Summer Staycations

Photo Courtesy of Newark Museum

Activities Close to Home

By Laurie Pellichero

While some people may have vacations planned for the mountains, shore, big cities, islands, and more this summer, there are plenty of fun, entertaining, and family-friendly places to visit right around the area. Here are a few to check out:


Founded in 1909, the Newark Museum is New Jersey’s largest museum. It holds fine collections of American art, decorative arts, contemporary art, and works from Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the ancient world. Its varied collections of American art include works by Hiram Powers, Thomas Cole, John Singer Sargent, Albert Bierstadt, Frederick Church, Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Joseph Stella, Tony Smith, and Frank Stella.

You can spend many afternoons exploring its current exhibits including “Arts of Global Africa,” “The Rockies and the Alps: Bierstadt, Calame, and the Romance of the Mountains,” “Vantage Points: History and Politics in the American Landscape,” “Art of the Ancient Mediterranean: Egypt, Greece, and Rome,” and “Dramatic Threads: Textiles of Asia.”

The Newark Museum also offers a wide variety of gallery tours and activities, courses and workshops, lectures, special events, and programs for youth and families including New Jersey’s first planetarium and Camp Newark Museum, where children ages 3 to 14 can expand their knowledge through exploration of the Museum’s world class art and science collections. This summer’s six individual one-week sessions run from July 9 through August 17.

The Newark Museum is located at 49 Washington Street in Newark. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5pm. For more information, call 973.596.6550 or visit


Located in Morristown, the mission of the Morris Museum is to celebrate art, science, history, and the performing arts by providing engaging exhibitions and programs, all of which are designed to excite the mind and promote cultural interests. The Museum strives to educate, entertain, and inspire diverse audiences of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

The Morris Museum is the only museum in New Jersey with a professional theater that produces and presents professional productions of musicals, dramas, comedies, and mysteries; year-round children’s theater; a jazz series; a blues series; and special concerts and performances.

Current exhibits include “Fashion Forwards: A Survey of Post WWII Fashion Accessories” through July 22, “Spheres of Influence: W. Carl Burger” through August 19, and “From Stone to Gem” through September 16. “The Boomer List: Photographs by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders” opens July 10 and runs through September 9.

Galleries featured are Mechanical Music and Automata, American Indian, Natural Science, Rocks and Minerals, Digging Dinosaurs, and Model Railroad.

You can also take educator-led or self-guided gallery tours and participate in special programs for adults, children, and families including the Tea and Treasures lecture series and Science Wednesdays on select Wednesdays in July and August.

The Morris Museum also hosts a Summer JazzFest on the grounds of the museum with an array of food trucks on site from 5:30 to 7:30pm before each concert.

The Morris Museum is located at 6 Normandy Heights Road in Morristown. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 5pm and Sunday from noon to 5pm. The Museum is pay what you wish on the second and third Thursday of each month from 4 to 8pm. For more information, call 973.971.3700 or visit


Discover the “world in your backyard” at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, which features more than 120 different species of native and exotic animals from five continents. Located in West Orange, the zoo is committed to providing an enriching educational experience that fosters excellence in wildlife education and wildlife conservation, so that present and future generations are inspired to understand, appreciate, and protect the fragile independence of all living things.

Turtle Back Zoo features a wide variety of themed areas including African Adventure, Sea Turtle Recovery, Sea Lion Sound, Touch Tank, Amazing Asia, Penguin Coast, Big Cat Country, Wolf Woods, Reptile House, and Wild New Jersey.

Other attractions include a Treetop Adventure Course, Miniature Train, Prehistoric Playground, Pony Rides, an Endangered Species Carousel, and Butterfly Tent.

Turtle Back Zoo also offers an array of educational programs, including week-long summer camps for children entering kindergarten and first through eighth grades. Campers will be introduced to the world of animals, nature, and science, and enjoy age-appropriate themed camps that include games, teacher-led lessons, behind-the-scenes visits, up-close animal encounters, hands-on science, and fun crafts.

