I’d heard good things about the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ, but kept hesitating to go because my daughter Dori isn’t a big zoo fan. We finally decided to take the plunge – and even Dori had a fabulous time. It was a manageable size, and the exhibits were really well done.
This New Jersey park claims to be the largest drive-through safari outside Africa. It’s 350 acres, and it does take awhile to drive through. You’ll see something different each time you go through, but at least early in the day, it’s cooler for the animals and you may see more of the 1,100 that live there.
Admittedly it was a bit odd in the beginning and end, because you can see Great Adventure rides in the background. It’s hard to picture these animals in the wild, with the Kingda Ka coaster doing its thing. But once you journey a little further inside, you forget about the amusement park (you can’t see it anymore) and just focus on the animals.
When my 9 year old daughter and I planned a girls’ day in New York City, we wanted to see a show. We’ve already seen Mary Poppins (we loved it), and do want to see Lion King and Wicked (still too expensive). I looked off-Broadway and found ImaginOcean, which just celebrated its 100th show.
ImaginOcean is created by John Tartaglia, best known as the creator (and Tony nominee) of Rod and Princeton in Avenue Q. I love, love, love that show (and the music), but it is NOT appropriate for kids. Like Avenue Q, ImaginOcean also uses puppets and is a musical (though you can’t actually see the puppeteers during the show). ImaginOcean started as a cruise ship show, and was expanded to the current off-Broadway production.
The show revolves around three fish friends, Tank, Dorsal and Bubbles (with an octopus, seahorse, and jellyfish thrown in as well). With the help of a treasure map, they’re trying to work together to find a treasure (spoiler: they’re rubber bracelets that you can buy in the gift shop after the show) and realize the value of friendship. Dorsal is a neurotic, fearful and annoying fish who is probably channeling children’s fear of failure and the unknown. The plot was a bit boring for adults, but the kids loved the whole thing.
When SpaFinder recently ran its $50 specials, I looked for spas in my area to test out. I chose La Salon in Millburn.
I arrived a few minutes early for my 10 a.m. weekday appointment, and walked in at the same time as the person opening up. The waiting area consisted of a basic chair next to the front door. I arrived before my therapist, JoJo.
La Salon tries to be upscale, but it’s not. They run a hair salon downstairs and have a handful of massage rooms (plus a manicure area) upstairs. The massage room door had a small glass window on it, with no curtain or covering. When I changed, I was a bit self-conscious that someone might walk down the hall and look into the room. I was supposed to lie down on my stomach on the table, using a bath towel to cover up with (instead of the usual large sheet). While it was cozy, it’s a bit harder to cover yourself up with a towel when you’re lying on your stomach.
When I saw the King Tut exhibit in San Francisco last year, I left the kids behind, not sure if they’d make it through without getting bored. While I enjoyed going alone, I did feel the kids were missing out on a huge piece of history – an experience not usually readily available in museums.
The big deal about King Tut is not that he was Egypt’s greatest king. He wasn’t, though he did have some interesting challenges. By the time Tut’s tomb was discovered, it was the only tomb that was almost completely intact on discovery. It gave researchers an understanding of the burial process.
If you’re looking for some clean, family fun, and your kids are on the younger side, head to the Land of Make Believe in Hope, New Jersey. They have lots of kiddie rides and a fun water park good for both younger older kids.
The park is quite manageable for families with young kids. It’s not too big (but not so small that you’ll get bored). The rides are geared toward kids age 6 and younger (preschoolers will be quite happy). My 8 year old was bored with most rides, and I was surprised that my 6 year old was happy to ride them.
The Rides: Expect everything from a carousel to a small tilt-a-whirl. The mini roller coaster was fun for us – it goes in a loop and is good for the younger set. There probably 15 rides.
Attractions: We didn’t check out the arcade, Haunted Halloween House, jump houses or Dog Pound (games). There’s also a train circling the park and a hay ride.
The Show (Middle Earth Theater): The park put on a very cute interactive show featuring any kid and adult who wants in. Dori and I were part of it, and we could choose our part. The skit was funny and the kids had a great time dressing up and acting in it. Zack had fun watching. They said they want to do it again next time we go.
It seems like there are two state fairs in New Jersey. There’s the State Fair at the Meadowlands, and the New Jersey State Fair Sussex County Farm & Horse Show. The latter is August 6-15, 2010. It has the stuff you might expect from a state fair, like a demolition derby, home arts, baking competitions, artistry using a chain-saw and wood, animal shows, lots of 4-H activities, lawnmower racing, a farm tractor pull, taxidermy, model trains, robotics, cyclocross bike racing, quilts and more. Oddly, there’s nothing on the website about rides and games.
We went to the State Fair at the Meadowlands. It’s open until July 5, 2010. It has rides, entertainment and games. We did a daytime excursion, as part of a company summer event. It was so hot we spent a fortune on drinks. This was our first State Fair in New Jersey, and to be honest – it was really small! I’ve been to county fairs that were much bigger. And I really missed the 4-H kids and their animals, the hobbyists and the vendors inside their own building, hawking all kinds of dishwares and housewares. Apparently, though, it’s the largest fair in the New Jersey, New York metro area. (Note: the reader who commented so politely below points out that this is actually not the REAL state fair – this one is actually a for-profit carnival).
Okay, then. Here’s my review of the State Fair Meadowlands – with kids.
LIVE SHOWS – the shows are all free with admission. We saw the Sea Lion Splash – very cute. They have three sea lions who jump, dance and do other tricks for you. The show is about 15 minutes long and kids can stand up front to watch. We missed the BMX Stunt Show, which looks like fun. It goes through the end of the fair. Hypnotist, Steve Bayner is funny. The Batcopter aerial show runs daily, and you can get a 2 minute ride for $30. The racing pigs were a lot of fun, also about a 15 mintue show. Check the schedule before going – the shows change daily. Continue reading “The New Jersey State Fair – with Kids”
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Whenever friends and family members with children ask where to eat in New York, I always ask several questions: How old are the little ones? How much of the family vacation budget do mom and dad want to dole out on three squares a day, plus snacks? And most importantly, just how important is good, authentic Big Apple food to parents and children alike?
Some folks after all, are more than happy to quaff breadsticks at the Olive Garden in Times Square or silence their children’s whines with a Sbarro calzone. Hey, when money’s tight and you’re in a crunch, why not?
Well, here’s why not. With a little resourcefulness and prior research, you can do something different than big box restaurants and fast food chains when you hit the town in New York. Your city probably has twelve Olive Gardens anyway.