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!

American Museum of Natural History – 7.5 Ways to See it with Kids

The American Natural History Museum is so immense you just can’t see it in one visit. Or two. Or three. So here are 7.5 ways to explore it with your kids!


Whether you choose a special exhibit or a permanent one, pick one and explore it in depth. Given the high cost of visiting the museum, newcomers to the museum might want to stick with the standard holdings unless there’s an exhibit you REALLY want to see. The special exhibits are add-ons, i.e. they cost extra.


–Space movies

–special exhibitions

–Butterflies – (open part of the year, now through May 27, 2013)

–Our Global Kitchen (open through August, 2013)

–IMAX movies

For permanent exhibits, don’t miss the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life (that’s where the big whale is), Fossil Hall (with the dinosaurs), the Grand Gallery (the beautiful 77th Street lobby), or the gemstones.

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Unique New York: Souvenirs

The I (heart) New York t-shirts are cute, but they’re so prolific you get a little sick of seeing them in all the tourist stores. So what kind of New York souvenirs do you bring when you visit friends and family elsewhere? Or where do you point your visitors to get something unique to take home? Here are some ideas:

How cute are these cookies from Eleni’s at Chelsea Market? Buy them individually, or get a boxed assortment – the ones below are 11 for $65. Continue reading “Unique New York: Souvenirs”

Shark Speed Boat Ride in NYC and discount tickets

it’s not a NYC boat trip without the Statue of Liberty

The kids were not overly excited when I told them we were going on a speed boat ride – with a bunch of other people. What fun is it if you don’t get to drive the boat yourself? And my husband chalked this one up to another of my crazy ideas.

You know what? The kids had so much fun that they asked to go again during the next visit to Manhattan. And my husband had a grin on his face the whole time. (discount info for Shark Speed Boat Ride at the bottom) Continue reading “Shark Speed Boat Ride in NYC and discount tickets”

5 Things Not to Miss at Toys R Us – Times Square

I’m not a big Toys R Us fan in general, but I do like the one in Times Square (Broadway at 44th Street). Not that I actually shop there, but it’s a fun place to hang out. Here are five things not to miss when you go!

The Ferris Wheel – You can’t miss this four story Ferris wheel, which is the first thing you see when you walk in. While waiting in line (you buy timed tickets) you can try to figure out which car would be the best for you – the Cabbage Patch Kids? The Scooby Doo car? The Little Tykes car? The Monopoly car? My Little Pony? Mr. Potato Head? The M&M car? The Toy Story car? The Rug Rats? At $4.50 a person per ride, it’s not cheap, but the proceeds do benefit the company’s charity.

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Review: Harry Potter Exhibition in New York City Times Square

I have a confession. I’ve never seen a Harry Potter movie. But I have read all the books. My kids haven’t seen the movies either – I won’t let them until they read the books (my daughter is partway through the third, and my son is listening to the first on tape).

With that in mind, I took them to the Harry Potter exhibit in Times Square, hoping it would inspire my kids to plow through (note to readers – my son is now on the 5th book and we’ve seen the accompanying movies – he now wants to go back to the exhibition AGAIN). And even though I haven’t seen the movies, the scenes are so vivid in my mind (and the movie actors so ingrained in our culture) that I was interested in seeing the recreation.

Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images. Reproduced with permission

The exhibit officially opens on April 5th at the Discovery Times Square exhibition center (that’s where Pompeii is currently showing). Continue reading “Review: Harry Potter Exhibition in New York City Times Square”

Quilts Quilts Quilts – at Park Avenue Armory

If you are able to get to the Park Avenue Armory by March 30, you must go. Here’s why:

I dragged the kids and husband – who did not understand my desire to see quilts hanging from the ceiling. I tried  to explain – it would be 650 quilts – all in red and white. They still didn’t get it. But once they walked into the fabulous armory (which itself is an architectural masterpiece), they were also awestruck.

Continue reading “Quilts Quilts Quilts – at Park Avenue Armory”

Family-Friendly Hotels in Manhattan

When my friends visit Manhattan, they often don’t want to stay in our lovely guest room, even though it’s free and comes with breakfast (and happy hour). After all, it’s in New Jersey, and getting in to see the sights involves a train or bus ride. Not so convenient after an evening Broadway show or for families wanting afternoon naps.

