I’m not really a hot-weather girl. I’m often searching for ways to beat the heat during the summer and still have fun with the kids. These attractions offer super indoor summer fun in NJ – without the sweat!
Liberty Science Center
There’s a feeling you get when you walk into Liberty Science Center (LSC) in Jersey City, NJ. It’s a feeling of possibility. The spacious layout and hands-on exhibits draw you in to the wonder of science and experimentation, and the inspiring views of the New York City skyline remind you of freedom at every window.
In the Skyscraper! exhibit, families will learn how tall buildings are built to withstand the test of time and elements. Kids can strap in and walk a narrow steel girder 18 feet above ground, then get suited up in goggles and ponchos to experience 100 mph hurricane-force wind and rain while learning how engineers test a building’s behavior in high winds.
The Energy Quest and Got Power? exhibits had the kids experimenting with various ways to make things go. From wind to tidal and solar to muscle, we used power to race cars, light up bulbs, move fans and spin wheels.
You’ll want to grab a seat and relax at the Wonder Why exhibit while the kids climb the rock wall, test their reaction time, make a 6-foot soap bubble, balance a beach ball on a stream of air, and more.
I couldn’t get them to move on until I mentioned the Touch Tunnel, an 80-foot long, crawl-through, pitch-black maze that has been the hands-down favorite at LSC for years. I tried it myself, and it’s an eye-opening experience feeling your way through complete and utter darkness.
Some exhibits change regularly at Liberty Science Center. Check their web site for current information.
Sahara Sam’s Oasis
Another great place for indoor summer fun in NJ is Sahara Sam’s Oasis water park in West Berlin, NJ. This indoor water park also has an arcade and outdoor beach club.
The main attraction is the Tim-Buk-Tu adventure playland where kids can climb, slide, and squirt passers-by with water guns, or just wait for the big bucket to spill and drench everyone in the vicinity.
Lizard Lagoon, with its mini water slides and swings, is perfect for toddlers.
Sahara Sam’s has two single-rider winding slides (Snake Eyes), one family slide allowing 3-4 people to ride together (Mount Kilamanjaro), and one 350-ft super-fast body slide (Nile Mile) plus an obstacle course and pool basketball.
The Congo Bongo lazy river has several waterfalls and sprays, and it’s decorated with an attractive jungle theme, which kids may not notice, but I appreciated as I floated along. My kids especially enjoyed the water slides and the lazy river.
Sahara Sam’s also features the FlowRIDER Surfing Simulator, and though only body-boarding is permitted, it’s quite a rush to ride a serious wave.
Sahara Sam’s has a pretty good layout for traffic flow and ease of use. The changing area, lockers and restrooms are conveniently located. Lockers are accessed electronically with your admission wrist band (though locker rental is an extra fee), so there are no keys to carry or number combinations to remember.
As a mom, I appreciated being able to access the lockers so easily when my kids wanted food or money for the arcade.
It was mildly crowded the day of our visit, but there were plenty of chairs for adults to relax. There’s also a full-service bar located just inside the entrance to the water park. A tropical cocktail might be nice, but the park is so loud, I don’t know how much relaxing could really be done there.
As for food, Sahara Sam’s Desert Palm Cafe has a fine selection – from the usual kid food to chicken parm sandwiches, chef salads, and the ingenious funnel sticks. The one thing Sam’s could use more of is lunch tables. I definitely recommend eating during “off-hours.”
If you prefer to spend time outside, Sahara Sam’s has an amazing outdoor Beach Club. Just opened this year, it includes a leisure pool, a children’s splash park, a 12,000 sq ft wave pool, a full service Tiki bar, sand volleyball courts, and the “Samazon” – the world’s tallest rope-climbing adventure course.
With 18 attractions and art stations, the recently revamped Crayola Experience in Easton, Penn., is a little artist’s dream. You and your kids can spend a day of indoor summer fun immersed in color, imagination, and technology.
There are three floors of activities at Crayola, and one floor that houses the Cafe and Crayola Store (don’t miss the big wall of color where you can assemble your own pack of crayons or markers!).
On the 2nd floor your kids can create a design on the giant Lite-Brite board, take home a personalized crayon that they named and labeled, design art that comes alive in a display on the walls, make their own marker, and sculpt with Model Magic.
My daughter was drawn immediately to the “Be a Star” attraction where she chose a background and had her photo turned into a coloring page.
When the kids need to burn off some energy, the 3rd floor is all about motion. Crayonopolis recreates a canal that allows kids to captain a crayon-shaped boat on an 85-foot long water table. Stomp and Play features a series of interactive games that involve kids in dodging sharks, breaking ice and coloring with their feet. And Toddler Town offers a classic climbing structure and play area for the younger set.
The 4th floor is where crayon wax is melted and transformed into other forms of art. The Crayon Clinic lets you take your favorite crayon color and watch it melt into a molded keepsake such as a ring, car, or dinosaur.
Drip Art is Crayola’s take on spin art – melt your crayons over spinning paper and make a stunning design. And at the Meltdown, kids paint with melted wax.
Looking for more to do in NJ and PA with kids? Here’s a list of 11 Things to Do in NJ (and PA) That Aren’t On the Shore!