The latest Best Themed Places to Take Your Kids update is written by Lindsay Podolak.
From water parks to sandy boardwalks, there’s certainly no shortage of fun spots to take New Jersey kids this summer. But maybe you’re getting tired of the same old places and looking for something a little different. If you’re hoping to discover a new favorite that’s just perfect for your child, we’re here to help with six themed choices to check out.
Whether your kiddo loves trucks, digs dinos or you’re just looking for some old-school fun, we’ve got the venue for you. These awesome locales around the state offer thrills for everyone in the family.
Best for Truck Lovers
The Place: Diggerland
Address: 100 Pinedge Drive, West Berlin
Details: At this construction-themed adventure park, little kids can drive, ride and operate actual machines. The 14-acre park boasts more than 30 attractions, most of which feature actual full-sized construction vehicles. Each machine has been modified to be safe enough for children as small as 36 inches to operate with little to no instruction. Climb aboard a backhoe, dig up treasures with excavators or get behind the controls of a skid-steer. Visitors can also climb the park’s 4-story ropes course or scale the 32-foot tall rock wall. Stop into the arcade for a round of Skee-Ball or grab a bite to eat at the full-service café. Check the calendar for special events like Family Camp Out nights that let you camp out and dig in to fun!
Why I like it: There are five new attractions for 2018, including Farm Tractors, Ventrac 3400’s, Rugged Riders, a Soaring Eagle Zipline and the Elevation Station, which brings you up into the sky for a magnificent view of the park.
More info: www.diggerlandusa.com or call 856-768-1110
Best for Dinosaur Fans
The Place: Field Station: Dinosaurs
Address: 40 Fort Lee Road, Leonia
Details: Your dinosaur lover will flip over this one-of-a-kind experience. Walk through the park and discover 32 life-sized, realistic dinosaurs on 20 acres of woods, paths and trails. Take in shows like Hey Ho Hady, a musical intro to New Jersey’s official state dinosaur, courtesy of the Dinosaur Troubadour. Meanwhile, workshops include Flight of the Dinosaurs, where kids learn how today’s birds are linked to dinosaurs. They can also play the Field Station Challenge or dig for dino fossils lurking beneath the surface at the dig site. Bring your own lunch or munch on burgers, hot dogs and snacks from the park’s food stands.
Why I like it: For the truly dino-obsessed, book a birthday party here. Guests will enjoy park admission, a party host, cupcakes and special extras.
More info: www.fieldstationdinosaurs.com or call 855-999-9010
Best for Playful Preschoolers
The Place: Land of Make Believe
Address: 354 Great Meadows Road, Hope
Details: Free parking, free picnic area and free water park included with paid admission—what’s not to love? Land of Make Believe, sitting on more than 30 acres, is a landmark in the historic town of Hope. It’s nestled in the foothills of the famous Jenny Jump Mountains and State Park. And not much has changed since you visited as a kid. Family faves include the Ferris Wheel, Jump Around Frog and Free Fallin’ Mining Company. Take a break from the heat by visiting Pirate’s Cove, the park’s water area. Stay cool while exploring a pirate ship or relaxing in a wading pool, both ideal for little ones. Hungry? Hit up one of nine food areas serving kid-friendly fare like burgers, pizza, chicken nuggets and ice cream.
Why I like it: Budding actors can bring along a costume and take part in the performance at the Middle Earth Theatre; plus, there’s an option to purchase a DVD of the show to take home and enjoy for years to come!
More info: www.lomb.com or call 908-459-9000
Best For Budding Explorers
The Place: Sterling Hill Mining Museum
Address: 30 Plant Street, Ogdensburg
Details: Bring your little explorers to visit a mine, right in our state! Take a walking tour of the 1,300-foot underground mine and witness equipment used while the mine was in operation. Check out the lamp room, shaft stations and mine galleries dating back to the 1830s. View thousands of mining-related items in the Exhibit Hall, including fluorescent minerals, ore specimens and recovered fossils. Head outside to find sinking buckets, stamp mills, track drills and more. Then there’s the Rock Discovery Center, where kids will learn about rocks quarried in our region; as well as the Fossil Discovery Center, where they’ll dig for fossils in a large sandbox.
Why I like it: Children ages 7 and older can pay $5 to enter the rock and mineral dump, chisel away with an approved hammer and bring home their finds for $1.50 per pound.
More info: www.sterlinghillminingmuseum.org or call 973-209-7212
Best for Old-School Fun
The Place: Bowcraft Amusement Park
Address: 2545 Route 22 West, Scotch Plains
Details: This summer at Bowcraft, both children and adults get in for $15.95 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 4:00 to 8:00 pm. In fact, you’ll receive unlimited access to all rides. This includes favorites like the Crazy Submarine, Crossbow Roller Coaster, Galleon Pirate Ship, Frog Hopper and Scrambler. And don’t miss oldies-but-goodies such as the Merry-Go-Round, Train, Bumper Cars and Tilt-A-Whirl. Play over 50 video games at the arcade or press your luck at Midway games like Ring Toss and Basketball Throw. You’ll find three food locations in the park with options ranging from pizza to salads to chicken wraps.
Why I like it: Bowcraft is on the smaller side for an amusement park, so it’s manageable to do with little kids. It’s also conveniently located on Route 22 so you can get your shopping done beforehand!
More info: www.bowcraft.com or call 908-389-1234
Best For History Buffs
The Place: Wild West City
Address: 50 Lackawanna Drive, Stanhope
Details: The Old West comes to life at Wild West City, a western heritage theme park recreating 1880s life in Dodge City, Kansas. They offer portrayals of western characters, legendary events and a frontier town re-creation. You’ll find something for every member of the family thanks to the park’s 22 different live-action shows, museum-quality exhibits, 24-gauge miniature train ride, pony rides and more. Take a stroll along Main Street to browse the shops and museums or chat with the knowledgeable townsfolk portraying historical figures from early Western life. Pan for gold with your little history buffs and maybe strike it rich. Stop in for a bite to eat at the Golden Nugget Saloon and enjoy live western music too.
Why I like it: With children’s admission only $16, this park won’t break the bank. Your ticket includes free parking, panning for gold, a tour of Barnyard Zoo and access to all live-action shows, exhibits and museums.
More info: www.wildwestcity.com or call 973-347-8900
Hero (Top) Feature Image: © Mat Hayward / Adobe Stock
Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy:
Diggerland USA / Website
Field Station: Dinosaurs / Facebook
Land of Make Believe / Website
The Sterling Hill Mining Museum / Website
Bowcraft Amusement Park / Website
Wild West City / Facebook