If you’re looking for a small town full of energy and neighborhood pride, discover Scotch Plains in Union County. With a population of around 23,000, Scotch Plains is a family-oriented community with a downtown anchored by a village green, year-round community activities, an abundance of playgrounds and even an amusement park. Scotch Plains is located right off Routes 22 and 78 and accessible from NJ Transit trains (Fanwood station) or buses, so take a day trip and explore. While you’re on a day-tripping roll, check out installments of Mommy Poppins' Great Small Towns in Northern NJ series, including Verona, Cranford and Nutley.
Family Friendly Eats
Park Avenue runs through downtown Scotch Plains and is home to many family friendly restaurants, all near free municipal parking. The Stage House Tavern (366 Park Ave) serves up delicious American fare, such as sandwiches, steaks and a raw bar, with both outdoor and indoor seating. On Thursday nights, kids are entertained with tableside magic, and in the summer, the free barbeque is a crowd-pleaser. Darby Road Public House & Restaurant (450 Park Ave), a recent addition to Scotch Plains, is a lively Irish pub and sports bar in one. Irish beef stew, chicken and waffles and shepherd’s pie are among the comfort foods offered. Generous portions on the children’s menu will likely send you home with a doggy bag.
If you’re in the area for Sunday brunch, little ones eat free at two Scotch Plains establishments. Grillestone (2377 Route 22 West) offers crab legs plus waffle and omelet stations on their Sunday brunch buffet. Kids under 4 dine free with discounts for those under 11. The lunch and dinner menus contain steaks and seafood, with children options. Pantagis Renaissance (250 Park Ave) features an elegant Sunday brunch buffet where kids under 5 are free and under 9 half price. My kids are big fans of the extensive dessert selection on the buffet.
For something quick, check out the Scotchwood Diner (1934 US Highway 22) for reliable diner eats or Alfonso’s Pizzeria & Restaurant (435 Park Ave) for a slice.
While playgrounds inhabit nearly every neighborhood in Scotch Plains, Ponderosa Park (1600 Cooper Rd) is the place to be in the warm-weather months. Built in 2012, this 23-acre park features a toddler play area, an older-kid complex, with climbing walls and tunnels, swings and best of all, a spray area in the center of the action. The park also includes a walking path, soccer fields and a picnic area, making it an ideal spot for a free day trip or play date.
Ditch the summer shore traffic and enjoy rides and amusements right in Scotch Plains at Bowcraft Amusement Park (2545 US Highway 22). Bowcraft is a small, but jam-packed theme park with rides, games and attractions geared towards families. Check the website for coupons and specials. Scotch Plains is home to its own 18-hole miniature golf facility. The Scotch Hills Mini Golf Course (820 Jerusalem Rd) includes a waterfall, streams and a pond.
For something indoors and free, the Scotch Plains Library (1927 Bartle Ave) offers Super Saturday story time and crafts for kids, with no registration required. If your family enjoys comics, peruse the shelves of Little Shop of Comics (393 Park Ave) for a variety of graphic novels, comics, board games and collectibles. The store hosts fun events, such as Friday Night Magic and weekend game events.
Scotch Plains brings together the community with fun family events every season. In the spring, kids have a blast at the town Easter egg hunt with a visit from the bunny. Beginning in late May through the summer, the popular farmer’s market, with produce and baked goods, is held every Saturday ay the Village Green (430 Park Ave). The annual Memorial Day parade is another well-attended event among families.
The community celebrates summertime with free concerts on the village green Thursday nights. In July and August, the township’s S.T.A.R.S. Theatre presents free musical shows, all performed by local children. The summer wraps up with the can’t-miss Italian Festival at St. Bartholemew Church (2032 Westfield Ave) over Labor Day weekend.
Fall is always a festive time in Scotch Plains, with its annual Scotch Plains Day street fair plus a Halloween parade and trunk-or-treat with neighboring Fanwood. In the winter, the community celebrates the holiday season with the tree lighting and an appearance by Santa.
Nearby Scotch Plains
A stone’s throw away from downtown Scotch Plains is its sister town Fanwood, whose town center includes Be Craftful (250 South Ave), a drop-in craft center and toy boutique for kids. Be sure to stop by Nick’s Pizza & Deli (42 South Martine Ave) for some pizza or Mara’s Café & Bakery (250 South Ave) for delicious sandwiches, salads, burgers and desserts.