Are you always stumped when it comes to planning a family activity on Chol Hamoed? Guarantee an amazing day with these 7 places to visit in the Tristate Area.
By Sarah Einhorn
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Cape May Whalewatcher: Cape May, NJ
Viewing dolphins and whales in their natural habitat is one of the most incredible experiences! The 110 foot long Cape May Whale Watcher boat offers a fully narrated tour which goes to the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean to view both dolphins and whales in action. In recent years, there have been many dolphins returning to that neighborhood and sighting them during a tour is almost guaranteed. Dolphins can be seen as close as 10 miles from shore.
On a recent trip, we spotted between 35-50 dolphins. It was remarkable! After spending some time near the dolphins, our captain received a message from another boat that they had spotted a whale. In record time, he did an about face and arrived at the area where the whale was searching for food. What was especially enjoyable about watching the whale in Cape May is that it was not in transit; it was searching for food and kept resurfacing near the boat. We were really sorry when our time was up and we needed to return to shore.
Paterson Great Falls: Paterson, NJ
Who would believe that a 77 foot high waterfall calls itself home within the industrial city of Paterson, NJ? When visiting this majestic waterfall, you can almost imagine that you are in some remote state park for all the beauty it affords. There’s a parking lot across from the falls with picnic tables and some grass. There is an access bridge and walkway that takes you right near the falls, where you can enjoy it from up close.
Note: The bridge across the chasm is closed until further notice. The Falls observation deck at MEK is accessed by driving or walking across the Wayne Avenue Bridge, and making a right on Maple Street to MEK entrance. There is a small parking lot at Hinchliffe Stadium.
Westchester Children’s Museum: Rye, NY
Westchester Children’s Museum, located on the boardwalk near Rye Playland Amusement Park, is one of the few places that is not only toddler and young child- friendly, but actually caters to those little tikes.
I recently visited the museum with my little nieces and nephews. Although the museum is not especially large, the children really enjoyed the interactive activities. There are plenty of staff members ready to help the children with their projects. They also put back all the supplies after the children use them, so that all will be ready for the next group of kids to use.
The activities include a tubular fan that blows up papers and the like. Children can build their own roller coaster and send a ball down the track. There are coloring projects, water painting, and building activities. The Westchester Children’s Museum offers wholesome quality family fun.
Nyack Beach State Park: Nyack, NY
One of the first local scenic nature places I think of when someone asks me to recommend a place to go is Nyack Beach State Park. Although the actual beach is miniscule and no swimming or wading is allowed, there is a magnificent walking path near the Hudson River with views of the Tappan Zee Bridge. The path goes alongside the river on one side and there’s towering cliffs on the other side. There is a 5 mile out and back hike. At the 1 1/2 mile mark, the path has an option to veer left and continue to Rockland Lake State Park. There are plenty of picnic tables both by the parking lot and alongside the trail. Grilling is allowed at this park.
Northlandz: Flemington, NJ
Before we visited Northlandz, I thought it was made just for little boys. I sure was pleasantly surprised to see that Northlandz is suitable, enjoyable and of course fascinating, for both adults and children alike. Each gender and age can lap up the displays and activities on their own level.
Northlandz was the created as a result of Bruce Zaccagnino’s dream. It is the largest museum of its sort in the world. It spans 52,200 square feet with about 40,000 square foot of train tracks that run through various scenes and types of landscapes. The trains all run on timers which are set in the control room. The controls can run 90 trains at once. If any of them get stuck or malfunction, Bruce takes care of repairs after hours. Although the museum is astonishingly large, Bruce still works on adding to it on a constant basis.
Aside for the mile long tour of the mountains and model railroad, Northlandz also offers an outdoor train ride on a genuine steam engine train and a doll exhibit featuring the largest doll house with 94 rooms.
Northlandz is not something that can adequately be described in words…it is something you need to see for yourself!
Anthony’s Nose: Hudson Valley, NY
The trailhead to Anthony’s Nose is on Rte. 9D, north of the Bear Mountain Bridge. If you are coming from the side of Bear Mountain, cross over the bridge and take a left onto Route 9D. The trail starts just past the Putnam County sign, where there are white markings to mark the beginning of the trail. Park along the side of the street, where you may see other cars already parked, and start climbing.
The actual hike is not very difficult but is mostly uphill. At the end of the white uphill path there is a junction. A right turn on the blue path will lead to the direction of Anthony’s Nose. Part of the path meets up with the famous Appalachian Trail (Trail from Georgia to Maine). While we were hiking, we encountered people with long unkempt beards and carrying large packs on their way from Georgia to Maine. Many of them took a slight detour to take in the magnificent view on Anthony’s Nose.
The blue trail is less uphill and strenuous. It is more relaxing as you near the viewing spot of Anthony’s Nose. The Rocky clearing at the top affords awesome and clear breathtaking views of the Bear Mountain Bridge, West Point, and the areas across the Hudson River. The clearing is a great place to enjoy a snack or lunch before turning around and retracing your steps back down to Route 9D.
Camelback Mountain Adventures: Tannersville, PA
Camelback Mountain offers some of the most exciting forms of adventure in the Northeast Region. All the attractions they have are done in the best, most thrilling way. The attractions are geared more to older children and adults, although on the Appalachian Express Mountain Coaster and Pocono Pipeline Mountain Slide, children can ride together with adults.
My personal favorite at Camelback Adventures is the Soaring Camel 4000 foot twin zipline. It is the longest zipline in North America and goes as fast as 60 MPH. You can race your friend to the end. It takes only about 70 seconds to go from the summit down but it is exhilarating! It feels as if you are flying, but at the same time the harness feels very secure and safe, a little like a chair.
In order to get up to the Summit of Camelback Mountain to the zipline, you need to first be fitted with a harness down at the Adventure Center. Ride up to the waterpark with a special bus, then walk through the waterpark to the chairlift that takes you to the top of the mountain.
Camelback also has the Double Barrel 1000 foot zip line at the height of eight stories. This zip line runs through a tree lined space and can be done with a friend as well. The 1000 foot zipline is located within the Adventure Park and does not need advance booking.
The New Pocono Pipeline Mountain Slide is the most classic and all around attraction. A scenic chairlift ride brings you to the top of the dual 2,800 foot long track. You can control your own speed through the twists, turns, tunnels that make up this very enjoyable slide.
The Appalachian Express Mountain Coaster is more similar to a roller coaster than a slide. The benefit is that you control your own speed down the 4500 foot long steel track while winding down the scenic mountain. In order to get to the top of the track, you sit on your cart and get pulled straight up the track.
We did not get to do the Scenic Mountain Segway Tour although it seems exciting. You must be 13 years or older to participate in that activity.
There are five different ropes courses in the Adults Treetop Adventure Course. There are many different elements including ziplines, suspended bridges, scramble nets and swinging logs to conquer during the 3-4 hour course. There are guides stationed throughout to offer encouragement and help. By completing the entire Treetop Adventure Course, you’ll have conquered over 100 aerial obstacles.
The Kids Explorer Course offers children ages 6+, who meet the height requirement a chance to try their hand (and legs) on a real ropes course with lots of supervision and instruction. All children must be accompanied by an adult in order to join in the Kids Explorer Course.
During busy seasons it is advisable to book the attractions in advance since they sell out really quickly. Why am I not surprised?!
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