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  • photo contest Enter The Back to School Photo Contest Now!

    Snap a First Day of School pic of your child, and submit it below to enter the First Day of School photo contest, sponsored by the Staten Island JCC! The Fan Favorite and Editors’ Pick will each win a family 4-pack of tickets to LEGOLAND NY Resort! An Editors’ Pick Runner-Up will receive an outdoor family photo shoot with Sweetest Smiles Photography which includes 25 high resolution, edited, digital images! Want your child to be the Fan Favorite and win LEGOLAND NY Resort tickets? Send the link to your entry to friends and family and ask them to vote for your child! Did your friend or family member enter their child? Find their picture and vote for them below—each vote they get takes them one step closer to winning! Contest and voting end Monday, Sept. 27 at 5pm EST.

  • cute elementary school girl in classroom wearing mask NYC Public Schools Reopening in September 2021: What You Need to Know

    The New York State Education Department has issued school reopening guidance to help school districts prepare for the 2021-2022 school year. Overall, the state is leaving it up to individual school districts to set COVID-19 rules. And the NYC DOE has announced  what you need to know about NYC public schools reopening on Sept. 13. New York City students will return to full-time in-person learning next month with no option of remote or hybrid classes. The NYSED based its guidance on the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the American Academy of Pediatrics. COVID Guidelines for NYC Public Schools Reopening in 2021 Here are answers to frequently asked questions parents have about NYC public schools reopening. These NYC public school COVID guidelines aim to keep everyone healthy: Will NYC public school students be tested for COVID in school? Starting Monday, September 27, the DOE will increase random COVID-19 testing in all elementary, middle, and high schools for students in grades 1-12 from biweekly to weekly. Parents are encouraged to provide consent for their children. Consent forms can be submitted on the NYC Schools Account (NYCSA) or by downloading the form on the DOE’s COVID testing page and sending it to the school. Will NYC public school classrooms be closed when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID? Per a letter sent to families by the DOE, starting Monday, September 27,  NYC public school classrooms will no longer close an entire classroom when there is a positive case in the classroom. According to the latest guidance from CDC, unvaccinated students who are masked and at least three feet distanced from a student who tests positive are not considered close contacts and will not have to quarantine. On their website, the DOE stated: “Schools will be closed only when it is determined by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) that there is widespread transmission in the school. With the health and safety measures in place, we expect that school closures will be limited.” Are NYC public school students required to get the COVID vaccine? Currently, children younger than 12 are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. As such, the NYSED recommends schools practice other protection strategies. These include physical distancing, mask requirements, and isolation/quarantine when necessary. Are NYC DOE teachers and staff required to get the COVID vaccine? NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Aug. 23 that all public school teachers and staff must receive the COVID vaccine. And, they must show proof of at least one dose of the vaccine by Sept. 27, 2021. The NYSED guidance notes that NY state schools and districts may choose (but are not required) to work with their local partners and health departments to offer COVID-19 vaccination for eligible students. Parents, of course, must give consent for children ages 17 and younger to receive the vaccine Do schools require proof of vaccination for those eligible for the COVID vaccine? The NYSED guidance cites the CDC when it comes to asking for proof of vaccination. Schools that obtain documentation of students and workers’s COVID-19 vaccination status can use this information, consistent with applicable laws and regulations, to inform prevention strategies, school-based testing, contact tracing efforts, and quarantine/isolation practices. RELATED | What Safety Precautions to Vaccinated Individuals Still Need to Take? Are kids and teachers required to wear masks in NYC public schools? Newly appointed New York State Governor Katy Hochul has directed the New York State Department of Health to institute a universal mask requirement in all schools, public and private. This means that everyone in K-12 schools must wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status. This includes students, teachers, other staff, and visitors. In addition, school bus drivers and passengers must also wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. This applies to buses operated by both public and private school systems. What are the COVID safety guidelines for sports and other extracurricular activities in NYC? Prevention strategies during these activities remain important, especially since these activities “provide students with enrichment opportunities that can help them learn and achieve and support their social, emotional, and mental health,” according to the NYSED guidance. At a minimum, students and adults should follow the school-day policies and procedures during athletic and extracurricular activities. The guide reads that high-risk sports should be virtual or canceled in areas of high community transmission unless all participants are fully vaccinated. As part of the city’s multilayered approach to school health and safety, NYC has mandated that COVID-19 vaccine will be required for public school students and staff participating in Public Schools Athletic League sports that are considered high-risk for potential COVID transmission. These sports include football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, lacrosse, stunt, and rugby. Participants in these sports must get their first dose of the vaccine by the first day of competitive play. Coaches and athletic directors will check vaccination cards or the city’s vaccination portal to confirm vaccine status. If a student participating in a high-risk PSAL sport does not have their first dose by the first day of competitive play for their sport, they will not be allowed to participate in practice or competition. Parents can upload their child’s vaccine status on the city’s vaccination portal: vaccine.schools.nyc. Will NYC DOE schools be doing temperature checks and questionnaire screenings? The NYC DOE is once again requiring daily heath screenings for children to be admitted to school buildings. The questionnaire must be completed at home prior to the school day. The NYSED guidance adds that families should be mindful if their child exhibits symptoms of COVID-19, to seek testing when these symptoms are present, and to keep their child home if they are sick. To see the New York State Education Department school reopening guidance in full, visit nysed.gov. Read Next | Find Great After School Programs in Staten Island Wanna learn about more great family activities like this? 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  • girl with special needs with another girl sitting in grass Special Needs Guide

