girl pirateUpdated June 2014

What kid doesn’t go through a pirate stage? (And, let’s face it, what mom doesn’t have at least a wee crush on Captain Jack Sparrow?) We've previously mentioned some of the pirate cruises available on the Jersey Shore, but you don’t have to travel for hours in Parkway traffic to give your little buccaneer the adventure of a lifetime. If staying close to home is part of your ideal summer day, try one of these pirate destinations.

Ready to get wet?

The Land of Make Believe and Pirate’s Cove (908-459-9000) in Hope is an amusement and water park with an old carnival feel. As you can tell from the name, the water park has a pirate theme and encourages imaginative play. Your kids can get soaked in Blackbeard’s Pirate Fort when the thousand-gallon dumping bucket tips over, go action tubing on Blackbeard’s River, feel like they’re being chased by pirates on the Pirate’s Plunge body slide, or have some low-key fun in the wading pool, which is home to a pirate ship with slides, nets, and water-shooting cannons.

Raining out? 

Head to the indoor Dorothy V. Morehouse WonderWing at the Monmouth Museum (732-747-2266) in Lincroft for a simulated undersea adventure. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a huge pirate ship for kids to climb on, and it’s replete with a rope bridge, captain’s steering wheel, kitchen, and see-through floor that allows kids to gaze at sea “creatures” below. Before boarding, kids can get into character by dressing up in pirate clothes available in the Wing’s Tiki Theater or studying the books on pirate life in the reading area. When they come off the ship, they’ll be wowed by the life-size glow-in-the-dark hidden treasure diorama that features a skeleton and big orange octopus lucking amongst pirate’s loot. The WonderWing is for kids 6 and under, but older siblings can visit the museum’s Becker Children’s Wing, designed for kids 7-12.

Want to stay even closer to home? 

If you live in or near Somerset County, check out the Kidstreet Playground in Bridgewater, which includes a big wooden pirate ship. In Union County, consider Bowcraft Amusement Park (908-389-1234) in Scotch Plains. One of its main attractions is the Galleon Pirate Ship, a pendulum-type ride for kids 36” and up. After taking a turn (or two or three), kids will find a host of other fun and exciting rides and attractions—the stuff little summer dreams are made of! 

Renée Sagiv Riebling is a freelance writer from central New Jersey. She and her husband and their two children are always on the lookout for new adventures. 

Argghh! What other sort of pirate fun are you and your little ones finding in NJ?