This week, like many other kids, my son is off from (pre)school. I love these weeks for the special trips we can take. We were all set for some outdoor activities, but the rain changed that. And just like in wintertime, it's hard to find things to do with your kids indoors, on the spur of the moment, at a bargain price.
A destination that fits the bill all the way around is the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. Beautiful and newly renovated in 2007, Liberty Science Center has exhibits for everyone. And a family membership is one of the best deals you can find.
Only $140 per year (and fully tax-deductible), a family membership gets you admission for two adults and up to four children each time you visit. And that doesn't have to be mom and dad, either. We've taken grandparents, friends and their kids as guests. At $15.75 per adult and $11.50 per child (ages 2 through 12) per visit for non-members (children under two are free), a family of four only has to visit three times during the year to save by buying an annual membership.
A few times a year, members benefit from free reciprocal days with other museums, like The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, The Newark Museum and The New York Hall of Science and a few others.
Today, we took one of my friends and two of my son's as guests, and met still another friend and her two children for a rainy day play date there. The kids were four- and five-year-olds and there was plenty that held their interest.
The kids loved the "Skyscraper! Achievement and Impact! Exhibit," where they could make a small-scale elevator work; operate a magnetic crane; and work an excavator.
The “I Explore” room used to be the only room we would bother with when the kids were younger. So much to do in there: build and race your own car; work machines with levers and wheels to make plastic balls fly through the air and trickle down through a Rube Goldberg-esque machine.
On the third floor, the "Wonder Why" exhibit has lots to do, but chances are, the kids will stop at and be mesmerized by a contraption that looks like a window shade that makes a giant bubble wall. Kids love to poke it, too, it's just too tempting to let a bubble just hang there.
On the fourth floor the "Our Hudson Home" exhibit has what look like prehistoric fish in giant tanks. The real attraction there, though, was the sediment table. Set up to demonstrate patterns made by rivers and streams using water and tiny beads, there are small cranes and excavators to work along the side. Mostly, the appeal is that it's water, and the kids love playing in the water.
Finally, we all went to experience the newest exhibit, "The Touch Tunnel." All three moms and five kids got down on hands and knees and crawled through the pitch-black tunnel, using only a hand along the wall to guide us. We had a good time laughing at ourselves for doing it. Two of the kids were scared by the end, and one was tickled to discover his Spiderman shirt glowed in the dark.
For your trip, I suggest bringing lunch, although they have a decent cafeteria with healthy food options and good sandwiches. Carpool if you can, it's seven dollars to park. But it's only a twenty-minute drive from West Orange, so you can take the kids anytime.