Let's Visit Aspen Ice (now Flemington Ice Arena) in Flemington, NJ!

Thursday, November 20, 2014
Aspen Ice in Flemington, New Jersey has been completely renovated and is now known as Flemington Ice Arena.  For updated photos and news, please check out their website.

When The Jersey Momma's Boy was a tiger cub scout, one of the goals of his scout group was to attend 'Go See It' meetings in order to visit a particular venue to learn something new.  These trips were a lot of fun and very memorable for the boys. Their 'Go See It' sporting event was a challenge to book - what kind of sporting event could you take six and seven year old boys to that plays on a weeknight and doesn't cost anything?  That's where Aspen Ice saved the day!

Where is Aspen Ice?

Aspen Ice has been renovated and is now known as Flemington Ice Arena.  You can find it in Flemington, right on Case Boulevard.  This is directly off of Rt. 202 South.

This is a crummy picture, I know, but it was too dark outside to take an exterior shot!

What is Aspen Ice?

Aspen Ice (now known as Flemington Ice Arena) is an indoor ice skating rink that is open year round.  They offer a variety of services and activities, such as Open Skate sessions, 'Friday Night Skates' with a DJ, summer camps, birthday parties, ice hockey lessons, ice hockey games, skating lessons and more.  They also have a skating pro-shop on premises, as well as a concession stand and small arcade.  Check out their website for all of their offerings and their monthly schedule of events.

The rink at Aspen Ice.

What Will I See at Aspen Ice?

When you first enter Aspen Ice, you'll find a small concession stand, a front desk, picnic table/benches to eat at, a small arcade, a pro-shop, and a party room in back. *Please note, this was prior to renovation. Updated pictures will be posted soon!

The lobby at Aspen Ice, Flemington, pre-renovation.
Coach Mike and the boys at Aspen Ice.
The Pro-Shop and Arcade at Aspen Ice.
You'll find the ice rink off to your right, and there are bleachers where you can sit and watch events.  It's chilly in there, so bring a jacket and dress warmly (it's ice, after all).  There is an area where you can rent skates, and plenty of safety glass up to keep you protected.  The Jersey Momma's boy was very excited to see a real zamboni.

The Jersey Momma makes a rare appearance without a ponytail!
The boys of NJ Freeze practicing at Aspen Ice

What Can I Do There?

Aspen Ice offers a lot to the public.  We have never been to an open skate session, but friends tell me it's a lot of fun, especially if you go in the summer (neat thought, right?).  Coach Mike talked to our cub scouts and told them all about the hockey programs they offer for kids (girls and boys) and adults.  He was very knowledgeable and the boys enjoyed listening to him and seeing all of the cool hockey gear.  You can visit their Facebook page to see their daily activities.

What You Need to Know

*Aspen Ice is a fun, local venue.  It's essentially like a giant warehouse, so the lighting is a little dim and you get the feel of being in a gym or sporting venue as opposed to a show arena.  There were lots of kids here who all seemed to be having a great time.

*We were able to watch some boys practicing hockey (NJ Freeze) and we were extremely impressed with their abilities.  Our young scouts were amazed watching them play, and as a parent, I was blown away by the players' dedication.  The boys we watched were probably between the ages of 10-11, but they offer lessons and teams for players of all ages.

*We only watched the teams practice for about a half an hour and I was so cold by the end of the evening!  So really, dress warm, people!

*Coach Mike also told us about some special days throughout the year that are offered at ice rinks across the country (including Aspen Ice).  Kids can try hockey for free!  Check out this link to read all about it.

*Everyone we encountered working at Aspen Ice was extremely friendly and eager to help.  Their enthusiasm for hockey and skating in general was very evident in everyone we met, including the kids playing there.

Important Jersey Momma Note

Aspen Ice was slated to close in late March of 2015, but according to sources, new owners reached an agreement to save the rink, and it has finally reopened as Flemington Ice Arena!  Flemington Ice Arena is the only ice skating rink in Hunterdon county.  When we visited it as Aspen Ice, we were amazed by the dedication and skill of the young players practicing on the ice.  Families, friends and siblings were all showing support and watching the boys and girls who played. The employees of Aspen Ice took time out of their busy schedules to show us around and teach us about the joys of ice hockey and team sports.  The community knew it would be a crime to let such a special venue disappear, so local residents and friends rallied to help save this establishment.  We wish Flemington Ice Arena much continued success and we hope the community will continue to support it!


A Review of Northlandz Train Museum in Flemington: All Aboard?

Saturday, October 25, 2014
This is an updated post from last year.  I added some thoughts from my most recent visit to Northlandz (if you have a chance, please check them out at the bottom of this entry, under Added Thoughts.  Great title, right?)

I used to drive past Northlandz in Flemington every day when I was a teacher.  And I would always think, "I wonder what it's like in there?"  Hard to tell from the outside- all you see is a big gray building and a small sign announcing it as home of the "Worlds Largest Model RR, Great American Railway and Doll Museum."  I thought there was a real train track outside of it, but I wasn't sure.  So you know I had to find out!

What is Northlandz?

