Summer brings with it the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. It also brings with it the necessity to entertain the children who are on break from school. If the very idea of bringing your family camping makes you break out into hives and feel phantom insects crawling on your skin, or if YOUR idea of camping is staying in a hotel that doesn’t offer turn-down service and little mints on your pillow, don’t fret! There is an easy and very close-by alternative, which can provide you with a convenient way to help your family appreciate nature, less than 10 miles from home! (And there is no camping required!)
If you’ve never visited the Trailside Nature Center in nearby Mountainside, on the Watchung Reservation, then do so. You are in for a treat. You’ll be amazed at how much of “the great outdoors” you can experience with a 15 minute ride down Rt. 22W! There is a variety of beautiful hiking trails of various difficulty levels, including easier ones that are more like “nature walks.” The Trailside Museum is a wonderful experience for children of all ages, and is open from 12:00 – 5:00 every day. It is constantly updated and is just the right size to be completed during an afternoon outing. The “night theater” exhibition, where you are treated to a short show about nocturnal animals, is not to be missed! You can also walk through a Lenape wigwam, and learn about the plants and animals of the surrounding area. And, here comes my favorite word . . . . . admission is FREE!!!!!
In addition to the museum, The Trailside Nature & Science Center is holding summer matinees this June for little ones. There will be three separate shows . . . June 11th– One Earth So Green & Round puppet show), July 18th – Fantastic Forces, and July 25th – Rizzo’s Reptiles. ( Tickets will go on sale at 1 p.m. the day of the matinee and admission is $4 per person.) These shows are recommended for ages 4 and up. Also offered for young children is Story Time. This event will take place every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm. Join a Trailside staff member on the lower level of the Visitor Center for engaging and entertaining seasonal stories.
The Trailside Nature and Science Center hosts a variety of educational and informational experiences for all ages. There are weekly solar watches, which will include discussions on the safety issues of looking at the sun.. Amateur Astronomers, Inc., AAI and members from the Miller Sperry Observatory, Cranford will be on hand for this event. Ray Shapp of the AAI will conduct weekly solar viewing sessions with the use of a Hydro-Alpha 60 mm sidewalk astronomy telescope. On Saturday, June 23, from 8 p.m. – 10:00 PM, enjoy an easy-to-understand presentations on the evening sky, with a chance to view Saturn, Mars, a crescent Moon and M57, the famous ring nebula.
The center also offers parties and group tours and shows, and the staff is very accommodating. For more information on any of the programs or special events at Trailside call 908-789-3670 or visit www.ucnj.org/trailside. Trailside Nature & Science Center is located at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside.