Fun Day Trips for Kids in and around NJ

Summer means no school, longer days, and just maybe the time to take some family trips! Not every trip has to involve a long drive or plane ride, though; we have some neat destinations right in our state (or very close-by) that can make for some fun day trips. My family visited the Crayola Factory earlier this year and Medieval Times for my birthday in May. We had a lot of fun at both, and we have been looking for more places to visit! Here is a list of 15 places and activities that I have enjoyed visiting or were recommended by friends, along with some suggested resources for finding and making your own list.

In New Jersey:

Howell Living History Farm
Howell is a living history farm, meaning it practices farming as it was done in NJ between 1890 and 1910. The farm is open Tuesday through Sunday, however most of their programs are on the weekend. They have lots of activities for kids looking to get their hands dirty, including gathering honey, making milk and butter, hog slopping and weighing, and hay rides, plus arts and crafts and sing-a-longs. In the fall, they have a wonderful corn maze! Located in Hopewell Township, NJ.

Lee Turkey Farm
Located in Hightstown, NJ, Lee Turkey Farm has been owned by the Lees since 1868. They have many U-pick opportunities (e.g.: strawberries, melons, and blackberries), and also fun tours where you can see their turkeys and honeybees and learn about the farm’s different fruits and vegetables. I visited there when I was in preschool, and I still remember it!

Jersey Shore Alpacas
Alpacas in New Jersey? Yes! Jersey Shore Alpacas is a farm located in Green Creek, a small town near historic Cape May, NJ. Their “open days” on the weekend are free, and you can feed the alpacas carrots through the fence and visit their farm store. However, if you call ahead for a private tour on a day that is not an “open day,” you get a personal tour that includes going in the paddock with the alpacas! Private tours are $20 for up to 4 people, with each additional person being $5. Though I have not yet made it here, the private tour comes highly recommended.

The Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial
If your children are interested in history or ships, this would be a fun trip to Camden, NJ! Visitors go on the real 1940s-era ship and explore a series of interactive and hands-on exhibits. The ship is nearly three football fields long and over 11 stories high – the longest battleship ever built. If a tour is not enough time, you can spend a night aboard and experience sleeping in the bunks! Two different tours are available, with tickets being around $17-$30/person, depending on the tour. However, children under 5 are free. Note: You cannot bring a stroller aboard the ship. Many branches of the library system offer a free pass for the Battleship New Jersey. Check our Museum Pass webpage to make a reservation.

Adventure Aquarium & Camden Children’s Garden
Also located in Camden, NJ, the Adventure Aquarium and Camden Children’s Garden are right next door to each other on the Camden waterfront. You can also take a ferry ride while you are there or get combo tickets with the Battleship New Jersey to make a whole weekend out of your trip! The Aquarium is a great place to visit and has many unique attractions: more than 8,500 aquatic species, the largest collection of sharks on the East Coast, the only aquarium in the world with a hippo exhibit, Little Blue penguins, and the longest Shark Bridge in the world. Tickets are around $20-30/person. The Children’s Garden is geared more for younger children, and it has lots of fun spots: a butterfly house, a dinosaur garden, a storybook garden, an “underground” maze, a tree house, and more! There are also special events with music and crafts. The garden is closed Mondays & Tuesdays. Tickets are $9/person, with rides being an extra cost.

NJ State Museum
Located in Trenton, NJ, the NJ State Museum has many exhibits specific to NJ, as well as rotating exhibits. Currently, there are exhibits on toy manufacturing in NJ and on fossils! They also have a planetarium and hold story times and scavenger hunts. It is a nice place to remember for those rainy summer days or when it is too hot to be outside. The Museum is closed Mondays and state holidays. General admission is free for children under 13 and only $5 for adults. The planetarium is an additional cost.

Turtle Back Zoo & Popcorn Park Zoo
A zoo always makes a fun outing, and these two are nice to keep in mind. Located in West Orange, NJ and Forked River, NJ, respectively, they each feature many exotic animals and fun exhibits.

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
American landmarks, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are moving reminders of the immigrant experience in the late 1800s to mid-1900s. The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from France in the late 1800s which symbolized liberty, freedom, and hope. Ellis Island was the first stop for most immigrants and was the point at which their entrance to the country was decided. The moving stories of these immigrants are on display along with artifacts from that time. Both spots are popular tourist destinations, and it is almost a must that you book in advance. A note of caution: The Statue of Liberty in particular has limited access. Visiting the pedestal or grounds can be booked close to the day of your trip, but crown tours need to be booked months in advance.

Glassworks
Glassworks Studio
While I have not visited this particular studio, my husband and I had such a great experience making glass projects at the Corning Museum of Glass in NY that I have included this on my list. Located in Morristown, NJ, the Studio offers classes and workshops for everyone with no experience required! Reservations can be made in advance, and walk-ins are welcome.

In Pennsylvania:

Dutch Wonderland
Located in Lancaster, PA (about 2 hours away), this is a fun amusement park geared mostly to families with younger children. The theme is medieval, focusing on castles, princesses, knights, Merlin, and dragons, with a side of dinosaurs. They have over 35 family-friendly rides, attractions, and shows, and there is also a water play area. There is a campground on site, and hotels are nearby if you want to stay over. Tickets are about $40/person.

Knoebels Amusement Park
Highly recommended by friends, this park is located about 3 hours away in Elysburg, PA. What makes this amusement park unique is that admission is FREE! Instead, you pay per ride. They have classic rollercoasters, kid-friendly rides, swimming, camping, golf, and free entertainment. This provides a nice option for family chaperones who prefer to watch rather than go on rides.