Northlandz is a miniature train museum located right on Rt. 202 in Flemington. It is similar to the well-known Roadside America in Pennsylvania.   Even if you don't have a little train enthusiast in your house like I do, it is still a point of interest.  Read on!

What Will I See There?

Northlandz is basically a walk-through model train display- over 8 miles to be exact (think giant train display, not so much a 'museum').  You peruse through at your own pace and peer into or over each display.  It's basically a spiraling effect as you walk up and up into the building.  You are viewing all of the incredible train tracks and landscapes at different angles.  The added little stories about Grandma and why certain scenes look the way they do is a cute added touch. There are also dollhouses, dolls and doll displays to view, too (you can view a video clip on their website).  The Jersey Momma's boy just skipped past those with a definitive, "Yuck!"

The Train Ride

When we first visited, there was also an outdoor working train ride (a real one), that drove us through a small area behind the museum and back.  I could not find much about this on their website, so I can't guarantee the ride is still available.  I also recall there being a small fee to ride the train (at the time it was $2.75 with ticket purchase).  If it is still running, I do recommend the train ride.  Although the area around the track was in a bit of disarray and there were not many sights to see, my son still enjoyed the ride and was excited to be on a real, colorful working train.

What Do I Need To Know?

Northlandz is old.  I'm not going to lie.  When you walk in, it is kind of dark and smells like your grandfather's basement.  Many of the displays are dusty or in need of minor repairs.  Some of the doll displays had spider webs on them.  But you know what?  It was still pretty darned amazing.  My son did not seem to notice any of the things I just mentioned.  So sometimes you have to ask yourself, "Will my child like this?"  and not, "Will I like this?"  (that basically sums up parenthood, right?).

Jersey Momma Tips

*If you have time, please read my 'Added Thoughts' after my tip section, below.

*There is a cafe inside but it did not seem very enticing to us so we skipped it.  If you drive further South on Rt 202 into Flemington, you will find plenty of shops and places to eat if you are interested in traveling outside of Northlandz.  You can visit my favorite Chick-fil-A Flemington, just ahead on 202 South, near the circle!

*Admission is pricey, so be on the lookout for discount coupons (kids under 2 are free).  There is one coupon in the KidStuff coupon booklet, sold through fundraisers in most schools.

*There is no restroom to use once you start your journey into Northlandz, so be sure to use the lobby restroom before you venture into the museum.  And unless they have done a complete makeover, this is not the nicest bathroom you'll ever visit, so be forewarned!

*We once visited Northlandz in the winter time and it was a bit chilly in the museum.  For some unknown reason I had decided to leave my own coat in the car, which was not a wise decision!  Hey, at least The Jersey Momma's boy had his coat.

*If you will be visiting with very young ones, consider bringing a stroller, as there is a lot of walking and winding through the museum.

*Visit their website for more details, hours and admission info.

*They suggest bringing binoculars, which we did not do.  But a camera is a must, for sure!

*Like always, I suggest you give it a chance.  It is not Disney World.  It DOES need some updating and repairs, but it has an amazing history behind it, and I truly feel it is worth seeing at least once in your life, especially if you have a train enthusiast in your house.

Added Thoughts

We have been to Northlandz at least four times with my son, starting at the age of two (he's now almost six).  He still loves it.  It's a special trip to take for a boy, especially with daddy, or maybe grammy and poppy.  But like I said, it's not cheap ($33.00 for two adults and one child and that includes a coupon).  And I have to be honest here again.  There are some glowing reviews of Northlandz out there.  Just do a search on "Northlandz reviews" or "What is Northlandz?" and see what you find.  But I think giving them a glowing review is also doing them a disservice.  Because they need to know that their amazing display is going downhill.  Northlandz, I love you.  You know I love you.  I can see the incredible amount of heart and work that you have put into this train display in your lifetime.  But you need to know this:  your place needs help.  The carpets are dirty.  The walls need painting.  The displays are dusty and some are falling apart.  The last time we were there, on a 91 degree day, the air conditioning was "broken."  "On the top floor only," you told us, but that was not true, and we spent 30+ minutes along with other babies, small children and elderly people, walking through a stuffy, sweltering display at full cost.  We ran into another patron who told us she visited last year and the same thing happened.  So is your air conditioner really being repaired?  Or is it just constantly broken?  It's okay if it is, but you need to own up to the problem and not keep lying to your customers.

As we walked through, I thought, "Why not ask some local boy scout troops to help?  I'm sure they would paint some of these walls free of charge, as long as they could leave a little plaque there with their names on it?"  or, "Why not get some local businesses to see if they can donate some new carpeting in exchange for free advertising?" or "I wonder if any local train enthusiast groups would be willing to donate some time to help dust and clean the displays?"  "I know the good people of Flemington might even be willing to donate money to help restore the outer grounds, if you would only ask.  Somerset County 4H has a train group- could they help you just to clean and repair some of your incredible work?"  Every train display needs maintenance.  My dad is a train enthusiast, so I know this.