    Are you raising a child in Staten Island with autism, ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, developmental disabilities, down syndrome or anyone differently abled in any way? The Staten Island Special Needs Guide contains information, resources, doctors, psychologists, therapists, other professionals for parents of children with special needs.

  • boat on a lake at mystic, CT Your Entire Family Will Love These Road Trips from Staten Island

    Looking to plan an exciting road trip with the family this summer? Consider heading to one (or more!) of the many destinations that are perfect as road trips from Staten Island. How lucky we are to have so many options for family fun within comfortable driving distance of Staten Island?! It wasn’t easy to pick our favorites—but pick we must, so pick we did. Read on for the best family-friendly road trips from NYC to be had in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, and start working on your action-packed getaway! And if you want to stay a little closer to home, consider a day trip to a locale even closer to Staten Island. Although most venues and locations are fully open, it’s a good idea to confirm availability when it comes to activities and restaurants. Everything from opening hours to the reservation process can change or be different from pre-pandemic times. We highly recommend contacting individual venues before heading out. 11 Road Trips from Staten Island for Families Road Trip #1: The Adirondacks Image: Fort Ticonderoga. Credit: Garrett Ziegler Here’s a fun fact: Adirondack Park is larger than Glacier, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Great Smokey Mountains, and Yellowstone put together. At 6 million acres, the Adirondacks are a truly awesome road trip from NYC, in every sense of the word. Approximate drive from Staten Island: 6 hours What to See and Do Ooh and aah at Ausable Chasm, a deep Ice Age-era gorge often called “the Grand Canyon of the East.” The classic tour caters to families, with an easy walk and gentle river float. The adventure tour—appropriate for kids 8 and up—lives up to its name, with edge walks and cable bridges Peer above the tree line at the Wild Center. The Wild Walk at this natural history center rises 30 feet into the air and culminates in a bouncy net known as the Spider’s Web (the walk is fully accessible). You can also pay a visit to the center’s outdoor animal ambassadors, among them a raven and a porcupine. Summit a high peak. With 46 mountains to choose from, the Adirondacks High Peaks have options for everyone, from the littlest hikers to individuals with physical disabilities. Discover military history at Fort Ticonderoga. A key location during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars, Fort Ticonderoga offers historical interpreters, detailed exhibitions, weaponry demonstrations, and grand views of Lake Champlain. Pretend you’re an Olympian at the Olympic Center. As you soar through the air on a Skyride gondola, you can see how far ski jumpers have to fly. Or you can strap on some skates to practice spins and Lutzes at the rink. The museum is full of memorabilia from the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, hosted in Lake Placid. Where to Eat Start with the BBQ nachos at Smoke Signals, then try a bacon-glazed meatloaf or half-chicken, smoked on site. This Lake Placid barbecue restaurant even has a kid-sized version of ribs for young carnivores. Barkeater Chocolates