Category Archives: Kids

Fireworks

Fireworks, Food, and Fun: The Guide to Everything 4th of July 2017

Whether you are new to town or simply want a change of venue for your Independence Day festivities – I have the lowdown on all the fun events happening in the Cranford/Westfield area!Westfield NJ 4th of July 2012

CRANFORD: 

What a  4th of July celebration! The town comes together for a family-friendly events that take place over the course of the entire day! 

7:30 amRegister for the Canoe Race at the Cranford Canoe Club (250 Springfield Avenue, Cranford). Trophies awarded to a winner in each category

Canoe races8:00 am: Canoe Races begin – it’s exciting to watch the teams go down Cranford’s part of the Rahway River – you don’t want to miss this!

Firecracker 4 milerCranford Jaycees 38th Annual Firecracker Run 4-miler and Fun Run: hailed “the Premiere 4th of July Road Race” – not only in NJ but throughout the region! This is the Cranford Jaycees’ largest fundraiser of the year with proceeds going to their Jaycees Scholarship Fund for high school seniors. It’s pretty impressive to view over 1,300 runners from all over NJ and even the country kick off the 4th of July festivities. For more information go to the Cranford Jaycees website.

All events take place within Nomehegan Park (1024 Springfield Avenue, Cranford).  Cranford and nearby residents are encouraged to walk to all activities! However, there is limited parking at Union County College (1033 Springfield Avenue, Cranford). 

Kids8:30 amThe Firecracker Fun-Run begins – sponsored by Dave Weichert Magical Travel

9:00 amThe Firecracker 4-miler race begins – sponsored by Investors Bank. Last minute desire to put those sneakers on? You can still register at the race site – cost is $32

1:30 pmBike Decorating Contest at Nomehegan. Who can make their bike be red, white, & blue all over? Winners in each category awarded prizes!

2:00 pm: Let the games begin! Raffles, prizes, live music, amusement rides, food and drink vendors, face painting, and family-friendly games go on all day until 10:00 pm!!

9:15 pm: Time for Fireworks! (RAIN DATE July 5) For further information please call the Cranford Recreation Department at 908-709-7283

WESTFIELD: 

If you are a music lover then you are going to love what the 4th has to offer in Westfield!

21st Annual Sweet Sounds Downtown Jazz Festival: this FREE festival kicks off on July 4and runs until August 29th.  Every Tuesday evening from 7-9pm, 5 bands ranging from contemporary, jazz, and big band will perform. This is a perfect way to get the family outdoors and enjoy the shopping and al fresco dining that Westfield has to offer. It’s so delightful take an evening stroll and hear live music around every corner! Visit Westfield Today’s website for a full schedule and more information. 

The locations are:

  • Central Avenue in front of Banana Republic
  • Lawn in front of the North Avenue Train Station
  • Plaza at the corner of East Broad and North Avenue, 
  • Elm Street in front of the Baptist Church
  • Foundation Park across the street from Gallery U Boutique at 439 South Ave. W.(near the corner of South Ave W. and Westfield Ave.)

Westfield NJ Mindowaskin Park

Westfield Community Concert Band: a special Independence Day FREE concert Thursday, July 6 at 7:30 pm in Mindowaskin Park at East Broad Street in Westfield, NJ. The Westfield Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Westfield Town Crier will be performing at this tribute event.

CLARK:

FlagsJuly 4 at 7:00 pm will be all the festivities at Arthur L. Johnson High School on Westfield Avenue. There will be live entertainment by a DJ, food vendors, ice cream, and local merchant vendors.  Fireworks start at dusk – around 9:15 pm.

FANWOOD/SCOTCH PLAINS:

Saturday, July 1 will be the 2nd Annual Independence Day Festival for Scotch Plains. This will take place at the Scotch Hills Golf Course at 820 Jerusalem Road in Scotch Plains. Everyone may enter the area at 7pm.  Fireworks will begin at dusk.  Rain date is July 2.

ELIZABETH:

July 4 will be the annual fireworks at dusk at the Veterans Memorial Waterfront Park on Front Street and Elizabeth Avenue. 

KENILWORTH:

Sunday, July 2nd will be this town’s celebration.  At 5:30, a parade will commence at St. Theresa’s parking lot, head down South 24th Street to Washington Avenue and end at Harding School. Once at Harding there will be live music, face painting, food vendors, and rides. These activities will continue until dusk when the fireworks begin at David Brearley High School on Monroe Avenue. 

ROSELLE PARK:

FireworksSaturday, July 1 festivities start at 6:00 pm and go until 10:00pm at Roselle High School at the Green Acres Complex

6-8:30pm: FREE carnival, games & activities 

7pm: Live music by Brian Clayton and the Green River Band

Dusk: Fireworks begin!  (Rain date Tues, August 1 – National Night Out)

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kids-summer-camp-clipart-SummerCamp

Last-Minute Summer Camp Ideas in the Cranford/Westfield Area

Some parents plan ahead when it comes to summer camp. I knew one mother who kept a spreadsheet detailing the various camps that her children would be attending! But for those of us procrastinators: this list is for you! Here are some fun camps in Cranford and Westfield that still have openings. This list is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to share if you know of a great local camp that has availability this summer! And although I didn’t include them here, there are still many openings for camps at the Westfield Area YMCA and through the Westfield and Cranford Recreation Departments. Here’s to a happy summer for the kiddos!
Camp: Camp Invention
Location: Orange Avenue School, Cranford
Description: hands-on STEM type activities
Date(s): July 10-14, July 17-21st (camp goes from 8:30-2:45 daily)
Ages: entering grades K-6
Cost: $250 per week
 
 
Cesar-KaiCamp: Cesar Kai Academy
Location: Wanut Ave, Cranford
Description: martial arts, games, crafts, outdoor play, field trips (no uniform required)
Date(s): July 17-Sept.1 (half and full-day options)
Ages: 6+
Cost: Half day = $149 per week; Full day = $249 per week; One-day = $55; snack included
 
ColoCamp: Color Chips
Location: United Methodist Church, Cranford
Description: art and craft camp with art show at camp’s end
Date(s): July 10-Aug.17 (9:30am-12:30pm, M-Th)
Ages: Enterting grades K-5; Entering grades 6-10
Cost: $175 per week; sibling discount
Fire Me Up!
Camp: Fire Me Up
Location: Downtown Cranford
Description: various pottery, craft, and painting camps
Date(s): June 26- Aug.24 (1-4:30pm)
Ages: 6-10+ depending on camp
Cost: starts at $249 per weekly camp; snack included
Camp: Hoops There It Is
Location: Cranford Community Center
Description: coed basketball fun, games, and skill-building
Date(s): Aug. 14-28 (9am-3pm; early drop-off available for additional fee)
Ages: 5 through high school
Cost: $235 per week; can purchase lunch for additional fee
Camp: Jump Immersion School
Location: South Ave, Westfield
Description: immersive language learning (Spanish or Mandarin); crafts, games; outdoor play; theater
Date(s): June 26-August 18 (9am-3pm; before and after care available for additional fee)
Ages: 3-7
Cost: $145-$305 per week depending on how many days per week you choose (2-week minimum); sibling discount
Camp: AR Workshop
Location: North Ave, Westfield
Description: a unique DIY craft project each day
Date(s): June 26-29 (9am-12pm)
Ages: 8-14
Cost: $40 per day ($20 gift certificate towards future workshop if you book all 4 days)
Camp: Just Bead Yourself
Location: Downtown Westfield
Description: beading and craft activities
Date(s): June 21-August 31 (half and full-day options)
Ages: 6-17 (age ranges vary per camp)
Cost: varies per camp
 
