Like most moms, I’m always looking for fun activities to do with the kids, both during weekdays when it’s just me or weekend family time with my husband too. In the last 3 years we’ve been to quite a few destination places and tried out several classes so I’ve put together a list of our recommended places and activities to enjoy for other central New Jersey moms!
As a reference, we are located in Mercer County and all these places are within an hour’s drive because PS some of them are in Pennsylvania!
- Popcorn Park Zoo in Forked River, NJ – As described on their website “Popcorn Park is a sanctuary for abandoned, injured, ill, exploited, abused or elderly wildlife, exotic and farm animals, and birds.” I’m not positive that popcorn or peanuts are great dietary items for these rescued animals but they are a-okay in this zoo! The admission price is pretty cheap (only $5 for adults, $4 for kids under 12, and children under 3 are free) and you’re probably only there 2 hours max. Upon entering, you are able to purchase boxes of popcorn which can be enjoyed by you as a visitor or fed to a variety of animals. You get pretty close to these guys too, as exhibited by the above photo of one year old Brielle and one of their tigers! (It’s a double fence if you can’t tell.)
Tip: There aren’t paved walkways and most of the zoo is sandy terrain. If you bring a stroller, I recommend one with all terrain tires as it was tough to push one last time we were there. Baby wearing is recommended for littles! Also there isn’t much shade here so make sure to wear sunscreen on hot days!
- Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ – We have visited this zoo twice now, both of which included a mix of stroller riding infants and walking toddlers and everyone had a good time. The zoo itself is built within the mountainside so moms – expect to get a workout walking your way around it! You are going straight up hill! Besides the outdoor animal exhibits there are a few that are in smaller buildings too. You’ll also find some playground areas and petting zoo exhibits to interact with. They have a place to buy food but we always brought our own and ate at one of the picnic areas.
Tip: When you go in, start the loop toward the right side to catch all the bigger animals first! The zoo doesn’t open until 10am so by the time we hit the nap time zone, my kids were tuckered out and we didn’t get to finish the whole zoo.
- Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ – We took the girls here for their first joint birthday (ages 1 and 3) and they loved it! The large windows in all the exhibits allowed for the girls to see what was going on whether out walking or while propped in a stroller. There were some kid play zones that let them get out and explore and even some tanks you could touch stingrays, starfish and other aquatic creatures. They provide you a map with the feeding schedules upon entering so we saw penguins having some lunch, which Brielle loved! The photo above is from the hippo room (which PS is a little stinky but how can it not be with those big guys) but it was beautiful and so cool to see them swim by!
Tip: Get there early as it gets crowded! Also, it can be a little pricey to visit this aquarium, so try to find discount tickets through locally sold coupon books (Kid Coupon Fundraiser books has them) or other discount means.
- Princeton Playspace in Princeton Junction, NJ – This is a very appropriately named space as it’s all about play! My instagram video showed you a quick overall view of the large room which includes lots of play areas, like a three story jungle gym, wooden village of mini storefronts, ride on toys, a train table, and an oversized Lite Brite type wall. Kids 2 and under can enjoy a little fenced in play area with a small climber, teepee and other assorted age appropriate toys. There’s also a separate room with an interactive floor where kids (ok and us moms) can stomp on coconuts, potatoes, bubbles or whatever special game is playing at that time. The large room includes a kitchen seating area where you can enjoy lunch and snacks you bring or purchase your own. My girls both LOVED this venue and can’t wait to return. They both ran over to the mini village, loving the mini shopping carts to fill up pretend food.
Brielle was nervous climbing in the jungle gym at first but I loved seeing her grow during our short 2 hours there and working her problem solving skills to climb, up, over and through the netted course. While I haven’t participated in them, their website lists the class information on those held there, special family activities and party packages for your special event.
Tip: We were there when it opened at 9am on a Friday on nice day in September and were the only ones there for a while (which was fine by us). The staff there tells me it’s slower when it’s nice out but busy on hot or rainy days. Also remember to bring socks as they are a shoe-less space!
- Music Together – When Brielle was 9 months old we tried out a few music classes from different companies before choosing the Music Together program. I love the educational aspect to their class structure that is fun for kids and adults alike! Each semester in the winter, spring and fall has a theme with different songs and the summer semester is favorites from the year. With each semester signup, you receive a cd to listen to the songs at home, so our collection of Music Together cds have been playing on repeat for 3 years now! We sing “Hello everybody” pretty much everyday and now Hailey is tapping her legs (the movement used with the opening song) as soon as the cd starts when it plays at home. Siblings under 9 months are free when attending with an older paying child so both girls enjoyed one semester together before Brielle started going to school 3 days a week. Instruments, parachutes, scarves and other assorted materials are brought out to play during different songs and every week the arrangement is mixed up in a different order with different activities and styles. We’ve enjoyed the program with MANY teachers, either completing makeup classes (as they would rather offer a makeup than have a sick child attend) or as free bonus classes (we often volunteer to attend classes in their “training the trainers” sessions) and we always have a great time. Try out a free class and you’ll see that it doesn’t matter if you have a good singing voice, you’ll have a good time.
