From lighthouse climbing to penguin watching, the following spots in Ocean County have everything you need for an unforgettable family outing and they’re all open 7 days a week.
Your kids will be thrilled to climb to the top of ‘Beaming Barney,’ the lighthouse at the north tip of LBI that dates back to 1859. Beaming Barney receives half a million visitors each year and the view from the top offers such breathtaking views that your child may even forget about his iPad or iPhone for a few minutes.
The adjoining state park is filled with berry and holly bushes and bustles with bird life–perfect for your nature/animal/science-loving kid. The beautiful ocean views, the towering lighthouse, the jetty boldly cutting out into the surf… It’s perfect. The lighthouse is in a natural reserve; and lo and behold, there is free parking and no entrance fee! Score one for the parents!
Climbing the 214 steps to the top of the lighthouse is optional but if you do make the trek, your child can earn a certificate at the Visitor’s Center. When you’re done with Beaming Barney, there is an area for children to romp around, and water for wading and catching sea treasures. Barnegat Lighthouse State Park has all the makings for a perfect family outing.
This state park is unassuming and quiet, and we like it that way. There are so many places for your history/adventure-loving kid to explore that it’s virtually impossible to see it all in just one trip.
Inside the 7881 acre park there are productive cranberry bogs and a restored village that was once was a thriving nineteenth century lumbering operation. Watch your kids eyes grow wide when they see the one-room schoolhouse built in 1890. The restored village also contains 14 historic structures, including a sawmill, pickers’ cottages, a cranberry sorting and packing house and a general store. Unlike many other state parks, this one doesn’t have an entrance fee. Score two for mom and dad!
Your kids will love spending the day at one of New Jersey’s most popular state parks. They can play in the sand and surf on Island Beach State Park’s pristine shoreline and see firsthand what the Jersey Shore looked like in its natural state when Henry Hudson first described it in 1609!
The narrow 10-mile barrier island also includes activities the entire family can enjoy like fishing, swimming, biking, scuba diving, horseback riding, hiking and much more. For your shore kids in the summer, Island Beach State Park’s WildChild summer programs offer interactive, fun activities that really take advantage of the park’s natural resources including stories, crafts, wildlife and fishing.
‘Beaming Barney’ at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
Have your kids watched Finding Dory more times than you can count? Then Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach is the place for you! This popular shore aquarium is a truly unique experience for both kids and adults with lots of great things going on daily.
Not only is it loads of fun, but it’s also educational. Their mission is dedicated to educating the public on all aspects of marine life and conservation. When you enter the aquarium, there’s a large room with lots of fresh and saltwater fish, jellyfish and starfish. (You may even spot Dory and Nemo!) The star attractions include the seals, penguins, sharks, and turtles. Your kids will love watching the seals, penguins, Atlantic and Pacific sharks during feeding times daily.
The aquarium is open year round. Summer hours are from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Off-season hours are weekdays 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weekends 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission for adults is $10.00. For senior citizens and kids 3 to 12 admission is $6.00. Children 2 and under are admitted free.
Canoeing, kayaking, crabbing, swimming, fishing, hiking, exploring, playing—the adventures that await at the parks in Ocean County are the stuff that kids’ dreams are made of. There are hundreds of miles of scenic trails for your adventure-loving kids to explore. There are scores of playgrounds to climb on and swing sets to discover.
Not only are the parks beautiful and the playgrounds fun, but the Parks System also hosts a wide range of free or almost free activities and things to do practically each and every day. Check out our event calendar or oceancountyparks.org for upcoming events at our local parks.
Popcorn Park is not nearly as fancy as some of the state’s other zoos, but it is definitely worth your time. Your children will walk away with a much better understanding of how animals should be treated.
Each of the animals at the Popcorn Park Zoo has its own story, from deer that were raised by humans and couldn’t survive alone in the wild, to horses who had been rescued from starvation. Information about each of the animals, and how they came to call Popcorn Park home, is displayed throughout the property.
Popcorn Park is open 7 days a week from 11 am to 5pm. The zoo relies on public donations to care for the animals. For information on donating or sponsoring an animal visit the zoo’s website. In addition to Popcorn Park, the property also houses the Humane Society’s Forked River Shelter, where dogs, cats and small animals can be adopted.
Summer music event for kids at Ocean County Park in Lakewood.
Stop and smell the roses with your family with a visit to this hidden gem in Ocean County. Your kids will be in awe of the spectacular flowers growing right in their own backyard.
Surrounding the Barnegat Light Museum is one of the most delightful gardens on Long Beach Island. The gardens are open every day for the pleasure of those seeking beauty and peace.
The museum is located at 5th Street and Central Avenue, Barnegat Light. Admission to the grounds is free.
Ahoy, Mateys! Your pirate-loving kids will adore Tuckerton Seaport. Kids of all ages will love visiting the top of the lighthouse, playing on the wooden pirate ship, knocking a few golf balls around the mini golf course, and walking the boards to name a few activities.
There are many hands-on exhibits as well as crafts and fun things to see for kids. There is so much history and knowledge to be learned at the Seaport. You can even sign up to take a class– the Seaport offers fun and informative classes on everything from decoy carving to surfboard carving to chocolate molding. There is always something new and exciting at the Tuckerton Seaport.
I don’t know about you guys, but I loved my local library when I was a kid. And with all of the electronic distractions of today, many kids in this generation miss out on the joy that is the local library. That’s why the local branches of the Ocean County Library have really made an effort to encourage kids not only to keep reading but also to see just how much fun can be had at the library.
On any given day, you can sign your kids up for storytime, crafts, a puppet show, a makerspace or sewing class, a cooking event, a movie night, a live animal presentation, a music and movement class, a kids’ concert…and much more—and it’s all free. All you need to do is register for the event ahead of time by calling your local branch or signing up online.
My family lives in Toms River and we’ve experienced at least one kid-friendly event in each and every branch of the Ocean County Library. They’re all beautiful. Some branches are quaint and charming like in Island Heights and others are large and immaculate like in Jackson…and they are ALL worth the trip. Check out their Event Calendar to register for an event at your local branch or to visit a neighboring one!
Now get out there and explore where you live!