Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ben's Playground Picks - Regatta Playground, West Orange, NJ

Today, we're going to kick off a new category called Ben's Playground Picks


I am so excited to share Regatta Playground in West Orange, NJ with you! It is brand new - opening less than a month ago on August 14th! How neat is that?

This nautical themed playground is located in the South Mountain Recreation Complex, right next to the paddle boating and picnic area. We put the address 9 Cherry Lane, West Orange NJ in our GPS and had no issues finding it. Parking is located directly across the street from the playground at the Oakdale Parking lot. It is open year-round from 10am-8pm.

Regatta Playground is completely fenced in, which is a feature I appreciate immensely. You won't find any uncomfortable metal benches here- instead, colorful Adirondack chairs are sprinkled all around the playground. What a great touch! There are also water fountains of different heights right by the entrance. The restroom facilities are located just a short walk away, right next to the paddle boat dock.

The thought that went behind this playground is tremendous! Everything is meticulously crafted from the ground (which is made of a spongy, bouncy material) on up. I don't think I have seen a more aesthetically-pleasing playground. 

5-12 year olds and a pre-school playground for 2-5 year olds - See more at: http://www.njplaygrounds.com/9791/regatta-playground-south-mountain-reservation-west-orange-nj-clipper-pavilion-playground/#sthash.pdbnLbxg.dpuf
Tip: Make sure to bring snacks, as there didn't seem to be any quick snacking options available.

Now onto the details: The bigger play structures are aimed for ages 5-12, and the smaller play structures are aimed at ages 2-5. There are 24 separate pieces of equipment in total, and they are all very unique and engaging. Yes, there were the tried and true slides and swings, but there were also mini rope-climbing installations, spinning discs, and even a musical instrument station! I have never seen these types of equipment in a playground!


And the best part of this playground - it's free! Ben thoroughly enjoyed everything the Regatta Playground had to offer!

You can totally make a day of all of the wonderful things the South Mountain Recreation Complex has to offer, which include the Turtle Back Zoo, Safari MiniGolf, Treetop Adventure Course, McLoone's Boathouse Restaurant, Paddle Boating, Richard J. Codey Ice Arena, as well as the scenic South Mountain Reservation that gives you plenty of outdoor options for family fun with:
Ten picnic areas
Nineteen miles of hiking and walking trails
Twenty-seven miles of carriage roads for jogging, horseback riding, & cross-country skiing
Archery range
Fishing at Diamond Mill Pond
Hemlock Falls
Various wildlife, including deer
Largest parkland in Essex County 

Regatta Playground in West Orange, NJ is definitely Ben Approved!
 
 


Oakdale Parking area
9 Cherry Lane, West Orange NJ
5-12 year olds and a pre-school playground for 2-5 year olds - See more at: http://www.njplaygrounds.com/9791/regatta-playground-south-mountain-reservation-west-orange-nj-clipper-pavilion-playground/#sthash.pdbnLbxg.dpuf
5-12 year olds and a pre-school playground for 2-5 year olds - See more at: http://www.njplaygrounds.com/9791/regatta-playground-south-mountain-reservation-west-orange-nj-clipper-pavilion-playground/#sthash.pdbnLbxg.dpuf
 photo ScreenShot2013-10-03at51243PM_zps56bf6971.png

Friday, September 5, 2014

Nerdy Newborn Must Haves (Ghostbusters Edition) + Bonus Ghostbusters Inspired Boys Names!

 Nerdy Newborn Must Haves (Ghostbusters Edition) 

In honor of the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters, I thought it would be really neat to put together a NNMH post! This was actually one of the harder ones to do, as there aren't that many newborn Ghostbusters things out there!

 

1. 1 Ghost 2 Ghost 3 Ghost BUST! by Charles Thurston - "1 Ghost 2 Ghost 3 Ghost BUST!" is my tribute to the genius that was Harold Ramis and my love of Ghostbusters. Printed on Heavy Card stock each book is 4" X 4". perfect for little hands and lets them feel like this is a book just for them. 16 pages cover to cover with a color cover and black and white interior illustrations and a staple bind. All sales are final and returns will not be accepted.
Priced at $7.00 

2. ABC's of geek pop culture poster - How boring is the "A is for Apple, B is for Ball" stuff you find everywhere? As my wife and I were getting ready to decorate our upcoming baby's room I decided to create an ABC print that I would find intersting. Incorporating as many geekery pop culture items and genres as I could, this is what I came up with. I pay homage to the things that inspired me as a kid (and still to this day)... comic books, Star Wars, Sesame Street, cartoons, sci-fi (or is it SyFy now?), fantasy and more. On the reverse of the print you will find the identity of each image and its letter. The print is an 11" x 17" (image is about 8" x 14") copy of my pen & ink and watercolor original. Printed on heavy card stock. This item is shipped flat via USPS in a heavy, protected mailer. Shipping is FREE in the US and Canada. 
Priced at $25.00

3. Toddler Halloween Childrens Costume / Stay Puft Baby - Happy Halloween! This adorable baby and toddler costume is made to look like the stay puft baby from ghostbusters. Adorable, comfortable and handmade - could you ask for more? Please inquire with questions. Last day to order for Halloween is Monday October 22nd. 
Available sizes:
0-3/newborn
3-6
6-12
18
24  
Priced at $58.00

4. Lullaby Renditions of Halloween Movie Themes (Physical CD) - Baby Rockstar rearranges your favorite Halloween movie themes as beautiful melodies, played by soothing bells mixed with sleepy tones and light percussive effects. These calming and dreamy renditions will help get your little rockstars ready for bedtime. Baby Rockstar releases ignite a musical curiosity in your little ones and will be favorites of young children, and their parents, for years to come. 
Track list:
Funeral March of a Marionette (from Alfred Hitchcock Presents) 
Halloween Theme (from John Carpenter's Halloween)
Music Box (from Candyman)
The X-Files Theme (from The X-Files)
This Is Halloween (from The Nightmare Before Christmas) 
Ghostbusters (from Ghostbusters)
Priced at $8.00

