Tuesday, August 30, 2016

10 Classic New Jersey Attractions You Should Revisit

What comes to mind when you think of classic New Jersey attractions? Chances are, the places in your memory are still in existence today. New Jersey is filled with classic attractions that families and visitors have enjoyed for decades. Why not make some plans to revisit them this year?


1. Land of Make Believe - Hope, NJ

I asked a few friends on Facebook if I could borrow their photos from Land of Make Believe (lovingly referred to as LoMB) and so many people came forward with pictures of their fun times that I had trouble choosing which shots to use! This classic New Jersey attraction, located in Hope, New Jersey, has been in business for over 60 years. Featuring rides, roller coasters, a water park, picnic area and more. Families have loved this place for generations. Cleanliness, location, family-friendly activities and good value are just some of the reasons why LoMB has been a classic staple in New Jersey family travels for so many years!

Photo cred thanks to L. Soos, S. Ho-Tai, S. Wright, H. Sherwin and J. Augustine

2. Space Farms Zoo & Museum - Sussex, NJ

Ask most New Jersey residents if they have been to Space Farms Zoo and Museum, and they usually answer with a smile. Space Farms had its humble beginnings in 1927, and the Space family has maintained it ever since. I can still vividly remember our first class field trip there in the mid-1980's, when Goliath the bear was still alive. Visitors will find it largely unchanged since the past, featuring acres of animals, picnic areas, a museum, classic cars and so much more. Check out their website or read my blog post review about this unforgettable New Jersey location.


3. Turtle Back Zoo - West Orange, NJ

Turtle Back Zoo opened in 1963, and it was also a favorite field trip location for many children back in the 1970's and 80's (and still, today!). The zoo has come a long way since its early days, with expansions, aquariums, additions and play areas included for children. You can still find giant turtles in their midst, as well as their famous wandering peacocks (but leave them alone, please!). You also can't forget family favorites like the train ride, pony rides, and the beautiful carousel. Turtle Back Zoo is open year round, and in my opinion, is one of the best classic New Jersey attractions out there. Read my blog post all about the zoo, or visit their website to find out more information.


4. Wild West City - Stanhope, NJ

What I remember most about Wild West City is the TV commercial (or radio commercial) that played over and over again during the late 1970's and early 80's. It featured the voice and piano playing of New Jersey's own Uncle Floyd, if you remember him. They still use this song on Wild West City's website, if you feel the need for a flashback! Like most New Jersey classic attractions, it hasn't changed much since you last visited! It has been family owned and operated on and off since 1956, and features live-action shows, stagecoach rides, pony rides, train rides, panning for gold, mini golf, and a whole lot more. Guests should know that they still reenact legendary western gunfights in a safe manner (you can read all about their gun policy here). One of the best things about Wild West City is that there really isn't anything else like it in New Jersey, so catch it while you can.

photo cred J. Caramucci

5. Action Park - Vernon, NJ

***Would you believe Action Park did not return for the 2016 season?? It might not be surprising to some! So now I'm in search of a new classic attraction for #5 here. Any suggestions?***

Okay, before you start gasping and asking if anyone has died at this park, just know that it is not entirely the same as it was years ago. Yes, Action Park (a.k.a Mountain Creek) is back in business, but it is much safer than it was in the past, with new rides, new regulations, and plenty of helmets. Check out their info page if you don't believe me! Action Park now offers plenty of extreme action rides, both wet and dry. Visit their website for vintage videos of the park in its hay-day, too. I don't have my own photos of Action Park because no one I know was brave enough to go there. So this photo is a screenshot of Action Park's website.

thumbnails from ActionPark.com

6. Storybook Land - Egg Harbor Township, NJ

Storybook Land has been operational since 1955. That's over 60 years of entertainment in The Garden State! Visitors fondly recall its whimsical statues of fairytale friends, and get a kick out of posing their children next to familiar sites from their own childhood. Everything at Storybook Land seems to have a cute, retro feel to it, from snack shops shaped like a watering can to colorful trains picking up passengers. They are open Fall and Winter, too, with wonderful displays at Christmastime. At Storybook Land, you pay one admission price for unlimited rides, and their location nestled in the trees keeps you cool in the summertime, too.

photo cred R. Levitan

7. Christmas Ice Caverns - Fairfield, NJ

The Christmas Ice Caverns in Fairfield are near and dear to my heart. This adorable, animated Christmas display has been entertaining visitors since 1972. Generations of families return every season to see the new additions and to throw their pennies into its magical wishing waters. Guests walk through an indoor 'cavern' (a path, basically) to view all of the displays, and can even meet Santa at the end of the journey. Admission cost is ridiculously low, and kids of all ages seem to enjoy what it offers. Read all about this classic Christmas display in my blog post, or visit the Ice Caverns website for more information about their operating hours.


8. Sterling Hill Mining Museum - Ogdensburg

Let's face it, rocks are cool. Mines are even cooler. Rocks, minerals, and mines in our own state with a rich history are the coolest of all. The history of Sterling Hill Mining Museum is so long and complex that I would fail to do it justice here. So I urge you to read all about its history on their website and then plan your own visit here. There's so much to do and see, including a tour of the mine, a museum, an observatory, memorials, fossils, collections and more. There's a snack bar and panning, as well as a cool museum store and fluorescent rocks.

photo cred. L. Schwartz

9. Waterloo Village - Stanhope, NJ 

Waterloo Village in Stanhope is open to the public for walking, hiking and exploring. If you've visited before, you might remember this little restored village, featuring a 400-year old Lenape establishment and a little port along the Morris Canal. There's a blacksmith shop, general store, sawmills, gristmills and even historic houses. It's still a popular site for field trips, and they hold many educational workshops and events throughout the year. Check their Facebook page for more information!

photo by Chuck Walsh, Wikimedia Commons

10. Bowcraft Amusement Park - Scotch Plains

Bowcraft Amusement Park may be small, but it's a fun place to spend your day. The history of the park dates back to 1946, and even included a miniature golf course in the 1980's (that was later removed to add more parking). Classic, fun rides and a convenient location to the highway make this a favorite spot for kids and families. Bowcraft is a great location for birthday parties and events, and they even hold special seasonal activities like Easter egg hunts and a Sukkos spectacular for Jewish guests.

photo cred M. Augustine

One last thing to note is that the New Jersey shore is filled with classic attractions. When I asked friends and family about their favorite vintage New Jersey sites, many of them mentioned shore arcades, rides, piers and boardwalks. There were so many, I figured they deserve a post of their own. So stay tuned for classic New Jersey Shore attractions, coming soon!

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