Tip: wear socks as the rooms are shoe-less!
- Garden State Discovery Museum in Cherry Hill, NJ – This is a large multi room museum which has lots of pretend play spaces so even on busy days, there’s always a place to find an open activities to find. Whether they are interested in the medical fields and want to be a doctor, vet or EMT when they grow up, have a knack for construction, fishing or theater or want to be the next hockey star or famous paleontologist, there’s a play zone for them here. They also have a room for younger kids with space to crawl. This children’s museum is part of our library’s museum program so I’ve never had to pay for visiting this awesome location so check if you’re library offers that too!
Note: As a stay at home mom, don’t go here end of June as it’s a big destination for field trips in NJ and seemed more crowded than normal! Also know that the bathroom situation isn’t best for a potty training mom as there is only a three stall bathroom in the front of the musuem that has always had a line every time I’ve gone! Luckily we had no accidents last time we were there, but it was a close call!
- Bucks County Children’s Museum in New Hope, PA – This is another museum that’s part of my library’s museum program, so again, I have never had to pay for attending. Also while this isn’t in NJ it’s pretty close for us central Jersey moms so I’m keeping it on the list! Though smaller than the Discover Museum previously mentioned, it still contains fun, yet educational zone for kids in this multi room venue.
Tip: The museum is located downtown in New Hope near the train station so pair your visit with a walk around town or taking a ride on the train!
- Terhune Orchards in Princeton, NJ – For the past two years we attended their Apple Day weekend and loved it! For $8 a person you can pet animals, go on a hayride, corn maze, listen to a live band and explore the kids section of activities. They also have additional paid activities, such as pumpkin picking, pumpkin painting, horseback rides and apple picking, which were all reasonably priced. We enjoyed the morning activities and finished our time there with pulled pork sandwiches and apple cider donuts. The corn maze was simple and short enough that it was fun to do with a toddler without making them bored or scared.
Note: Get there right when it opens as it tends to get crowded.
- Schaeffer Farms in Flemington, NJ – My sister and nephews live in far north Jersey and I’m central so we chose this farm as a good place smack in between…and it was an awesome find! It includes all the staples you want to find in a good autumn farm adventure – hayride, pumpkin picking, and a petting zoo. The hayride takes you right up a large hillside so the view at the top where you find pumpkins and adorable gourds is amazing!
Note: This is where I learned about the tip to bring a fold up tote bag to carry your pumpkin after picking it in the field as I saw many people doing just that!
- Westhaven Farm in Allentown, NJ – Ok this farm is the most interesting of the bunch suggested here! The hayride is the most unique one you’ll ever take as it has old school charm with a cassette player (yes you’re reading that right) that plays a pasted together loop of music. The music corresponds to little scenes you pass while on the ride and they’re all handmade of old costumes and paper mache type art. It’s no modern Disneyland here as any interactive part of the hayride is activated by trigger lines the driver sets off as he passes by. Again, it’s old school but amusing! While the hayride is pretty unique and entertaining in it’s own way, it’s the corn maze that I must recommend/warn you about at the same time! If you’re looking for a really fun (but LONG) corn maze to accomplish with a group, this is it. It took our crew well over an hour to get through and it’s something you have to complete with more than two people. There are so many wrong ways that get you blocked up so sending one person down a shoot while the other waits at the crossing is required. We had two toddlers last time around and they rode on their daddy’s shoulders as we tired them out through this maze! It might even have been a bit much for our then 2 year olds but those with older children will probably love it. I can’t imagine this maze at night but their website says they also have a flashlight maze!
- Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA – Here I go again, recommending another location in PA but again this one isn’t far over the border and a destination for any Elmo lovers out there! We have only been there once so far, last Christmas season on a sunny afternoon and Brielle seemed to be a fan! She is always a bit shy and timid at new locations with new adventures and this one was no different. We went on a few rides, we watched the parade of characters go by and enjoyed how everything was decorated for the holidays.
Tip: The park really isn’t that big. We did not do everything by any means, when we were there for the holiday season, and yes parts of the park were closed for the off season, but you can see how small and tight it seemed. That probably means it’s the perfect size to attend with tiny tots along for the ride! I’ll be sure to come back and update this post once we hit up the waterpark an upcoming summer!
- Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ -Not that I expect a toddler to be really into art, but this sculpture garden is so pretty and full of a ton of photo ops. In fact, if you’re there on nice weather you’ll probably find couples doing engagement shoots or family photo sessions! Walk around with the kids and interact with the sculptures for some fun photos.
Tip: This is another location that’s park of our museum pass program but even with that, it took me 6 months to find a open date to go and it wasn’t until a chilly November month. In my opinion, it’s somewhat expensive so try to find a deal or take advantage of pass programs, if you can.
Do you have any other places to recommend?