1x Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
- 1x Slimer
- 1x Egon Spengler
- 1x Winston Zeddemore
- 1x Raymond Stantz
-1x Peter Venkman
Priced at $81.27 

6. Ghostbusters Logo Night Light - The image is professionally printed on a specialty paper that gives off a beautiful glow. Each night light is hand assembled. Please note, the surface is slightly convex, so if it looks a bit wonky here, that's why. When you see it in 3-d, it is perfect with no distortion! Approximate size is 4 x 3. Standard C7 (night light) bulb included. These are easily found in any hardware store should you ever need a replacement. Comes with matching box (not pictured.) 
Priced at $10.00

7. Slimer from Ghostbusters Baby Cocoon Outfit - This is soooo cute! This cocoon set is custom made to fit your baby from 0-6 months. This particular set is Slimer from the movie Ghostbusters. It is made with very soft yarns. The No Ghosts patch is hand designed and hand cut from felt and hand sewn on the front. The cocoon is made to snuggle up to the neck and there is a drawstring there so you can safely tie it to keep it up. It can also be made with armholes, just ask ;o) This one was a huge hit for halloween, but they also make adorable photography props. Because it is a special order, it will take 2 weeks for me to create this and get it in the mail to you. Upon purchase, please tell me in the notes section what size you will need. 
Priced at $50.00

8. Ghostbusters Gatekeeper Diaper Cover - Diaper Cover Bloomers, Cute coverage for diapers with custom bottom print, perfect for crawlers, Double stitched for durability and extra protection from leaks, 100% soft cotton jersey, Machine wash.
Priced at $9.97


Bonus Ghostbusters Inspired Boys Names! 

What Nerdy Newborn Must Have would make the perfect gift? Which Ghostbusters Inspired Boys Name(s) do you like the best?
Comment below!
 
 photo ScreenShot2013-10-03at51243PM_zps56bf6971.png

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Toddler Tech: VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch VS LeapFrog LeapBand

It is super exciting that VTech and LeapFrog have developed smart wearables for kids! I am pleased to give you the rundown on both devices so that you can pick the one that best suits your families needs. Meet the VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch and the LeapFrop LeapBand!


First up, lets take a closer look at the VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch:


The VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch is the smartest watch for kids! Perfect for young photographers, this durable smartwatch makes it easy to take photos and record videos on the go. They can also use the touch screen to explore their creativity with fun photo effects, frames and filters. The watch helps kids learn how to tell time by letting them choose between digital and analog displays. They can also choose between more than 50 clock face designs. It also includes a timer and alarm with a variety of fun animations to choose from. A voice recorder lets kids record their voice and play with five voice-changing effects. The Smartwatch also includes four learning games with the ability to download more from Learning Lodge using the included micro USB cable, which can also be used to upload photos and videos as well as recharge the battery. The Kidizoom Smartwatch is also splash proof, making it perfect for everyday play. (Splash and sweat proof. Do not submerge and not suitable for showering or bathing). More than just a watch, it’s the Kidizoom Smartwatch.

Retail Price: $59.99 
Colors available: Blue, White, Pink, and Green
Age Recommendation: 4-7 years

Features:
Camera with photo effects
Video recorder
Voice recorder
Touch screen
4 learning games
Splash proof for everyday play (Splash and sweat proof. Do not submerge and not suitable for showering or bathing)
Rechargeable
Digital and analog watch displays
Timer and alarm clock
50+ clock face designs
Durable design
Connects with VTech's Learning Lodge™ 




Tech Specs:
1.41" sensitive color touch screen
Photo Resolution: 640 X 480 (0.3 MP)
Video Resolution: 320 X 240 pixel or 160 X 120 pixel @15 fps
Video Length limit per file: 60 seconds
Focus Range: 1.5 feet
Internal Memory: 128 MB built-in memory (shared with program
data, actual memory available for user storage
will be less
Storage capacity:
Photos: approx. 800
Videos: approx. 6 minutes at 320 x 240 pixels,
approx. 15 minutes at 160 X 120 pixels
File Format: Photos: Standard Baseline JPEG
Video: AVI (Motion JPEG)
Micro USB 2.0 cable (included) for connection with computer
Battery: Li-ion Polymer battery (battery is not replaceable)
 Compatible with PC/Mac



Let's compare to the LeapFrog LeapBand: 


 Discover the only activity tracker made for kids that encourages active play and healthy habits with 50 fun challenges, featuring a customizable pet pal: the LeapFrog LeapBand! Kids can earn energy points-then unlock rewards for being active, caring for a pet pal and completing challenges on LeapBand. It's fit made fun-just for kids! LeapBand comes with 10 imaginative and active play challenges, as well as 4 cool-down challenges. Plus, parents can easily add up to 36 more challenges in LeapFrog Connect so kids can have fun completing challenges like "Walk like a crab" or "Spin like a helicopter." The more active kids are with their LeapBand, the more fun they'll have with games and rewards. As they earn points, kids can unlock up to 8 pets; play up to level 10 with each pet before unlocking a new one! With each level of play, get rewards like a variety of toys for their pet. Keep kids engaged and learning with mini-games like Pet Boogie, and Pet Chef. In Pet Boogie, create and practice a pet dance; and in Pet Chef, help a pet collect food and make healthy snacks. Plus, they can play in their pet's world: Visit the Pet Parlor to pamper pets with a glitter soap bath, or collect new pet toy rewards in Pet Play.

Retail Price: $39.99 
Colors available: Blue, Pink, and Green
Age Recommendation: 4-7 years 
 
Features: 
Experience the first activity tracker made for kid - LeapBand is fit made fun!
Preload LeapBand with 50 active challenges that get kids moving, like "Pounce like a lion!"
Parent controls on LeapFrog Connect make it easy to set play times, challenges and more.
Encourages active play, nurturing and healthy choices.




