Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
The good news? It’s almost summer.
The bad news? It’s almost summer.
And as much as you’re looking forward to sleeping a little later and a less hectic schedule, you’re probably also wondering how to occupy your kids during those long, long, loooong (will it ever get dark?) summer days. Try some of these things to do in Bergen County and beyond to make this the best summer ever, and you’ll be back-to-school shopping before you know it.
Get Up In The Air: Feel like challenging yourself and your family this summer? Try the Treetop Adventure Course right next to the Essex County Turtleback Zoo. This world-class aerial obstacle course offers 30 challenge elements for adults and 15 for kids under 54” and a zipline that is longer than a football field. For the days when it’s too hot to be outside, head up to the Palisades Climb Adventure in the Palisades Center for the world’s tallest indoor ropes course, challenging enough for experienced climbers but with varying designs and difficulty to accommodate all skill levels. If you want to skip the ropes but want to give ziplining a try, head to the Mountain Creek Zip Tours for panoramic views of the tri-state areas as you zipline over a mountaintop lake. Try their sunset ziplining for even better views. Or experience the feeling of skydiving without actually having to jump out of a plane. iFly will give you the instruction and equipment so you too can feel lighter than air.
Get Out on the Farm: Enjoy the bounty of summer in the Garden State with freshly picked produce from local farms that are almost in your back yard, like Abma’s, Secor or Demarest Farms, or pick your own berries. Even better, start your own garden with the help of newcomer Farmburbia. Then settle in for a summer of cobblers, and shortcake, and jellies and jams.
Meet Me at the Fair: Nothing says summer like fried Oreos, funnel cake and food on sticks. If you’ve got a hankering for these or any other fair food, head to the New Jersey State Fair running this year from June 22nd – July 9th at the Meadowlands. Among the 300 attractions, you’ll find a hypnotist, racing pigs, a high-dive show, fireworks and free concerts, along with rides, games and the aforementioned food (PS – the fried Oreo only has 98 calories. So have two). Or, step back in time to Elizabethan England at the New York Renaissance Faire running weekends and Labor Day from August 5th – October 1st. Enjoy jugglers, comedians, magicians, acrobats and an artisan marketplace, then head over to cheer on your favorite knight at the traditional joust. Huzzah! Okay, so it’s not technically summer, but go ahead and put the New York Maker Faire on your calendar as well. Held the weekend of September 23rd and 24th, this “Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth” celebrates the invention, creativity and resourcefulness of the Maker movement.
Dine Al Fresco: Love the idea of eating food that was pulled from the ground just hours before your meal? Farm-to-table dinners at Outstanding in the Field are worth the trip (and the wait – book well in advance) or dine under the flickering lights closer to home at one of Fresh and Fancy Farms cozy farm dinners. Or, if you’re more the surf end of surf and turf, these Hudson River dining hotspots offer good food with incomparable views.
Book a Pirate Experience: Ahoy, mateys! Want to know what it feels like to be a real pirate? Grab your eye patch and head to the Jersey Shore Pirates Adventures in Brick Township. Your little buccaneer will be completely entertained for almost two hours while on the dastardly pirate ship Sea Gypsy. They will read the treasure map, get lessons on pirating, fire water cannons and hunt down a sunken treasure. You will sit there and smile and feel as though you just struck gold.
Catch a Flick: Throw your kids and some blankets in the car and head to the Warwick Drive-In Theater in Warwick, NY. Open every night for double features of first run shows and blockbusters, check their website for information on show dates and times. Or leave the car at home and watch movies under the stars in Ridgewood’s Van Neste Square. Movies in the Park is hosted by the Ridgewood Guild.
Walk on the Wild Side: Head to the Turtleback Zoo to marvel at the gorgeous and graceful giraffes and stop by the newly opened Ronald J. Mount Lion and Hyena Exhibit. Visit the Bergen County Zoo for a summer full of educational programs geared toward kids and covering topics such as the Rain Forest, Zoo Babies and Animal Families. Go on safari at Six Flags Great Adventure where your guided safari tour can include a giraffe feeding as you learn about animals in their habitats. Or check out the ferocious faux dinosaurs at Field Station Dinosaurs.
