There is nothing quite like bundling up the family in winter gear and spending some quality time in the snow. Whether it's the wind rushing past as you speed down a snowy slope or the peaceful crunching of cross-country skiing and snow shoeing, there is some kind of magic in that mixture of fresh cold air and hot chocolate. It can be a weekend getaway to the mountains or an afternoon of throwing ourselves against a nearby hill; skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and pretty much any other winter sport are some of the best re-boots around.
Local mom and “Outdoors with Kids Boston” guidebook author, Kim Foley MacKinnon, shares her best family outing tips and picks with you as part of our guest blog series with the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Kids Outdoors Bostonfree online community.
There are many ways for young speed demons to get a rush outdoors in winter, from racing down mountains on skis to sledding down the highest hills around on snow tubes. But for kids looking for both speed and height, winter coasters and zip lines at several New England resorts offer some fast, chilly thrills. Make sure to call in advance as rides often depend upon weather conditions.
My six year old son is a thrill seeker. I cringe at the playground watching him climb to the tippy top of the jungle gym. When we go hiking he is always the first to suggest trying the more difficult trail. While I admire his adventurous spirit, as a mom it's hard to not imagine the worst case scenario. That's why I'm so happy that I found some safe local activities that will satisfy both his need for thrills and my need to protect him. Check out our list below for some great activities for your adventurous child. If you have little ones, be sure to read our post 25 Things To Do With Preschoolers Before They Turn 5, and for October fun for the whole family make sure you check out our New Jersey Halloween Guide.
Number 46 on our list of 100 Things To Do In New Jersey With Kids Before They Grow Up is the outdoor family gem, Grounds For Sculpture. The 42+ acre sculpture park and arts center is part museum, part open-air adventure and whether you're an art expert or novice, you will be enchanted from the get go. For a great summer day trip, check out our tips on GFS and other sweet art parks in the tristate area.
Did you know that New Jersey has eleven lighthouses open to the public? Whether your kids are old enough to climb them or not, there’s plenty to do and see on a lighthouse visit. Most are located near beaches or state parks full of family-friendly diversions so they make great destinations for day trips. This is an affordable – sometimes even free! – summer activity your whole family will love. And for more shore fun, check out our Jersey Shore Family Guide.
Even if your mini paleontologists have memorized every nook and cranny of the American Natural History Museum, you've never experienced dinosaurs quite the way you do at Field Stations: Dinosaurs, the open-air dino spot in Secaucus, New Jersey that opened in 2012. Home to more than 30 animatronic dinosaurs, this educational attraction really lived up to my family's expectations—our two kids were particularly impressed.
Located just nine minutes by train from NYC, the prehistoric-themed park is a great day trip. The park also offers lovely views of the NYC skyline (the T.rex and the Empire State Building make for quite a contrast). We visited on opening day and I’m thrilled to be able to tell you all about this completely unique family adventure.
While we've written plenty of posts about downhill skiing with NYC kids, we've never covered cross-country skiing. Also known as Nordic skiing, cross-country skiing is a great winter sport for families. Children as young as five can ski alone, and parents can tow tots in a sled or carry them in a backpack while on the trails. You can't do that while swooshing down a mountain!
Cross-country skiing is a fun way for active kids to burn off energy in the colder months and spend time outside. While you use most of the same equipment that you'd need for a day on the slopes—skis, boots, bindings, poles, goggles, helmets and warm clothing—cross-country skiing is nowhere near as dangerous or as expensive as downhill skiing. You won't be at risk for slamming into a tree at full speed, and trail passes usually cost about $20 per person.
After a good snowfall in New York City, you can cross-country ski just about anywhere. I've seen people doing it in parks and even right down the middle of Fifth Avenue before the snow plows cleared the street. But if you're looking to go cross-country skiing in a more scenic (and less bumpy) environment, there are tri-state area destinations that offer many miles of well-groomed trails, as well as amenities like warm lodges where you can sit back, relax, sip on hot cocoa and enjoy a family meal.
Unlike traditional ski resorts, most cross-country trails aren't in the business of making their own snow. So you're going to have to wait for the white stuff before you can get out there. Once that happens, here are six spots where families can enjoy cross-country skiing, most less than a two-hour drive from New York City.
Is your family the adventurous type? Like to live on the edge (literally)? Love the outdoors from approximately 1000 feet above sea level and at a speed of upwards of 40mph? Then maybe ziplining is for you. My husband and I recently experienced the exhilarating rush of ziplining at Zoom Ziplines in Mountain Creek, NJ; read on for all the details of this very extreme sport in our fair state!
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