Tech Specs:
LeapBand
1.44" LCD hi-res color screen
Rechargeable li-polymer soft shell battery
Water resistant
Accelerometer
Micro USB 2.0 port
Product dimensions 2.5Wx1.8Hx2D (inches)
Packaged weight 0.5 (lbs.)
Wrist strap minimum 0.9Hx1.57W (inches)
Wrist strap maximum 1.77Hx2.04W (inches)
 Compatible with PC/Mac


Pros and Cons:
VTech Kidizoom
Pros: Comes in white color also, has camera/video function, more game oriented, voice recording function, Splash proof
Cons: Parental controls aren't as great, less fitness oriented, power switch is on back of watch and difficult to get to

LeapFrog LeapBand
Pros: Pricepoint is lower, parental controls are more substantial, more fitness oriented, water resistant
Cons: No camera/video function, less game oriented, no voice recording function

The Verdict:
The one thing that would have definitely swayed my opinion of one over the other would have been GPS tracking functionality. Alas, neither have that. I feel as though the video and camera function on the Kidizoom are great, but for a slightly older child with an expressed interest in media. Ben loves moving around, and loves animals, so the LeapFrog is great in that way. Anything to get a child engaged and actively moving is an excellent thing! Plus, the LeapBand totally reminds me of all of the fun I had with my Tamagotchi growing up! I appreciate the fact that there is a "School Mode" on the LeapBand, and that the parental controls are more substantial. Here are the parental control options for the LeapFrog LeapBand: On Device: Silent Mode - hold left arrow button down for 5 seconds. This will put the device into and out of quiet mode, LeapFrog Connect: School Mode and Night Mode - This mode can be scheduled up to two times in a 24-hour period. School Mode and Night Mode can be turned off only through LeapFrog Connect. No audio, animation, or gameplay is available but the LeapBand continues to track their motions. The parental controls on the Kidizoom are limited in that the options per day are either 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, or no time limit. I really don't want Ben fooling around with games or pictures at school!
For my family's needs, the LeapFrog LeapBand is the Smartwatch we will be buying!



What smartwatch are you interested in for your child? Comment below!


 photo ScreenShot2013-10-03at51243PM_zps56bf6971.png

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ben-Voyage: Dark Star Pirate Cruise - Wildwood Crest, NJ

This Ben-Voyage was a treat because it was spur of the moment! We vacationed down in Wildwood Crest and looked for things to do that Ben may enjoy after becoming "beached" out. We happened upon an advertisement for Dark Star Pirate Cruises and thought we'd give it a try. It turned out to be the BEST part of the vacation, and I absolutely have to share our experience with you guys!

From their website: Welcome aboard the Dark Star, our 50 ft modern day pirate ship, and join the roughest swaggerin' scallywags that ever sailed the seven seas.  The Dark Star, an authentic Pirate themed cruise, is looking fer Buccaneers young and ol' to sign on with the crew, and ye'll find a fortune of tales, tunes, and treasures that would turn ol' Blackbeard green with envy. Sail With The Dark Star At Your Own Risk Let our cutthroat but always friendly Pirate Crew entertain ye with Pirate stories, face painting, treasure hunt, water cannon battle, booty, music and loads of guaranteed family fun fer all ages! Weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen! To ye stations, sprogs! Lively now, and keep an eye open fer the latest plots and plans of The Dark Star Crew.

The Deets:
Dark Star Pirate Cruises 
6200 Park Blvd. Wildwood Crest, NJ 08260  
Phone: (609) 729-DARK (3275) - Office & Gift Shop 
Email: info@darkstarpiratecruises.com

Ticket Information:
(Prices are subject to change at any time, please confirm in advance)
Tip: Advance reservations are STRONGLY recommended.


Upon arrival, we were presented with our tickets, as well as an eyepatch. Cute touch! I appreciated the fact that they had bandanas, swords, and other pirate regalia for sale so you could really get into the pirate spirit! 

Tip: Complimentary face painting/tattoo begins 25 minutes prior to departure, so arrive at least a half hour early! Ben NEVER allowed anyone to paint on him before today. Something about Nell put him at ease, and he ended up with an awesome Shark tattoo that he proudly showed off for as long as it would stay on.

The crew of the Dark Star were very engaging, humoring Ben's inquisitive 4 year old mind. They interacted with everyone, not even the adults were safe! Wet Dog was an absolute riot, Ben would not leave Nell alone, Mutanous Mike was our trusty navigator, and of course, the Captain graced us with his presence. 


We were regaled by stories, songs, slapstick comedy, sword fights, treasure hunts and even a battle with another boat! The kids got to man the cannons and chase the other pirate off. They even got to drink "Pirate Grog" (Root Beer), and each kid got a trinket. Love it! Also great they had a bathroom on board!

There was just enough adult humor to really make it enjoyable for the older folks as well. I never checked my watch or wished I was elsewhere. There was a great mix of ages and EVERYONE enjoyed it. Ben will not stop talking about his Pirate Adventure!

When we arrived back to the dock, each child was presented with a Letter of Marque, which was a great surprise for us, and a really nice touch! Look at that handwriting!