Camp: St. Paul’s Day School
Location: E. Broad St., Westfield
Description: Weekly themes, playground fun, crafts, water play, and more
Date(s): now through July 14
Ages: 2-6 (must have completed a 2’s program to enter; cutoff is having completed kindergarten)
Cost: $285 per week
Urban Sewciety
Camp: Urban Sewciety
Location: South Ave, Westfield
Description: Weekly themed sewing projects and a Teen Fashion Design Camp
Date(s): June 26- Sept 11 (younger) and August 7-11 (teen)
Ages: 7 and up and 12 and up (if no prior sewing experience must have completed a Beginners Workshop to enter)
Cost: $250 per week (materials included)
 
Camp: Valencia School of Music
Location: Elm Street, Westfield
Description: Intro to Music Performance; Rock and Roll School; Godspell theater
Date(s): July 10-14; July 17-21; July 31-Aug. 25 (
Ages: 6-10; age 10+ depending on camp
Cost: varies per camp
 
Camp: Westfield Indoor Tennis
Location: Grove Street, Westfield
Description: tennis fun and skill-building
Date(s): June 26-Aug. 18 (half and full-day options)
Ages: 4-17
Cost: mornings 9-12 = $365 per week; afternoons 1-3:30 = $305 per week; full day 9-3:30 = $630 per week
Camp: Winning Writing Academy
Location: Westfield
Description: writing and reading proficiency, games and activities
Date(s): July 31-Aug. 4 (morning and afternoon sessions)
Ages: Entering grades 3-9
Cost: Each half-day camp is $249 for the week; save 20% when you sign up for both morning and afternoon sessions.

 

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Have a wonderful and fun summer!!

 

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Say Bye-Bye to Mosquitoes and Ticks!

We’re well into spring, the flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and it SHOULD be a wonderful time to get some fresh air! But two things can majorly get in the way of enjoying the great outdoors: TICKS and MOSQUITOES. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to enjoy my patio without having to worry incessantly about either of those pests!

 

With the large population of deer combined with the rivers and ponds in our area, it’s an unfortunate truth that we have to deal with ticks and mosquitoes. The threat of Lyme disease makes ticks particularly worrisome, and their tiny size means that many bites go unnoticed. As for mosquitoes: not only do their bites itch like crazy (and they just loooove biting some people more than others–you know who you are!), they also carry dangerous diseases and can cause secondary infections.

Last Bite MosquitoIn recent years I’d heard glowing reviews of businesses that will treat your yard periodically to ward off ticks and mosquitoes. One friend said it was “life changing,” now that her family was able to enjoy pest-free backyard living after suffering endless mosquito bites in years past. It almost sounded too good to be true. I caught up with the co-owner of Last Bite Mosquito Control to discuss these services and see what all the fuss is about. 

Last Bite is based out of Monmouth County but services all of Union County. They are members of the Westfield Chamber of Commerce and will soon be opening an office in town. Twin brothers and physical education teachers Jason and Jeremy Julio launched the company in 2013, after Jeremy’s son had contracted a staph infection from an infected mosquito bite (scary!). They thoroughly researched mosquito and tick prevention, got licensed, and their family company has grown exponentially ever since. 

When it comes to preventing mosquitoes in your own backyard, home remedies just don’t cut it. Jason said, “Mosquitoes can breed in something as small as a bottlecap.” So even if you get rid of a couple of mosquitoes here and there, it takes an expert to locate and treat the breeding areas of mosquitoes. 

The treatment process is described as follows on Last Bite’s website: 

Last Bite Mosquito Control has highly trained and licensed technicians that will survey your yard and identify any high risk areas that could be used as mosquito breeding grounds.  A fine mist of our Barrier Spray (derived from the chrysanthemum plant) will be applied to the perimeter of your home. cThe treatment will include trees, shrubs, evergreens, flowers, foliage plants and all landscaping within the treatment area. Larvicide will then be placed to all mosquito breeding grounds at no additional charge. Our Barrier Spray treatment kills mosquitoes and ticks on contact and continues to provide protection for up to 21 days. All products we use are EPA approved.

