Category Archives: Cranford NJ Outdoors

The Cranford-Westfield Area Makes the Perfect Family Staycation!

 

If you didn’t get to travel anywhere for a vacation this summer, or if you already went somewhere but still have vacation days to take this month, why not enjoy a CHEAP and SUPER FUN STAYCATION before school starts up again? The Cranford-Westfield Area has so many great options for family fun (much of it FREE) … you truly don’t have to go far to have an amazing summer with your family!

Here is a list of just some of the fantastic outings you can take without even leaving Union County. If you know of other interesting places or events nearby, feel free to comment and share!

CARNIVALS & FESTIVALS

It ain’t summer without zeppoles, am I right?? Check out these festivals in our area.

Cranford Street Fair & Craft Show

August 21st, 11am – 5pm

Downtown Cranford

Over 200 food and craft vendors, plus kids’ attractions.

Kenilworth Fire Department Carnival 

August 15th-20th 

St. Theresa’s School

540 Washington Ave., Kenilworth

Hours: 

Old-fashioned fun including rides, food vendors, games, beer garden, money wheel, and pay-one-price wristband nights Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday!

https://m.facebook.com/KenilworthFireRescue/

St. Bartholomew Italian Festival 

2032 Westfield Ave., Scotch Plains

September 2nd-5th

Hours:

This beloved annual festival features exceptional live music nightly, games, Italian food, raffles, and more!

http://www.sbuitalianfestival.com/#2778

Cranford Canoe Club

 A Cranford family launches from the Cranford Canoe Club:


A Cranford family launches from the Cranford Canoe Club:CRANFORD CANOE CLUB

250 Springfield Ave., Cranford

Hours: 

Not just canoes but also kayaks are available for rent at the Canoe Club. Paddle your way through a scenic and very calm stretch of the Rahway River, and you’ll be reminded of why Cranford was once called “The Venice of New Jersey.” Life jackets are included with your rentals. The snack bar serves some seriously yummy ice cream and snacks as well. This should be on everyone’s summer bucket list!

http://www.cranfordcanoeclub.com/

 

A successful fishing day for these girls at Echo Lake Park:

A successful fishing day for these girls at Echo Lake Park:

ECHO LAKE PARK

Enter from Sprinfield Ave. in Westfield or Mountain Ave near Route 22 in Mountainside

You can spend a whole day at this gorgeous park by bringing fishing rods (the pond is well-stocked), renting paddle boats (only $10 for an hour!), visiting the shady playground, and enjoying a picnic (they have BBQ grills available, plus a full snack bar at the boathouse). And if you have a four-legged friend, bring Fido along to the great dog park at Echo Lake! 

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

LIBERTY HALL MUSEUM

1003 Morris Ave., Union

Hours: Monday – Sunday 10am to 4pm; closed Sundays 

This is such a fantastic option for a rainy or too-hot day! Liberty Hall is very kid-friendly and always has exhibits that appeal to the younger set. Check out the TOYS THROUGH TIME exhibit, where kids can actually play with toys from decades past! Plus there are frequent family-friendly events going on at the museum grounds. Call the museum to reserve a tour. Admission is $12 per adult, $8 per child age 3-17, FREE for children under 3. Call 908-527-0400.

http://kean.edu/libertyhall

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

OUTDOOR MOVIES

There’s just something about watching a flick under the stars! Some of these movie showings will feature food trucks and even free popcorn!

FanwoodTuesday August 16th, 8:30pm at LaGrande Park, showing “The Good Dinosaur.”

Scotch Plains: Fridays August 19th (“Up”) and 26th (“Zootopia”) at dusk on the Village Green.

SummitMonday August 22nd at dusk, 356 Broad Street, showing “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”

OUTDOOR MUSIC

I’m continually blown away by the talent of local musicians. BYO lawn chairs and blankets and listen to great music!

Clark: Summer Arts Festival, featuring yoga and live bands at Oak Ridge Park, Wednesdays August 17th and 24th, 6:30 pm. Rain cancels.

Rahway: Summer Concert series, Thursdays August 18th and 25th, 7:30 pm in front of Union County Performing Arts Center. Beer garden on site! If raining, concert is moved inside to the main stage.

Westfield: Sweet Sounds Downtown Jazz Festival, Tuesday nights through August 30th, 7 pm. Rain cancels.

REEVES-REED ARBORETUM

165 Hobart Ave., Summit

Hours: open from dawn till dusk 7 days a week

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

This is a hidden gem of Union County–13+ acres of lush gardens and woods, perfect for leisurely hikes and bird-watching. Once inhabited by the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, the arboretum is now listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Join a FREE TOUR of the grounds on Saturdays at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm from now until October. Kids will enjoy the DISCOVERY SATURDAYS on August 20thand 27th in the Stackhouse Education Center: drop in anytime from 9 am to 1 pmfor stories, games, crafts, and a mini exploration! Discovery Saturday events are free for members, $5 per non member child; children must be accompanied by an adult. 