Tip: It is customary to tip the crew for their hard work, so bring some extra cash for tips and souvenirs. :)

The crew of Dark Star Pirate Cruises went ABOVE and BEYOND, and the experience we had, by far, is unrivaled. The trip ran for about an hour, and it is totally worth it. If you find yourself near the Jersey Shore, do yourself a favor and check out Dark Star Pirate Cruises. You won't forget it (and your little one won't let you!). We can't WAIT to go back! Arr! We be seein' ye landlubbers!







 photo ScreenShot2013-10-03at51243PM_zps56bf6971.png

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Things to do Week of August 24th NJ/NYC



 Sunday, August 24th:
Chocolate & Vanilla Family Festival (Camden, NJ) - A delicious daytime event dedicated to two of nature’s most flavorful plants. Vote for your favorite ice cream flavor, and take a tropical smell test.  Join us for crafts, educational activities, and our Flavors of the Forest Stand.  Enjoy chocolate and vanilla treats as you learn about these tropical flavors.
Camden Children's Garden, 3 Riverside Drive, Camden, NJ, 08103

Dinosaur Train Railroad Excursion (Phillipsburg, NJ) - All aboard the DINOSAUR TRAIN™ as families take a ride on a real train bound for the Nature Trackers Adventure Area! Here, young guests will participate in a series of fun and educational challenges that unearth basic concepts in science, natural history, and paleontology. The event also includes official music, inflatable dinosaurs, fossil digs, and an opportunity to have a photo taken everyone’s favorite T. rex, Buddy! First ride at 10:00am
The Delaware River Railroad Excursions, 99 Elizabeth Street, Phillipsburg, NJ, 08865

Meet Clifford the Big Red Dog (Jersey City, NJ) - Your kids will be thrilled to meet special guest Clifford the Big Red Dog! Don’t forget your camera to capture your children’s smiles and don't miss visiting his very own summer exhibition, Adventures with Clifford The Big Red Dog. Times: 12:00pm - 12:30pm and 12:45pm - 1:15pm. 
Liberty Science Center, 222 Jersey City Boulevard, Jersey City, NJ 07305

Terrific Turtles (Chatham, NJ) -  Learn amazing facts about New Jersey’s turtles, take a walk to spot turtles basking at the pond, and meet a live turtle afterwards. $3 per person. 3:00pm - 4:00pm. Ages 3 and up. Registration required.
Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center, 247 Southern Blvd, Chatham, NJ, 07928

Discovery Walks for Families (New York, NY) - Bring your family for a guided Discovery Walk into the Ramble and take part in hands-on exploration led by Central Park Conservancy educators and Discovery Guides. Families only, maximum of three children per parent of guardian; no groups. Ages 5 +. Free. Space is limited; advance registration required. 10:00am - 11:00am.
Belvedere Castle, mid-Park at 79th Street

Family Performance Festival at Central Park (New York, NY) - Groove in the glade as Story Laurie weaves wondrous tales and sings witty songs with her enchanting voice to share her wisdom about everything from the bugs in your backyard to what life is like around the world! FREE! 12:00pm - 1:00pm. Advance registration recommended. Register on website.
Peter Jay Sharp Children's Glade, west of Great Hill Oval, between West 103rd and West 106th Streets 

 Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair (Fair Haven, NJ) - Don't miss one of the state's largest firemen's festivals, where families can climb aboard a real fire truck, as well as rides like the Zipper, Rainbow, Wipeout, a large ferris wheel, a train, and a merry-go-round. Dates: August 24th - 30th. Hours: Monday-Thursday: 6:00pm - 10:00pm. Friday and Saturday: 6:00pm - 11:00pm.
http://www.fhfd.org/
Fair Haven Fire Department, 645 River Rd, Fair Haven, NJ, 07704


Monday, August 25th:
Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair (Fair Haven, NJ) - Don't miss one of the state's largest firemen's festivals, where families can climb aboard a real fire truck, as well as rides like the Zipper, Rainbow, Wipeout, a large ferris wheel, a train, and a merry-go-round. Dates: August 24th - 30th. Hours: Monday-Thursday: 6:00pm - 10:00pm. Friday and Saturday: 6:00pm - 11:00pm.
http://www.fhfd.org/
Fair Haven Fire Department, 645 River Rd, Fair Haven, NJ, 07704 

Central Astoria Movies on the Waterfront: Finding Nemo (Astoria Park, Queens, NY),
Everyone is invited to come out for this charming animated feature. 8:30pm - 10:30pm, FREE.
http://www.nycgovparks.org/events/2014/08/25/central-astoria-movies-on-the-waterfront-finding-nemo
Astoria Park, 24-02 19th St, Long Island City, NY 11102

Tuesday, August 26th
Movie Night: Despicable Me 2 (West Orange, NJ) - Gru is back! While adjusting to the life of an ex-supervillain, he is asked to help the Anti-Villain League. It's FREE! 7:00pm.
http://ospacnj.org/events
Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center, 4 Boland Drive, West Orange, NJ, 07052 

Movie Night Along the River: WALL E (Bronx, NY) - Come enjoy a family movie under the stars. FREE, 8:00pm
http://www.nycgovparks.org/events/2014/08/26/movie-nights-along-the-river-wall-e
Soundview Park, 1660-1692 Seward Ave, Bronx, NY 10473

Somerset Patriots vs. Long Island Ducks Baseball Game (Bridgewater, NJ) - BARK IN THE PARK. Bring the whole family out for Bark In The Park Night with the Somerset Patriots. All fans can bring their well-behaved, social, and leashed dogs to the ballpark. Pet owners attending the game with their dog are asked to bring paperwork displaying proof of vaccination and their dog ID tag to be checked before entry outside the main gate. Each designated Bark in the Park Night will feature a Pre-Game Pooch Parade around the warning track of the field beginning at 6:30pm and a 3rd Inning Yappy Hour with Ice Cream Treats for Dogs. There will also be various pet related businesses having a concourse table display during the game to collect free giveaways, information, and dog-related advice from various Patriots partners. Giveaway: First 250 Dogs receive a Dog Bandana presented by Cherrybrook Pet Supplies.
 www.somersetpatriots.com/event/details/220/somerset-patriots-vs-long-island-ducks
860 East Main Street, Bridgewater Township, NJ 08807

Summer Farm Fun (Chester, NJ) - Lot's of fun Children’s Activities Available: Pony Rides, Moon Bounce, Wagon Train Rides, Corn Kingdom, Scenic Farm Hayrides, Visit and Feed Our Friendly Farm Animals (free, Stop By Our Bunny Run (free), Be entertained by our goats on the new Goat Walk!(free), Climb our Giant Hay Pyramid (free). At the end of May - pick your own activities begin with Pick Your Own Strawberries! See website for schedule of activities. ** Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12 – 4. ** Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 11 – 5. Save Money With a Pay-One-Price Activity Pass For  $14.99.
http://alstedefarms.com/family-fun-nj/summer-farm-fun/
1 Alstede Farms Lane, Corner 84 County Rt. 513 S. (Old Route 24), Chester, NJ 07930

Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair (Fair Haven, NJ) - Don't miss one of the state's largest firemen's festivals, where families can climb aboard a real fire truck, as well as rides like the Zipper, Rainbow, Wipeout, a large ferris wheel, a train, and a merry-go-round. Dates: August 24th - 30th. Hours: Monday-Thursday: 6:00pm - 10:00pm. Friday and Saturday: 6:00pm - 11:00pm.
http://www.fhfd.org/
Fair Haven Fire Department, 645 River Rd, Fair Haven, NJ, 07704 


Wednesday, August 27th:
Groovin’ and Grubbin’ Concert Series (Cherry Hill, NJ) - Attention Foodies and Fun Lovers! The 2nd Annual Groovin’ & Grubbin’, a FREE outdoor concert series, continues Wednesday, August 27, 2014. We will also have gourmet food trucks! Grub from 5-8pm, and groove at 7pm with Tim and the Space Cadets! Don’t forget general admission into the museum is only $5 after 5pm! Food trucks include: Mary’s Mobile Diner, Undrgrnd Donuts, Surf and Turf Truck, and Kona.
Garden State Discovery Museum, 2040 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill, NJ, 08003 

Lunch with the Librarian (Morristown, NJ) - Bring a chair or blanket and lunch and enjoy stories, courtesy of the Morristown and Morris Township Library. If the weather is extremely hot or rainy, the program will be moved inside the Museum. FREE. Ages 2-5.
http://www.maccullochhall.org
 Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, 45 Macculloch Avenue, Morristown, NJ, 07960 

Summer Farm Fun (Chester, NJ) - Lot's of fun Children’s Activities Available: Pony Rides, Moon Bounce, Wagon Train Rides, Corn Kingdom, Scenic Farm Hayrides, Visit and Feed Our Friendly Farm Animals (free, Stop By Our Bunny Run (free), Be entertained by our goats on the new Goat Walk!(free), Climb our Giant Hay Pyramid (free). At the end of May - pick your own activities begin with Pick Your Own Strawberries! See website for schedule of activities. ** Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12 – 4. ** Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 11 – 5. Save Money With a Pay-One-Price Activity Pass For  $14.99.
http://alstedefarms.com/family-fun-nj/summer-farm-fun/ 
1 Alstede Farms Lane, Corner 84 County Rt. 513 S. (Old Route 24), Chester, NJ 07930 

Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair (Fair Haven, NJ) - Don't miss one of the state's largest firemen's festivals, where families can climb aboard a real fire truck, as well as rides like the Zipper, Rainbow, Wipeout, a large ferris wheel, a train, and a merry-go-round. Dates: August 24th - 30th. Hours: Monday-Thursday: 6:00pm - 10:00pm. Friday and Saturday: 6:00pm - 11:00pm.
http://www.fhfd.org/
Fair Haven Fire Department, 645 River Rd, Fair Haven, NJ, 07704


Thursday, August 28th:
Movies in Knight Park UP (Collingswood, NJ) -  Bring the family for a movie night in the park! Movies in the park are free! All movies begin at dusk. The screen is located by the Browning and Collings intersection, near the gazebo. This event is BYOC - Bring your own chair.
http://www.collingswood.com/recreation/outdoor-events
Knight Park, Collingswood, NJ 08107

Asbury Park Boardwalk Lego Movie (Asbury Park, NJ) - on the beach in front of Langosta Lounge, dusk, free, canned goods accepted for the New Jersey Natural Gas Food Drive, 8:00pm.
Asbury Park Boardwalk (at Langosta Lounge), Asbury Park, NJ 07712 

Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair (Fair Haven, NJ) - Don't miss one of the state's largest firemen's festivals, where families can climb aboard a real fire truck, as well as rides like the Zipper, Rainbow, Wipeout, a large ferris wheel, a train, and a merry-go-round. Dates: August 24th - 30th. Hours: Monday-Thursday: 6:00pm - 10:00pm. Friday and Saturday: 6:00pm - 11:00pm.
http://www.fhfd.org/
Fair Haven Fire Department, 645 River Rd, Fair Haven, NJ, 07704


Friday, August 29th
Fresh Beat Band: The Live Tour of Nickelodeon’s Super Group (Newark, NJ) - Hey Moms, do the kids need something to do that last week of August? Take them to see The Fresh Beat Band, Nickelodean’s Super Group. In the hit musical sitcom, original pop songs are set with preschool-friendly lyrics. Marina, Kiki, Twist and Shout are the Fresh Beats: four best bandmates who go to music school together and love to sing and dance. From the moment the Fresh Beats wake up, just about any situation can lead to a fun-filled, full-blown, song-and-dance performance that the entire family will enjoy. The Fresh Beat Band bring the hit TV series to life by teaching music appreciation to children and allowing them to express themselves through movement, song and instrumental music. Get your tickets online or by phone. Tickets are $29.50 - $79.50. Performances are at 2:00pm and 6:00pm. 
NJPAC, 1 Center Street, Newark, NJ, 07102

NYC Parks Summer Movie Series: The LEGO Movie (Staten Island, NY) - See our city one movie at a time.  Throughout July and August, NYC Parks is showing free movies in its parks and recreation centers!  No RSVP required, just bring yourself and a blanket to sit on. FREE. 8:00pm - 10:00pm
http://www.nycgovparks.org/events/2014/08/29/summer-movie-series-the-lego-movie
 Westerleigh Park, 125-149 Neal Dow Ave, Staten Island, NY 10314

