The constant tug-of-war between education and fun finds middle ground inside this Central Jersey children’s museum, as entertaining exhibits and engaging staff members embed knowledge in each young visitor. Young guests can play veterinarian at the Pet Vet Center, read the news and see themselves on television at the TV News Room, or shed light on the complexities of the human body inside a replica doctor’s office outfitted with realistic equipment.
A motorcycle, retired fire engine, and a grounded airplane shows visitors the wonders of mechanized travel in the Varoom!!! Vehicle Showroom, which leads to an enchanted castle outfitted with a wooden drawbridge, a faux moat, and a new level 3 train exhibit. Party rooms manned by helpful staffers merge learning and celebration, and the onsite gift shop coaxes homebound brain building with a selection of scientific toys.
Step into the Museum of Early Trades & Crafts, and it's as if the Industrial Revolution never happened. The museum focuses on the life of farmers, builders, and other tradesman of the United State's pre-industrial age. The main floor thrusts visitors into the world of New Jersey farming families from the early 1800s to provide in-depth information about these peoples' lives as well as showcase woodworkers' planks and various hand tools. The lower level, meanwhile, celebrates the working lives of four tradesman from 1850, including a shoemaker and a distiller. While these permanent displays stand as time capsules of a bygone area, a special exhibit space rotates its features regularly. Only a small portion of the museum's artifacts is on display at a time, but visitors can make an appointment to see items from the full collection, which totals more than 8800 artifacts from 21 different trades.
Even without the artifacts, the museum stands as a piece of history, as it's housed within The James Library Building. The building was finished in 1900 and contains stained glass windows, carved stone and wood detailing, and vaulted ceilings that make it the perfect setting to imagine life before Henry Ford invented his flying car.
Beyond its roaring arcade and indoor amusement park, The Funplex decrees that 8,000 of its 100,000-square-foot kingdom be annexed to the Realm where fantasy game MagiQuest disperses Magis on heroic adventurers through an interactive and spellbinding semivirtual lair. Carefully choose your Magi alias and grab your secret-yielding loaner wand (a $2 value) before embarking on a fantastical adventure filled with distinguished wizards, enchanting pixies, and cunning dragons. Seasoned with mystical spells and motion sensors, wands respond to trees, mountains, and flat screens sprinkled throughout the Realm, sharing clues so Magi can complete honorable tasks or surprise wicked goblins with an unexpected hug. With unlimited play (a $14.95 value), Magis can entreat the hours to swallow them into the transformative wormhole of role-playing bliss.
At Essex Equestrian Center, more than 35 horses and ponies work together with an expert team of instructors to teach riding basics. Students can choose from the disciplines of hunter, jumper, dressage, and western riding for lessons that are conducted in private or group settings. Classes take place year-round as the center features both an outdoor ring and an Olympic-size indoor arena, perfect for when the weather calls for rain or Olympic-size hail.
The beastmasters of Turtle Back Zoo fill the troughs of their squawking menagerie with the help of donations through the Adopt-an-Animal program. A framable adoption certificate commemorates the adoption of Turtle Back Zoo's endangered African penguins⎯the noble butlers of the Southern Hemisphere⎯and the donation funds fish reserves, maintenance, and medical needs. Bird-benefactors also receive a photograph of the newest, most feathered member of their family and a bumper sticker with which to emblazon vehicles with a message championing the plight of penguin expatriates. Lodged near the entrance to the zoo, the Adopt-an-Animal Honor Roll Board proclaims the names of trans-species foster parents to visitors and those studious penguins who have learned to read.
Partygoers expect a little friendly competition at birthday parties, whether it's to see who can hit the pinata the hardest or who can eat their cake the slowest. FunKart Party Company amps up these games with the roar of tiny engines zipping around a track. After traveling to the party site, staff members set up a 12'x16' raceway with room for up to six remote control cars. Partygoers take control of the cars, which have no slots, so they're free to drive them as intensely as they want, cutting off their opponents, doing donuts at each turn, or driving backwards to see if the miles will come off the tiny odometer. Cars race at scale speeds of up to 200 mph and the raceway can be set up either indoors or out.