The Jersey Momma's Momma (The Jersey Grandmomma?) is a little more outspoken than I am, so when we finished our last visit at Northlandz and the owner asked us how the Jersey Momma's boy liked the displays (he ALWAYS loves the displays, he could care less if anything is dirty or old or broken!), the Jersey Grandmomma smiled and suggested some of the things that I just mentioned, about the boy scouts and the air conditioning.  The owner seemed thoroughly offended by everything, and was very snippy.  "What needs to be worked on?!" he snapped, "I work in there every day!  And the air conditioner is broken, I told you they are fixing it."  His tone made me cringe.  I quickly maneuvered my son away and got that icky feeling in my stomach that comes from confrontation.  I was sad because it suddenly made me feel like not going back there anymore.  I just wish that every business owner would realize that you have to be courteous to your customers, even if you feel insulted, even if your feelings get hurt.  Find a nice way to accept what they are saying and call it a day.

As we walked out of the museum that day, with my son all smiles, I heard the owner turn to someone he was sitting with and say, "There's always one," and my heart just broke.  What an absolute shame, and what a terrible thing to say, loud enough for a grandma and her little grandson and his mommy to hear.

I am not saying never to go to Northlandz, because the kids love it.  I've already said that.  and I've already shown you how amazing it is.  But I thought this side of the story needed to be told, too, instead of just adding another glowing review to the internet.

The Sweet Escape: NJ Dessert Tasting Expo - A Review of Sweetness!

Monday, August 25, 2014
So what is the Sweet Escape NJ Dessert Tasting Expo and why won't The Jersey Momma shut up about it??  Is that what you're wondering?  Or something close to that, maybe?  If you've been following any of my posts on Facebook or Twitter, then you know I've been looking forward to this event for months.  And you're about to see why.  Ah, where to begin????


5 Minute Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Mug: Jersey Momma Quick Recipe

Saturday, August 23, 2014
I saw this '5 Minute Chocolate Chip Cookie - in the Microwave' recipe on Facebook yesterday, posted from Dash Magazine (part of Parade).  I actually like their recipes a lot and I was curious about this one because...well... I LOVE DESSERTS.  But I just couldn't see how it would come out tasting good.  Here's what I discovered.

It doesn't look very pretty, but it tasted good!


How to Throw an Art Party for Kids

Monday, July 14, 2014
We're taking a little break from traveling today because we're in party mode in this house!  The Jersey Momma's Boy has a summer birthday, and every year I take extra care in planning it.

The parties usually have a theme.  His first birthday was a Yo Gabba Gabba motif and the whole family was invited.  I'm lucky to have a super talented sister who constructed this 4 foot tall Plex Robot to greet guests. Here he is in her garage before the party:

Looks like Plex is just hangin' out and havin' a Coke!

Easy Salt Box Painting (no paint involved!)

Sunday, February 16, 2014
I hear they are predicting more snow for New Jersey this week, so that means I'm starting my preparations, and I'm not talking about rushing out to buy bread and milk.

I'm talking about stocking up on ACTIVITIES.  Projects, crafts, movies!  I have an only child in this house, and sadly, this kid gets bored easily!  So when we have snow days--continuously--I get ready.

One fun activity I tried last year was Salt Box Painting. Never fear, there's no paint involved.  It's not even very messy.  This is a great activity for kids four and under.  Kids over four might enjoy it, too, but it might not hold their interest for very long.

To make Salt Box Painting, you will need:

-a shallow box or box top (a sturdy gift box top could work, too.  Just try to find one that doesn't have seams or holes, so that salt won't leak out of it).

-colored construction paper (I chose rainbow colors)

-scissors (you might not need them if your paper is small and fits in the box without needing to be trimmed)

-tape (clear packing tape works best, but any tape will do)

-salt (regular table salt)

-thick paintbrush

Step 1

Cut the construction paper to fit the bottom of your box.  You'll want to stagger it in layers.  For example, if you want a rainbow effect, start with red on the far left side of the box.  Then lay orange next to it, then yellow, and so on and so on till you reach purple.  So you'll be continuously cutting the pieces so they fit in the box top in layers (unfortunately I don't have a picture of this step, but I think you'll figure it out).  I taped the paper together and down to the sides of the box so it wouldn't slide around and so the salt wouldn't slide under the colored paper (the idea is to keep the salt on TOP of the paper).  Clear packing tape works best for this.

Step 2

Pour salt on top of your colored paper.  The more salt, the better.  If you don't use enough, you won't get the effect that you're really "painting."  If your kids start to play with it and it doesn't look like they're "painting" in the salt, try adding more.

Then they can use their paintbrushes (yes, dry paintbrushes!) to "paint" letters, shapes and designs in the salt.  The idea is that you see the colored paper underneath appear, so it looks like "paint" in the salt.

The Jersey Momma's boy is an outside the box thinker (no pun intended), so after about ten minutes of "painting," he wanted to drive his trucks in the salt and add Legos to the salt, and there were tire tracks and Legos and salt everywhere.  Which is okay, I guess, but it left things messier than I had expected!  

For a better tutorial and more photos of  Salt Box Painting, check out Learning4Kids.  
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