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Monday, February 24, 2020

Not packing your suitcase for a Yeshiva week vacation? Relax, there’s plenty for the family to do close to home.

American Dream Mall

The biggest entertainment news in Bergen County is the partial opening of the American Dream Mall, exit 19W (new) off the Turnpike in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where you can ski, go on 35 rides in the Nickelodeon Universe or ice skate on an NHL regulation size rink. And if you get hungry with all that activity, Chickie’s will be there with a pop-up kiosk for the week.

American Dream attractions are like the wardrobe in Chronicles of Narnia: Walk into what seems like an ordinary, welcoming storefront and exit into a magical world.

Big Snow opens into a retail ski shop with all the outfits and gear you might need. If you’re in the market for new equipment, you can try it on here before you buy. From the window you can glimpse the snow-covered slope and chairlift, which will be kept at 28 degrees year-round. The path progresses through the rental area, locker room and orientation room with an animated video. Then it’s out to the skiing or snowboarding action. If you brought your own gear, you leave it at the Big Snow check-in desk and it will be brought to you before you get to the chairlift. With a black diamond run, intermediate run and beginner area, Big Snow will appeal to both beginning skiers and enthusiasts. A package, including equipment rental, outerwear, helmet, a two-hour slope access ticket and access to the learning costs $69.95, with options for additional hours and days. Times are specified and online purchase is recommended. The last check-in time is 7:45 p.m. or two hours and 15 minutes before closing.

The Rink is open daily for ice skating but hours vary and can occasionally be booked for private events. A one-day pass for kids ages 3 to 10 is $12; for anyone older it is $19. Skate rentals are $6; helmets are included at no charge. From the rink, you can look at the upper levels of the mall, which are empty now, but will soon be filled with stores and shoppers, as though you are skating in an indoor, climate controlled, Rockefeller Center.

The Nickelodeon Universe is an explosion of pastel colors shaped into 35 rides for the young and timid, older and adventurous and everyone in-between. Roller coasters give thrills and chills while toddler areas offer plenty of fun for younger siblings. A train, led by the smiling Azul from "Dora the Explorer," gives passengers a slow, pleasant ride above ground for a view of the park. There are packaged kosher sandwiches and salads available at the food court. Nickelodeon Universe is open daily but opening and closing hours vary. An all access pass is $59.99. For those shorter than 48 inches, and anyone not interested in the more exciting rides, a general access pass is $44.99. Twilight access, which is two hours prior to closing, is $34.99. There is no charge for children younger than two years old.

Wrap up the visit with a stop at It’Sugar, a store with an almost endless supply of candy. Many of the packaged candies are kosher. Check out Lady Liberty and the carousel horse made out of jelly beans.

For complete information on American Dream attractions, hours and prices, visit www.americandream.com.

Indoor Play Spaces

While American Dream is the shiny new toy in town, there are plenty of activities nearby for an enjoyable staycation. Lily and Liam and Xtreme Energy are indoor play spaces for toddlers to teens at 250 South Van Brunt Street in Englewood. Lily and Liam is open daily, but closed the first and third Monday of the month for sanitizing, and is closed on Sunday. There are age appropriate spaces and activities for children to have fun, including lots of Legos, kitchen sets, a sandbox, a ball pit for toddlers and a play structure and ball pit, all of which allow a view for a parents’ watchful eyes. Xtreme Energy, located next door, is open daily with activities for older children including a ropes course, virtual reality and rock climbing. For complete information about pricing and activities, visit www.lilyandliamkids.com and www.xtreme.energy.

The John T. Wright Arena at Mackay Park in Englewood has public skating on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for Englewood residents, and $10 for non-residents. Skating for $5, including skate rental, on Monday and Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Urban Air Adventure Park, 69 Wesley Street in Hackensack, is open daily at 10 a.m. with several group packages available. This is the place to jump, climb, flip, tumble and play in a group or solo. Compete in a (foam) sword fight. Use muscles you didn’t know you had on the warrior obstacle course. Unleash your inner Michael Jordan with slam dunk basketball. There’s a separate play area for the under 7-year-old set. Urban Air has other New Jersey locations in Milltown and Avenel.

New in New York City

A trip to New York City always leads to good places to explore. Hudson Yards is a new combination neighborhood, shopping extravaganza and arts center, located between 10th and 12th Avenues from West 30th to West 34th Street. See what’s happening during the week at https://www.nycgo.com/attractions/hudson-yards. From here you can also visit the High Line (https://www.thehighline.org/), a public park that rises above the city streets.

Yeshiva break is also a good time for popular activities that won’t be as crowded. Girls love the American Girl Doll Store at Rockefeller Plaza. Girls can bring their own American Girl dolls to the store for some pampering, and can join them as well. Both girls and dolls can get their hair styled and have a manicure. Plan your trip at https://www.americangirl.com.

Aspiring sluggers and their families will enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of Yankees Stadium. During the off season, the tour includes the New York Yankees Museum, Monument Park, Press Box and the Warning Track/Legends Outdoor Seating.

Take a Day Trip to Philadelphia

Interested in a change of scenery? Philadelphia is just a two-hour drive away with minyan and kosher food options in Philadelphia and its suburbs. You can also travel to Cherry Hill, which is only 1.5 hours away.

The Please Touch Museum is a multi-sensory, hands-on, tactile experience that incorporates science and imaginative play into its exhibits for children ages 7 and younger. Kids can shop in a supermarket—complete with mini shopping carts and scanners—learn about aqueducts (friendly warning—it’s a wet activity), build rockets to see which shapes are the most aerodynamic and follow Alice’s journey down the rabbit hole.

The Franklin Institute is a science and history museum with live science shows, a memorial to Philadelphia’s famous citizen Benjamin Franklin, a planetarium and many traveling exhibits as well as permanent hands-on exhibits. Check https://www.fi.edu/ to see what’s playing in The IMAX theater.

Animal lovers can check out the Camden Aquarium, located right outside of Pennsylvania, and weather permitting, plan a visit to the Philadelphia Zoo.

A staycation lets you enjoy activities you don’t have time for during the year. If your kids attend a day school with a break coming up, enjoy your time off with them, whatever you do.