New Jersey

Cheap Thrills: 30+ Drop-in Play Spaces for NJ Kids That Cost $15 or Less

When it’s too cold for the playground, and another playdate at home seems dull (or, to be honest, too stressful), taking your kid to a warm indoor play space is a welcome respite for the whole family. 

New Jersey has no shortage of indoor playgrounds from North Jersey to South Jersey, plenty of which offer drop-in hours. Still, many of these hot spots require long-term memberships or pricey entrance fees that often run $20 to $25 per child for a single drop-in.

When you just need someplace clean, fun and warm for your kids to play—that's not your living room—we found more than 30 indoor gems, all for $15 per child or significantly less, and some that are absolutely free! Your kids still get out of the house to experience a play space where everything seems new to them, and you don't have to clean up after, or empty your wallet! 

And don't forget your nearby shopping mall, where you'll often find low-key indoor playgrounds where kids can work out the wiggles while you shop. 

Find more indoor fun spots in our local NJ guide, or try these at-home boredom busters for days when you just want to stay in. If you find yourself with a full day to fill and you're up for a little more adventure, plan a winter day trip.

100 Things To Do in Chicago with Kids Before They Grow Up

Chicago is home to so many incredible parks, playgrounds, museums, and things to do with kids that one childhood doesn't seem like enough time to fit them all in—though who could blame you for trying? That's why we rounded up this list of great things to do with kids in Chi-town. Whether it's racing with your toddler through the sprinklers at Mary Bartelme Park, wowing your preschooler at the Field Museum, gliding with your grade-schooler on the skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park, or taking in engineering marvels with your tween at the Chicago Architecture Center, take advantage of everything this beautiful city has to offer kids of all ages. We're also big fans of FREE fun, so we included as much of that as possible.

Whether you're a local or a visitor to the Windy City, we hope you can use this list to make some great new memories with your kids. Now I'm off to scarf some Chicago-style hot dogs at Portillo's.

12 NJ Play Cafes with Fun for Kids and Perks for Parents

Once you become a parent, it’s all about the kids. That’s what "they" always say, right? Well, for the most part, that’s absolutely true—but, every once in a while, parents get a pass for fun (or at the very least, some time to fuel up for the rest of the day), too. The founders of some of our most-loved New Jersey indoor play spaces certainly seem to think so, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of the parental perks they’ve been brewing up!

From free Wi-Fi to seating that’s both comfortable and functional; and coffee that rivals cups from your favorite java joint to snacks and sips that go way beyond basic vending machine munchies; these premiere places put in the work to earn their stripes in the play cafe category—and have even become day trip–worthy in their own right.

Read on for 11 of the best spots catering to kids and their caretakers. At the end of the day, if the little ones love it, it’s well worth the cost of admission; if mom and dad get something out of it, too, then that’s grounds for repeat returns.

New Jersey Restaurants Where Kids Eat Free

Who says there’s no such thing as a free meal? Restaurants throughout New Jersey offer free kid meal promotions nearly every night of the week. (Basically, you never have to cook again.) Visit your favorite family-friendly restaurant on a kids-eat-free night, and you won’t have to worry about overspending on kids’ entrees, especially the ones that are barely touched. Check out some of these New Jersey dining spots that feature free kid meals on certain nights of the week. 

The Best and Worst States for Raising a Family

Everyone wants to raise their family in a healthy, safe, and yes, fun community. But, how do you go about finding the right corner of this country for your family? Trial and error perhaps, but WalletHub is also throwing a little data our way on just this subject. The credit report and personal finance site just released its ranking of the best and worst 50 states in which to raise kids.

It weighed a number of factors to determine the top family-friendly states, looking at schools, housing, crime, childcare costs and quality, parental leave options, salaries, and of course, the amount of family fun per capita, including access to parks and playgrounds.

Read on to find out how your state stacks up—and where you might want to consider relocating to with the kids!

40+ Events This Winter for New Jersey Preschoolers

If being cooped up at home with an energetic preschooler isn't your idea of winter wonder, we offer you more than 40 excuses to get out of the house! From shows to storytimes to nature activities, there are events nearly every day this winter that are tailor-made for the under-5 set. 

Preschool fan-favorites take the stage this winter in kid-friendly productions of American Girl Live, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Pete the Cat, and Cinderella. Frozen fans can chill out at A Very Frozen Event, Story Time with Queen Elsa, and Frozen Ball.