You and your pets can use your yard as soon as 30 minutes after it’s been treated by Last Bite! They offer a package where they will come spray every 21 days from spring through fall; a pay-as-you go plan; or or you can purchase a one-time spray, which could be a life-saver for a backyard party you might be hosting. Jason said, “We encourage our customers to have open communication with us to let us know if there’s ever a problem, and we will always come back to your property. Our treatments are 100 percent guaranteed.” 

I’m looking forward to getting my yard treated by Last Bite this month so I can put my feet up on the patio and relax without having to swat myself every five minutes! 

For more information about Last Bite call 866-742-4887 or visit http://www.lastbitemosquito.com

Stop by Last Bite’s booth at Westfield’s Spring Fling on May 7th and tell them Sharon says hello! 

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Check Out Kidoolo….A GREAT New Kid’s Party Place in Springfield!

A Party Place Like No Other!

kidoolo

There’s a new PARTY PLACE in Springfield, and it’s just what the doctor–okay, the kids–ordered! I had my assistant Christine check out the space with her two children ages 7 and 6, since mine are a wee bit too old for this spot, and her kids are already begging to go back!

Kidoolo (pronounced KID-uh-loo) opened on Route 22 in Springfield this past fall. Owned by husband-and-wife team Trish Stephens and Marc Turner of Westfield, Kidoolo doesn’t look like any other party place in our area. You won’t be accosted by crazy, swirly, brightly colored patterns on the walls and carpets when you enter. The interior design of Kidoolo is sleek and modern, clean as a whistle, and actually pleasant for parents to look at. Christine said, “I found myself asking where they got the cool leather benches for parents to sit on!”

There is a main sitting area for parents, with an adjacent “bar” where you can order light snacks and beverages. When Christine and her family were visiting, they were offered free ice water, which was a nice touch. Off the main lobby are our different play areas:

  • A climbing structure and toys.
  • An interactive dance floor area (not a separate room) featuring games projected onto the floor and a twinkling disco ball above.
  • A state-of-the-art laser tag arena, styled to look like New York City.
  • A video game room with 8 flat-screen TVs, various game consoles with tons of games, and bench seating, similar to the interior of a Game Truck.

Kidoolo was Trish’s vision, after receiving her MBA and working for 20 years in business and marketing for such companies as Nickelodeon. Trish said, “I  saw a void in the market when I was s earching for great kids’ play venues that provided awesome parties that weren’t overly crowded and were a little swanky . Also based on families hectic schedules, I wanted to offer exceptional services that made party planning stress free and extremely easy.”

 

Christine’s kids were able to play in all but the video game room, which wasn’t operating at that time. Christine said, “My kids actually did play on the climbing structure for a few minutes, but I would definitely say it’s best suited for children under age six. It’s a great spot for younger siblings to play while older siblings enjoy the other play areas.” 

She went on, “The dance floor was a lot of fun for my kids–they’ve seen this at other indoor play areas, but this one was actually working correctly, whereas similar floors at other locales seem not to work as well. They even played a successful faux soccer game!”

Kidoolo According to Christine, laser tag was the biggest hit with her family. “We were ALL dripping sweat and cracking up by the end of it; we had the best time doing it together as a family. The room is very dark, lighted by black lights, with lots of New York landmarks and buildings to hid behind, and it looks really snazzy. Music and sound effects blast through while you’re playing. All of our laser guns worked perfectly, which I imagine could be a concern. My daughter was a little scared at first because of the darkness and the loudness, and the manager was kind enough to turn the sound down for us! Each laser tag game lasts 8 minutes. You can purchase just one game, or an hour of games, which is what we did.” 

With a private party room on site and various all-inclusive theme party packages, Kidoolo seems like a terrific choice for any kid’s birthday celebration. A great way to check out the facilities before you book a party is to bring your kids for open play or open laser tag. Open Play (which only includes the climbing structure and dance floor) is held Tuesday through Thursday from 10am-4pm, Fridays from 10am-8-m, and Saturdays during select hours as listed the Kidoolo Facebook page (@Kidoolo). Laser Tag is available Friday evenings and select Saturday hours as listed on Facebook. 

