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New Jersey parks for the family

Elaina is a Phoenix-based freelance writer, blogger and co-founder of the Kidlee baby book app. Check out her blog, Fun Finds For Mom, for product reviews, recipes and fun activities for moms and kids.

Plan a park day

Time for some family bonding? Plan a picnic in the park! Here are some of the best parks in New Jersey to enjoy with the kids.

Kip's Castle Park

Are your kids into fairy tales and castles? Take them to Kip's Castle Park in Essex County, where they can feast their eyes on a 9,000 square foot mansion built in the early 1900s and modeled after a medieval Norman castle. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the amazing views of New York City from the nearby mountain ridge. In summertime, families can enjoy music concerts on the grounds.

Website: http://www.essex-countynj.org/p/index.php?section=k/o

Cattus Island Park

Cattus Island Park is the perfect place to take the kids when they've had a little too much screen time and need a healthy dose of nature. Put away the iPad and put on your hiking boots. This beautiful park boasts miles of hiking trails, boardwalk bird watching and a picnic area and playground. Fishing and crabbing are also options at this scenic wetlands spot.

Website: http://www.occis.com/cis/parks/cattusislandpark/index.html

Meadowland Park

Pop some popcorn and go feed the ducks at Meadowland Park. In addition to the duck pond, this massive park has sports fields, tennis courts and a playground. While you're there, check out the art gallery at the neighboring South Orange art gallery and recreation department, located within the Baird Community Center. Outdoor jazz concerts are another big draw in the summertime.

Website: http://southorange.patch.com/listings/meadowland-park

Van Saun County Park — Bergen County

If you find yourself near Paramus, a visit to charming Van Saun County Park is well worth the trip. Families with young children will love visiting the small zoo, taking a train ride around the park, riding a pony and going for a spin on the carousel. If you're looking for a park to host a party, Van Saun County Park has party pavilions you can rent for the day.

Website: http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/bcparks/prvansaun.aspx

North Branch Park

There's usually something going on at North Branch Park, located along the banks of the Raritan River. Depending on the day, you might find a dog show, a circus, the Somerset County 4-H Fair, a soccer game or a field full of model-airplane and rocket-launching enthusiasts. Pack the cooler and enjoy a picnic or barbecue at one of the many tables located along the scenic river at this beautiful park. The kids will love the playground with its suspension bridge, swings, slides, monkey bars and rings.

Website: http://www.somersetcountyparks.org/parksfacilities/northbranch/NorthBranchPk.html

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