sells bars and boxes of truffles made on-site in North Creek (take a peek at the factory in back), but its imaginatively flavored bark just might be best. Think flavors like Adirondack Adventure, which covers dark chocolate with apricots, cashews, flax seed, sunflower seeds, and cranberries. Although the bark comes in a resealable package, you won’t be needing it. Lake Placid’s Big Mountain Deli & Crêperie boasts 46 sandwiches, one for every peak in the Adirondacks. Its crepes include savory options like maple ham and asparagus, as well as sweet versions like brie and brown sugar. Where to Stay Located on the shores of Mirror Lake, and just steps away from Lake Placid’s main thoroughfare, the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort makes for a great base. Family suites are available, as are boats and other watercraft for fun on the lake. Most of the rooms at High Peaks Resort offer views of Mirror Lake, and rustic furniture adds to the ski lodge, country-living vibe. It’s close to the shops and eateries of Lake Placid. The resort boasts not one, not two, but FOUR pools. Every night—regardless of weather—the kind staff at Whiteface Lodge lights a fire and passes around everything you need for s’mores. Other kid-friendly fun at this Lake Placid institution includes a 3D movie theater, a bowling alley, and organized activities like arts and crafts. Road Trip #2: The Berkshires, MA Image: Jack’s Hot Dog Stand. Credit: Garrett Ziegler Anyone who says the Berkshires are best during fall foliage hasn’t visited during the rest of the year. This rural swath of western Massachusetts couples adventure and art, an irresistible blend for young and old alike. Approximate drive from Staten Island: 4 hours What to See and Do Drive the Mohawk Trail, once used by members of the Five Nations to travel between the Connecticut and upper Hudson Valleys. Stop along the way for wonderful views of the Western Summit, Mount Greylock, Mount Prospect, and Mount Williams. Delight in all forms of art, from sculpture to painting to video and audio installations, at MASS MoCA in North Adams. Are your kid’s not up for walking the vast galleries of this former textile mill and electricity plant? Mosey on over to Kidspace, a gallery designed with children in mind, or ArtBar, where kids can make their own works on weekends. Receive a butterfly kiss at Magic Wings, an 8,000-square-foot sanctuary dedicated to Lepidoptera in South Deerfield. Around 4,000 native and tropical butterflies flit, flutter, and fly inside a flora-filled tropical environment. Although young children are welcome, their strollers are not. Hike Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts. All told the mountain has approximately 70 miles of trails for hiking, biking, skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. If you’ve got a book-loving, nature-ignoring sceptic in your party, you might want to mention that Mount Greylock is the site of the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the North American version of Hogwarts. Visit the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, dedicated to exploring the intersection of natural science, history, and art with an emphasis on the local area. For example, the Berkshire Backyard exhibitions spotlight the beetles, bears, birds, and bull frogs that live nearby. Where to Eat Quite possibly the [more…]

  • young girl picking pumpkin The Top 13 Farms to Go Pumpkin Picking in Staten Island & NJ