Look out for a GRAND OPENING event on Saturday, January 28 from 12:30-3pm! 

For more information about Kidoolo, visit their website at http://www.kidooloplay.com.

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Santa Claus Is Coming to Town!! (Cranford and Westfield)

santa-kidsYou better watch out, you better not cry … oh who am I kidding, any sane child will cry in the face of a stranger dressed up as Santa Claus! But we love subjecting our children to it nonetheless! Here’s a list of places in the Cranford-Westfield Area where Jolly Old Saint Nick will make an appearance to delight (i.e., scare the bejeezus out of) your little ones. 

NOVEMBER 25, 6:00pm

Gazebo at corner of North Union and Springfield Ave, Cranford

Santa lights the tree; photos with Santa immediately after, $3 per child.

NOVEMBER 25-­27

Lord & Taylor, 609 North Ave. W., Westfield

Friday & Saturday 1-7pm, Sunday 1-4pm

Free 5″ x 7″ photo with donation of 2 cans of non­-perishable food for the Holy Trinity Westfield Food Pantry. Nominal shipping fee will apply. Additional photos can be purchased.

NOVEMBER 26, 12-4pm

Tiffany Pharmacy, 1115 South Ave W., Westfield

Visit with Santa, enjoy free hot chocolate and cookies, and receive 25% off gift department purchases while you’re there! Visiting with Santa is free, but you can purchase photo packages if you’d like. 

NOVEMBER 27, 3:30pm

Fire Me Up Studio, 117 N. Union Ave, Cranford

Make plates and decorate cookies with Santa! $45 per child (accompanying non-painting adult free). Purchase tickets at: https://placefull.com/santa-s-coming-to-fire-me-up–studio

NOVEMBER 27, 5:30pm

North Ave. W. Train Station, Westfield

Annual Tree Lighting with Santa & Mrs. Claus. Free.

NOVEMBER 29, 4:30pm

Fire Me Up Studio, 117 N. Union Ave, Cranford

This is the second event where kids will make plates and decorate cookies with Santa! $45 per child (accompanying non-painting adult free). Purchase tickets at: https://placefull.com/santa-s-coming-to-fire-me-up–studio

DECEMBER 3, 8:30am

Trinity Episcopal Church, 119 Forest Ave, Cranford

Pancakes, bagels, cereal, muffins, munchkins, juice, coffee & tea will be available. Jewelry, Christmas wreaths & grave covers, photo with Santa, fabulous raffle baskets 50/50 for sale. Breakfast tickets $6.00.

DECEMBER 8, 5:30pm

Giggles, 103 Miln Street, Cranford

$40 first child, $35 each sibling, includes indoor play. Email [email protected] for tickets.

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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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Foster The Dream Gala hosted by CASA of Union County

image1There are a few events in our area that combine a magical evening with fundraising for a truly worthy cause . . . and the Foster The Dream Gala hosted by CASA of Union County is one such event. The 3rd annual gala is slated for Friday, November 6 at the beautiful Galloping Hill Country Club in Kenilworth, and the cause it supports is one you might not be aware of.

There are currently 542 Union County children in foster care, and the goal of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is to have one advocate for every foster child, and to ensure a permanent, safe environment for every child.

According CASA’s Development and Marketing Coordinator, Gretchen Boger-O’Bryan: “Right now, we serve about 25 percent of the county’s foster children. We all must undergo an extensive training and then be sworn in by a judge, who issues a court order allowing the CASA to access the parties in the youth’s life to ensure their needs are being met. Amazingly, CASAs do this unique and challenging work on a volunteer basis. There really are some great hearts out there.”

