The days are getting longer, the air is getting warmer and you are getting seriously sick of staring at the four walls of your house. Need some suggestions for places to go and things to do this spring? Check out these 19 ways to make this the best spring ever. Whether you need to waste a few hours or fill a whole day, whether you’re slipping out to do some adulting or you have the whole family in tow, we’ve got ideas that will entertain, educate and best of all, feed your whole family. So fire up the GPS, you have some exploring to do.
Make a day of it. You wake up on a weekend morning, check your calendar and realize (gasp!) you have a free day. You can, of course, choose to laze around at home but you can also toss the family in the car and head out for an adventure upstate. First stop, Poughkeepsie, NY where you’ll find the Walkway over the Hudson, a former railway bridge that has been transformed into a linear park over the Hudson River. Bring an extra layer, it’s sometimes breezy over the water. Or, if history is your thing, hop on the Roosevelt Ride for a tour of the Roosevelt and Vanderbilt mansions and gardens, and the FDR Presidential Library. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, travel 30 minutes further north to Kingston, NY where everyone’s favorite NYC-based food market, Smorgasburg, will once again mix its particular brand of food and flea market alchemy sure to please parents and kids alike. Then head home tired and full of good food and great memories.
Splurge on a sitter. We know that going out on a Friday night sometimes seems like a better idea than it turns out to be, but what if we told you about a place where you can eat, drink, dance and still be home before 11? Check out the Midnight Market in Jersey City. Held on the second Friday of every month, this indoor market features “amazing food and drinks AND a full blown dance party!” The best part? Almost everything costs $5. Pro Tip: If you don’t like lines (and trust us, we don’t like lines) you can purchase an advanced ticket for $10 that will give you access to the market an hour before it opens to the public!
Celebrate the cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms have a notoriously short bloom period (April–May) so set aside some time to enjoy them while they last. If you’re in the city, stroll along the Cherry Walk, which runs along the Hudson River in Riverside Park from 100th Street – 125th Street. But if you want to spend a whole day admiring these breath-taking imports from Japan, head to the Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival, held at Branch Brook Park in the North Ward of Newark, NJ. Events include a bike race and a 10k run the weekend of April 8–9 and a one mile fun run, family day activities, and a fishing derby and Bloomfest the weekend of April 22–23.
Become a chocolate connoisseur. Oh, we know you’ve been tasting chocolate all your life. But do you know the history of chocolate? How it goes from “tree to bar”? Have you seen the tools the Mayans and other ancient civilizations used to create the treat we now have to hide in the back of our pantry so we can save some for ourselves? You’ll learn all this and more at Jacques Torres’ new Chocolate Museum and Experience, located on Hudson Street in Manhattan. You’ll get hands on demonstrations and tastings and for the kids, a play area to work off the sugar high before you strap them into the car for the drive home.
Take your pick. Sure, you can always pick up a carton of strawberries on your next trip to the grocery store, but why not pick your own instead? New Jersey isn’t called The Garden State for nothing and you-pick-it farms are dotted all over the state. Find your perfect picking spot, grab a bucket and indulge your hankering for fresh strawberries warm off the vine. Just don’t forget to save some for later. Because, shortcake.
Head to Philly. Tired of the daily torture of stepping on an errant Lego brick as you cross through the family room? Pack them away for a day and take the family to the new Legoland Discovery Center , located in the Plymouth Meeting Mall off I-276 about 30 minutes northwest of Philadelphia. With 10 Lego-themed play areas, a 4D cinema, Ninjago training camp, build challenges, a Lego Friends area and their famed miniland, the problem won’t be getting the family to go, it will be getting the family to leave! Legoland Discover Center opens on Friday, April 7th. After a full day of building, you'll be ready for an evening at Philadelphia's jawdropping Chinese Lantern Festival, where hundreds of larger-than-life illuminated silk sculptures, acrobatics, dancers, authentic crafts and the return of a 200-foot-long dragon glow up the night.
Commemorate Earth Day. On April 22nd, Earth Day, both Skylands, the New Jersey Botanical Garden in Ringwood, NJ and Wave Hill in the Riverdale area of the Bronx will have a weekend full of activities in observance of this most important of days. Or, if you happen to be visiting the New York Botanical Garden that weekend, what better way to honor the earth than by attending the brand new Dale Chihuly exhibit?
Play All Day. Right, all these events are great but sometimes you just need to blow off steam for an hour or so before dinner. When you just need to let your little one(s) run, these top playgroup picks will guarantee you hours of fun (and a chance to check email for the first time all day).
