With two months of summer behind us, you may be running out of ideas for kid-friendly fun. You've built sand castles and boogie-boarded at the beach. You've played countless games of Skee-ball at the boardwalk. Maybe you've mastered the local mini-golf course.
Surely, there must be more to do before school starts. It's just a matter of coming up with ideas.
Rosemary Glancy, of Hazlet, Monmouth County, recommends Leaming's Run Gardens in Cape May Court House as a kid-friendly place to spend the day.
This summer, the gardens were a favorite destination for her daughters - Maranda, 8, and Avery, 5.
"It's something I don't think people realize how nice it is until they go," Glancy said.
Leaming's Run is home to 20 picturesque acres of greenery, ponds and bridges - perfect for nature lovers. Families can appreciate the work involved at the garden's colonial farm, with animals and tobacco and cotton crops.
Glancy's family particularly enjoyed the park's bamboo forest.
"You feel like you're in China," said grandmother Maryrose Spagnuolo, of Union Beach, also in Monmouth County.
For Chelsea Zucker, of Hamilton Township, Mercer County, a visit to the Cape May County Park and Zoo is a summer day well spent.
Look no further for a day of family fun that won't break the bank - admission to the park and zoo is free.
"It's the nicest zoo in the state," she said. Her 7-year-old son, Michael, particularly loved the reptile house, while her 9-year-old daughter, Claudia, said the African Savannah exhibit was her favorite. Take advantage of the warm weather to walk the park's 85 shady acres and visit the 550 animals and 200 species that live there.
Austin Cuvo, 10, of Poconos, Pa., enjoyed time spent on a lake this summer with his brother, Mason, 5, and parents Bobby and Lisa.
"Going on the boat was the most fun," he said.
With many places to rent canoes and kayaks in the area, you don't need to own a boat to explore the area's inland waterways.
Check out Paddle Shack, in Mays Landing, for rentals, great for paddling around nearby Lake Lenape. Winding River Campground, also in Mays Landing, offers kayak and canoe rentals for use on the Great Egg Harbor River.
Wells Mills County Park, in Waretown, Ocean Township, offers hourly canoe rentals for use on Wells Mills Lake. Shannon Thompson, also of Waretown in Ocean County, said it was a great place for daughters Jaden, 5, and Madison, 11.
"They just love it," she said.
Thompson said the girls also enjoyed fishing with their father this summer. Even if there's no angler in the family, kids can learn to fish from several local businesses.
The Cape May Lady, a party boat that sails out of Cape May on four-hour excursions is great for families, said Jason Kleinschmidt, the captain and owner. If the parents aren't experienced fishermen, the mates on the boat will help teach the kids.
"The kids seem to have a blast with it," he said.
Oceanside Bait and Tackle on Long Beach Island, Ocean County, offers children's fishing lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Kids learn to seine and identify fish species, then crab and fish from a pier at Sunset Park in Ship Bottom. Owner Vallerie Zak said classes also can be arranged at other times for families and small groups.
"They've really taken off," Zak said. "Kids just love the classes, now being offered for the third year."
While on LBI, consider taking part in environmental grassroots organization Reclam the Bay's art and environmental science activity, the Clam Trail.
"It's sort of a treasure hunt where the treasures are little gems of knowledge," said Rick Bushnell, president of Reclam the Bay. Participants visit locations all over the island and southern Ocean County to find informative "fact plaques." Visiting the plaques takes participants to many area points of interest, including parks, museums, shops, restaurants and giant clam statues decorated by local artists.
Explorers log keywords from each plaque on a form for points and can earn a certificate or a pin, said Bushnell.
"It's a great way to see the area," said Monica Kane, of Little Egg Harbor Township. Kane said her 9-year-old son, Chase, enjoyed visiting the sites and filling up his log sheet over the summer. His favorite stop so far was the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History in Beach Haven, she said.
Maps and log sheets are available on the organization's website, www.reclamthebay.org
Alyssa Hallecks, of Mays Landing, recommended the Discovery Shell Museum in Ocean City as a great spot for kids to visit. Her 9-year-old son, Christian, enjoyed the visit.