Gretchen wears many hats for CASA; she also serves as one of six advocate supervisors who oversee a team of volunteer advocates, while continuing to act as a court advocate herself. Her career in legal journalism shifted course after she began volunteering with CASA years ago. She says: “Given the role adoption plays in my life every day – my daughter and husband were both adopted – advocating for children in need and making them whole again is certainly a top priority.”

The Foster The Dream Gala is the largest annual fundraiser for CASA of Union County. Attendees of the gala will enjoy a cocktail hour, live entertainment, dancing, open bar, and an elegant multi-course dinner. A live and silent auction will feature some highly coveted items, from event tickets to gift certificates to hotel stays and more. If that’s not enough, the evening will be capped off by FIREWORKS that guests can watch from the balcony overlooking the golf course!

To purchase tickets for the gala, visit https://casauc.ejoinme.org/fosterthedream2015tics. And for more information on CASA an the many ways to volunteer or support future CASA events, visit www.casaofunioncounty.org.

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Winning Writing Academy Summer Camp at Surgents Elite Gymnastics in Westfield

Does your child have a way with words? A love of books? Then you might consider signing him or her up for Winning Writing Academy summer camp in Westfield. There are still a few spots left for this great camp for students entering grades 3-8 that will keep your wordsmith’s mind and pen active while avoiding the so-called summer slide!

unknownCranford resident Lauren Feldman founded Winning Writing Academy last summer, and it was such a success that she has not only returned for a second summer but has added more classes as well. Lauren is a much-loved elementary school educator with a venerable list of achievements and expertise in the teaching of reading and writing. She will be joined by a staff of certified teachers to bring truly creative, engaging classes to kids who love to read and write, or who want to improve upon both skills.

Winning Writing Academy will take place at Surgents Elite Gymnastics in Westfield. There are four classes to choose from:

·         Winning Writing Academy I –

·         Reading Like a Boss

·         Winning Writing Academy II – The Next Level

·         Creative Writing and Character Development

Each class runs for three hours a day, five days a week during July 13-17 and August 3-7.  See www.WinningWritingAcademy.com for the class dates and times. You can combine morning and afternoon sessions to create a full day of camp for your child. Save $50 by using code 365Things! Check the website for an additional multi-class discount.

Why choose a gymnastics center to host writing classes? According to Lauren: “It’s summertime. I know that kids don’t want to be sitting in a classroom. Surgent’s is a place where we can spread out, move around, and have fun–and that really helps their creativity come out.”

unknown_2Lauren went to explain: “Teaching writing is my passion, and I’ve been told that my passion is contagious! At the camp, we see incredible progress in just five days. Plus we give our campers a custom reference guide and two free refresher classes in the fall and spring to help them stay sharp and prepare for the state tests.”

Parents of last year’s campers gave the Academy rave reviews and found that their children’s skills not only improved, but that a genuine love of writing was reinforced. Sounds like a no-brainer — or rather a SMART-brainer — to me!

For more information, visit www.WinningWritingAcademy.com or contact Lauren Feldman at 732-309-5507 or [email protected].

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Fireworks Celebrations in the Cranford/Westfield and Surrounding Areas

Westfield NJ 4th of July 2012

The Fourth of July just isn’t the same without fireworks.  If you’re Katie Perry, then you have your very own fireworks supply right there in your customized bra.  But, just in case you do NOT own pyrotechnic undergarments, here is a list of fireworks for the Fourth, as well as some other fun celebration ideas, in our area.  Pack up the family, with a blanket and whatever else you desire, and head out to one of these local celebration areas for some holiday fun!

CLARK – parade from Wilson Avenue through town to borough parking lot on Craig Place, July 4, 10 a.m.; DJ and vendors in front of town hall starting and fireworks at dusk over Arthur L. Johnson Regional High School, July 4, 7:30 p.m. Clark Municipal Building, 430 Westfield Ave. ourclark.com, 732-388-3600.