Shave and a Hair Cut. If it’s time for you to put away your heavy coat, then it must be time for the sheep to do the same thing. Get a front row seat for the action at the Bergen County Zoo’s Sheep Shearing on May 7th or venture further afield (get it? afield?) and head to the Stone Barns Sheep Shearing Fest to be held in Pocantico Hills, NY on Saturday, April 29th.
Take a Ride on the Wild Side. Are thrill rides your thing? Like to mix a little fear into your fun? Six Flags Great Adventure’s got you covered with the new Justice League – Battle for Metropolis in 4D opening this year. Not just a ride, it’s an adventure and they need you to save Metropolis. If that’s not enough, on April 8th Hershey Park will debut the Hershey Triple Tower, three towers, three heights, three sets of thrills. Choose from the lowest (Kisses Tower) or the middle height (Reese’s Tower) or go all in on the 189 ft. high Space Shot and Turbo Drop of the Hershey Tower. We’d suggest you wait to eat at the all new Chick-Fil-A restaurant until after you’ve finished. Or, get wet at Kalahari indoor water park, now the largest in America, thanks to Phase II opening earlier this year.
Take a Weekend Away. Need a change of scenery? Some time to recharge your batteries, sleep in, take some me-time, remember why you liked your significant other in the first place? Check out these stunning spots that are perfect for either a romantic weekend getaway or a splurge on the most important person in your life…you!
Catch a Show. Is there anything better than settling into your seat, waiting for the lights to dim and being whisked away to another world for a while? If you’d like to share this experience with your child, try one of these kid-friendly performances. WP Presents has a full schedule of children’s shows including The Monster Who Ate My Peas and Stone Soup and Other Stories. See what Peppa Pig is up to now in Peppa Pig’s Big Splash at the NJPAC on April 27th, or get groovy with Pete the Cat at the BergenPAC on May 18th. And don’t forget, Paw Patrol Live! will be making littles smile at Madison Square Garden starting March 23rd.
Find a Fairy. Just off the Rahway Trail at the South Mountain Reservation in Locust Grove, you’ll see where they might live. A doorway set in the roots of a tree, a little room, a bed. Look closely but don’t touch. Fairy houses are fragile. And please, don’t leave your own fairy house but do leave a note to let the fairies know you stopped by. Take the short hike and see what else you find. But be gone by dusk. That’s when the fairies come out to play and you don’t want to scare them away!
Watch for Wolves. For a truly once in a lifetime experience, head to Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, NJ where you will learn about the “social structure, eating habits and human interaction” of this elusive, endangered species, all while watching from the observation area as four different wolf packs romp. Or, visit Howling Woods Farm in Jackson, NJ to meet domestic bred wolves, wolfdogs, and northern breeds. Adults and children 13 and older will be offered the opportunity to enter the wolf enclosures and interact with the animals. Tours are by appointment only and adoptions are possible. Howling Woods Farm is a 501(c)(3) charity.
Dine Al Fresco. Oh yeah, you’ve been waiting all winter for this one. Use our guide to top picks for outdoor dining in Bergen County and enjoy your meal under the stars.
Indulge your Inner Foodie. What if we told you there was a place where top chefs from around New Jersey would prepare your meals for you, let you sample their tastiest creations, and pair everything with just the right wine for each course? Did we have you at chefs would prepare your meals? Then book your stay at the Crystal Springs Resort for the NJ Wine & Food Festival, to be held the weekend of April 1st – 3rd. Then book your session with a trainer for Monday morning. After a long weekend of eating, you’re going to need it!
Don your Easter Bonnet. No Easter celebration is complete without an Easter Egg Hunt so head to Heaven Hill Farm or Oasis Family Farm for some eggstravagant family fun. Pet the Chicks and Bunnies at this annual favorite at Abma’s Farm or, sign up for an Easter Bunny Train Ride to meet the rabbit of the hour in person and ride a train or enjoy the Easter Bunny Train Ride along the scenic Delaware River and visit with Mr. E. Bunny and an egg hunt at the end. Definitely a parenting win.
Hit It Out of the Park. Couldn’t make it to Arizona or Florida for spring training this year? Do the next best thing. Tour Citifield or Yankee Stadium and while you’re there, look at all those empty seats and remember that opening day is less than a month away.
Browse the Books. Well, all these activities have been great, but now you need a day to put your feet up and relax with a good book. And so do your kiddos. Review the books that won this year’s Newbery and Caldecott book awards and mentions. Then head to your local library or book store and pick one up. Because sometimes, you don’t need to leave home to find yourself in another place altogether.