Essex County Turtle Back Zoo is located at 560 Northfield Avenue in West Orange. It is open daily from 10am to 4:30pm. For more information, call 973.731.5800 or visit

Photo Courtesy of Franklin Mineral Museum


Nature, history, and science are celebrated at the Franklin Mineral Museum in Sussex County. The mission of the museum is to preserve and disseminate knowledge related to the mineral wealth, geology, and history of the “greatest mineral locality on Earth,” and to foster scientific inquiry into those subjects.

To that end the Museum acquires, preserves, and displays mineralogical and geological specimens, artifacts, and documents related to the history and mineralogy of the Franklin-Sterling Hill mining district. The Museum also acquires and displays archaeological and paleontological specimens and other items of interest.

Franklin and its close neighbor, Ogdensburg, are the homes of some of the world’s most famous zinc mines. Over the years, the two mines produced 33 million tons of ore. The Franklin orebody in particular is famous for its fluorescent minerals and abundance of rare mineral species.

In 1954 the last of the ore was raised to the surface at the Franklin Mine. Many in the community at that time wished to preserve the heritage of the mines, and in 1959, a group of collectors banded together to form the Franklin-Ogdensburg Mineralogical Society (FOMS), still in existence today. One of the stated goals of FOMS was to assist in the founding and support of a museum in Franklin dedicated to the local minerals, and the Franklin Mineral Museum opened its doors to the public in 1965.

Fun activities for all ages include a guided tour of the Museum, which features an abundant collection of minerals, fluorescent minerals, fossils, Native American artifacts, and a mine replica; mineral collecting in any of the Museum’s three collecting areas; gem panning; and a fossil dig. There are also picnic areas for the enjoyment of visitors.

The Franklin Mineral Museum, a nonprofit educational institution, is located at 32 Evans Street in Franklin. Hours are Monday through Friday 10am to 4pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm, and Sunday 11am to 5pm. For more information, call 973.827.3481 or visit


Just over in Ogdensburg, the mission of the Sterling Hill Mining Museum is to tell the story of the Sterling Hill Mine and to inspire lifelong learning about earth sciences, engineering, and the responsible use of the Earth’s nonrenewable resources. 

The Museum’s Zobel Exhibit Hall has more than 12,000 items on display, and highlights include the Oreck Mineral Gallery with hundreds of fine mineral specimens; a 10-foot-long Periodic Table of the Elements display; a fluorescent mineral display with more than 700 specimens; gold, silver, and copper displays; ore specimens; numerous items invented by Thomas Edison; hundreds of items used in mining and milling operations; fossils; meteorites; and artworks.

The Underground Mine Tour features a 1,300-foot underground walk through the Sterling Hill zinc mine. Within the mine passages are numerous pieces of equipment used while the mine was in operation, plus exhibits on the underground mining process. The entire route is well-lit, and no climbing is involved.

For many visitors, the most popular part of the mine tour is the Rainbow Tunnel, where brightly fluorescent zinc ore is exposed in the mine walls, exactly as it was in other parts of the mine where ore was produced. Illuminated under ultraviolet light, the walls glow bright green and red, the green signaling the presence of willemite, one of the main zinc ore minerals at Sterling Hill. 

The Museum also features a Geotech Center, Fossil Discovery Center, Rock Discovery Center, and the Ellis Astronomical Observatory, among other educational offerings.

Sterling Hill Mining Museum is at 30 Plant Street in Ogdensburg. Two-hour tours are offered daily at 10am and 1pm in July and August. For more information, call 973.209.7212 or visit

Photo Courtesy of Imagine That!!!


If you’re looking for something geared specifically to young children, Imagine That!!! in Florham Park specializes in exhibits and activities for pre-school and young elementary school-age kids. For 20 years, it has provided educational fun for children at several locations throughout New Jersey. Now centralized in one large, bright, newly-renovated facility, it offers a wide variety of exhibits and activities for the whole family to enjoy.