Take A Dip: Whether you’re Team Ocean or Team Lake or Pool, the best thing about summer is a cool dip on a hot day. So, pack a picnic and your sunscreen and head for one of these best beaches near Bergen county, or pick one of these 9 pool clubs you’ll want to park yourself at this summer and refresh, refresh, refresh.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride: There aren’t many other opportunities to see a hot air balloon spectacle like the 35th Annual QuickChek Festival of Ballooning at the Solburg Airport in Readington. Make sure you don’t miss the twice daily mass inflation and ascension of up to 100 balloons. The sight of all those balloons silently taking flight is worth the trip. Then stay around for exhibits, shows, concerts, games and food.
Eat Frozen Treats: Like ice cream. Lots of ice cream. And since nowadays, there must be photographic evidence of all sweet treats consumed, you’ll probably need to know where to find Insta-worthy frozen treats so you too can document your summer indulgences.
Get Mixed-Up: This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the children’s classic From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, written by E.L. Konigsburg. In the book, sister and brother team Claudia and Jamie Kincaid run away from home and hide at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they uncover a mystery. To mark this special anniversary, on Thursday, July 13 and Saturday, July 15, the Met will be hosting special tours highlighting locations and exhibits mentioned in the book. Bathing in the fountain not included or encouraged!
Leave It to the Ladies: Is your daughter a budding soccer star? Feed her passion with a trip to see New Jersey’s own National Women’s Soccer Club team, the Sky Blue Football Club, play in Piscataway. You’ll have the chance to see soccer legends play alongside the up-and-comers who will keep us cheering for years to come. And if basketball is more her speed, take her to see the New York Liberty in action. Games continue through early September so you’ll have lots of chances to sit inside an air-conditioned arena on some of the hottest days of the year.
Keep Learning: Set your kids up for learning success next fall by keeping their minds active this summer. Sneak in some science at Liberty Science Center where your kids will have so much fun with their hand-on exhibits, they’ll never realize they’re learning something too. Special exhibits this summer include Mythbusters, a combination of live demonstrations, visitor participation and sets and experiences from the show that puts popular myths to the test. Also at LSC this summer is Illusions where your kids will question their perceptions because in this exhibit, nothing is as it seems. Then reinforce all that math homework you suffered through during the school year at the National Museum of Math (MoMath). Kids will enjoy exhibits that deal with shapes, patterns, structures and motion. Or, add the “A” to turn STEM into STEAM and enjoy the great outdoors at the same time with a trip to perennial favorite Storm King Arts Center in New Windsor, NY. Stroll the grounds, rent bikes or take the tram to view sculptural masterpieces by greats like Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein and George Cutts made all the more grand with the natural beauty of the landscape as the backdrop.
Take the Plunge: Oh yeah, we’re talking water parks. And you’ve got several to choose from within a short drive of Bergen County. Stick close to home and spend the day at SplashDown Beach, “America’s Biggest Little Water Park” in Fishkill, NY. Or venture a little further afield and head to Sahara Sam’s and spend the day enjoying their indoor water park and the seasonal Beach Club Outdoor Water Park. Need more thrills? Try the water park at Mountain Creek. With 22 rides in four separate zones, you and your family will be entertained for hours.
Serve It Up: On Saturday, August 26th make the trek to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, NY for Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day. Start your day at this free annual event with interactive games and activities on the grounds. Watch the pros as they prepare to compete in the U.S. Open and to rock out at the Festival Stage powered by Radio Disney. Then, stick around for the ticketed show in Arthur Ashe stadium. Past performers include the Jonas Brothers, Flo Rida and Shawn Mendes.
With this list of the best things to do this summer in Bergen County with kids, you're armed and ready to have an amazing time while keeping the rugrats occupied. Now bring it.