Philadelphia, especially the historic sights
Philadelphia holds a wealth of historic sites that are located close together and can be seen in one whirlwind trip. Friends of mine had a great time on a day trip where they visited the U.S. Mint (free), the Federal Reserve (free—and you get a small bag of shredded money as a souvenir!), Independence Hall (free), the Liberty Bell (free), the first Post Office (free), the Betsy Ross House (small fee), the Declaration House (small fee), the Ben Franklin Museum (small fee), and Christ Church Cemetery with Ben Franklin’s grave (can see grave from the outside or can pay a small fee to enter the cemetery). There are also many museums and hot-spots like Reading Terminal Market. There is also a new LEGOLAND Discovery Center that opened nearby in Plymouth Meeting, PA. My advice is to plan your visit before you go so you are not overwhelmed by all the possibilities!

Herr’s Snack Factory Tour
Touring a factory is always a neat experience, and what could be more fun than seeing some of your favorite snacks being made?! I remember visiting the Herr’s Factory when I was little, and I loved watching the snacks being made—real workers in the real manufacturing areas—and tasting samples at the end. They also have a little store where you can find some good bargains. Admission is inexpensive, but booking in advance is highly recommended. Herr’s Factory is located about 2 hours away in Nottingham, PA. If that is a bit far, the Auntie Anne’s in Franklin Mills (about a half hour away) offer free field trips where you can roll your own pretzel. Call ahead to book in advance.

Ringing Rocks County Park
Recommended by a friend, this well-kept secret in Bucks County, PA is not your average county park! Yes, it has picnicking spots, hiking, and nature areas—including Bucks County’s largest waterfall, BUT it is also a great spot for budding geologists or anyone who likes to wield a hammer. The park has an open field of rocks piled 10 feet high that ring like a bell when struck with a hammer! Pack your hammer and head over for a nice day out!

Crayola Experience
Located in Easton, PA, this is a great activity for kids (and “big kids”) who love crayons! It is geared more toward younger children, but anyone can have fun naming their own personal crayon, making wax figurines and spin art, and learning how crayons are made. For younger kids, there is an activity studio, water works, and play area. They also have a large store with crayons, markers, and pretty neat themed memorabilia. Tickets are around $20/person (though check under “special offers” to see if there’s a coupon).

Resources: (** = highly recommended)

Books:

New Jersey

** Fun with the Family New Jersey by Francesca Di Meglio. GPP Travel, 2012.
(Call number: NJ 917.49 FUN 2012)
Excellent, easy-to-read guide listing activities in each NJ county. Includes restaurant and hotel suggestions, a list of seasonal celebrations and festivals, and highlighted fun facts or compilations, such as movies and TV series that take place in NJ.

New Jersey for Kids by Patrick Sarver. Rivergate Books, 2012.
(Call number: NJ 917.49 SAR 2012)
Similar to Fun with the Family New Jersey, however this guide is grouped by topic (museums, sports, history made fun, etc.) rather than by county.

New Jersey: An Explorer’s Guide by Andi Marie Cantele. The Countryman Press, 2005.
(Call number: NJ 917.49 NEW 2005)
An older book, but well-organized. Divides the state by region, and marks kid-friendly attractions with a crayon symbol.

New Jersey by Deborah Kent. Children’s Press, 2014.
(Call number: J 974.9 KEN)
This book from the children’s area has a small travel guide section at the back. It is not as comprehensive, but it is more kid-friendly and offers a chance to learn some fun facts about the state.

Weird NJ by Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran. Sterling, 2005.
(Call number: NJ 917.49 WEI 2008)
Kid-friendly attractions are not specifically marked, but many of the bizarre sites and the legends that surround them would be of interest.

Moon Handbooks: New Jersey by Laura Kiniry. 2nd ed., Avalon Travel, 2009.
(Call number: NJ 917.49 MOO 2009)
Although this guide does not specifically highlight children-friendly areas, it is a good general guide to the state.

Pennsylvania

Eastern Pennsylvania: An Explorer’s Guide by Laura Randall. The Countryman Press, 2012.
(Call number: 917.48 EAS 2012)
Divides the state by region, and marks kid-friendly attractions with a crayon symbol.

Pennsylvania by Barbara A. Somerville. Children’s Press, 2015.
(Call number: J 974.8 SOM)
This book from the children’s area has a small travel guide section at the back. It is not as comprehensive, but it is more kid-friendly and offers a chance to learn some fun facts about the state. 

Tri-State Area

New York, New Jersey & Pennsylvania by Jeff Campbell, et al. Lonely Planet, 2011.
(Call number: 917.4 NEW)
Also not kid-specific, but this is a well-put-together guide covering the three states.

Websites:

A simple web search will turn up many websites with “Top 10” lists of places to visit in New Jersey, but here are two that I think are worth a look.

Fun Things to do with Kids in NJ by Fun New Jersey,
Many good ideas broken down by category, such as waterparks, glass crafting centers, educational attractions, fun farms for kids, and more.

Cool Historical Places to Take Your Kids in NJ by Rachel Desantis. New Jersey Family, 2017,
As the title suggests, this article lists some fun-sounding trips to interest your child in history. Most seem to be fairly inexpensive, too.

** Museum Passes from Mercer County Library System
The library offers free passes to many child-friendly museums throughout the state. These are great resources to use!

—Jennifer Crabtree, Lawrence Branch, Youth Services

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