Gardens, Theater, Museums, & More - Spark Creativity in Kids this Spring Break with "Staycation" Day Trip Ideas
Above: Cast of Oliver at Music Mountain Theatre, Lambertville, NJ. A young nature enthusiast at Hortulus Farm, Newtown, PA. Space as seen at the New Jersey State Museum’s Planetarium. Photo Credits: Contributed
Mandee K. Hammerstein, Arts News Now Editor and mom of four, shares a local creative kid rundown for those who prefer not to get “rundown” with big travel this spring break.
By: Mandee K. Hammerstein
Spring is a thing. Something in the air gives us an added boost of energy and inspiration. We suddenly want to get out and about with our young and impressionable ones and seriously explore while hopefully making some memories in the process! Some prefer planes and trains to transport them to another city or country, others contemplate taking it easy, getting reacquainted and “transported” within the playground in their own backyard.
Whatever your preference or reality is this Spring Break in 2023, if you’re homebound with your creative kids, there’s plenty to enjoy with an easy hop in the car to discover some local sensory sights and delights together!
Being a mom of four, I was compelled to share what I’ve found through the years after either budgeting time or money; and resourcefulness and recommendations always helped to make the map to memorable-fun more manageable! I hope you find the following list helpful, and most of the suggestions here I’ve experienced personally or plan to enjoy with my upcoming staycation (as the cliché can go) with my creatively curious six-year-old. The below with commentary is not in recommendation order, and even if you’re getting on that plane, read on anyway, as these engaging locations can keep you busy this summer, too, with plenty more programming offered in the future.
The NJ State Museum offers free admission and classes. Pictured above a scene of space as seen at the museum’s Planetarium . Photo Credits: Contributed
1) What/Where: Storytime, Crafts & Planetarium
New Jersey State Museum
Cost: Free – $10.00
Parking: Free & metered
When: Daily or Weekdays During April 11 – 14
The New Jersey State Museum is a place I’m embarrassed I have not been to yet and have been hearing all about, especially lately! So, I have the NJ State Museum at the top of my list of things to do this spring break! From where I live in New Hope, it’s a simple, direct drive down the river’s edge on Route 29. The offerings at the Museum are primarily free and, of course, sound creative. You will even find a planetarium on museum grounds, where I imagine STEAM enthusiasts can get their fill. The NJ State Museum’s friendly public relations department sent me this quick list of primarily free happenings that apply to youngsters and their caregivers:
April 11 – 14: Noon daily – Storytime & a Craft in Discovery Den
We’ll read “Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature” by Joyce Sidman. This colorful and artistic picture book teaches about the spiral and its many appearances in nature. Follow along through the story to see how many different spirals you can find! After the story, make a snail craft for younger children.
April 11 – 14: 1:00 –3:00 pm daily – Drop-in art making in the Imagination Studio & Create a Paper Mosaic!
You can find examples of mosaics throughout the Museum. Find inspiration and make your own to take home! Ages K – adult.
April 11 – 14: Planetarium Shows – Weekdays 10:30, 11:30, and 1:30 pm
The Planetarium also offers weekday shows at 10:30, 11:30, and 1:30 pm. Planetarium admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 12 and under. Museum admission is always free. During the week, metered street parking is available along West State Street, or visitors can access free parking in the State House Garage (ID required.)
More info at www.statemuseum.nj.gov
Pictured Above: A young artist at the Grounds For Sculpture, Busy Beeswax Candles and a vignette from Night form’s Infinite Wave. Photo Credit: Contributed.
2) What/Where: Kids Candle Making, Painting & Lightshow
Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ
Cost: Free – $25.00 for General Admission
Parking: Free with Admission and on-site
When: April 1st, 2nd and April 8th & Everyday but Tuesdays
Routinely each year, I visit GFS with friends for inspiring walks, talks, eats, and drinks, I have taken my son before he could walk, and he is now long overdue. To confidentially quote their website, “a safe outdoor haven that aims to inspire, thrill, and rejuvenate all who visit.” The Grounds For Sculpture is certainly family-friendly for all ages who can easily take delight in walking the awe-inspiring gardens with stunning focal points consisting of world-famous, larger-than-life sculptures, which will stimulate dialog and ideas! Families can also enjoy free, hands-on crafts together (with ticketed entry) and get studious in the GFS studios in one of their family-friendly art classes listed below. The GFS renowned Night Waves exhibition is an added dazzling experience to consider, but it is ending on April 2. Night Waves is free for children 5, and adult tickets are $28.
