By Liz Johnson
Summer is halfway over, but with first day of school dates up in the air over COVID-19 concerns, it may be a while before your child is back in the classroom. By now, you may be climbing the walls looking for ways to keep kids busy without breaking the bank. Here are a few ideas for ways to spend a summer that may feel like it will never end:
1. Parks & Playgrounds
Now that the playground restrictions have been lifted by Gov. Murphy due to COVID-19, there’s no shortage of beautiful parks and playgrounds in Hunterdon County that are perfect for spending a summer day. To make this even more exciting for kids, consider making a “Playground Passport” where you dedicate each page to a different park. Then add a sticker, stamp or park souvenir that you’ve collected after you visit. You could even make a section where your child gives a rating and makes notes about what they liked about each one. Make a date at one of the parks on our list HERE.
2. Spend the Day on the River
All it really takes to tube down the Delaware River is a rubber inner tube or sturdy flotation device. If you have one or two on hand, there are plenty of access points along Route 29 to launch and get out, including several boat launches in Kingwood and Delaware townships and Bulls Island State Park just outside Stockton. If tubing isn’t your thing, try canoeing or kayaking.
Yellow Dog Paddle (a 2020 Hunterdon Happening List Finalist) and Delaware River Tubing are two popular Hunterdon businesses with plenty of options for river fun.
3. Watch Airplanes Take Off
There’s something exhilarating about watching an airplane rumble down a runway before it launches into flight. Hunterdon County is home to several small airports including Alexandria Field, Sky Manor Airport, both in Alexandria Township, and Solberg Airport, 39 Thor-Solberg Road in Readington Township, home to the New Jersey Lottery Festival of Balloons, which has been rescheduled this year to Oct. 16-18.
4. Pick-Your-Own Farm Visit
From berries to apples and peaches, there’s nothing better than a piece of ripe fruit pulled fresh from the vine or tree. Hunterdon County has plenty of pick-your-own farms. To read about some of the best local spots, check out our Fresh Fruit Season article HERE. Tip: Melick’s Town Farm in Califon even offers horse wagon rides in the orchards.
Anyone under the age of 16 can fish without a license in New Jersey. Many of the creeks and streams throughout the county are stocked with trout. They’re also a great place to take a dip on a hot summer night.
6. Gaze at the Stars
Grab a telescope or binoculars and explore the night sky constellations. There are plenty of Web sites that explain the various star patterns, including Raritan Valley Community College’s Planetarium Web site.
7. Free Bowling
Registering at kidsbowlfree.com and get up to two free games of bowling per day, per child. Frenchtown’s West Hunterdon Lanes on Route 12 in Frenchtown is one of the participating alleys. Shoe rental may be required unless you have designated bowling shoes. Masks must be worn and the alley can only operate at 25% capacity, so you may want to call ahead. Snacks are being served outdoors.
8. Outdoor Movie Nights
You’re not going to be headed to the theater to see the latest blockbuster this summer, but you can still enjoy a movie night with the family. Keep your eye out for outdoor movie options in Hunterdon, such as the ones being hosted this fall by the county’s park and recreation department at South County Park in Ringoes. Showings include Playing With Fire (2019) on Sept. 26 and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) on Oct. 10.
While not free, you can also watch a kid-friendly movie on the big screen from the comfort of your car this summer at Music Mountain Theater in Lambertville. Tickets are $25 per car.
9. Outdoor Skating
All you need is a pair of skates or skateboard and a trip to a local park that has a paved walking trail. For example, Alexandria Township, 1 Jerimiah Lane, Pittstown, has a 1.1 mile paved loop. Kingwood Township Park, 200 Union Road, Frenchtown also has a 1-mile paved loop. For more on our favorite parks and playground in Hunterdon County, check out this article.
10. Go For a Stroll
Getting outside for a walk isn’t limited to just parks or your neighborhood. If you’re not feeling particularly “naturey” but still want to take the kids somewhere, consider a stroll down Main Street in placed such as Clinton, Frenchtown or Lambertville, all Hunterdon Happening List favorites. There’s plenty to look at that you can kill an hour or two without spending a lot of money.
11. Outdoor Music
The county’s Music Under the Stars series is up and running again, albeit a tad different. Rather than sitting on the lawn at Deer Path Park in Flemington, concert-goers listen to music transmitted to their car radios drive-in style at the South County Park in Ringoes. Concerts are held Thursday nights from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. through Aug. 13. Red Mill Museum is also hosting outdoor concerts on Saturday nights. And you can catch music performances throughout Clinton (our Happening List Winner for Best Downtown/Main Street) every Friday night through Labor Day.
12. Conduct Science Experiments
Chances are your inquisitive child already has a bunch of bookmarked YouTube videos with cool science experiment ideas like making slime. If not, just do a quick search and you’ll find all sorts of ways to spend the day learning and exploring with your kids. If you want something more in-depth, check out area science museums such as Liberty Center which has online videos.
13. Host an Arts and Craft Day
This can be as easy as coloring in a coloring book or grabbing some construction paper, scissors, glue and paint to see what emerges.
14. Making the Future Workshop
Hunterdon County Library is taking applications from kids ages 12 through 16 to participate in a Saturday morning 3D print-making workshop that will run from Aug. 15 through Oct. 17. For more information, check out the library’s Facebook page.
15. Explore Nature
Consider hiking through one of Hunterdon County’s nature preserves or parks, collecting leaves, rocks and anything else that catches your child’s fancy. Then make a scrapbook of the items, identifying each one, its origins, functions and history. Or check out one of the virtual nature programs being offered by the county’s park and recreation department at or at the Red Mill Museum in Clinton.
16. Spend a Day at a Reservoir
Both Round Valley in Lebanon and Spruce Run in Clinton Township are open to the public, although due to COVID-19 and resulting cutbacks, some amenities such as camping are not being offered. Still, there is plenty of sun and fun to be had.
17. Ice Cream
There’s no better way to end a summer day than with a scoop of ice cream and Hunterdon County has lots of ways to fill that bill. Jimmy’s Ice Cream in Milford, Hunterdon Happening List Winner for Best Ice Cream, has walk-up window service and outdoor seating. Hunterdon Happening List Finalist for Best Ice Cream Scoops on Wheels hosts ice cream night each Wednesday at the Blue Fish Grill in Flemington. Other Happening List Fnalists include Gronsky’s Milk House in High Bridge, Owowcom Creamery in Lambertville and Thee Ice Cream Parlor in Flemington.