Movies in the Parks Series & Food Drive (Middletown, NJ) - What better way to enjoy a summer night then with family on a blanket watching a movie under the stars!  Enjoy one of the films or come see them all. The Free Summer Movie Series & Food Drive, hosted by Shore Flicks, LLC will be running a food drive at each showing.  Please help support local food banks.
 http://www.middletownnj.org/content/special-events-for-family-and-youth#movies
Normandy Park, Middletown, NJ, 07701

LiveRight with ShopRite Kid's Day Cooking Class (ages 6 and up) (Lyndhurst, NJ) - Little chefs can create and try new things. In-person pre-registration is required and space is limited. Stop by the Dietitian's Corner to reserve a spot. 4:00pm.
http://www.caryl.com/eventlisting.cfm?clientID=87&eventID=1000
540 New York Ave, Lyndhurst, NJ, 07071

Italian Festival at St. Bartholomews (Scotch Plains, NJ) - Perhaps the best kept secret in NJ is the traditional Annual Labor Day Italian Feast in Scotch Plains, NJ. Hosted by the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Chapter of UNICO, St. Bartholomew's Church and St. Bartholomew's Academy, the festival has been an annual tradition honoring San Nicola di Bari, the patron saint of the town of Montazzoli, Italy since 1974. The feast is truly a great family event and has something for everyone to enjoy. There is nightly live music, rides, games, and great food including favorites like pizza, pasta, zeppoles, clams, mussels, and calzones. In addition, there are nightly 50/50 drawings and a super 50/50 raffle on Monday. Starts Friday 8/29 at 4:30pm.
http://www.sbuitalianfestival.com/
2032 Westfield Ave, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076

Summer Farm Fun (Chester, NJ) - Lot's of fun Children’s Activities Available: Pony Rides, Moon Bounce, Wagon Train Rides, Corn Kingdom, Scenic Farm Hayrides, Visit and Feed Our Friendly Farm Animals (free, Stop By Our Bunny Run (free), Be entertained by our goats on the new Goat Walk!(free), Climb our Giant Hay Pyramid (free). At the end of May - pick your own activities begin with Pick Your Own Strawberries! See website for schedule of activities. ** Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12 – 4. ** Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 11 – 5. Save Money With a Pay-One-Price Activity Pass For  $14.99.
http://alstedefarms.com/family-fun-nj/summer-farm-fun/ 
1 Alstede Farms Lane, Corner 84 County Rt. 513 S. (Old Route 24), Chester, NJ 07930 

Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair (Fair Haven, NJ) - Don't miss one of the state's largest firemen's festivals, where families can climb aboard a real fire truck, as well as rides like the Zipper, Rainbow, Wipeout, a large ferris wheel, a train, and a merry-go-round. Dates: August 24th - 30th. Hours: Monday-Thursday: 6:00pm - 10:00pm. Friday and Saturday: 6:00pm - 11:00pm.
http://www.fhfd.org/
Fair Haven Fire Department, 645 River Rd, Fair Haven, NJ, 07704


Saturday, August 30th:
Summer Farm Fun (Chester, NJ) - Lot's of fun Children’s Activities Available: Pony Rides, Moon Bounce, Wagon Train Rides, Corn Kingdom, Scenic Farm Hayrides, Visit and Feed Our Friendly Farm Animals (free, Stop By Our Bunny Run (free), Be entertained by our goats on the new Goat Walk!(free), Climb our Giant Hay Pyramid (free). At the end of May - pick your own activities begin with Pick Your Own Strawberries! See website for schedule of activities. ** Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12 – 4. ** Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 11 – 5. Save Money With a Pay-One-Price Activity Pass For  $14.99.
http://alstedefarms.com/family-fun-nj/summer-farm-fun/ 
1 Alstede Farms Lane, Corner 84 County Rt. 513 S. (Old Route 24), Chester, NJ 07930 

NYC Parks Summer Movie Series: Despicable Me 2 (Brooklyn, NY) - See our city one movie at a time.  Throughout July and August, NYC Parks is showing free movies in its parks and recreation centers!  No RSVP required, just bring yourself and a blanket to sit on. 8:00pm - 10:00pm. 
Brower Park, 195 Brooklyn Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213

Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair (Fair Haven, NJ) - Don't miss one of the state's largest firemen's festivals, where families can climb aboard a real fire truck, as well as rides like the Zipper, Rainbow, Wipeout, a large ferris wheel, a train, and a merry-go-round. Dates: August 24th - 30th. Hours: Monday-Thursday: 6:00pm - 10:00pm. Friday and Saturday: 6:00pm - 11:00pm.
Fair Haven Fire Department, 645 River Rd, Fair Haven, NJ, 07704



 photo ScreenShot2013-10-03at51243PM_zps56bf6971.png

Back To School Cool Jacket Picks!

Wow! We've reached the end of August! This summer FLEW past! I've put together some last minute jacket shopping picks for you! I really like them because they're versatile enough to dress up or tone down. Gotta love effortless cool!

Check them out below! 





Love them all! Which one is a must-have for your child?

Comment below!



 photo ScreenShot2013-10-03at51243PM_zps56bf6971.png

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ben-Voyage: Liberty Science Center - Jersey City, NJ

Our latest Ben-Voyage brings us to a place I had loved as a child: Liberty Science Center. It's easily been a good 15 years since I had last gone, so I was excited to see if it would hold up and have the same magic for Ben as it did for me (spoiler alert: it does).

From their website: Liberty Science Center (LSC.org) is a 300,000-square-foot learning center located in Liberty State Park on the Jersey City bank of the Hudson near the Statue of Liberty. Dedicated to bringing the excitement of science to people of all ages, Liberty Science Center houses 12 museum exhibition halls, a live animal collection with 110 species, giant aquariums, a 3D theater, the nation's largest IMAX Dome Theater, live simulcast surgeries, tornado and hurricane-force wind simulators, K-12 classrooms and labs, and teacher-development programs. More than half a million students, teachers, and parents visit the Science Center each year, and tens of thousands more participate in the Center's offsite and online programs.

