05 October 2016

Our Top Ten List

The List

This post is for my Mother in Law.  She asked me to make a list of all the fun places I take my kids to so she could take her grandkids Nik and Ava.

Before I start with the list let me remind you who I married.  John is a financial advisor and could also be described as the man who sews his pockets and wallet shut.   Just teasing!  John has always been very good with saving money, planning for the future, and investing.  This is truly one of his gifts and why he does so well in NYC on Wall Street.

John believes in splurging and getting really good gifts at Christmas and possibly anniversaries.  That's about it.  He has made a rule with the kids that unless it's Christmas or your birthday don't bother walking through a gift shop and thinking we are getting you a toy because it's not going to happen (we are wired so differently because I love gift shops).  Anyway, John also believes in getting memberships to places that we frequent often, so many of the places I am listing today we have a membership to.  So I fully recommend that if you like going to zoos and science centers and they provide yearly memberships--join, because you will save so much money, and also pack lunches!

1. Turtle Back Zoo

TBZ Website  Located in West Orange this zoo is by far one of my favorite NJ zoos (Although Cape May County Zoo is my next favorite and it's FREE but 2 hours away).  This zoo has penguins, peacocks, seals, sting rays, kimono dragons, a farm where you can feed the animals, a Dinosaur playground, a reptile center, a live working train (that we ride at least 2-3 times each visit...it's just how we roll!) and this year the zoo gained giraffes!  We have a membership and try to go at least once every 2 months and in the spring and summer time we go once a month.  Parking is included and you can bring a bagged lunch which is very helpful for brining the cost down.

2. Liberty Science Center

LSC Website Located in Jersey City (Exit 14C off the NJ Turnpike) this is by far one of our favorite places to go!  They have a new kid exhibit every few months and right now it's Curious George and it's adorable.  They've also had Sid the Science Kid, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sesame Street, and Dora the Explorer.  They have 4 floors of learning fun including a mini zoo, an Imax DomeTheater and a separate 3D Movie Theater.  You can bring a bagged lunch and purchase a yearly membership.  We go once a month because it just never gets old.  Our favorite area is usually the 2-5 year old zone on the 2nd floor (they have a rice table sensory center, story time, large light bright, painting with water, and a climbing area).  The 4th floor and 3rd floors are the busiest but the most educational (dissecting cow eyes, learning about infections, learning about the body, learning about motion, etc).  On the 4th floor you can go outside and see the NY skyline, the kids like to pretend they can see John working in his office building. 

3. Adventure Aquarium

Adventure Aquarium Website Located in Camden NJ, this aquarium is a bit of a journey, about an hour and 15 minutes from our home but we love seeing the sharks and the hippos and it's a treat to go because Daddy always comes with us!  This aquarium is huge!  It has a whole floor dedicated just to toddlers and of course tons of touch tanks where kids can feel some of the sea creatures.  The yearly membership just made sense for us because we have such a large family and by the time we went twice it paid for itself.

4. Cheesequake Farms

That's my Julia!

CF Website Located in Old Bridge NJ although there are 2 locations off route 9 and off Cottrell road we always go to the one off Cottrell because you can do the corn maze, pony rides, and hay ride, and pick your pumpkin from the pumpkin patch.  It cost us $20 ($4 per person) to do the hay ride and corn maze for all 5 of us and Mia was free (2 and under are FREE).  We always wait to do it on the weekends in October so John can come and they are open until 5pm.  The pumpkins you pick you pay by the pound and this year Julia was able to lift and carry a $10 pumpkin (Daddy must love his baby girl!)

5. Terhune Orchards

Terhune Orchards Website Located in the beautiful Princeton, NJ this is by far our most favorite childhood place.  I fully believe that when the kids are grown and have families of their own they will still have very fond memories of this place.  I started taking the kids to the Read and Pick program when Julia was 2 and Mark was a baby.  They picked their first strawberries, apples, pumpkins, flowers and asparagus right here at this farm.  We love coming to the reading program that incorporates good literature with agriculture, and the homemade cider donuts never go out of style.  They have a field of kid sized tractors that all of my kids love to ride, not to mention a feeding the sheep area, and playground with slide.  The Farmer's Market is open 9-5pm and it costs $7 per child if you do the read and pick program and usually whatever you pick is included in the fee.  The staff is amazing and they love what they do and they treat the children as if they were there own.