CRANFORD  – canoe race at 8 a.m. followed by Firecracker 4-Mile Run at 9 a.m., music, face painting and other events in the park at 2 p.m., with fireworks at dusk, July 4. Nomahegan Park, Springfield Avenue. ucnj.org/parks, 908-709-7283.

ELIZABETH  fireworks beginning at dusk, July 4. Veterans Memorial Waterfront Park, Front Street and Elizabeth Avenue. 908-820-4222.

MOUNTAINSIDE – fireworks at dusk with free ice cream for children, sponsored by the borough, Mountainside PAL and Mountainside Fire Company, July 4, 9 p.m. Deerfield School, 302 Central Ave. mountainside-nj.com, 908-232-2400.

NEW PROVIDENCE  celebration on South Street from Gales Drive to Springfield Avenue with DJ, juggler show, sidewalk chalk drawing and fireworks, July 3, 7 p.m. npbpa.com, 908-665-1400

PLAINFIELD – 92nd annual “Central Jersey July 4th Celebration” beginning with Veterans Parade on East Front Street and events in the park, concluding with fireworks, July 4, 10 a.m. Cedar Brook Park, Park Avenue and Pemberton Avenue. ucnj.org, 877-424-1234.

SPRINGFIELD – music by 1910 Fruitgum Company and John Ford Coley, petting zoo, pony rides, trackless train, moonwalk, water slide, food and drinks, concluding with fireworks, July 4, 5 p.m. $5. Meisel Avenue Park, Meisel Avenue. 973-912-2200.

SUMMIT  flag-raising ceremony at 9:45 a.m. followed by children’s decorated bicycle parade, music by Polka Dot and the Kootz, rides, crafts, games, and 7:45 p.m. concert with the Cameos, concluding with fireworks display at 9:15 p.m, July 4. Soldiers Memorial Field, Ashland Road. cityofsummit.org, 908-277-2932.

UNION – annual soap box derby 10 a.m. on Stuyvesant Avenue between Mountainview and Tyler avenues, concert by John Christian & Soiree at 7:30 p.m. at Biertuempfel Park, with music by Smooth followed by fireworks, July 4, 10 a.m. Biertuempfel Park, Winslow Avenue and Vauxhall Road. uniontownship.com, 908-686-4200.

WESTFIELD – Westfield Community Concert Band, contemporary and classical selections, overtures, Broadway tunes, popular music and traditional marches; bring lawn chairs and blankets, July 2, 7:30 p.m. Mindowaskin Park, East Broad Street and Park Drive. westfieldtoday.com, 908-789-4080.

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Favorite Ice Cream Shops in the Cranford Westfield Area of NJ

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Here are some favorite local haunts for the cold, sweet treats that everyone craves on hot days. Whether you prefer old-fashioned churned ice cream, a blended creation, or frozen yogurt with extreme toppings, there’s surely a place in our area that will satisfy your cravings. What’s YOUR favorite spot to grab a frosty treat?

Frosty Freeze

1 North Ave, Garwood

Old-fashioned ice cream stand reminiscent of the kind you see at the Shore. Hard and soft ice cream, novelty ice cream bars, cakes, shakes, and more.

Couple of outdoor benches for seating; free parking.

Vanilla Bean Creamery

22 North Ave West, Cranford

908-272-3000

Homemade artisan hard and soft ice creams (they vary by season–I adore the pumpkin-inspired flavors in the fall), frozen yogurt, blended creations, frozen drinks, custom cakes, and more. Newest flavors: coffee chip fro yo, red raspberry sorbet, and strawberry soft serve.

Plenty of indoor seating and some outdoor tables; metered parking.

Dairy Queen

337 North Ave East, Cranford

908-272-7114

Home of the original Blizzard (“brownie batter” flavor is back!), soft serve, sundaes, shakes and a full menu of lunch and dinner fast food. No indoor seating, couple of benches outside and free parking.

Sweetie Frozen Yogurt

109 N. Union Ave, Cranford

908-272-1088

Self-serve frozen yogurt in 12 flavors with 35 toppings to choose from, smoothies, shakes, and more.

