New Jersey – What to do with the kids this Summer?

As school draws to an end, I’ve been collecting lists of places to go and things to do this summer. Here are a few links to get you started:

Summer Family-Fun Guide – fairs and festivals in the Garden State this summer (Star Ledger)

Summer Camp Guide – in case you are still making plans (Star Ledger)

New Jersey Summer Beach Guide (New Jersey Monthly)

Jersey Shore – Guide for Summer Fun Activities (New Jersey Monthly)

–Shore happenings – Jen Miller’s Down the Shore with Jen blog. The second edition of her book Explorer’s Guide – The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May is being released now.

–I recently heard Kevin Woyce speak about Jersey Shore history – totally interesting stuff. He has a book out, Jersey Shore History and Facts – check it out.

–Head to a New Jersey State Park

–Go to a small amusement park (Mommy Poppins)

–Read Jersey Kids’ review of Land of Make Believe

Any helpful links you love? Add them in the comments!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom with Kids

We really loved Animal Kingdom and wished we spent more than a few hours there (we split the day with Hollywood Studios). We got there before park opening, in enough time that we were actually first on a ride. That has NEVER happened for us at an amusement park! And to show how geeky we are, as we finished the ride, we asked the ride operators if we could stay on for a second spin, and they let us. I’m sure they could have gotten fired for that, but given that we were still the only people there…

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Kids

This is part of a series about Disney World with kids.

Since we initially weren’t going to buy park hopper passes, and only had three days, we were trying to decide between Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Some said they spent two days in Hollywood Studios on each trip, and others said Animal Kingdom was their all-time favorite. We were stumped. In the end, we got the park hopper passes (long story) and didn’t have to decide. We split the day between the two parks.

The result? While we liked many individual things about Hollywood Studios, we did not love the park. We can sum it up with this: not enough rides, too many shows. After a few hours, the kids actually said “can we stop seeing shows? We want to go on rides.” But there weren’t more rides for them to go on. Next time: we’ll plan the whole day for Animal Kingdom and skip Hollywood Studios.

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Disney’s EPCOT with Kids

This is part of a series about taking the family to Disney World.

GETTING STARTED

Following advice to get the Soarin’ Fastpass early (then hightail it to other rides), we waited with the crowd by the rope drop, to follow the cast members to the ride. This made us feel like cows being led to slaughter. Or as my husband put it, “this is what Black Friday must be like.” I left the family behind while I martyred myself in the name of a Fastpass.

However, while almost everyone got in line for Soarin’, I got in the much smaller line for Fastpasses (as recommended by the Unofficial Guide to Disney World) and we then went to Test Track. Which had NO line. And then to Mission Space. Which also had NO line. We snagged Fastpasses at Test Track for later. We went back to Soarin’ around 11:30 a.m. to get an additional Fastpass, but they were gone. By 11:30 a.m. on a non-peak day (it was Jersey Week, but…). For a primer on how to maximize your Fastpass use, click here.

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Disney World Tips with Kids – the Post Mortem

I promised an update after we went to Disney World, so here it is. I will put highlights from each park in a separate post so they don’t get too long. And I put general tips in here. (For my tips on planning for DisneyWorld, click here).

HOTEL

We stayed at All Star Music – one of the three All Star Hotels (this is in the “value” category). Disney allows you to check in online before you arrive, which we did. Theoretically that means a very short wait at the registration desk, and they basically hand you a folder with keys and maps. Of course we got behind someone who had 20 minutes worth of questions, and it took awhile for another employee (er, cast member) to come to the desk to help us. Once she was there, she handed us our folder and we were done in a minute. Fortunately there was a television playing Disney movies in the lobby, with comfy seating. The kids didn’t care how long we waited in line. Continue reading “Disney World Tips with Kids – the Post Mortem”

Preparing for Disneyworld – with Kids

While I consider myself a Disneyland expert, I’ve never been to Disneyworld. Preparing for our upcoming trip has been an education to say the least. I’ve read book upon book, talked up frequent visitors, queried travel agents, and read, read, read. Given the amount of time I’ve spent researching, I thought I’d share some tips on how to plan the trip. I’ll fill you all in on the results when we get back – telling you what worked, and what didn’t.

WHAT TO READ – WHERE TO START
Allears.net – This site features detailed hotel info (including reader reviews), Disney restaurant menus, tips, guidelines, info on all things Disney (including Broadway shows). They offer a free email  newsletter with tips and discounts.

Mousesavers.com – This site also features tips, discounts, insider info for all things Disney. Read through the all applicable parts of the website before booking anything. They also have a free monthly emails with articles and discounts – don’t miss this because some of the discounts are really helpful.

Disboards – To me it sounds more like they’re “dissing” Disneyworld, but that’s not what’s meant by their url. The site came highly recommended to me by a friend writing a book on Disneyworld. Lots of info and reader forums. Plus restaurant menus.

DISNEY DISCOUNTS
Sign up early for Disney emails on their official site and look for pin codes and discounts in the emails. Consider signing up with several email addresses to extend your chances of getting those discounts/codes. After we booked and paid for our trip, I got an email from Disney offering 25% savings off the standard rates (we had already paid in full). While the promotion was listed on the official website, I wouldn’t have known to look for it. That new rate saved us $75 on the hotel we initially booked, and $125 off at a sister hotel in the same value category (we switched to the cheaper hotel). There was a $50 change fee. Continue reading “Preparing for Disneyworld – with Kids”

Review: Six Flags Great Adventure – Plus Discount Codes

“He said he was in Paris. He said it was urgent I come.”

“To Paris?” I asked.

“No, to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey…”

Long Lost by Harlan Coben

Six Flags Great Adventure

This Jackson, NJ location is the is the largest Six Flags in the country. Woo hoo! Having been to several in California, I was pleasantly surprised with this one. It was clean, the employees were helpful (except one) and the other visitors weren’t quite as skanky as at other Six Flags parks. Continue reading “Review: Six Flags Great Adventure – Plus Discount Codes”

Review: Six Flags Wild Safari in New Jersey

Jersey Kids review of Six Flags new Wild Safari Park is here – 2013 review)

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.

(Of note: on August 30, 2012 Six Flags announced that Wild Safari would close to individual cars starting in the 2013 season. Instead, the park will become a regular Six Flags theme park attraction – Camp Aventura – where guests will ride in open air vehicles driven by park employees. Guests may be able to hand-feed or pet some of the animals. For an extra fee, guests can zip line over the camp. Read the review of the newly opened attraction here.)

You won’t find these rides in the background in Africa!

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.

It’s a nice park – with signs in each area telling you what animals you’re seeing. They apparently have a CD/DVD you can buy (CD to listen to in the car, DVD to watch at home) – but I didn’t see anything about this on the website. Continue reading “Review: Six Flags Wild Safari in New Jersey”

Land of Make Believe – Review

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.

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