So I compiled a list of resources of where they can look for the best family-friendly hotels in Manhattan. And I’ll share them with you.

We had the treat of staying in Manhattan after seeing Billy Elliot recently with the family. The Kimberly Hotel in mid-town hosted us in a one bedroom suite. It’s hard to go back to a one room hotel after staying in a suite. With kids. Read my review of the Kimberly Hotel on Travel Savvy Mom.

–Read my review of the Muse Hotel in Times Square

–Read my review of Hotel Giraffe near Madison Square Park, where we stayed in a suite.

–Read my review of Yotel near Times Square, which my kids loved.

The king suite at Hotel Giraffe. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
The king suite at Hotel Giraffe. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan has a good list of family-friendly hotels (which includes the Kimberly).

Travel Savvy Mom, where I’m a contributor, also has some first-hand reviews of family-friendly Manhattan hotels.

–Check Ciao Bambino as well, as they have a few posted with good details about what makes them kid-friendly.

–Mommy Poppins has a list of family-friendly hotels on the Upper West Side

–Another option is to rent a timeshare apartment.  The extra space and separate bedrooms are perfect for families.

–One mom recommends the Element Hotel because it has a small kitchenette. The Element is a Westin hotel, near Times Square (39th Street, between 8th and 9th).

–One mom I know of recommends Affinia 50, on 50th and the East Side (and several other in the city, including the Affinia Gardens which has a 2 bedroom). She said “the rooms were HUGE. We had a one-bedroom with living room, large kitchen and bathroom for approx $300/night. The downside is that it is far from “fancy” and has no room service, but a really nice lounge, clean enough (not dirty, just not posh) and great location. We would stay there again.” Not all the rooms are one bedrooms.

Last, let me know where YOU like to stay in Manhattan, or where you recommend.

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4 Ways to Explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Kids

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is so big, you won’t see it in one trip. So don’t try. Here are 4 ways to explore the Met with your kids.


Henry the VIII's armor and Zack

On our first visit, we gave the kids the regular map and told them to pick two things they each wanted to see. And then we had them lead the way. The kids picked the Temple of Dendur and the Egyptian wing, the instrument room, the swords and armor, and I can’t even remember the fourth. We had a fabulous time exploring…until Zachary had a melt-down at the end, in the instrument room. He was tired. He was hungry. It was time to go. We were there almost two hours, and considered that visit highly successful.


Art Trek program at the Met

The next trip was with Alison Lowenstein, author of City Kid New York: the Ultimate Guide for NYC Parents with Kids ages 4-12 (plus she’s the author of City Weekends: Greatest Escapes and Weekend Getaways in and Around New York). She’s a pro at visiting the Met with kids. For this visit, Alison led us to the lower level, where the (free with admission) tours and programs for kids are held. We did an Art Trek, where the Met guide took us to several works of art, and discussed them a kid’s level. At the end, they got to draw one of the pieces. The program lasts an hour, and is for kids ages 5-12 (they divide them into age-appropriate groups). The kids liked the program, though that guide didn’t leave enough drawing time for them at the end.

The Met offers hundreds of family programs each year, including drop-in drawing sessions, festivals, the “Discoveries” program for learning-disabled and developmentally disabled kids, holiday programs (including select Mondays), story times and more.

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NYC Holiday Fun with Kids

New York City is such a great place to visit in December. If you’re going to New York City with the kids, here are our ideas for what to do to make it festive.


Of course you’ll want to see the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Just outside you’ll find Sak’s Fifth Avenue, with sparkling snowflakes (coordinated to music) and window displays. Also with winter window displays: Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales, Barneys, Macy’s and more.


Rockefeller Center has a tiny rink, but it’s so picturesque. Enter from 5th Avenue, between 49th and 50th. Skating is first-come, first-served and you can skate for as long as you stay there. Expect waits up to 90 minutes, unless you skate in the weekday mornings. They’re open on Christmas Day. Continue reading “NYC Holiday Fun with Kids”