Indoor seating, metered parking.

Friendly’s

1463 Raritan Road, Clark

908-276-2752

Home of the beloved Reese’s Pieces Sundae and other irresistible trademarked sundaes, plus Fribble shakes, hard and soft ice creams, and a full menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Fusion Yogurt Lounge

1085 Raritan Rd, Clark

848-467-4788

Self-serve frozen yogurt with tons of toppings, smoothies, gourmet coffee.

Indoor seating and free parking (in the Clarkton Shopping Center).

Creme Berree

506 North Ave, Garwood

908-301-0506

Frozen yogurt (with unique seasonal flavors such as honeydew, green tea, watermelon, and red velvet); yogurt pops dipped in toppings, and their trademarked “shooties”: 4 mini cups of different-flavored yogurt topped with 4 different toppings and drizzle. Indoor and outdoor seating with free parking in the back.

Uncle Louie G

57 Elm St, Westfield

917-613-8367

Signature Italian ices in dozens of flavors (unique ones too: cappuccino breeze, cantaloupe balls, rainbow cookie, root beer mug, etc.), plus soft-serve ice cream, frozen yogurt, shakes, and cakes.

A few indoor seats, metered street parking.

Let’s Yo

121 East Broad St, Westfield

Self-serve frozen yogurt with oodles of toppings, unique sundaes, and smoothies.

Wednesdays are “No-Weigh Wednesdays” where you fill a cup for just 5 bucks!

Lots of indoor seating with iPads for the kids. Metered street parking (and metered lot in back with another entrance into the shop).

Bohemian Raspberry

219 South Ave East, Westfield

Self-serve frozen yogurt with every topping imaginable, plus shakes, juices, and a full gourmet coffee bar with cappuccino and other hot drinks. They even have almond and soy milks for dairy-free folks.

Indoor and outdoor seating, free parking.

Yapple

116 Elm St., Westfield

908-228-5373

Self-serve frozen yogurt and toppings in a bright and cheery atmosphere.

Indoor seating, metered parking.

Chocolate Bar

112 Quimby St, Westfield

908-389-9000

Authentic Italian gelato in a wide array of flavors (the stracciatella is amazing), plus gourmet chocolate, full coffee bar, shakes, and more. Good luck not gaining 10 pounds while you’re there!

Indoor seating, metered parking.

Cold Stone Creamery

163 East Broad St, Westfield

908-389-4550

Handmade ice cream and frozen yogurt that is mixed with toppings on a chilled marble countertop while you wait. Try their trademarked “Red Velvet Dream”!

Indoor seating, metered parking.

Scoops: The Ice Creamery

2014 Route 22 East, Scotch Plains

908-322-4550

Old-fashioned handmade hard ice cream in great flavors that change daily, soft-serve, frozen yogurt, shakes, cakes, and more.

Plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (there’s a porch and a great hidden patio on the side of the shop), free parking.

Double Dipper Cafe

38A South Martine Ave, Fanwood

908-490-0102

Hard and soft ice creams in lots of flavors (vanilla cashew caramel chip, anyone?), shakes, custom cakes, and a full menu of lunch and dinner foods and coffees. They even deliver now!

Indoor seating and free street parking.

Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices & Ice Cream

700 Boulevard, Kenilworth

908-445-8192

New-York style Italian ice in two different styles: water ice, and creme ice (aka sherbet). Countless flavors, including ones you won’t find elsewhere (black cherry cheesecake, strawberry margarita, etc.); plus incredible signature blended drinks like the Ralphaccino and the Cake Shake; soft and hard ice cream; sundaes; and more.

Free parking.

Boathouse Snack Bar

Echo Lake Park, Mountainside

There’s just a small variety of novelty ice creams (and some snack foods) at this humble snack bar at the paddle boats, but you sure can’t beat the view of gorgeous Echo Lake! Plenty of benches and grass for picnicking.

Free parking.

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