Help the kids ease their back-to-school blues with some excellent events happening throughout NJ in September. From early fall fun to awesome animal encounters, we've hand-picked some of our favorite things to do this month. You can visit African penguins or hang with friendly alpacas, have a sleepover at the zoo, sing along with Shopkins Live!, and visit Thomas & Friends on the Island of Sodor without leaving New Jersey.
For even more September fun, look to our roundup of September Fairs and Festivals, and find a great selection of after-school activities in our Guide to Classes and Enrichment Programs for NJ Kids. Don't forget to check out our Event Calendar for a complete listing of happenings this month and beyond.
African Penguin Awareness Weekend – Camden
Penguin lovers won't want to miss Adventure Aquarium's 9th annual African Penguin Awareness Weekend. Visitors can watch penguin feedings, take part in a penguin dance party, get a hands-on look at penguin feathers and eggs, watch a behind-the-scenes video of life in the aquarium's penguin colony, and more.
Alpacas are gentle and curious, and they respond well to children. Photo courtesy of Bluebird Farm Alpacas.
Open Farm Weekend at Bluebird Farm Alpacas – Peapack
You normally have to make a reservation to visit Bluebird Farm Alpacas, but this weekend the farm is open to all visitors who want to come meet (and maybe even cozy up to) its sweet residents. Guests can visit with, feed, and photograph the alpacas, see live demonstrations, learn about raising and breeding, shop for alpaca products, and more. A container of grain is included in the $6 admission fee.
NJ Wild Outdoor Expo – New Egypt
Want to learn how to kayak or pick up some new camping skills? Head to the NJ Wild Outdoor Expo, which offers conservation information, education, and hands-on opportunities to learn a variety of outdoor skills and activities. Try your hand at fishing, hiking, kayaking, camping skills, rock climbing, wildlife watching, and more. FREE
Take Gram and Gramps on an old-fashioned ride on a caboose at Whippany. Photo by Shari Simpson.
Grandparents Day Excursion Train Ride – Whippany
Make a reservation to ride the rails with Grandma and Grandpa on this 10-mile excursion along the historic Whippanong Trail. If you can't make it this weekend, check out the Autumn Excursion Train Ride on September 17.
Fall Sleepover at Turtle Back Zoo – West Orange
Find out what happens at the zoo after dark at this special sleepover for children ages 6 and up and their families. Observe animals in the dark, meet educators and zookeepers, and discover how the zoo works behind the scenes. Families will sleep indoors at the Berson Education Center, and breakfast will be served in the morning. Registration is required.
Paws Discovery Farm Family Campout – Mount Laurel
There's more animal sleepover fun to be had at Paws Discovery Farm, where families are invited to bring your own tent and camp at the farm. Enjoy a campfire, s'mores, games, songs, and snacks, plus a complimentary breakfast in the morning. Registration is required.
25th Annual New Jersey Storytelling Festival – Lambertville
Visit Howell Living History Farm to hear tales straight from master storytellers all day long. The event includes a story slam and a continuous rotation of storytellers performing throughout the farm from 1–5 p.m.
All About Downtown Street Fair – Jersey City
Jersey City comes alive for the 7th annual Downtown Street Fair, featuring more than 125 vendors and tons of fun family activities. Sample tasty treats from some of the area's top food trucks, listen to live music, and enjoy kids' activities like face painting, games, and inflatables at this event, which takes place on Newark Avenue between Grove Street and Coles Street.
Apple Festival – Robbinsville
Get your first taste of fall fun at Oasis Family Farm, where you can munch on farm-fresh apples and sample sweet treats like pie, cobbler, and apple cider donuts. Kids' activities include wagon rides, sand art, crafts, an apple pie–eating contest, and more. No u-pick at this event.
PlayDay South Orange – South Orange
PlayDay South Orange is the town's largest public event and features more than 10 play areas with everything from board games to basketball, radio controlled cars to rope jumping. The bouncy houses are always a big hit, but expect to wait for your turn, as well as for face painting. FREE but fees for several activities.
Harvest Moon Hayride & Night Time Corn Maze – Chester
September 22–23, 29–30
The autumn action continues at Alstede Farms, where the Harvest Moon Hayride & Night Time Corn Maze will run Fridays and Saturdays through October 28. Make your way through the corn maze and take a tractor-led hayride through the fields, then enjoy a campfire, live music, and apple cider under the stars.
The Shoppies perform original pop songs in Shopkins Live!. Photo courtesy of Shopkins.
Shopkins Live! Shop It Up! – Morristown, Englewood, Red Bank
September 17, 27, 28
Shopkins' 75-city tour comes to New Jersey this month with stops at Mayo Performing Arts Center (September 17), Count Basie Theatre (September 27), and BergenPAC (September 28). Jessicake, Bubbleisha, Peppa-Mint, and the rest of the gang star in this brand-new live show featuring original pop songs and music.
Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails – Jersey City
September 23 – May 13
Thomas, Percy, Sir Topham Hatt, and all of your favorite characters from the Island of Sodor are coming to Liberty Science Center! In this hands-on exhibit designed for ages 2–7, kids can help Thomas and his friends solve a variety of problems, from sorting shapes to building tracks. Little engineers can climb into Thomas' cab, fix Percy's wobbly wheel, play with an oversized Thomas train table, and more.
Children's Book Festival – Princeton
Meet your favorite children's book authors and illustrators at Princeton's annual festival celebrating a love of books. Kids can listen to authors speak, have books signed, and join in many fun activities throughout the day. FREE
Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day Live! – various locations
More than 20 NJ museums are offering free admission with a Museum Day ticket on September 23. Visit participating museums' websites to download your ticket—and hurry, they go fast! Each ticket provides free admission for the ticket-holder plus ONE guest. Participating NJ museums include WheatonArts, Monmouth Museum, and Montclair Art Museum. See the full list here.
BrickFair NJ 2017 – Edison
This can't-miss event for LEGO lovers features amazing displays including Star Wars, Bionicle, Mindstorms, trains, and much more. There will also be games, competitions, prizes, and of course, plenty of shopping opportunities.
Experience farm life 19th century farm life during the Harvest Home Festival. Photo by Jim Lukach/CC BY 2.0
Harvest Home Festival – Holmdel
Travel back in time to the 1890s at the Harvest Home Festival, an old-fashioned country fair at Historic Longstreet Farm. The day's events include wagon rides, games, a corn-husking competition, pie-eating contests, live entertainment, craft demonstrations, and more.
Hoboken Arts & Music Festival – Hoboken
This popular festival features live music, arts & craft vendors, neighborhood restaurants, and more. Stop by the designated children’s area on 3rd Street for rides, games, face painting, sand art, and musical performances (like Preschool of Rock). FREE