Now that it’s FINALLY warm out my mind is pondering places I can take the kids for a nice day outdoors. Some of these are old favorites and some are places I would like to visit. Share your favorite places in the comments section below!

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NATURE CENTERS

One of my favorite places to escape the suburb feeling is Flat Rock Brook in Englewood. I like to park by the Jones Road entrance. Here, my kids can play for awhile and then we can do a short walk. I take the red trail because it goes by the creek and at the top near the bridge there is a flat rock area where we eat lunch or snack.

It can be dangerous for a 2 to 4 year old as there is an upward incline so you need caution here. Once, my older daughter tripped and hit her knee on a rock (so have bandaids ready). Also, my son was standing on a rock in the stream and accidentally fell in (despite repeated warnings to be careful). We had a good laugh but you should have extra clothes or towel on hand in case this happens. They have Toddler Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 4:45pm ($8/child).

The other great nature center in our area is the Tenafly Nature Center. They have a very easy trail near the center which is ideal for 2-4 year olds because there is no slope but not as exciting for older kids. There are also animals in cages that are fun to observe. I haven’t really been to the other trails but it seems well maintained. Tuesdays they have a Little Naturalist Program 1 to 2pm and Saturdays they have a Nature Story Time from 11:30am to 12:15pm.

The James A. McFaul Environmental Center (81 acres) in Wyckoff is another awesome place to visit. They have a nature center, trails ideal for bike riding or running, and a waterfowl pond. The areas by the pond are great for pictures. HealthBarn USA at Abma’s Farm (also in Wyckoff) also has great events that help teach kids about where their food comes from. I wrote about our experience with their program here.

Poet’s Walk in Red Hook, NY is about an hour away and has a long trail to the water. I had to carry my kids for part of the way but it’s level ground. The payoff is a stunning view of the Hudson River. The pic below was taken on that trail. Reviews on Yelp here.

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PLAYGROUNDS

Time to slap on some sunscreen, pack a lunch and make a day of it at the park! Recently, I discovered Castle Park in Haworth (Corner of Whitman Street and Hoover Way). Haworth is a small town next to Demarest. This park is partially shaded, made of wood, and smacks of old fashioned fun. The New Overpeck Park in Ridgefield Park (I always input 100 Challenger Rd for GPS) is always fun if you want the kids to burn some energy. However, there is no shade and it is always windy there (strange, huh?) Branch Brook Park  in Newark has cherry blossoms, so be sure to visit that park if you love those cherry trees.

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For a unique playground, check out Pier C in Hoboken. The link will take you to a review I did last year on it. There is a water play area and sand pit so bring clothes accordingly. The slide is made of metal, though, so some architect did not think about kids burning their bottoms in the summer!

If you didn’t get to go last year, check out the attraction in Secaucus called Field Station Dinosaurs. I wrote a review about our experience here.

Related posts:

Parks and Recreation (some of my favorite parks and rec departments). I talk about Wood Park, Leonia; Constitution Park, Fort Lee; and Van Saun Park, Paramus in this post. I wrote about Votee Park in Teaneck in this post: Link here.

If you are planning an outdoor party at one of the Bergen County parks, check out my essential guide here.

New  York City

Be sure to sign up for the carpool discount so you don’t end up paying hefty toll fees when you cross the GWB with at least three people in the car (infants and children count too!). Going to NYC should be easy & cheap for us NJ folk, right? I wrote about it here.

Also, a great tip is to sign up for the Wildlife Conservation Society Premium membership. You get two adults admissions and all your children admissions to the Bronx Zoo free for a year, access to all the special attractions, parking, member’s evenings invitations, discounts at the gift shop and restaurants, priority zoo entry.

And, you get free admission to the Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and the NY Aquarium when it reopens. All of this for only $169! And, if you have guests from out of town you can bring one additional guest—great for visiting friends/family over the summer.

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I also took the kids once to this really cool playground in Brooklyn called Pier 6 (pic above) There is a review, here on Yelp.  If you’re searching for something different in terms of playgrounds, check this one out! There is a water play area and cool swings–I thought it was worth the drive. But, it can get crowded and parking is pricey and street parking is hard to find.

There is another park in Tribeca called Pier 25 that is similar but a little smaller and more manageable, which my friend told me about.

ON THE AGENDA

  • I’ve heard that Blue Hill Stone Barns (about 30-45 minutes away in Pocantico Hills, NY) is not just a ginormously expensive place to have a meal but also somewhere you can take the kids to explore the grounds and have some food at the café. However, I read on Yelp that the food can be cold and choices are limited. The café is open Wed to Sunday from 10am to 4:30pm. One reviewer said, “There is only outdoor seating, but you can bring the food on a walk around the farm with you as well if you fancy that. The farm itself is adorable. There were sheep and cows and ducks, all splattered across a beautiful green backdrop.”
  • Trailside Nature Center (Mountainside, NJ) I’ve heard great things about this Nature Center and can’t wait to take the kids!
  • Green Meadows Farm in Hazlet, NJ has been on my list of places to go for awhile. It’s only open in the spring and fall and this year it’s open May 3rd to June 9th. It’s $12/per person. You can find a $2 each admission coupon on their web site. Supposedly, it’s a great way for kids to get up close and personal with animals as they are not all penned. Exit 117 on the GS Parkway.
  • Fruit picking in Andover, NJ. This farm is about an hour away in Sussex County and has delicous strawberries and raspberries. The season starts end of May or beginning June. Check their site for details…Link here.

What place are you itching to go back and visit or try out for the first time? Or share your thoughts on one of the places I mentioned above! Time to pack those picnic baskets and feel the warm sun on our backs!