Photo from Liberty Science Center


I thought this would be an amazing Ben-Voyage because Ben has been super duper into science lately, asking about hurricanes, tornadoes, and anything else he can think of. Q: What better place to quench your child's thirst for knowledge than a 300,000-square-foot learning center dedicated to all things science? A: NONE. Liberty Science Center is THE place to be.

The Deets:
Liberty Science Center
Liberty State Park
222 Jersey City Boulevard
Jersey City, NJ 07305  

Ticket Information: 
(Prices are subject to change at any time, please confirm in advance)
 Children under 2 are free, which is nice. 

We arrived a few minutes before it opened, and had no problem parking in a prime location. Although it is $7.00 to park, Liberty Science Center’s parking lot is owned by the State of New Jersey and operated by Central Parking. The Science Center does not receive parking revenue. There is also overflow parking available. For those with Electric cars, plug and re-charge at no extra cost under LSC's elevated solar panel array. 

There is something to enjoy for all ages at Liberty Science Center. I made a few mental notes of awesome exhibits Ben will appreciate when he is older, but there was plenty of things to do on each floor for Ben. I, myself, engaged in quite a few activities.
Photo from Liberty Science Center


 It was really nice getting there when it first opened, before all of the school groups and summer camps. It wasn't too crowded at all, however, some of the children in visiting groups were unsupervised and not taking turns on attractions. My recommendation is that if there is an exhibit your child really wants to see and engage in, get there when LSC first opens for maximum hands-on. That being said, very few attractions required only one or two children at a time, so it was very easy to divert Ben away from one thing and onto another while we waited.

The Welcome Desk was just that- welcoming! The woman working there was so warm and knowledgeable and really got us excited with all of the things to do. I had no idea there were demonstrations and shows! We were handed a schedule of programming for that day, and were floored to learn that all of these things were included with admission! 

Tip: You do have to sign up for some things, so I would make an itinerary with your day planned out and sign up for things as soon as you receive your Experience Guide at admission. You can also take a peek online at Events Calendar to start your plan as well. You definitely don't want to miss some of the amazing experiences at LSC.


 After making reservations for the experiences we wanted to do, the Welcome Desk attendant advised us to start at the fourth floor and work our way down, which was a great idea. 

Fourth Floor
The fourth floor is home to PixelPalooza, Block Party, Adventures with Clifford The Big Red Dog, Beyond Rubik's Cube, Energy Quest, Our Hudson Home, Rebuild by Design, and Nano Mini-Exhibition. 


We made our way to the fourth floor and came across an activity called PixelPalooza - Uncover a hidden picture as you wave and leap around to clear pixels from the huge screen. Ben loved it! and I loved that you could email or tweet the picture taken. 


One of Ben's favorite things was Block Party - Back by Popular Demand! Young visitors can make thousands of elaborate creations with our oversized foam shapes. A pair of blocks becomes a wall, walls make rooms, and rooms become houses. Inspired by creativity and teamwork, children can design and build anything from dinosaurs and giant robots to castles with moats and long, winding ball chutes. This seemed to be a favorite among kids, and Ben would have been more than pleased spending the whole day building things. We found ourselves there several times during the trip. Parents, this will take up some time!


 
By the time we visited Adventures with Clifford The Big Red Dog, the floor was buzzing with activity. If your child loves Clifford, you need to hurry and check this exhibit out! It's only open through September 14th. Inspired by the top-rated PBS KIDS® show, the exhibition offers immersive adventures that reinforce “Clifford’s Big Ideas,” ten simple life lessons designed to help young children navigate their world, including Share, Play Fair, Believe in Yourself, and Help Others. Visit all of Clifford’s favorite places and friends on Birdwell Island. Explore Clifford’s doghouse. Climb up a nine-foot Clifford and slide down his tail, just like Emily Elizabeth does on the TV show. Use a conveyor belt to help fill Clifford’s big dog bowl with bones. Create sand art and search for treasure at T-Bone’s Beach. Browse the Norman Bridwell Art Retrospective and see 50 years (that’s 350 in dog-years!) of Clifford art and stories.




Photo from Liberty Science Center
The fourth floor also held a really awesome exhibition called Beyond Rubik's Cube - 7,000 sq ft of games, puzzles, history, art, and engineering, all inspired by Ernő Rubik's best-selling masterpiece.  Whether you're Mats Valk or just looking for an excellent way to spend a summer day, Beyond Rubik's Cube has something amazing you've never seen before. It is only open until November 30th, so go check it out!


Ben had a lot of fun with the solar-powered racetrack over in Energy Quest. Energy Quest examines the five major sources of Earth’s energy in search of the answers. Learn how we explore and harness these energy sources at activity-filled, hands-on stations. Join the exploration and experiment as a geologist, oceanographer, chemical and nuclear engineer, and more. Energy Quest’s five energy themes are: Surface (wind, solar, hydro), Bio-Stored (oil, coal, natural gas, bio-mass), Nuclear (fission, fusion), Ocean (waves, tidal, ocean-thermal) and Geo-Thermal (hydro-thermal, hot dry rock, magma).


Finally, we wrapped up our fourth floor adventure with Our Hudson Home. Overlooking the vast river and Liberty State Park, Our Hudson Home explores our complex relationship with this distinct and special ecosystem. Through hands-on experiences and unique underwater environments, you’ll discover how our use of the river can be successfully balanced with environmental preservation efforts and smart technologies that will ensure this unique natural resource continues to thrive. Ben really enjoyed seeing the native species to the Hudson. We were wowed by the sheer size of some of the fish! 


Third Floor
The third floor is home to Eat and Be Eaten, Touch Tunnel, Wonder Why, Communication, Infection Connection, and Olympus BioScapes. 