Storytimes are a perfect way to pass the time on a slow day (bonus: most are free!). Swing over to weekly events at Pottery Barn Kids, L.L. Bean, Hoboken Fire Department, and Lovin' Oven, and check out special happenings, like I Am Not a Fox Storytime and A Rescue-to-Royal Puppy Love Story.

Bundle up, and let the little ones explore nature at events like Nature Time Together Drop Ins, Winter Tales, First Friday Storytime, Groundhog Day Celebration, and A Winter's Day on the Farm

Read on for more than 40 preschooler-friendly events happening this winter, and check out even more ways to entertain kids this time of year in our New Jersey Winter Fun Guide, featuring 50+ Things to Do with Kids Indoors in the Winter

MLK Weekend Fun: Day of Service, American Girl Live, Train Show

The first three-day weekend of 2019 kicks off with cozy crafts and theater, then tops off with an important historical celebration. 

Catch the stage debut this weekend of American Girl Live in Morristown or Red Bank, and get ready to be amazed when Bubble Trouble bursts on the scene at Bergen PAC. There are plenty of weekend opportunities to get crafty, including the I Have a Dreamcatcher Craft, Valentine Pop-Up Cards, Free Crafts at Lakeshore Learning, and penguin-themed crafts and activities at Penguin Awareness Day.

On Monday, kids of all ages can honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through service activities in Scotch Plains and Blackwood, or creative outlets in Summit and Forked River

Find even more weekend options in our Winter Guide, including 50 Things To Do with Kids Indoors in New Jersey. And look to our January GoList and event calendar for a complete listing of happenings this weekend and beyond.

American Girl Live: Your Favorite Dolls Take the Stage in First-Ever National Tour

With two five-year-old girls in the family, the American Girl Doll phenomenon has overtaken our home—quite literally. We have dolls, furniture, books, and an extensive wardrobe I find myself slightly envious of. "Julie" and "Maryellen" have hobbies we talk about, preferences on activities, and are with us so often that I sometimes forget that they're not real-life pals of my daughters. So, as you can imagine, when I announced we would be going to the all-new, first-ever American Girl Live show, I was met with shrieks of excitement—followed by weeks of planning outfits, accessories, and hair-dos, for both them and their 18-inch sidekicks.

American Girl Live, featuring six of the iconic dolls and an all-girl cast (not to mention an all-female crew and creative team behind the scenes) will be touring the country in 2019, with stops that include New Jersey, ConnecticutPhiladelphia, Boston, New York City, Long Island, and Maryland. In keeping with the American Girl mission, the show is all about "girl power," a message that came through to my girls loud and clear when I took them (and Julie and Maryellen, of course) to the Capitol Center of the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire, one of the show's first tour stops.

Top Dance Studios and Schools for New Jersey Kids

New Jersey parents have no shortage of dance programs to keep their little ones on their toes! Depending on your child's ages and interests—do they want to emulate Misty Copeland, be the next Beyoncé or dance to the beat of an African drum?—there's a class made just for them.

Luckily, NJ's close proximity to the cultural mecca known as New York City means there are many choreographers, former Broadway talent, and retired professional dancers from such elite companies as American Ballet Theatre who are ready and willing to help mold and shape the next generation of dancing stars. 

Whether your tots want to twirl, tap, or pop and lock, these local schools will get them to bust a move. Read on for our picks of some of the best dance studios for kids in New Jersey. Interested in other disciplines? Find more ideas in our Guide to Classes and Enrichment Programs for NJ Kids!

25 Fun Things to Do with Kids in the Phoenix Area

At first glance, Phoenix might seem like just cactus and desert as far as the eye can see. Yet, there is so much more to this western city than scorching heat and golf. Families will find fantastic museums, unique attractions, such as a stunning desert botanical garden and a Butterfly Wonderland, as well as a fascinating history that makes this capital city come to life.

A trip to the Valley of the Sun makes a perfect winter getaway or spring break for sun seekers. There are water parks, pools, hiking, spas for the grown-ups and plenty of resorts from which to choose. We've already explored neighboring Scottsdale, Arizona, and now we want to take you on a tour of the 25 top things to do in Phoenix for families with kids. Whether you stay at a five-star resort or spend your vacation with family and friends, this gem of the Grand Canyon State has a little something for everyone.

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