Classes are over, finals are coming to an end and the start of another semester is weeks away. Wondering what to do with your free time over winter break? Rutgers Today asked faculty and staff across the university for some recommendations.

Here are some suggestions to fill your free time.

(Photo courtesy of Gallery Aferro)

Meet Newark 

Visit Newark and go shopping. Whether you're looking for one-of-a-kind pieces to decorate your home, or add to your wardrobe, Off the Hanger and ANE located at 12 Linden St. are the places to visit. With an instagrammable interior located on a beautiful brownstone-lined block and two local owners who care about their customers and style equally – this is a must-see. Or visit Fortress of Solitude Comics, 53 University Ave., a cozy, welcoming comic book place right near Broad Street station in downtown. Even a comic book fan with limited knowledge can spend a chunk of time enjoying the wide range of comic books, graphic novels and collectibles. Make sure to check out the unique New Jersey and Newark locals section.

Go out for a memorable dinner at the Redwood Cafe Supper Club, 516 Orange St. This is the real deal with heaping (yes, heaping!) portions of ribs, catfish and oxtails. Sides come in a whole separate bowl and options range from mac and cheese to the tastiest string beans. Jazz nights are the best.

Visit an art gallery. There is not an ounce of stuffiness to be found at Gallery Aferro, 73 Market St. The gallery features frequent, fun-filled openings of shows featuring both local and international artists. Missed anyone on your holiday list? Check out the Art Shop in the front of the Gallery with unique prints, textiles and more that support the Gallery's operations.

Alumnus Emily Manz, co-founder, Have You Met Newark Tours, part-time lecturer at the School Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers-Newark

(Photo courtesy of Amanda Potter)

Stop and smell the orchids at Duke Farms 

If a warm-weather vacation isn’t in the cards for this winter, you can still see a burst of tropical color at the Orchid Range at Duke Farms in Hillsborough (free, open year-round). After an easy 15-minute walk through the beautifully-landscaped property, you’ll be enveloped in warmth and the sweet fragrance of dozens of varieties of orchids the moment you step into the greenhouse. There are so many dazzling colors and beautiful scents that it’s hard for me to choose a favorite orchid, but for my 5-year-old daughter, it’s a no-brainer: the chocolate-scented orchid, known as Sharry Baby.

Amanda Potter, curator of education and interpretation at the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

(Photo courtesy of Angelica Flynn)

Check out Winterfest on the Cooper River 

Getting some fresh air during the break can be a welcome alternative to gorging on Christmas cookies and watching movies. Right down the road from the mall and crowds of holiday shoppers in Cherry Hill, a seasonal ice skating rink is open on the edge of the Cooper River in Camden County. Winterfest offers ice skating rentals and lessons, some kiddie rides, and chimineas to keep warm by once you’ve had your fill of ice time. Check the calendar before you head down – apparently, Santa knows how to skate and is making a few appearances through the season.

Angelica Flynn, public relations specialist, Rutgers University News and Media Relations

(Photo: George Widman Photography LLC)

Celebrate the past and present 

Time-travel through the holidays with two favorite spectacles in Center City Philadelphia. Start off with the Christmas light show accompanied by organ music at Macy's Center City in the historic former Wanamaker Department Store, at Thirteenth and Market Streets. Then head a few blocks away for a 21st-century event: the Holiday Spectacular on the giant video wall of the Comcast Center at Seventeenth and JFK Boulevard.  Between the two are opportunities for ice skating, shopping and an unforgettable aerial view of the city from the One Liberty Place Observation Deck at 1650 Market Street.

Charlene Mires, professor of history at Rutgers-Camden and editor-in-chief of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

(Photo: courtesy of Kristin O'Brassill-Kulfan)

Explore local history 

The Cornelius Low House Museum and East Jersey Old Town Village are great places to learn more about New Brunswick's history.

A great day trip to North Jersey includes a few sites in and around Paterson that tell infrequently told stories of labor and industry in New Jersey's history: Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, the American Labor Museum, the Paterson Museum and Lambert Castle – all within a few miles drive of each other, and including everything from a dramatic waterfall that you can walk over on a historic bridge, a turn of the century Italian American silk worker family's home, and the site of an old locomotive manufacture turned into a great little local history museum.

You could also make a day of hitting some of the National Park Service sites in New Jersey including Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange and Morristown National Historical Park, where Gen. George Washington and his troops survived a brutally cold winter.

For a fabulous site dealing with women's history, I recommend the Alice Paul Institute in Mount Laurel, a great place to learn more about one of the nation's staunchest supporters of women's rights, the New Jersey-born suffragist Alice Paul.

And for another hidden South Jersey gem: Timbuctoo, a 192-year-old community in Burlington County founded by formerly enslaved people – with historical markers and a historic cemetery.

– Kristin O'Brassill-Kulfan, coordinator and instructor of public history in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick


Go on a neighborhood adventure 

Valerie Marcus Ramshur, head of costume design at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, recommends heading out to a new neighborhood once a week to explore. Check out the “Kimono Refashioned” exhibit at the Newark Museum, then grab some food at the Brasila Grill. Visit Fort Lee for some Korean food. Ramshur says any number of places are great but she recommends So Kong Dong for its amazing food and vegetarian and tofu options. Afterwards, visit the Han-In Table Tennis Club for some Ping Pong.

“You can rent a table for 20 bucks an hour – and that is actually a lot of Ping-Pong,’’ Ramshur says. “Very fun for date night or a group of friends.’’

The following week head to Brooklyn for a museum and pizza day. Check out “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” at the Brooklyn Museum. Then walk 10 minutes for what Ramshur says is the “best pizza ever’’ at Barboncino Pizza, 81 Franklin Ave.

Step back in time to Medieval Europe at the Cloisters – it is pure magic and so relaxing as well. Beautiful any time of year. Or visit the Museum at FIT for “Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color” open through Jan. 5. The Museum of the Chinese in America is also a gem of a museum, Ramshur says. She recommends then walking over to New York Noodle Town for some great food in Chinatown.