There’s a wild variety of fun FREE activities in New Jersey this weekend, so leave the wallet at home and head out to play chess on a 3-foot tall chess board, walk through the inside of a hot air balloon, pan for gold in the Musconetcong River, or be inspired by the athletes at the Special Olympics Summer Games. If you willing to spend a bit of dough, you can also take in a rodeo and Daddies can have a special tea party with their little princesses. Enjoy!

Pokemon Video Game Championships (Secaucus)

Did you know there were Pokemon video game competitions that can lead to a national championship?! Well, you do now. So gather your team and head over to the Meadowlands Exhibition Center for a chance to qualify for the Nationals. Come as a competitor or spectator and come for FREE. Saturday, June 12. Junior registration 8am to 8:30am, Senior registration 1pm to 1:30pm. Call 201-330-1172 for competition rules and regulations.

Chess for Life at Panera Bread (Montclair)

Panera Bread of Montclair invites children, teens, and adults to learn all about the game of chess and play against professional chess masters. You’ll have a chance to win a beautiful glass chess set and play on a 3-foot tall chess board game. Cost is FREE, but they probably would appreciate it if you bought a little bread. Saturday, June 12 from 3:30 to 6:30pm. Call 973-233-1703 for more info.

Hot Air Balloon Walk-Thru (Piscataway, Flemington)

Do an actual walk-through of the inside of a hot air balloon and learn how to fly one from a licensed pilot! This FREE event is sponsored by the NJ Balloon Festival and Rainbow Academy. There will be refreshments, giveaways and a balloon artist (we’re assuming of the small ‘birthday party’ variety). At the Flemington Rainbow Academy location at 10am and at Piscataway at 1pm. Call 732-699-1700 for more info.

2010 Special Olympics NJ Summer Games (Ewing)

There aren’t many events that are more inspiring than the Special Olympics and this weekend, more than 2,000 athletes from across NJ will compete in aquatics, bocce, gymnastics, powerlifting, softball, tennis, and track & field. Opening ceremonies take place at 7:30pm on Friday, June 11, followed by a full weekend of events. FREE. For more info, registration and schedule, call 609-896-8000.

Panning for Gold in Stephens State Park (Hackettstown)

Ever wonder what it was like when early pioneers panned for gold in the 1800s? Well, on Sunday you and your family can become prospectors and wade in the Musconetcong River, looking for fool's gold. Wear “wet-able” clothes and old shoes. FREE. The “fools” will gather on Sunday, June 13 at 1pm and 2:30pm.
Call 908-852-3790 for more info.

Montgomery Rodeo (Skillman)

Listen, how often do you get to see a rodeo in New Jersey? Montgomery’s17th Annual Professional Rodeo for charity includes bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, girls break-away roping, cowgirl barrel racing, bull hockey, bull riding, food, drink, rides and games for kids. I’d go just to find out what “cowgirl barrel racing” could be. June 12 at 7pm and June 13 at 2pm, gates opens ½ hour before event. Admission $15/Adults, $13/Students. Call 908-359-7832 for more information

Miss Amy & Her Big Kids Band (Pennington)

Miss Amy and the Kids will perform a Fitness Rock & Roll show at Princeton Community Church, so come and be a star—the show is being filmed for Miss Amy’s DVD. Saturday, June 12 at 4pm. $3 per person. Call 609-730-1114 for more info.

Daddy & Daughter Tea at Main Street Bakery and Eatery (Kingston)

Main Street Bakery and Eatery is celebrating Father’s Day early with a tea party for Daddy and his little princess. Register early—the first few princesses to sign up will receive a free tiara. Sunday, June 13 at 1pm. The price is $40 for the Daddy/Daughter couple which includes fresh brewed teas, gourmet sandwiches and desserts. Registration is required, call 908-239-0100 for reservations.

6 BBQ Restaurants in NYC for Father's Day or Any Time

Dads and barbecue go together like smoke and fire, but backyard deprived urban dads can't always enjoy the pleasure of grilling themselves. What to do?  I say, dine out and let someone else do the cooking this Father’s Day. Dad can indulge in some perfectly smoked meat and mouthwatering sides at one of the great barbecue joints our city has to offer. Good barbecue used to be found only in the Southern states, but over the past decade quite a few bona fide BBQ restaurants have opened up north of the Mason Dixon line in NYC.

Read on for our favorite NYC BBQ restaurants for a carnivorous Father's Day:

Get A Key To The City And Unlock Secrets All Over New York!

For a limited time (through June 27th) you no longer have to be a big shot, win the Super Bowl or save a few hundred people's lives to be granted a Key to the City. Now anyone can get one and it will even open real secret doors all over New York. Thanks to artist, Paul Ramírez Jonas, Mayor Bloomberg and a few dozen participating sites in all five boroughs, you and your children can get a bona fide Key to the City. Not just some gold-plated trinket to stuff in a drawer but an actual key that works and will open real locks.

