Visit an NJ Garden
353 East Hanover Ave., Morristown
181 Fairgrounds Rd., Hamilton
1112 Dukes Pkwy., West Hillsborough Twp.
New Jersey isn’t called the Garden State for nothing. There are tons of stunning gardens and arboretums to marvel at with the fam. Visit Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown for 127 acres of bike trails, rose gardens and open space (hit the Great Lawn for an outdoor concert!). If you have budding artists on your hands, take ’em to Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, a garden boasting more than 200 unique and surreal sculptures, not to mention lily ponds and free-roaming peacocks. And there’s no shortage of natural beauty at Duke Farms in West Hillsborough Township, where guests can explore 2,000 acres, hang at the stunning Old Fountain, sniff their way through the Orchid Range and break a sweat on 18 miles of trail.
Make New Animal Friends
89 Mount Pleasant Rd., Columbia
1390 White Bridge Rd., Millington
44 Willow Ave., Peapack
It’s finally warm enough to visit their fave zoos and aquariums again. But there are more unconventional ways to get their wildlife fix. Have a howling good time at the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, where the kids can take a Wolf Watch tour of the grounds and see three different types of wolves interact, eat and play. If you’re into bird watching, The Raptor Trust in Millington is a great place to start. Meet owls, hawks, eagles and other winged creatures that are being rehabilitated back to health. If the kids want something hands-on, nothing beats Bluebird Farm’s alpacas in Peapack, who are at their fluffiest in April and May. Visit the barn to pet and feed these cuties, then shop alpaca yarn and more at the barn shop.
Explore a National or State Park
128 South Hartshorne Dr., Highlands
211 Main St., West Orange
4265 Atlantic Ave., Wall
Bayview Ave. and 24th Ave., Seaside Park
330 State Park Rd., Hope
You might’ve hiked the usual suspects near you (we love Palisades Interstate Park in Alpine and Stairway to Heaven in Vernon), but have you crossed a National or State Park off your list yet? Start with Gateway National Recreation Area in Highlands, which will take you to the beaches of Sandy Hook, a historic lighthouse and tons of fishing spots. History buffs and STEM kids will have a blast at Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, where they’ll get to see his lab complex, film studio and inventions. As for state parks, head to Allaire in Wall to get a taste of the 19th-century iron industry, Island Beach State Park in Seaside Park for clean, empty white sands and an ocean view, or Jenny Jump State Forest in Hope for canoeing, picnicking and boating.
Hit an Epic Playground
199 Challenger Rd., Ridgefield Park
Cherry Ln., West Orange
Claude Dr., Bridgewater
Mix up post-school play by heading to a next-level park. Overpeck County Park in Ridgefield Park boasts walking paths and sports fields, plus climbing walls, a trampoline web, spinning monkey bars and more. Regatta Playground in West Orange is tucked away in South Mountain Reservation next to Turtle Back Zoo, and has a massive ship centerpiece complete with sails. Bridgewater’s Kidstreet, built entirely by local volunteers, has huge jungle gyms and obstacle courses for kids to take on (don’t miss the zip line!).
Go Horseback Riding
256 South Maple Ave., Basking Ridge
440 South St., Morristown
631 County Rd., Whitehouse Station
12-22 Woodland Ave., West Orange
From private stables to recreational rides, there are tons of ways the kids can try their luck in the saddle. Lord Stirling Stable in Basking Ridge hosts pony parties, group trail rides and lead line rides for beginner riders, plus workshops on taking care of horses. Morristown’s Seaton Hackney Stables is home to riing camps, trail rides and private lessons. If you’re experienced, take on an unguided ride on the open trail at Silver Bit & Spur Farm in Whitehouse Station. If your child has special needs, try Rocking Horse Rehab at the Essex Equestrian Center in West Orange.
Spend the Day at an Amusement or Water Park
1 Six Flags Blvd., Jackson
200 NJ-94, Vernon
354 Great Meadows Rd., Hope
Time to hit the coasters, ride the carousel and more at nearby thrill parks. Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson finally reopens for the season in early April, meaning you can ride Nitro, Kingda Ka and more before the summer crowds start. Mountain Creek in Vernon boasts a mountain coaster, ropes course and golf during the spring, not to mention an epic water park over the summer. For the youngest of your squad, Land of Make Believe in Hope is a prime pick. Think a pirate ship, wading pool, jumbo carousel and more.
Make a Splash on the Open Water
778 Frenchtown Rd., Milford
100 Rte. 46, Columbia
14th and Ocean Dr., Avalon
1121 NJ-109, Cape May
Calling all thrill seekers! Nothing beats white water rafting, tubing or kayaking down the Delaware River. Hit the rapids with the fam for two to four hours, then settle in for a picnic lunch with Delaware River Tubing in Milford. Tubing trips are a great choice if you want to skip all that paddling; hit the water then stay the night at Delaware River Family Campground in Columbia. Want to keep your distance from the water? Head down the shore to whale and dolphin watch before peak season hits. Try Miss Avalon Dolphin and Nature Cruises in Avalon, or a 12-hour excursion with Utsch’s Marina Cape May.
See a Spring Show
30 N. Van Brunt St., Englewood
100 South St., Morristown
300 Pompton Rd., Wayne
1601 Irving St., Rahway
These local theaters are sure to put some spring in their step. Hit Englewood’s bergenPAC to see Pirate School, a hilarious variety show for little swashbucklers, on April 13. If your kid loves making messes, don’t miss Double Dare Live at MPAC in Morristown, where Marc Summers will host a live version of this old TV show (slime included) on May 19. If your kid is on the autism spectrum or has sensory sensitivities, go to sensory-friendly performances of Madeline and the Bat Hat at the Shea Center for Performing Arts in Wayne (Apr. 16) or Henry & Mudge at UCPAC in Rahway (Apr. 28).
Visit a Local Ice Cream Shop
200 Park Ave., Rutherford
616 Grove St., Montclair
We all scream for NJ licks! Try a new shop with your little sugar monsters this spring, like Ice Cream Charlie’s in Rutherford that scoops flavors like cannoli, frozen hot chocolate and Rice Krispy. Hoffman’s Ice Cream is a Jersey institution, serving up sweets in multiple locations since 1955 (be sure to try Jersey Monkey, a mix of banana ice cream, peanut butter and chocolate chips). Applegate Farm in Montclair is also a crowd fave, housed in an 1848 farmhouse and voted Best Ice Cream in NJ by our readers on our 2018 Ultimate Bucket List. Magic Fountain in Summit is a local fave, offering everything from homemade dog treats to specialty floats to cookie and pretzel cones. The Bent Spoon in Princeton doles out artisanal licks, not to mention gourmet hot chocolate, house marshmallows and baked goods. Freehold’s Jersey Freeze boasts a full Jersey-inspired food menu in addition to homemade chipwiches, ice cream cakes, cupcakes and pies.