Julia at 3 and Mark at 2 :)

6. Allaire State Park

Allaire State Park Website Located in Farmingdale, NJ This historical colonial village has been a near and dear place to my heart since I taught third graders at Timothy Christian School.  I used to bring them to this park to experience life in the colonial days.  The park has a blacksmith shop, a chapel/school room, a bakery, and actual colonial homes from the 1800s.  It also has a railroad station and a functioning train (you know how we love trains!) Pine Creek Railroad.  The only thing that has changed is that they took down the old playground that my kids used to love to play on...I'm not sure if they are rebuilding, but just walking through the village is entertaining enough.  There is also a huge pond, and all the workers dress up in 19th century clothing and explain their "roles" in the 1800s.  It is really cool and the only cost is $5 per car to park.  There are picnic tables so that you can bring your own lunches and eat there but there is a carry out trash policy.

Allaire State Park

7. Holmdel Park

Holmdel Website Located in the beautiful Holmdel, NJ, the best part about this enormous park is the Longstreet Farm and my kids would say the huge playground area.  The park and the farm are free.  And like Allaire state park the Longstreet Farm people dress in the time period of colonial times.  You can get a tour of the farm and the houses for free and learn so much history about the area and the family who lived there.   Julia and Mark learned how to milk a cow at this farm and Mark learned how to run very fast from the peacock that scared him half to death when he was 3.  He still has a fear of peacocks to this day (I am just kidding).  The kids love the chicken coop area, and the horses and cows and the huge sow that has piglets every spring.  We did our first family photo shoot at Holdmel. It is beautiful in the Fall.   There is a huge pond to the left of the farm and there are many hills and trails to go running and hiking on, and paved sidewalks to bring bikes for the kids.

8. Jenkinson's Aquarium

Jenkinson's Website Located in Point Pleasant, NJ this is a much closer but much smaller aquarium and although the kids love the penguins and seals and sharks, my favorite part is the gift shop!  I also love that the aquarium is right on the board walk next to plenty of places to eat and shop and there's an especially good candy shop right next door.  The stamp your hand on the way in and you can leave and come back any time that day.  It's practically empty in the Fall and Winter months so that is when we choose to go, during the summer it is always packed with boardwalk traffic going in and out.

9. Wonder Wing Museum

Wonder Wing Website in Lincroft, NJ located on the Brookdale Community College campus. This museum is for children ages 0-6.  Julia, Mark and Micah loved this place, but once Julia turned 7 we couldn't go anymore.  (I plan on taking Micah and Mia with our Mops group very soon now that the big kids are in school).  The cost is $7 per person, babies are free.  I used to have a membership to the museum when we would go during the fall and winter months a lot.  There is a craft room, a dress up area, and book reading area, a tumble mat, a slide, a bridge to cross, a huge boat to climb up on and underneath the boat is a kitchen with all kitchen toys which all the kids love to put in their mouths (gross!)  There is no eating in the museum and they provide no space inside at all to eat snacks even.  There are picnic benches outside but when it's raining and the kids are hungry you have to go to the car to eat.  

10. Battleview Orchards

Battleview Website Located in Freehold, NJ and literally 10 minutes from my house this is the place we pick our apples and peaches and since we moved here our pumpkins.  They have an amazing Market to buy fresh pies and cider donuts as well.  This is a great place to meet friends and go picking in a large group because they own so much property and acres of fruit trees.  The prices are very reasonable and their fruit is always amazing.

I hope this list was helpful!  One of the joys of my life has been being able to be a stay at home mom for the past 9 years and take my kids to some amazing places to touch, taste, smell, see and hear all the beautiful sights and sounds and learn all the history of this big beautiful world we live in!  I hope this was a helpful resource to all of you!  Please be sure to check out the website links I attached to get updated prices and times so that you can take your own family to these awesome places.

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