Your kiddos will have a blast on this city-side adventure unlocking garden gates, hidden doors, lonesome lockers, mystery boxes, secret rooms and more. Participation is free of charge, open to all who show up, and better yet, kids have got all summer to put on their explorer's caps and take part in New York artist Paul Ramírez Jonas’ new and awesome Key to the City project.

The NY Minute: Tips for New Parents, Festivals and Carnivals, UWS with Toddlers, Toy Theater Museum and More

Photo of the Week: A pie eating contest at Mohonk in the Hudson Valley last weekend. I tried to convince my husband to take part, but he wasn't into it. I can't imagine why—although apparently the kids said the pies were too hot and one kid kept having to stop to pick the pie out of his nose.

Last week we launched our Family Travel Guide and it wasn't until the middle of this week that somebody asked me if there was supposed to be more than two posts in it. Uh, yeah. Apparently the only one who could see the guide was me. Nice.

So I am relaunching our Family Travel Guide with a great new feature—visibility! Woohoo.

Elsewhere in Gotham, this week was all about lists:

NJ Weekend Events for Kids June 5-6: Fairy Festivals, Firetrucks, and Free Zoo Admission

Whether your little one likes to wear fairy wings or a fire helmet, this weekend New Jersey has the perfect event for you!  Festivities include a Fairy Festival, a Firetruck Parade, a Strawberry Festival, Dairy Day at the Farm, a celebration for Jersey boy Thomas Edison, an art party at Grounds for Sculpture, a Funfest for both kids and adults, and even a Tot Trot.  Too many choices?   Just forget the festivals and take advantage of a day of FREE admission to the Turtleback Zoo or lay low at one of the many "Get Out New Jersey!" events at the state parks.

LI Weekend Events June 4-6: Strawberry Festival, Butterfly Detective Fun, Sensory Garden Tour, Turtle Scavenger Hunt, and More!

Welcome, June! Strawberries are here! You can sample them at a strawberry festival, learn about butterflies or help tag box turtles. Take your child on a sensory tour of the Old Westbury Gardens, or head inside the Long Island Science Museum to learn the secrets of chocolate. And if summer is on your mind, you can attend the Dock Day and Craft Festival at the Town Dock of Port Washington. There are some wonderful events to participate in this weekend while giving a hearty welcome to the unofficial beginning of the summer.

Free Festivals and Weekend Events in New York City for Kids: June 5 - June 6, 2010

I am really glad we are staying in town this weekend and I hope you will, too. There is SO much to do that you don’t want to miss any of it. Seriously, not only is Governors Island opening with a huge family festival, but also, the lower east side is hosting the fabulous Egg Rolls and Egg Creams event.  And, there is the super-fun World Science Festival Street Fair in Washington Square Park plus other smaller but still very cool events, like Taste, a day of fine food tastings to support The Lab Schools or the community-minded festival at The Glass Garden in NYU or one of the other 22 festivals taking place in June.

If a huge festival isn’t quite your thing, there is also the Atlantic Avenue ArtWalk where you can visit with artists at work (and a lot more), a couple of high end craft fairs, great author-led book readings or the Fish Tales Extravaganza at the aquarium.  Parades, concerts, nature activities, chess and even an old fashioned subway ride are all on offer for you.

Don’t forget that this is the first weekend of June and some area museums have free admission and special family programming, including CMOM on Friday night, The Brooklyn Museum on Saturday night and The Queens Museum of Art on Sunday.

This weekend is packed with lots of fun events. Choose one or two from the list below and have a great weekend.

Toddling the Upper West Side: 10 Spots in 10 Blocks For You and Your Toddler in the West 60's

Ah toddlers, so full of energy and always on the go, much like our beloved NYC!  I've been getting a unique new view of my neighborhood on the Upper West Side through a toddler's eyes with my one-and-a-half-year-old.  It's a very child-friendly area from Columbus Circle at 59th Street Columbus all the way up to 100th Street.   You're sandwiched between two amazing parks, but there are loads of other places to explore as well.  So we're taking you and your toddler on a tour of the Upper West Side, 10 fun-filled blocks at a time. There will be lots of child-friendly play spaces and food options,  and a little something for the adults to enjoy along the way too.  In this first part of the series we tackle the West 60's. Here we go! 


Don’t Miss the Temporary Toy Theater Museum and Festival

You might have heard that there’s a cool Toy Theater Festival in town until June 13th, but betcha didn’t know about the terrific and virtually un-advertised Temporary Toy Theater Museum that accompanies the festival or, better yet, that it’s totally free to see and well worth taking the kids!

10 Greek Festivals on Long Island

Visit a Greek festival for a taste of Greek food, Greek music, Greek culture, Greek dancing, great family fun and entertainment. At Greek Festivals, you will typically find ethnic Greek foods, traditional Greek folk music performed by a live band, and cultural presentations, such as dancers performing in costume. 
Additionally, there are usually carnival rides, raffles and shopping for Greek jewelry, books, music, spices, etc.  Some festivals even include a display of fireworks.  A Greek Festival is an event that you should not miss!



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