Lastly, lunch and dinner options are always a lovely and unique indulgence at their colorful, storybook Rats restaurant (Named after “Ratty” from the beloved classic children’s storybook Wind in the Willows), an excellent excuse to start the book with your youngster or even bring the book on your trip to the restaurant (reservations recommended). For those who want to grab, go or sit quickly, there’s also the tasty Van Gogh Café.
The Grounds For Sculpture Marketing and Communications Manager Lauren Collalto was excited to especially share the following two upcoming offerings that are free with admission:
April 1 – Family Open Studios – Busy Beeswax:
April 8 – Tots for Sculpture – Blotter Bugs:
More at groundsforsculpture.org
The current cast of Oliver. Photo Credit: Contributed
3) What/Where: Theatrical Performances
Music Mountain Theatre, Lambertville, NJ
Cost: Free – $10.00 +
Parking: Free and on-site
When: April 1st and April 8th
With plenty of kid-friendly theatrical shows performed by kids for kids, this theater is a special place for introducing youngsters to a theater-appreciating & theater-going life. This nonprofit offers quality theater while working hard to keep ticket prices very reasonable, it’s something to seriously appreciate. Kid matinees (running only on Saturdays) cost $10 per any-age patron. Mainstage performances are $32 each, with $30 for students, seniors, and military veterans. This Spring Break, you can catch rising star kids performing on stage in RAPUNZEL each Saturday through April 8, followed by the PRINCESS AND THE PEABRAINS, which starts April 22. On the main stage now is OLIVER, a family-friendly show for kids and adults running weekends through Sunday, April 9.
Rapunzel through April 8
Oliver, now through April 9
Princess and the Peabrains April 22 – May 6
Executive Director and Producer Ginny Brennen, who’s always on-site with a warm, welcoming smile, greeting patrons, states: “Music Mountain Theatre is proud to offer a year-round children’s theatre. We love having families enjoy live theatre. Shows typically last an hour and are performed by children ages 7-17. So, join us for your favorite fairy tales and adventures!”
More at: musicmountaintheatre.org
Bucks County Children’s Museum. Photo Credit: The Bucks County Children’s Museum website.
4) What/Where: Hands-On Play Exhibits
Bucks County Children’s Museum, New Hope, PA
Cost: Free – $8.00
Parking: Metered lot on-site and street parking
When: Tuesday – Sunday
The Bucks County Children’s Museum, it’s a spot that was dear to my family as my kids were small, with bonus qualities (aside from hands-on fun) such as affordability, low-impact effort, manageable size (easy to keep your eyes on your little one), and minimal crowding. The typical age to be entertained is 1-8 years old. The cost associated with BCCM is predictable for what you will spend to enter the door, and the kids can easily play for a couple of hours. All the exhibitions encourage imagination, problem-solving, dexterity, and socializing. The Children’s Museum is also where my son learned to “share” from exhibit to exhibit. Tickets are $8.00 (free for members), and parking is metered. There are benches throughout for parents or grandparents if they get too tired from their mutual play, and there’s also a public break room where you can bring your bagged lunch or grab a snack from their vending machine.
For those who have extra energy after a half-day of play at BCCM, New Hope Rail Road Train station is a stone’s throw away, where you can take a scenic train ride. Or for the planners with a stroller, another thought when done at BCCM is to walk through the picturesque town, peer over the bridge, taking in the beautiful sights and sounds of the river and its inhabitants.
Online reservations suggested. More a here: buckskids.org
Can you spot Mona Lisa or Edvard Munch’s The Scream? Snap shots from this year’s Peep-Tastic Exhibition. Photo Credit: Arts News Now
5) What/Where: Peep-Tastic Exhibition
Peddler’s Village, Lahaska, PA
Parking: Free and on-site
When: Daily, through April 23 (except on Easter Sunday)
Who would think the playful and nostalgic candies could have so much artistic versatility? Peddler’s Village luckily did, with now the 4th Annual PEEP-Tastic Display – this is a fun and festive excuse to pack up your little peeps to see these peeps in action and feast your eyes on tasty & tempting & festive art. Each display is made by all ages of all types – kindergarteners through senior citizens! These multiple, individually crafted “Peep” vignettes are on display now through April 23 and its easy to see why seeing this community-friendly exhibition can make for a new holiday season tradition!
