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10 Philly-area weekend destinations to keep active this fall

In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, there are a wealth of free or moderately-priced locations to visit to build family memories while indirectly getting a workout.

Six Flags Great Adventure's Nitro as it speeds along its track in Jackson, NJ. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)
Six Flags Great Adventure's Nitro as it speeds along its track in Jackson, NJ. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)Read more

Are you looking for fun ways to stay active as a family this fall? It would be unrealistic to expect your family to be enthusiastic about a Saturday group jog around the block. But if you can find inventive ways to weave exercise into your weekend plans, something magical happens: It doesn’t feel like a workout anymore.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey have a wealth of free or moderately priced locations to visit to build family memories while indirectly getting a workout. Movements such as walking, climbing, biking, and even dancing can reduce stress, improve body function, and promote bonding with loved ones.

It’s prime time to take advantage of outdoor activities that excite the mind and muscles. Check out our 10 favorite locations for family fun and fitness below.

But first, before you embark on an action-packed day, use the following three stretches to prepare your body. Everyone, from little kids to grandparents, can partake in these stretches.

1. Knee-to-chest stretch. Before you get out of bed in the morning, lie on your back and tuck your knees into your chest. Wrap your arms around your thighs and take four deep breaths. As you breathe out pull your knees closer to your chest. This lengthens the spine and takes tension away from the lower back.

2. Spinal twist. From the position above, extend your arms out to your sides, palms up, and allow both knees to fall to the left. Hold for two deep breaths. Now let your knees fall to the right side, and repeat four times. This relaxing and invigorating movement promotes good digestion and encourages spine mobility.

3. Lower-back stretch. Sitting upright, extend your legs out in front of you. Extend your arms above your head, then tuck your chin in toward your chest and lean forward as you reach toward your toes. Keep your feet flexed. Hold for four deep breaths. Repeat. This helps to release the muscles and tendons in your back and legs.

Now you are ready to go!

Public art in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is famous for its rich history including historic buildings with world-class architecture, sculptures, murals and more. Fortunately, many of the city’s well-known works are publicly accessible and free to view. The Association for Public Art offers self-guided walking and biking tours of the city’s outdoor memorials and statues, such as that of Rocky Balboa from the famous movies set in Philly. Or try a guided tour of street art from Mural Arts Philadelphia, the largest public art program in the country. Wear comfortable walking shoes.

Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson Township, N.J.

When visiting Six Flags, racing from ride-to-ride is a marathon, not a sprint. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, spinning tea-cupper, or are there just for the carnival game prizes, there are plenty of attractions to please even the pickiest family member.

Wear good walking shoes because the park is a whopping 510 acres. All that walking combined with an elevated heart rate from ride-related exhilaration will burn mega calories without your kids even knowing it.

» READ MORE: Turkey trots happening in Philly this Thanksgiving

Amish country, Lancaster, Pa.

The Amish way of life has been roughly the same for more than 300 years. A visit to Amish country includes tours of the Amish farmlands and orchards, and you can take part in making crafts, furniture and even preserves. Families can also learn about the lifestyle of a community that they may only witness through books or television. Remember that partaking in new experiences expands the mind.

Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, N.J.

Whether you are an architecture-lover, nature enthusiast, or a little kid with a big imagination, there is something for everyone to explore and enjoy at this fantasy-like landscape.

This sprawling 42-acre property is home to hundreds of contemporary sculptures. Art has a way of creating conversation between those viewing it. This makes for a special opportunity to bond as a family in a way you may not at home.

This picturesque setting is also a peaceful escape, which allows you to free your mind, unwind, and release any tension that has built up during your week. Try to be fully present while wandering the grounds. When you master mindfulness, you aren’t worried about the past or anxious about the future.

Head to the Poconos for the weekend with your family to calm your mind while enjoying the natural beauty of the nearby lake and mountains. At Woodloch Pine Resort, pump up your heart rate with fun activities such as hiking, fishing, rock and mountain climbing, zip-lining, golf and even archery.

» READ MORE: Exercises to help you regain strength after a hospital stay

Blueberry Hill, Gibbsboro, N.J.

If you like bird watching, are wild about wildlife, or appreciate impressive views, this is the place for you. Breathe in the fresh, fall air when hiking the trails. You can make this free course as easy or challenging as you like by simply shifting your intensity level and pace. Consider a little friendly competition to the highest peak. Before testing out this rugged terrain, make sure your legs are warmed up. Here’s how:

Calf stretch
  1. Stand in front of a sturdy tree. Prop both hands on the trunk for support.

  2. Take a large step back with your right foot, bend your left knee, and keep your hind leg straight. Hold for 20 seconds before switching sides.

Hamstring stretch
  1. Using the same tree to balance, bend your right leg and bring it behind your body so your heel comes close to your glutes. Keep your knees together for a deep quad stretch. Hold for 20 seconds, then practice on the other leg.

AACA Museum, Hershey, Pa.

The AACA Museum provides enlightening and amazing motor vehicle history with the help of the Antique Automobile Club of America in a way that is riveting and educational for all. Stimulate the brain and body as you tour the Museum of Bus Transportation Collection and the world’s most extensive collection of Tucker automobiles. Interactive displays of models that have paved the way for transportation add to an unforgettable experience. Family members young and old will be talking about this trip long after returning home.

Topgolf, Mount Laurel, N.J.

Topgolf has the potential to be a real hole-in-one for all ages and skill sets. In addition to offering a little fun family competition, a stop at the driving range can also help to perk up your posture, improve your trunk rotation skills, and sharpen your eye-hand coordination. But for those new to this sport and movement pattern, you’ll want to practice some stretches before swinging the club. Try these exercises to make twisting smoother and safer on the spine:

Lateral bend
  1. Hold the club with both hands and extend it overhead. Keep a wide stance as you slowly bend to the left, stopping when you feel a nice stretch in the left side of your abdomen. Hold for 10 seconds, then perform on the opposite side.

Scarecrow twist
  1. Position the club on your shoulders and let your arms rest on the club.

  2. With feet wider than hip-width apart, slowly and gently twist your torso to the right and hold for five counts, then rotate to the left. Continue back and forth for five reps. Stay within your range of motion.

Hershey Park, Hershey Pa.

Anyone up for chocolate? Strap on a backpack and comfortable shoes, and be prepared for fun and stimulation for all family members. Hershey Park boasts more than 40 rides, including 15 roller coasters. After a thrilling day of walking around the gardens and family theme park, don’t worry if you indulge in a few sweets along the way.

» READ MORE: Maximize your walking workout with these 3 tips from a race walking pro

Adventure Aquarium, Camden, N.J.

We all love breathing in the fresh fall air, but it’s important to also have a rainy-day game plan. If the weather isn’t cooperating with your family-fun plans, make a splash with this indoor adventure, instead. The kids will be sleeping soundly in the backseat on the way home from all the walking and underwater wonder. And at the end of November, you can dive into a festive Christmas underwater event, featuring Scuba Santa, the world’s tallest underwater Christmas tree, and holiday decor that will blow your barnacles off.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach in South Jersey. Learn more about her virtual training program at Yvonne Ferguson Hardin (Fergie) is the owner of Fergie’s Instructional Training FIT in Germantown, where she specializes in educational movement programs for exercisers aged 55 and older. For more information, go to