"They have tons of stuff," she said. "It's very interesting and something different to do."
The museum and store hosts more than 10,000 species of seashells, nautical items, and a giant shark jaw that will interest nature-loving kids and adults alike. Admission is free, so it's a great outing for a family on a budget.
Ken Clarke, of Somers Point, said his daughters - 11-year-old Brittany and 8-year-old Shelby - enjoyed visiting the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine.
"They liked the big fish tank," he said. During the summer months, the center features an outdoor observation tank full of local fish. The center also features a museum with educational displays related to sea life.
With a day trip to Batso Historical Village in Washington Township, Burlington County, families can take home some knowledge about history and nature.
Melanie Weber, of Egg Harbor Township, said her children enjoyed visiting the village this summer.
"I liked touring the mansion the best," said Lauren Weber, 12.
In addition to the 32-room, 19th-century mansion, the village features historic buildings used when the town was an iron-working hub, including a grist mill, saw mill and general store. It's also home to a museum, a nature center and hiking trails.
Contact Bailey Clark:
Worth checking out
Batsto Village, 4110 Nesco Road, Washington Township, visitors center and museum open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, no fee to enter the village, parking $5 per car on weekends and holidays through Labor Day, 609-561-0024. http://www.batstovillage.org" target= "_blank">www.batstovillage.org
Cape May County Park and Zoo, Route 9, Cape May Court House, zoo open10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. daily, park open 9 a.m. until dusk, free. 609-465-5271.
The Cape May Lady, South Jersey Marina, 1231 U.S. Highway 109, Cape May, sails 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., 1 to 5 p.m., 7 to 11 p.m., $40 adults, $30 children, $3 rod rental, 609-780-7900.
Clam Trail, various locations. 732-349-1152, www.reclamthebay.org
Discovery Shell Museum, 2721 Asbury Ave., Ocean City, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., free, 609-398-2316.
The Duke O' Fluke, municipal pier at Higbee Avenue, Somers Point, back bay trips 8 a.m. to noon, 1 to 5 p.m., $22 adults, $16 seniors, and $14 children 12 and younger, $3 rod rental. 609-926-2280.
The Fish Finder, 3645 Atlantic Brigantine Blvd., Brigantine, back bay trips 8 a.m. to noon, 1 to 5 p.m., $27 adults, $22 seniors, $22 children 12 and younger, $5 rod rental. 609-264-0918.
Fish 'N' Fun, Captain Andy's Marina, 9317 Amherst Ave., Margate, back bay trips 8 a.m. to noon, 1 to 5 p.m., $25 adults, $20 seniors, and $15 children, $5 rod rental. 609-412-3635.
Highroller Fishing, 800 N. New Hampshire Ave., Atlantic City, back bay trips 8 a.m. to noon, 1 to 5 p.m., $25 adults, $20 seniors, $20 children 12 and younger, $5 rod rental, 609-348-FISH.
Leaming's Run Gardens, 1845 Route 9 North, Cape May Court House, open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 4 to 17, free to children 6 and younger. 609-465-5871.
Marine Mammal Stranding Center, 3625 Brigantine Blvd., Brigantine, open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays, closed Wednesdays, no charge for admission but donations are accepted. 609-266-0538.
Oceanside Bait and Tackle, 8201 Long Beach Blvd., Brighton Beach, lessons 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays, $35 per child, preregistration required, 609-361-9800.
Paddle Shack, 5045 Mays Landing-Somers Point Road, Mays Landing, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, Monday and Tuesday evening hours by appointment. 609-909-5250.
Starlight Fleet, 6200 Park Blvd., Wildwood Crest, 8 a.m. to noon, 1 to 5 p.m., $38 adults, $28 children, $3 rod rental. 609-729-7776 or 609-729-3400.
Wells Mills County Park, 905 Wells Mills Road, Waretown. 609-971-3085.
Winding River Campground, 6752 Weymouth Road, Mays Landing, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 609-625-3191.k