Best Nature Centers in New Jersey

If you’re looking for a break from the oppressive heat, nature centers can be a great option for a summer day. Located in parks throughout the state, these educational facilities combine both indoor and outdoor fun for kids of all ages. Spend some time exploring nature, then duck inside to cool off with hands-on exhibits and activities that tie it all together. Read on for our overview of seven nature centers in New Jersey that offer wonderful programs all year long.

Weekend Fun for NJ Kids: Strawberry Festival, Endangered Species Day, May 21-22

Summer is so close, we can almost taste it! Get your fill of the beautiful month of May before it's over with the Strawberry Festival at Oasis Family Farm, the Essex County Family Garden Party or the Touch a Truck event at the Deptford Skating Center. Keep everyone's hands and minds busy with even more great May events: check out the Tin Piercing Craft at the Miller-Cory House Museum, Endangered Species Day at Jenkinson's Aquarium or the Doodle Bugz Workshop at Insectropolis.  For additional activity options, take a look at our full Event Calendar.

The Expo Line Arrives! Santa Monica to Downtown LA in 46 Minutes

They've been working on the railroad—all the livelong decade, it feels like. There are kids in high school who have heard all their lives about the light rail someday reaching the sea. Well, this weekend, on May 20, 2016 to be exact, the Santa Monica extension of the Expo Line finally opens up, and people will be able to travel between the Pier and DTLA without touching their car keys. Los Angeles Metro is celebrating the much anticipated event with parties and free rides for everyone. In all, 7 new stations are opening up, so that's 7 parties with live music, food trucks, bounce houses, and other entertainment from Culver City to Santa Monica. Hop on a train, and pretty much anywhere you hop off, there'll be a party going on. Yes, that's how novel public transport is to people on the Westside of LA.

The free rides are on offer from noon on Friday through the end of Saturday. After that, riders need to have a TAP card ($1 in vending machines, $2 on buses or at retail locations) loaded up with enough credit for travel; each journey costs $1.75 ($1 for kids in grades K-12), including transfers. And the good news is that several new Big Blue Bus routes have been added to meet the train—as well as a few other creative ways to get to and from the station.

Check Out the 57-Foot Mega Slide and More at Governors Island

If we were giving out rewards to “most improved” NYC park, surely Governors Island would blow the competition away. The trust that operates 150-acres of the island under the direction of the city continues to open new parklands, add more kid-friendly features and expand hours, making it a must-do on every New Yorker’s summer bucket list.

Summer 2016 will see the addition of an entire hill of slides, including one that will reportedly be the longest in the city at 57-feet-long, a brand-new treehouse and the debut of the city’s only “adventure playground,” a free-for-all, kids-only build and destroy space. Oh, and it is all FREE, our favorite kind of summer fun.

Governors Island opens for the season on Saturday, May 28, Memorial Day weekend and hosts its annual Family Fun Day that Sunday. Not all the features will be ready for opening day, but some will.

Here’s a breakdown on what’s new and when it will be available for family fun on this car-less isle.

A Visit to KidsPlay Children's Museum in Torrington

When my kids were looking for something to do, they rarely (okay, never) asked: “Can we go to Torrington?” But that has changed since we recently discovered KidsPlay, a children’s museum located downtown in Litchfield County’s largest city. After just one visit, KidsPlay became a favorite destination. Though it occupies an unassuming building, it packs an incredible amount of creativity and fun in a compact space. From the moment we entered through its doors (monitored by security cameras), the details packed into each play area left us all impressed and giddy. The museum is designed for ages 2-10, and without a doubt, the persons behind its establishment know what makes children happy. 

Free Kayaking, Canoeing and Rowboat Options in New York City

With all the waterfront surrounding New York City, it's no wonder there are so many sightseeing cruises and fun ferry rides to great kid destinations. For times when you want to be your own captain, there's no need to hijack a boat; there are many opportunities for NYC families to get out on the water by themselves, kayaking, rowing and canoeing. We've rounded up 11 great New York City organizations that offer boating sessions on our wonderful waterways—and they're all FREE. Ahoy!

Free Beaches in New Jersey

Get out the beach bags and towels, New Jersey. It’s almost summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime! If your fun-in-the-sun bucket list includes camp, vacation, and trips to our beloved Jersey shore, summertime can be a major season of spending. Jersey shore excursions are a must in the summer, but prices of beach badges and passes can really add up. Luckily, New Jersey is home to some free beaches-- that's right, no admission fees required. While some of these free beaches are found in popular vacation hotspots, other quieter and unguarded ones are located by lakes and bays. Soak up the sun at some of these budget-friendly beach options. Please note that parking fees may apply.


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