    If there’s one thing we love about the fall, it’s pumpkin everything—including pumpkin picking in Staten Island and in nearby New Jersey. Your family can spend a day at Decker Farm’s Staten Island Pumpkin Patch—or take a day trip out to Alstede Farms, Happy Day Farm, or Von Thun’s Country Farm Market—to pick the perfect pumpkin and enjoy various fall activities. Here’s a list of our favorite pumpkin patches and farms for pumpkin picking in Staten Island, as well as locations for pumpkin picking in NJ. Just be sure to call or visit the farms’ websites before heading out to confirm pumpkin availability and for info on how they’re keeping guests healthy.  Pumpkin Picking in Staten Island 1. Decker Farm 435 Richmond Hill Road 718-351-1611 Facebook • Instagram Hours: Oct. 2-31, Saturday-Sunday (plus Monday, Oct. 11), 11am-5pm Admission: Admission: Online: $9; $4 children ages 3-12; free for children ages 2 and younger (plus service fee). At door: $11; $4 children ages 3-12; free for children ages 2 and younger. Tickets on sale now. Check the website for details. This pumpkin patch features pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. Complete with photo-ops and fall decorations, you’re sure to experience a picture-perfect moment as you decide which pumpkin to take home. And don’t miss the Pumpkin Chucking, Snack Wagon, Living History Demonstrations, and more! Why we love it: Watch the kids try to solve a maze made completely of hay bales.   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Historic Richmond Town (@historicrichmondtown) 2. Greenside Up Garden Center 2777 Arthur Kill Road 718-967-5039 Facebook Hours: Oct. 1-31: Monday-Friday, 12-6pm; Saturday-Sunday, 10am-6pm Admission: Free admission.  In addition to selecting the perfect pumpkin for their jack-o’-lanterns, kids can enjoy inflatables, pumpkin painting, a corn maze, games, and prizes. Plus, there’s a snack shack and you can book Halloween or birthday parties to celebrate the season. Why we love it: As if everything mentioned above isn’t enough there’s a haunted house for adults on weekends, so call your babysitter and enjoy a spooky night out!  3. Green Meadows Farm 3159 Flatbush Ave., Marine Park, Brooklyn 718-470-0278 Facebook • Instagram Hours: Sep. 25-Oct. 31, Saturday-Sunday (plus Monday, Oct. 11), and Wednesdays Oct. 6-Nov. 2, 11am-5pm. Admission: $12 per person age 2 and older. Located in Aviator Sports Center on Floyd Bennett Field, this pumpkin patch offers hayrides, ten different tractors for kids to explore, a farm playground, a milking cow, a bulldozer to operate, a roller slide and more, plus a free pumpkin with admission. Partake in the Halloween Candy Hunt the last two weekends in October, then come back in November for a pumpkin-smashing good time. Why we love it: Midweek hours are available for homeschoolers and little ones, plus there’s a petting zoo so your crew can even feed some friendly farm animals. Pumpkin Picking in NJ 1. Alstede Farms 1 Alstede Farms Lane, Chester Township 908-879-7189 Facebook • Instagram Approximate drive from Staten Island: 1 hour Hours: daily, 9am-6pm (last admission to pick-your-own is 5pm). Pumpkins anticipated to be available mid- to