Route 15 during rush hour when the traffic can be stifling. Sussex Hospitality With the many lakes in the area and waterfront homes come plenty of summer house guests and visitors. Treat yourself and your company to breakfast by picking up "the best bagels in New Jersey," as boasted by the Bagel Station, located just over the train tracks on Route 15. They cost a little more than the average bagels, but they're worth it. TGIF Nothing says summer like an outside concert, complete with lawn chairs and a well-stocked picnic basket. Sparta has many. Every Friday beginning in late June, Sparta hosts a free concert featuring some of the best artists in the area. The concerts take place at 7:30 p.m. in Dykstra Park, located on the lawn behind the library. Gather you friends and family and relax to the sweet sounds of summer, while enjoying the good company of fellow Spartans, and yes, maybe partake in a little dancing with your neighbor, under the stars. Boardwalk Fare The most desirable summer spot in Sparta is picturesque Lake Mohawk, with its quaint Bavarian appearance. The man-made lake and the private homes that surround it was created in 1926 as a ritzy summer resort. Il Porto Restaurant is a unique dining experience overlooking the lake. It is great for visitors, first daters, and the regular gang, any night of the week. Don't forget to BYOB and your sunglasses, as outside seating is available and very popular. Time it right and you may even get a free show as the Ski Hawks regularly practice their water skiing routines out on the lake. Saturday Night Fever You need not leave home for live music and dancing in Sparta. Arthur's St Moritz attracts a diverse crowd for dinner and dancing to live music. Whether you're 21 or 91, Arthur's, located in Lake Mohawk, is the place to be on a Saturday night. Come for dinner or just for the music, the atmosphere is fun and casual, proving you can still get your groove on! It's the ideal place to bring out of town guests. Can You Hear Me Now? Make and take those important calls before arriving. Traveling in and around Sparta offers a challenge to your cell phone and your patience. Where? All over. A cell phone tip: Keep moving. Sometimes just simply moving to the end of a driveway or across a parking lot, or the bottom or top of a hill will give you the connection you need. Besides, you can wait to phone all your friends about this great town you found when you get home. A Day at the Fair August 5 through 14 is the time to be in Sussex County. What has always been known as the Sussex County Farm and Horse show is in fact the New Jersey State Fair and is held in nearby Augusta. This is a fair for everyone to enjoy, and the experience shouldn't be missed. The mission of the fair is to showcase New Jersey's agriculture; provide safe, family friendly entertainment; and promote youth development through educational activities. The schedule of events, daily shows and exhibits changes daily and is listed on its Web site As with all state fairs, this too has the amusement rides, but the most popular attractions by far are the animal exhibits and judging of the 4-H Club members' prize entries. Tomahawk Lake Located on Tomahawk Lake Trail in Byram right outside of Sparta, Tomahawk Lake is a fun day trip. The best part is how close to home it is. Although the line to get in is tremendous on any given summer weekend, the weekdays are quite another story. This is a great place to bring the kids and, yes, moms actually get to relax. Older kids slip and slide down the many water slides while little ones enjoy waist high water and playing on the enormous water toys in a safe area designated just for them. Lifeguards are on duty at all times, picnic tables are available and also a well stocked snack bar. And yes, Tomahawk has been around for years, but it is clean and well maintained. Attic Treasures If your grandmother's attic is not enough, Lafayette, just over the border on Route 15 north has the gems of yesteryear you've been searching for. Dozens of antique and collectible stores dot the small one-traffic light center of town. Fine furniture, vintage dishes and jewelry are among the many treasures available. In addition, Lafayette Village is the home to outlet stores from renowned designer houses. And don't forget lunch. The Lafayette House is among the best dining experiences around. Its rustic look, excellent cuisine, and fine service also provide a great dinner choice and also Sunday brunch.