  Ben had a blast on the third floor! We checked out Eat and Be Eaten first. Eat and Be Eaten is filled with real animals that have adapted in amazing ways to survive in the wild. Some hide in plain sight while others turn themselves into toxic treats. Many of these creatures have unique behaviors that keep them from being captured or help them to escape. There were so many amazing animals to see. We loved the Cotton-top Tamarins and their twin babies! The staff was very knowledgeable about each animal and wonderful with answering Ben's questions and keeping him engaged.

We also caught the Meet the Macaw show. We got to meet Mickey the Macaw up close and 
watched him crack a walnut with his powerful beak. I was very impressed with the gentleman who presented it - how do they remember all the information? It was very informative and interactive!

 
The Touch Tunnel is still at LSC! I loved it when I was a little girl! Ben did not feel the same way, so we did not attempt to go on it, but it is one of the most popular things to do at LSC. This 80-foot, crawl-through, pitch-black tunnel has been the hands-down favorite at LSC for years. Exploring an unknown environment in the dark makes you realize how much we rely on sight to move through the world. 

Tips: The Touch Tunnel experience is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Line up early! To allow everyone in the queue a chance to experience the Touch Tunnel on busy days, the line may be closed to newcomers up to an hour before the building closes. Children under 7 years old must be accompanied by a parent or chaperone. Guests who are claustrophobic, pregnant, cannot crawl for 10 minutes, or have existing injuries or back pain should not attempt this exhibition.

 

We checked out Wonder Why. Ben was fascinated with creating a 6-foot soap bubble. He also loved the Kalliroscope. Other things to do include: Experimenting with the attributes of air at the Bernoulli Blower, Scaling the fossil-studded Rock Climbing Wall, and creating your own masterpiece at the Digital Picasso station. 



It was really cool to see the Honey Bee colony! Learn all about honey bees at our live colony on the third floor. An observation hive indoors and two field hives on the deck outside let you watch bees coming in and out of the the hive; workers converting nectar into honey and storing it in the honeycomb cells; the queen laying eggs; and larvae growing and maturing. You can even see beekeepers harvesting honey at certain times. Ben was very curious about the hive and enjoyed watching all of the bees work. 



Second Floor
The second floor is home to Café Skylines, I Explore, The JD Williams Science Theater, and the Wildlife Challenge, IMAX Dome Theater, Tornado Simulator, Pulseworks Motion Simulator.


Café Skylines had a great food selection that included brick oven pizzas, chicken fingers, handcrafted sandwiches, soup, daily entrée specials, a gourmet salad bar, and freshly grilled burgers and hot dogs. Seating options were plentiful and included a large group dining room, two smaller dining rooms with views of lower Manhattan, and casual seating in Governors Hall (where you may even catch a Live Science presentation while you dine). Vending machines with snacks and cold drinks are located in Group Dining, adjacent to the café. It was reasonably priced and very delicious.

Tip: Liberty Science Center does let you bring your own lunch! So don't be afraid to brown bag it!


I Explore was our next stop. Children are natural scientists–constantly investigating and testing the world around them. Discovery, inquiry, curiosity and play are the building blocks of lifelong learning.
In I Explore, children ages 2 to 5 (with their grown-ups) learn about themselves and their world in a safe, stimulating and engaging interactive environment designed especially for them. As a parent, I appeciate the fact that LSC put the thought into having something specifically for the 2-5 age group, and put a private bathroom right in the exhibit. Ben especially enjoyed building a car and testing it out on the Test Track. He also loved using the air cannon to launch balls into the two-story Ball Machine. I thought the cute science reading nook was a nice touch.

Tips: During the school year, try to visit mid-afternoon during the week and early in the morning on the weekends.This is a great opportunity for groups visiting with more than one adult to split up and take older children to experience other, more age-appropriate offerings at the Center, such as a film in the nation’s largest IMAX Dome Theater.



The Pulseworks Motion Simulator takes guests on intense “voyages” to far-off places.  Climb aboard for spectacular five-minute experiences including Grand Prix Raceway, JetPack, Diving with Dolphins, Solar Coaster, and Glacier Run! Trips are $5.00 per person and up to eight people can ride at once. Look for Pulseworks Motion Simulator adjacent to the main staircase at the east end of Governors Hall on the Second Floor. 


Hands down, Ben's absolute favorite experience and the highlight of our trip was the Tesla Lightning Show. Explore the excitement of electricity with singing Tesla coils, robotic drums, and wireless illumination. Twin solid-state one million volt Tesla coils produce bursts of musical lightning right in front of you in our new live show. 3 shows daily: 1:30, 2:30, 3:30 pm. Free with admission or membership. Seating is limited and tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note: Lightning Show contains very loud noises and strobe lights. Not suitable for children ages 2 and under. We were provided protective headphones to muffle the noise. It was really cool to see the Tesla coils light the florescent lights in time with the music. A young audience member was picked to play the piano and make the Tesla coils illuminate the lights. So cool!



First Floor
The first floor is home to da Vinci Surgical Robot Exhibit, Skyscraper!, The Hoberman Sphere, Connections Gift Shop


Whether you’re bravely walking a steel girder high above the exhibition floor, facing down jet-powered hurricane force winds to test a building design, or taking a quiet moment to reflect on stories about the World Trade Center, you’ll leave Skyscraper! with a new appreciation and understanding of the skyline that surrounds us and the people that made it happen.
 
Connections Gift Shop is huge and has a vast selection of anything science-related you could possibly want! The best part is that it is VERY reasonably priced. Ben picked up a Pet Tornado in a tube for about $7. Love it!

We didn't visit all of the exhibits, however, we will be back! Speaking of which, our family is going to buy a Membership to LSC. The value that you get for your money really cannot be beat. Check out some of the benefits and the pricing below:



I am SO happy that Ben got to experience Liberty Science Center. He adored it! It was great to see him learning hands-on and getting engaged in all the exhibits! We're already planning our next trip back!





Disclaimer: Liberty Science Center provided our tickets with the intent for this review
 
 photo ScreenShot2013-10-03at51243PM_zps56bf6971.png