late September. Check the website for updates. Admission: Exact prices for pumpkin picking not available yet. Check the website to make reservations in advance online (it’s a little cheaper than purchasing at the door and guarantees your entry)  Alstede Farms offers orange and white pumpkins, munchkins, gourds, and assorted winter squash—all available in u-pick! Pony and tractor-pulled wagon rides are offered daily (for an extra fee). Plus, you can visit with and feed some of the farm’s animals.  Why we love it: Corn, evergreen, and sunflower mazes are on-site and included with pick-your-own admission.   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Alstede Farms (@alstedefarms) 2. Battleview Orchards 91 Wemrock Road, Freehold 732-462-0756 Facebook • Instagram Approximate drive from Staten Island: 1 hour Hours: Wednesday-Monday, 9am-4pm. Pumpkins anticipated to be available Sept. 25. Check the website for updates. Admission: No entrance fee. Cash only for purchasing pick-your-own produce. Senior citizens receive a 10-percent discount on Mondays and Thursdays. Battleview Orchards offers a variety of pick-your-own fall favorites, including pumpkins and apples.  Why we love it: Hayrides are available in the fall, weekends only, starting Sept. 25. 3. Cheesequake Farm Market 2095 US Highway 9, Old Bridge 732-721-5728 Facebook • Instagram Approximate drive from Staten Island: 45 minutes Hours: April-Dec. 24, 9am-6pm. November close time: 5pm. Pumpkins anticipated to be available mid- to late September. Check the website for updates. Admission: $10 hayride to enter the pumpkin patch. Pumpkins are $0.69 per pound.  Quality pumpkins of every shape, size, and color are available during pumpkin-picking season in the fields or the farm market. Gourds and fall harvest vegetables are also available. Why we love it: You can wander through a corn maze as part of the hayride price.  4. Giamarese Farm 155 Fresh Ponds Road, East Brunswick 732-821-9494 Facebook Approximate drive from Staten Island: 1 hour Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm. Pumpkins anticipated to be available mid-September. Check the website or call for updates. Admission: A $10 hayride will bring you into the patch, but exact prices for pumpkins are not available yet.  The hayride includes a tour of the corn maze where you’ll see lots of fall decorations including mums, straw bales, and—of course!—pumpkins to pick. Pony rides available for an extra fee on weekends in October. Why we love it: Other crops available through December include mustard and turnip, plus apple picking is available through early October.  5. Happy Day Farm 97 Daum Road, Manalapan 732-977-3607 Facebook • Instagram Approximate drive from Staten Island: 1 hour Hours: Sept. 11-Oct. 31, daily, 10am-5pm. Last entry at 4pm. Admission: No admission fee to pick a pumpkin Monday-Thursday; $20 Friday-Sunday. Tickets must be purchased in advance.  Weekend admission includes a variety of family activities, including an animal feeding zoo, corn maze, tractor rides, and a variety of games.  Why we love it: Weekends throughout the season offer an itinerary of all-day fun featuring games, activities, and food concessions.    [more…]

