Amazon Tour with Kids

I write about supply chain management (logistics, operations, transportation etc.) so touring an Amazon fulfillment center (FC) seems like more than a fun thing to do – it seemed necessary for work! There are currently 23 warehouses/fulfillment centers in the U.S. that give tours, including 3 in New Jersey. You can take an Amazon tour with kids, but most tours are on the weekday, which can make it difficult unless you’re home schooling. Here’s what I learned on my Amazon tour.

The Amazon storage area, with robots moving the storage pods. Screenshot from an Amazon virtual tour.

By the way, you can’t take photos inside the warehouse, so these photos are screenshots from a virtual tour last week, run by Amazon for FIRST Robotics – an international STEM robotics program I’m involved with. You can watch the virtual Amazon tour here which was meant as an Amazon tour with kids, or at least for kids.

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What You Will Learn on a Maple Sugar Tour

Every winter we see listings for maple sugaring tours, and every year we seem to be busy or forget to go. This year we finally went. What will you learn on a maple sugaring tour? A lot!

We went to the Great Swamp in New Jersey for our education. They were offering two sessions on a weekend afternoon – for $3/person (though no one asked for or collected money – and we checked in at the outdoor education center desk).

Follow the maple sugar leaf signs to the sugar shack at the Great Swamp. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

While there’s no way to know for sure who discovered maple sugar, Continue reading “What You Will Learn on a Maple Sugar Tour”

Fossil Hunting With Kids at Big Brook

Did you know that October 12 is National Fossil Day? With a few days off this week, and fall break/teachers’ convention coming up next month, you may be looking for day trip ideas. Think about going fossil hunting in New Jersey! Turns out there are a couple of places that are easy to get to, where you can wade through streams looking for sharks’ teeth, oyster shells, squid fossils, and other items that are millions of years old. Even though you’re not by the ocean, this area was once covered in water.

Big Brook Preserve. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Big Brook Preserve. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

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Red Carpet Screening: All Hail King Julien

Last minute! I have two family packs of tickets to give away to the red carpet screKJN_HERO_KA_1s_w4.0ening of All Hail King Julien, Netflix’s newest original series. I need to pick two families tonight to give them to. If you’re interested, leave me a comment below with the number of people in your family, and let me know how to contact you. If you don’t want to leave your email address in the comment, you can email me at [email protected], but please do put the comment down first.

At the screening, you’ll see the first five episodes of All Hail King Julien. Madagascar’s King Julien scored his own series! King Julien will take on the jungle’s craziest adventures in the new comedy series, along with his loyal sidekicks Maurice and Mort plus a whole new cast of colorful animals.

Details about the screening (you need to be on the list to go, so don’t show up unless I tell you to!)

When: Friday, December 19 from 7-9 p.m.

Where: SVA Theater – 333 W. 23rd Street

Review: Duke Farms In New Jersey

When we read about Duke Farms opening to the public a year ago (May 2012), we put it on our list to do. We finally went, albeit without kids (they’re at camp) but can’t wait to take them there.

The barn house ????
The farm barn, which is now the orientation center, is the first building you’ll see in the parking area.

Duke Farms is one of the largest undeveloped parcels of land in New Jersey, made up of more than 2,700 acres. Doris Duke’s father, tobacco farmer J.B. Duke, bought the land as a luxury homestead, endowing it with formal gardens, water features and grand buildings like the one you see above. Of note, the family home is not available for touring (and we couldn’t even see where it was while there).

F meadows
A meadow outside the Farm Barn.

Doris Duke, as the sole heir, inherited the land, where she spent part of her childhood. She put it in her foundation, for land preservation and land stewardship. What a gift! Continue reading “Review: Duke Farms In New Jersey”

Day Trip: Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

If you can manage to find the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, NJ, you’ll have a great time there. We’ve been twice now, to different sections. The swamp is one of more than 500 wildlife refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You’ll find about 8 miles of marked trails, though there’s 3,660 acres of off-trail hiking.

Last weekend we hit the boardwalk area (note: there were restrooms but no water fountain or garbage can). You’ll find maps at the trailhead/parking lot. The wildlife observation center is on New Vernon Road (aka Long Hill Road – depending on the address).

I regretted not bringing my better SLR camera with its telephoto lens. In the hour or so we walked on the boardwalks, we spotted baby and adult turtles, lots of birds, dragonflies, chipmunks, though there are a ton more animals we didn’t see.

If you stand still long enough, you’ll see lots of animals in here

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Three Museums not to miss in Washington D.C.

This is part of a series on Washington D.C. with kids. Most of the attractions in Washington D.C. are free, making a trip like this much less expensive than trips elsewhere (after factoring in hotel costs!). Here are three free museums you shouldn’t miss (Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the National American History Museum and the Postal Museum):

Bureau of Engraving & Printing

During the tour, you’ll walk above the printing floor, watching the workers. They have a sense of humor, posting signs like “tomorrow only: free samples” and “just think how I feel – I printed my lifetime salary in a few minutes.” You’ll see the printers (which we saw getting jammed), sheets of bills then getting cut and trimmed, computers that inspected the currency (at ½ second per sheet), carousels/trays of money moving through the packaging process, $400,000 bricks of money (and $100 billion in one room alone). The exhibit before the tour is interesting as well, with the history of the bills and printing.

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Coming Up: Smithsonian Free Museum Day

Have a great family day at a museum – for free! Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day made is possible, and they are doing it again on Saturday, September 25th. Download an admission card here, and get into New Jersey museums like the Newark Museum, the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, the Stickley Museum, and others. In New York, you can go to the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of the Barrio, Historic Richmond Town, the Intrepid (that’s a big ticket one), the New York City Fire Museum, the Jewish Museum and others

The card is good for you and one guest – one card per household. Find participating museums here:

New Jersey

New York

What to Do on September 11 in New York City

copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

This year, the 10th anniversary of September 11, falls on a Sunday. Given that the kids won’t be in school, it’s a good chance for the family to reflect on what happened, its impact on our lives, remember those whose lives were lost, and join with with the community. I posted some events here which you can consider attending. has a list of activities on its calendar.

9/11 Memorial Site – official opening is on 9/11/11 for families who lost someone in the attacks.  The ceremony for family members starts at 8:30 a.m. and all the names of those lost will be read after the city-wide moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. There will be a second city-wide moment of silence at 9:03 a.m. and then affected families will be allowed to access the memorial to see their loved one’s names in the bronze plaques.  Continue reading “What to Do on September 11 in New York City”