For Family Fun, Cranfordites Head to Nomahegan
Many families with young children prefer the 'do-it-yourself' spirit of the town's park system.
It turns out you don't need much money to have a good time in Cranford. Patch asked a number of Cranford parents and kids about some of the best places to go as a family. The most common answer? Nomahegan Park.
Apparently, Cranford residents have a do-it-yourself spirit when it comes to family fun. With its playground, softball field, running and bike trails and plenty of room, Nomahegan is a good choice for a picnic, a nature walk or a canoe ride. It plays host to concerts, craft shows, charity races and the best fireworks show in Union County.
"It's big, it's clean, and it's safe," said Ginette Bracke. "And there's lots of other kids," added her daughter Kate.
"Everything else you have to pay for," said Salynn Hanlon, mother of a nine-, seven- and five-year-old. "(Going to Nomahegan is) a good, free thing to do."
Another popular family activity is going out to eat, and Cranford has an abundance of kid-friendly restaurants. Pizza House, Emma's, Tony's, Il Giardino, Calabria and Fresco are all family destinations.
"We have excellent pizza in Cranford," said Toni Romano, a teacher and mother.
The Turnamians agree. This family of four can be found at Il Giardino every Friday night, along with three or four other families. They know to expect good friends, good food and good times when they walk into the Miln Street pizzeria.
"My son loves Avenue East," said Romano. "The food is great and it's healthy." Eda Karacasu, a student at Orange Avenue, loves Avenue East's shrimp lo mein when she's not exploring (where else?) Nomahegan Park.
Rockin Joe's has a kids' menu that's a big hit. Kids can get a sandwich and a glass of milk for $3.95. Does a promotion like that bring families in?
"On the weekend, we get tons (of families)," said manager Erik LaPointe. "It's hot chocolate all day long. Around this time of year, people duck in to warm up." For the slightly older coffee crowd, City Grind has frequent, free comedy shows.
Some people think there isn't enough to do in Cranford. One mother said that Cranford has to compete with Westfield, and it doesn't compare favorably.
"Cranford doesn't really have places to take the kids," said another mother. "It's the one downside to our town. If we go somewhere, it's usually to another town."
Natalie Russell, mother of two St. Michael's students, disagrees. She mentioned the Rockin' Joe's kids' menu and the Rustic Mill as two places she takes her family to eat, as well as the numerous bike paths in Cranford, the Cranford Canoe Club and the library as places to go and things to do for free or cheap.
"Oh, there's a million things to do in Cranford!" she said.