  • Girl holds apples in front of her eyes Where to Go Apple-Picking Near Staten Island

    When the fall rolls around, I get excited about one big thing (no, not the kids going back to school…): apple picking season near Staten Island! The colder weather brings us cute boots and sweaters, preparing to cozy up by a fire, and pick-your-own apples! Plus, a trip to the farm isn’t complete without a cup of delicious apple cider, followed by homemade treats (I’m looking at you, apple cider doughnuts!). If you’re ready to ring in fall with apple picking near Staten Island, then check out these farms and orchards in nearby New Jersey. Your family will have a blast picking fruit and checking out the various kid-friendly activities offered at each place. A few things to note: Opening seasons are approximate as of the writing of this article since crops are based on weather conditions. Always check the farm’s website or call ahead to confirm availability and COVID-19 guidelines given the ever-changing conditions. And don’t forget proper footwear as fields can be muddy or have uneven ground. Most farms don’t allow pets or picnicking (or any outside food, for that matter). 6 Orchards for Some of the Best Apple Picking in NJ 1. Von Thun’s Farm 519 Ridge Road, South Brunswick 732-329-8656 Facebook • Instagram Approximate drive from Staten Island: 45 minutes Hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-6:30pm; Saturday-Sunday, 9am-6pm; apple picking: Sept. 18 through October Cost: $3 ages 2 and older; at time of press, half bushel, bushel, and family bag prices were TBD; call to confirm price.  The farm has two apple orchards and grows eight varieties of apples, which are available at different times during the season. Call ahead if you’re looking for a specific variety. Be sure to check out the Fall Festival Weekends, which feature more than 25 fall activities including a corn maze, pumpkin picking, hayrides, farm animals, pedal karts, and mini golf! Plus, you can grab some of the farm’s all-natural pasture-raised Angus beef to bring home and grill or shop the farm market for fruits, veggies, cider doughnuts, and more.   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by VonThun Farms (@vonthunfarms) 2. Giamarese Farm 155 Fresh Ponds Road, East Brunswick 732-821-9494 Facebook Approximate drive from Staten Island: 45 minutes Hours: Through September: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-6pm; Sunday, 10am-3pm. Arrive at least 1 hour before closing. Stop by the Farm Market before heading into the fields. Cost: Call for pricing. Apple season is approximately late August through Columbus Day. Pumpkin picking is also available in September and October, and the farm also has weekday fall educational hayrides (it includes a stop to see their farm animals, such as horses, pigs, turkeys and more) and Fall Harvest Weekends. Stop by the Farm Market to bring home its homegrown fruits and veggies, baked goods, jam, ice cream, and fall decorations and treats. RELATED | Sunflower Mazes Near Staten Island 3. Battleview Orchards 91 Wemrock Road, Freehold 732-462-0756 Facebook • Instagram Approximate drive from Staten Island: 45 minutes Hours: Country Store: April-December, daily, 9am-6pm; January-March, Wednesday-Monday, 9am-5pm. Apple season begins around Aug. 28; picking hours vary according to supply, season, and weather. Call to confirm before heading out. Cost: Check Facebook daily for updated prices on what’s in season for picking. This is the oldest U-Pick orchard in NJ! Always call to confirm dates, hours, and supply before you arrive. The orchards are cash-only at the picking locations. When you’re done picking, swing by the Country Store for fresh fruits and veggies, home baked pies, breads, and other pastries, and, of course, cider and cider doughnuts!   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Battleview Orchards (@bvorchards) 4. Lee Turkey Farm 201 Hickory Corner Road, East Windsor 609-448-0629 Facebook • Instagram Approximate drive from Staten Island: 45 minutes Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9am-6pm; Sunday, 2-6pm. Last entry to orchards is 5pm. Cost: $2 membership fee; $5 deposit per adult, which is applied toward your entire purchase. Prices for fruit posted in market. Before entering the fields and orchards, you must become a member of the Lee Turkey Farm Pick Your Own Club by completing a liability form stating you understand the rules of the farm and your family are entering and picking produce at your own risk. You will receive a picking card that acts as a pass and discount card for the entire season. You can familiarize yourself with the rules before visiting by reading them on their website. Apple picking season starts early at this farm; apples are available mid-August through October. There is a farm market, and you can purchase homegrown, oven-ready turkeys. Plus, the farm typically hosts a Fall Harvest Festival—a fun family affair during which you can enjoy a corn maze.   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Lee Turkey Farm (@leeturkeyfarm) 5. Demarest Farms 244 Werimus Road, Hillsdale 201-666-0472 Facebook • Instagram Approximate drive from Staten Island: 1 hour Hours: PYO apples begins Sept. 4; Thursday-Monday, 8am-5pm Cost: $7 ages 2 and older, includes free parking and entrance to orchard; $14 for a bag to hold the apples you pick (bag holds approximately 10-12 lbs.) This farm has it all—pick your own fruit of all varieties, plus a petting zoo, drive-in movie nights, Halloween lights, and more. When you’re done picking, check out the farm store with a bakery, apple cider, flowers, and fresh produce. All pick-your-own activities require advanced, online reservations this year (this allows the farm to manage proper social distancing and COVID-19 regulations). Visits will be limited to your reservation time frame, so arrive promptly at your scheduled time; late arrivals must still leave at the end of the reservation time frame.   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Demarest Farms (@demarestfarms) 6. Alstede Farms 1 Alstede Farms Lane, Chester 908-879-7189 Facebook • Instagram Approximate drive from Staten Island: 1 hour Hours: Farm Store: daily, 9am-7pm; PYO: daily, 9am-6pm Cost: $14.99-$59.99, depending on how much produce you want to pick. Pre-purchased tickets required. Ticket includes access to [more…]


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