Here are THREE different spraygrounds to choose from in our area, and all of them are FREE to visit. Heck, you could probably visit all three in a day! Generally, the sprayers turn on when temps reach 82 degrees.

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Ponderosa Park

Cooper Road, Scotch Plains

Huge spray area and sprawling playground structures for all ages, restrooms, shaded picnic benches, and bike path. The ice-cream truck visits almost daily. Note: there is no shade in the playground area so bring hats and ample sunscreen and beware of hot playground equipment! Water shoes might be a good idea for the kids.

Snyder Ave Park

240 Snyder Ave., Berkeley Heights

Adorable fenced-in spray area adjacent to a cute playground, plus restrooms. Note: there is zero shade!

Warinanco Park

Entrance at St. George’s Ave in Roselle

Such a great park featuring a large, newer sprayground, plus two playgrounds and a pond with paddleboats (which you can rent for $10 per hour). 

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

TRAILSIDE NATURE CENTER

452 New Providence Road, Mountainside

Hours: Open 12-5pm, 7 days a week

With over 4,000 square feet of nature, history, and animal exhibits, Trailside is a great place to spend a rainy day with the kiddos! And in nice weather you can make a day of it by visiting the ginormous Watchung loop playground or taking a hike into Watchung Reservation.

http://www.ucnj.org/trailside/

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Cranford NJ Community Farmer’s Market

What’s better than a lazy summer Sunday morning?  Adding a stroll through the Cranford Community Farmer’s Market!

11330005_870259049719511_4359428748600291009_nEvery Sunday from now through October, locals can take a walk through the parking lot of the train station on the South Avenue side, from 9:00 AM – 1:30 PM.  There is so much to see and enjoy!  The market is sponsored by the Cranford Community Connection organization, which also organized the hugely successful Winter Artisan Market held at the Community Center.

There is a huge variety of items from local farmers and vendors.  Of COURSE there’s farm fresh produce, but it certainly doesn’t end there! You can also find fresh eggs, cheeses, local honey, a wide assortment of nuts and dried fruits, locally made fresh pressed juices and organic specialties, pickles, olives and hummus, breads, fine oils and balsamics, fresh pastas and Italian specialties, Polish delicacies, and fresh baked pies.  Food vendors will also include El Lechon de Negron food truck, specializing in Puerto Rican pig roasts and cuisine,  Mozzerapas, offering their famous and delicious melted mozzarella on corn bread, and Lizzmonade, serving a variety of uniquely flavored soft drinks.

And each week you can find something new!  It’s one of the great joys of summer – fresh food items from the farm to you!  Stop by and stock up while summer is still in full swing!

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2015 Cranford Clay Courts Season

 

Cranford Clay Courts

Tennis anyone?

It’s great exercise, it’s a lot of fun, and we’ve got the perfect venue for it right here in Cranford at the Cranford Clay Courts on Springfield Avenue.

Cranford Clay Courts has announced the availability of 2015 Membership Applications, as well as the schedule for this season’s Tennis Academy for both Youth and Adults, as it embarks upon its 23rd season.  Registration for the 11th season of the Tennis Academy sessions for both youth and adults is already underway, and the adult sessions for Monday evenings in both May and June are scheduled to begin on May 4th. Three two-week youth sessions are scheduled to begin in June, to coordinate with the completion of the school year.  Each youth academy session offers six lessons over a two- week period, for ages 6-9 and 10-16. Charlie DeNicola, the Academy’s popular Instructor, will return for this season’s Academy classes.

The Club anticipates the opening of the courts later this month.  They offer individual adult, junior and family memberships, on a first come, first served basis.  The playing season normally continues throughout the summer and lasts through at least the end of the Daylight Savings Time, but in some years members have been able to play on the courts right into December. The Club is a neighborhood friendly facility and offers open round robin matches most mornings and Wednesday evenings, League Team Tennis matches, as well as private and group instruction at all levels of play. Members enjoy a great social atmosphere where fun and fitness can be enjoyed! For more information on the Club or to download a Membership Application, visit www.cranfordtennis.com  or call 201-394-2870.

“Back in the day,” Cranford Clay Courts were originally a part of The Cranford Canoe Club, one of several canoeing clubs popular from 1870 to the 1920s. Cranford was then a small rural hamlet growing from a population of 800 to 1500. People visited from New York and Brooklyn with many establishing summer homes here. With its numerous parks and a river meandering through it, Cranford became an idyllic place for leisure recreation … especially canoeing, swimming and tennis.

At the time, the clay courts attracted numerous excellent players,  including the legendary Bill Tilden,  who won major national and international tournaments during his career.  In 1920, he became the first American to win Wimbledon, and he then repeated his victory in 1921 and 1930. One of the best players of all time, Bill Tilden was named outstanding athlete for the first half of the 20th century.

