We are driving from Boston to the Baltimore area on a Monday. We'd like to find a place to stop to play for a few hours midway through our drive. We're thinking of stopping for 4-5 hours to wear out the munchkin, have lunch or dinner, etc. The only location we know of is Six Flaggs which is overall too expensive (~$200 for the three of us)... we're looking for indoor or outdoors (we're traveling this month so the weather will still be nice), maybe a zoo, museum, aquarium or other hidden gems you may have.
Mamas of the NJ area, what would you suggest? We just don't know the area very well and for a 3 yo, well, we're at a loss. Any suggestions would be so helpful!
Thanks so much!
I would suggest the Camden Aquarium. It is an easy in and out, as far as driving is concerned, great if the weather is rainy and it is a really nice place. I am trying to think of other options off of the nj turnpike, but I'm coming up blank. There are little places, but none that I can think of that would entertain you for 4-5 hrs. Have a great trip!
There is a very nice park/zoo in Paramus called Van Saun - it has a few large playgrounds and a merry-go-round on one side, and then the zoo itself is small but nice with a train that does a loop around the perimeter. My kids LOVE this place and it's just about exactly halfway between Boston and Baltimore, close to the Garden State Parkway.
Although you'd probably only find an ice cream vendor in the park (if that), you'd be very close to Routes 17 and 4 and the Garden State Plaza Mall (lots of fast food options and 'casual dining' restaurants. Also, right down the road from the zoo, on Route 4, is the Bergen Mall which has a Whole Foods market.
If it's raining, you may want to check out Imagine That children's museum. It's located in Florham Park, which is not far from 287 & 24. I've never been as my LO is too little, but I learned about it from a local moms group.
I second the Camden Aquarium, but pay close attention to your GPS. I wouldn't want to get lost in Camden...
To get to the aquarium in Camden, follow the signs. Following the GPS is generally not a great idea right there, at least not *my* GPS.
My folks-in-law live in Mt. Laurel (near exit 4 on the Turnpike). That's a bit more than halfway--about 2/3-3/4 of the way, I think. Boston is 5-6 hours from this area (in theory), Baltimore is another 1.5-2hr, depending on traffic. We visit several parks in the area. I like Pennington Park in Delanco (off of 130, I'd hop off the turnpike north and go south to get there) and Centennial Park in Medford (a bit further off the beaten path). There are others, of course, but those hold our interest well, though maybe not for 4-5 hours. Both have walking/hiking trails, though, in addition to playgrounds.
If you're up for a jaunt into Philadelphia, you have the Philly Zoo, Please Touch Museum, and Smith Play Place all close to each other. (Smith is free, but closed on Mondays.) My son also likes the Franklin Institute. If you have zoo or museum memberships, you may have reciprocal/reduced entry at any of these. The Garden State Discovery Museum is in Cherry Hill. Not 4-5 hours worth, but a nice little museum for a 3yo.
If it's raining and you don't want to shell out for the aquarium, there's always Ikea in south Philly.
Chasing DS since April 2007 and pumping for DD March 2013.
There is a very nice zoo in West Orange, maybe a tiny bit out of your way but definitely worth a diversion:
They have lots of play areas, a great carousel, farm animals that you can pet and feed, a train ride,etc. etc. They have had a few major renovations recently and it's a really fun place. They have a decent cafe as well, you can get pizza, grilled chicken sandwiches, burgers and fries.
Another place you might want to consider is Fort Tryon Park, technically in Manhattan but it's the northern tip of the island and close to the George Washington Bridge. The park itself is beautiful, much of it on a cliff overlooking the Hudson River. It's a great place to walk around, and there's a large playground at the southern end. The park also houses the Cloisters museum, which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It houses much of the museum's medieval collection. The building is partially constructed of monasteries salvaged from Europe. It is actually pretty kid-friendly--there are lots of outdoor courtyards to wander around. There is a small cafe at the museum that sells sandwiches and fruit. There is also a fancier restaurant in the park itself called the New Leaf Cafe, and there are some random pizza places and small restaurants a few blocks south of the playground. Parking would be easy on a weekday, there are parking lots near the museum and the whole park is easily walkable.
There's also Sesame Place, sort of near Trenton, not sure if this is too far out of your way. I have never been there, but all my friends have and say it's great. There are lots of water activities, so it's best for a warm day, and bring a change of clothing.
(Btw, I just noticed someone recommending Imagine That in Florham Park--I have been there and I would skip it. It's overpriced and nothing special, imho)
Have fun, whatever you choose!
mama to H. 4/05 and A. 9/08 and baby C. 10/11
All the kids around here get wild over getting to go to Liberty Science Center.
For a 3 yo, I also vote for the Camden aquarium. We've gone every year since DD was 2, and she loves, loves loves it. Plus it's likely on your actual route as you describe, yes?
If your route takes you on the NJTurnpike just outside of NYC, there is a wonderful park called Richard W. DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst (it's near Routes 3 and 17 off the Tpk; also near Medieval Times if you're familiar with that part of NJ). The park is basically a reclaimed marshland. You can walk out into the wetlands while jumbo jets fly overhead into Newark. It's pretty amazing to be that low on the ground and see the skycrapers just across the river. Lots of interesting wildlife out there. http://www.njmeadowlands.gov/environment/parks/rdp.html
If you do go through the Bergen County area as PP mentioned above, there is also a decent children's museum. It's not far from Van Saun Park, as mentioned above.
Lovin' my four-pack: M, S, a different M, and me.