At Imagine That!!!, children are encouraged to touch, discover, learn, and explore in the 16,000-square-foot space which features more than 35 unique exhibits. Embracing a learning-through-play model, Imagine That!!! is a place where young children can stretch their legs and their imaginations. The exhibits are specifically designed to stimulate the child’s imagination and intellect while providing them with a fun day. Trained staff members are on hand to explain activities and exhibits and to guide visitors through different areas of interest.

Features include a puppet theater, dance room, castle jungle gym play area, music room, train exhibit, arts and crafts room, pirate ship with fishing area, and an interactive 3D sand table area.

Imagine That!!! is located at 4 Vreeland Road in Florham Park. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 4:30pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5:30pm. For more information, call 973.966.8000 or visit


For a historical day trip, you can see where General George Washington was headquartered during the harsh winter of 1779-1780 as he plotted the colonies’ rebellion against England.

Located in Morristown National Historical Park, the Ford Mansion and Washington’s Headquarters Museum are open for tours in the summer.

The Ford Mansion is one of the earliest house museums in the United States. Today it is furnished to reflect how it might have appeared during Washington’s stay. The Colonial Revival museum building was designed by noted architect John Russell Pope, who also designed the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, was the inspiration for the building. The museum features a number of exhibits showing furniture, weapons, documents, and other objects from the 18th century, and also houses a research library.

Tours of Ford Mansion begin in the Washington’s Headquarters Museum, located at 30 Washington Place in Morristown. The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30am to 5pm. Tours are at 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm. For more information, call 973.539.2016 ext. 210 or visit


If you want to see a show, you might want to visit the Pax Amicus Castle Theatre in Budd Lake. Housed in a castle made of white stone, the nonprofit community theater specializes in contemporary comedies, dramas, and musicals. It also features the Castle Shakespeare Repertory, a non-Equity professional acting company specializing in the works of William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, and other European and American playwrights. The Magical Caravan Players specialize in educational theatre for children, and Pax Amicus Generation Next offers young-adult performers, ages 13 to 19, the opportunity to perform on the Pax Amicus stage, under the direction of a professional director and choreographer.

Pax Amicus Castle Theatre also welcomes professional musicians, singers, comics, magicians, and other guest artists for one-night-only specials at The Castle.

Productions this summer include The Wizard of Oz, Legally Blonde The Musical, and Extremities.

Pax Amicus Castle Theatre is located at 23 Lake Shore Road in Budd Lake. Check out the full calendar of events at or call 973.691.2100.

Photo Courtesy of Skylands Stadium


If you’re looking to spend some time outdoors, you can head over to Skylands Stadium, home to the Sussex County Miners professional baseball team. One of North Jersey’s premier sports and entertainment venues, Skyland Stadium is a year-round, full-service facility where fans can enjoy baseball games as well as meet-and-greets with Miners players, coaches, and their popular mascot, Herbie the Miner. Visit for the summer schedule. Post-game fireworks are scheduled for July 4, 7, 21, and 28; August 25; and September 1.

Skylands Stadium will also host the New Meadowlands Flea Market on July 21 and August 18, opening both days at 8am.

Skylands Stadium is located at 94 Championship Place in Augusta. For more information, call 973.383.7644 or visit


There’s “always something happening” at the Sussex County Fairgrounds, home of the New Jersey State Fair/Sussex County Farm & Horse Show. Running from August 3-12, this ten-day show highlights the hallmarks of an old-fashioned country fair, as well as lots of entertainment, food, and shopping.

The six barns will be full of animals, the three rings will be showcasing horses, and there will be plenty of activities for every member of the family. The Outdoor Entertainment Area features two demo derbies, a mud bog, tractor pulls, motocross, and an opening night concert. The Performing Arts Tent has entertainment every day.

The Sussex County Fairgrounds is located at 37 Plains Road in Augusta. For more information, call 973.948.5500 or visit

Events subject to change. See websites for full details.