The courts were run by the town for several decades. Local tennis players were given the opportunity in 1992 to lease the courts and create a private club, which was organized as the Cranford Clay Courts Club. Open April through November, weather permitting, the Cranford Clay Courts Club draws its members from Cranford and a number of surrounding towns. The Club is privileged to be one of the few “soft” court Clubs with a lighting system for night play.

The Tennis Academy Schedule and the Membership Application Forms are available atwww.cranfordtennis.com  or can be requested by calling 201-394-2870.

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Playgrounds in Cranford NJ

Cranford NJ Township Playgrounds

orange ave playground

How can you tell if a town is a “fun town?”  One very good way to make that determination is to look at what the town has to offer its residents and visitors.  And what better commodity to offer than an enticing, safe, playground to spend time at?  It should come as no surprise, then, that Cranford, being the exceptionally friendly town that it is, offers a number of wonderful playgrounds for its citizens to enjoy.

Each elementary school in town has a fully equipped playground, used by students during school day recess, and by area children during non-school hours.  That includes Hillside Avenue School, Lincoln Avenue School, Livingston Avenue School, Walnut Avenue School, Bloomingdale Avenue School, Brookside Avenue School, and Orange Avenue School.  Most of these are wisely devoid of swings.  (Swings are NEVER a good idea for school recess.  Despite fights over who gets the few coveted swing seats, there’s too many children on the playground at one time to avoid the “child who walks in front of or behind the swings” problem.)  Rather, they provide safe climbing, sliding, and gross motor play activities in a well-designed play environment.  The facilities are brightly colored, updated, and well-maintained, with soft mulch flooring to lessen the possibility of injury.

In addition to the schoolyard playgrounds, Cranford also boasts a number of beautiful playgrounds at the public parks.  These playgrounds are equally well-maintained, and include swing sets and basketball courts.  These include the playgrounds at Lincoln Park on Lincoln Avenue and Retford Avenue, Mohawk Park in Indian Village on Mohawk Avenue, and, the largest one, in Nomahegan Park on Springfield Avenue across from Union County Community College. The latter is surrounded by large picnic area, and a beautiful man-made lake with working fountains.  All of these playgrounds provide a safe, fun place for children to play, with comfort and convenience for parents, as well.

And if you have chosen to join the township pools, namely Orange Avenue Pool and Centennial Avenue Pool, then you have access to beautiful playgrounds and play facilities and fields there, as well.

All of the playgrounds are scrupulously maintained by the Cranford Recreation and Parks Department  and/or by the Union County Recreation and Parks Department

It’s nice to know that there are so many safe, accessible, free places to enjoy!

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One of Union County’s Most Beautiful Parks Is…

Echo Lake Park

Whether you’re a cyclist, a jogger, a fisherman (or woman!), a walker, a dog owner, a photographer, or an energetic child, there is something for EVERYONE at majestic Echo Lake Park. Nestled between Westfield and Mountainside, the park is accessible from Springfield and Mountain Avenues, and once you enter, you can spend hours here.

At Echo Lake Park you’ll find exactly what Echo Lake Parkthe park is named after–a large, gorgeous lake (divided into upper and lower ponds) hugged by picturesque, winding walking paths. A favorite photographic spot at the lake near the Springfield Ave entrance is the waterfall and recently refurbished waterwheel, both viewable from a lovely gazebo.

Echo Lake is a frequent stop for those who love to fish–the lower pond is regularly stocked Echo Lake Park with trout, and there are even handicapped-accessible fishing ledges. Anyone over the age of 16 requires a license to fish (you can purchase a license at Wal-Mart or Dick’s Sporting Goods in Union).

Close to the Mountain Ave entrance are the famous paddle boats. Did you know it costs only $10 an hour to rent a paddle boat? Burn some calories peddling and then treat yourself to something tasty at the snack bar, which offers ice cream, hot dogs, and snacks. Across from the snack bar is a great playground for the little ones that is chock full of slides and swings, as well as some picnic benches and grills.

At the center of Echo Lake Park is a wonderful dog park, almost three acres large with separate fenced areas designated for smaller and larger dogs. It’s a great way to socialize your dog and really let him stretch his legs, since four-legged friends can run off-leash in the dog park.

After having visited this park many times, I only just discovered its beautiful September 11th Memorial, which honors area residents who died on that tragic day. Two steel beams from the wreckage stand tall at the Memorial, along with a replica of Lady Liberty’s torch.

In the winter, bring the kids to Echo Lake for sledding! There is a huge hill that just screams out for a toboggan, and rumor has it the parks department places bales of hay at the bottom to ensure a safe landing.

There are well-kept ball fields at the park, and let’s not forget about the free summer Playgroundconcerts on the great lawn: this year’s concerts are slated for July 9, 16, 23, and 30. (For more information visit www.ucnj.org.)

Go alone or go with the family, but do go to Echo Lake sometime soon and enjoy the spoils of this perfect park.

Concession stand and pedal boat hours of operation: open April 1st to October 31st, weekdays 12-5 pm, weekends and holidays 11 am to 6 pm. There are restrooms throughout the park.

 

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