At Peep-Tastic, you’ll view over 130 marshmallow masterpieces that have been carefully crafted with bright bunnies and chicks in inspired, inventive settings. The Peeps can be found in the Peddler’s Village Visitor’s Center, a Red Barn located on Street Road, conveniently situated next to the main parking lot.
After peeping at the peeps, and if you find you have more “spring in your step,” take the kids to enjoy the gorgeous grounds and literally “stop to smell the flowers” – the gardens are beautiful also radiating with color, and in the center of it all, you’ll also find a tranquil koi pond. My favorite treat to experience after walking the grounds is to also pop in the village’s Cuckoo clock store, “Fehrenbach Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks and German Gifts” shop, and see age-old craftsmanship and mechanics at work – any little person may find themselves happily hypnotized as a friendly store staff member offers to wind any clock for a quick Cuckoo clock show.
Keep in mind weekends can be busy at the Village, no different than going to any other popular destination. If you have time to visit during the week, that is when the pulse is slower.
To view detailed hours, shoppes, maps and dining options, visit peddlersvillage.com
Hortulus young patrons participating in complimentary activities for children and a most adorable, wooly staff member
6) What/Where: Agriculture Explorations & Springtime Market
Hortulus Farm, Newtown, PA
Parking: Free and on-site
When: April 1st & 2nd +
Ages: All ages
Hortulus Farm: “Encourages a new generation of gardening enthusiasts” as stated by the new steward, John Kontz. Officially opening to the public on April 1, this is where you indeed observe art in agriculture while relishing in finding a little lamb or two or three roaming on site. This unique and welcoming nonprofit farm takes science and pride in designing the most unusual plants cultivated from around the world, representing unique cultures and experiences while further serving as a reminder of the importance of nurturing nature.
Within the farm’s main heated greenhouse, guests will see a variety of storytelling vignettes exhibiting calming and colorful hues with three-dimensional sculptural qualities that seem inherent to enchantment. Also in the farm’s works is the opening of their Botanical Playground plan, offering a safe place for children to play, explore and have their imaginations grow. The Botanical Playground will also be home to a new amphitheater, more to be announced.
With an array of programming scheduled and TBA, Hortulus Farm has recently partnered with the New Hope Arts Center for an Artist in Residence program for a series of weekend art events featuring various mixed media and installation artists from the opening weekend until the summer. The first artist in residence is Christine Seo, who will paint a scene of the Hortulus baby sheep live throughout the weekend. Did I mention the Lemon-infused Latte I tried by Amsterdam Coffee is heavenly and is something to crave? Amsterdam Coffee will be residing in Hortulus’s Garden Café.
Learn more at HortulusFarm.com
Pictured above: A waterside, arial view of the historic Prallsville Mill, situated conveniently along the canal path. Photo Credit: Prallsville Mills website.
7) What/Where: Nature Stroll, History, Spring Fine Arts & Crafts Show
Prallsville Mill, Stockton, NJ
Parking: Free and on-site
When: April 1st & 2nd
Ages: All ages
Looking to wear out the kids with some fresh air by the water? One of my favorite pastimes is packing a picnic lunch we make together, finding easy parking for free (ideally), and then going for a stroll or bike ride together along the canal path in Stockton, NJ. But after all that, we’ve sometimes had good fortune on occasion by taking in added, visual stimulation and inspiration when stopping into the latest art show at Prallsville Mill.
This April 1st and 2nd, the Mill is hosting their latest Spring Fine Arts & Crafts Show from 10 am – 4 pm. Who knows, with “candy for the eyes,” kids just may catch the creative bug when they see all the local artisans exhibiting items such as handmade jewelry, pottery, textiles, paintings, and more. Ps. Bonus if your youngster is into history or mechanics, the Mill houses much of its original gears when operating in the industrial era as a grist mill. You can learn about its history in advance easily on their website before you plan your fieldtrip.
More at: prallsvillemills.org
Thanks for reading and hope you and your young ones enjoy exploring or re-experiencing the near free and creative activities mentioned above. Most all the recommended venues above are nonprofits and will be happy to welcome your return or greet you for the first time. Fast forward, three of my four kids are either artists themselves or serious art appreciators. The story is unfolding beautifully for the last chick in the nest. Cheers! Mandee