Maplewood

Best July Fairs and Festivals for New Jersey Families

Fairs and festivals and feasts, oh my! It’s non-stop action in NJ this month—read on for our recommendations and choose your favorites. With everything from state and county fairs to music and food festivals—and of course, awesome July 4th celebrations—there’s something happening almost every day in July. Mark your calendar now, and have a blast all month long.

Berry lovers: be sure to check out our roundup of NJ's awesome blueberry festivals, many of which take place in July. And for more warm-weather action, visit our Summer Fun Guide.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Events in NJ

Martin Luther King, Jr., the chief spokesperson for the Civil Rights Movement, is memorialized annually on the third Monday of January. This floating holiday has evolved into more than just a day off from school. Now deemed a National Day of Service, MLK Day encourages volunteers across the country to donate their time in order to make a difference. This day reminds us of hope, compassion, and the ongoing potential for social change. Many New Jersey towns are hosting local activities, and we've put together a list that includes both celebrations and service activities.

Best Trick-or-Treating Neighborhoods in New Jersey

Halloween is nearly here, and in several New Jersey neighborhoods the locals are thinking, “Bring it on!” These Halloween-obsessed towns eagerly deck out their homes every year with fabulous decorations that will delight trick-or-treaters big and small. Others turn their streets into Halloween block parties that are annual hot spots for locals.

Find more fun in our New Jersey Halloween Guide, including pumpkin patches and the best FREE Halloween events for local kids.

Top Indie Bookstores for New Jersey Families

New Jersey has many wonderful independent bookstores run by dedicated bibliophiles that offer children's programs, storytimes, indoor activities, and books galore for mom, dad, the tween, the toddler and the middle school age kid. Stop in during the holiday season to shop local, or year-round for children's birthdays. We know we don't need to tell you, dear reader, but there is nothing quite like a good book. 

Mini Dickens Village Opens in Maplewood for Holidays

There’s something about miniature things that draws the eye of both kids and grown-ups. Perhaps that’s why parents, toddlers and preteens alike are found peering into the windows of the 10 mini houses that make up the annual Dickens Village hosted in downtown Maplewood, New Jersey each holiday season for more than 50 years.

Each of the 10 houses, measuring over 6-feet tall, are decorated with holiday scenes from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and are lit with pretty candles and bedecked in wreaths and other seasonal décor.

You’ll find faux fireplaces, a nutcracker, Santa, of course, and an entire house filled with vintage children’s toys. The windows are low enough for even my 1-year-old to look into. I was surprised by how enthralled he and his preschool sister were with the whole thing. Several preteens zipped through the village with us, oohing and ahhing over the scene: “My favorite is the candy cane one! You can fit a bed in here!”

The Best Playgrounds in South Orange and Maplewood

When my husband and I finally settled into our new neighborhood in Maplewood, one of the first questions we asked the locals was: “Are there any playgrounds nearby?” Luckily for us – and for our toddler – there are a myriad of playground options all within a 15-minute-or-less drive from most points in South Orange or Maplewood (known among locals as SOMA). There really is something for everyone. We’ve even got some tips on which playgrounds to hit at different times of the week – and which to try depending on the weather forecast. Read on!

South Mountain Reservation for Kids: Swings, Zoo, Fairy Trail

For an easy day hike with the kids, New Jersey’s local “reservations,” essentially mini state forests and parks, are my family’s go-to. The 2,110-acre South Mountain Reservation in Essex County is one of our favorites. The recreation complex includes hiking trails, but also a zoo, fairy trail, paddle boats, mini golf, and a fantastic playground.

Read on for our best family bets for this Jersey green space, or check out some of our other favorite NJ reservations like nearby Watchung, or day trip ideas.

Gardening Classes and Clubs for NJ Kids

Spring is in full bloom, and it’s the perfect time of year to dig into gardening. Planting flowers or vegetables is a hobby the whole family can enjoy together. Through gardening, young growers can learn about nature, the environment and nurturing living things. And, of course, they’ll love playing in the dirt. Check out these opportunities throughout our Garden State for children learn gardening basics and develop a green thumb.

16 Great Summer Tennis Camps in New Jersey

It may be winter, but it’s never too early to start thinking about summer camp. From day camps to art camps to riding and horse camps, the options in New Jersey are endless. If you’re looking to get your little Serena Williams some fundamental instruction or give your beginner basic lessons, try a week long tennis camp for fitness, team play and overall summer fun! And to find out all the day camp options in NJ, check out our New Jersey Summer Day Camp Guide.

Gobble Gobble! Fun Places For NJ Kids to Make Thanksgiving Crafts

After the Halloween hoopla filled with candy & costumes and before the December cookie baking & gift frenzy, Thanksgiving brings a slower pace to the seasonal festivities in my house, allowing us to recharge with family and a delicious meal. In my kids eyes, Thanksgiving can seem a tad…well, boring compared to the spooky decorations we put out for Halloween and the gingerbread houses we construct come Christmas. I love Thanksgiving and want it to be a meaningful time for my family - and that means getting them involved. Check out these fun Thanksgiving Day craft events happening all throughout the month of November, where kids can roll up their sleeves and get into the Turkey Day groove - and maybe bring home a little something to decorate your holiday table too!

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