Summer Bucket List Update {The Circus Place & Essex Equestrian Center}

by Cate on July 11, 2013

So a very rough calculation (see also: I was never any good at Math) tells me that we’re about a quarter of the way into Summer. Which is a good time to see how we’re faring with our Summer Bucket List.

And I’ve got to say, so far, so good!

We have crossed a few of the easy things off the list already (swimming, summer camp, and farmer’s markets, for example), and some of the more challenging items too.

Which is what today is about … horse back riding and circus lessons (the latter of which was not actually on the summer bucket list, but was the perfect balance so each of the kids got a unique adventure).

First, I heart Groupon and LivingSocial. No bones about it. Besides the fact that they often yield huge discounts on things we might normally do anyway (visits to Sonic or a hair salon, for example), they also encourage us to try new things we might never have thought of. Or things that were, gasp!, on our bucket list.


If you know Madeline, either in real life or from here, you know she’s simply mad for animals. Really all kinds. So when a deal popped up for a one hour horseback riding lesson? It was a no brainer. We took advantage of the Groupon this past weekend at the Essex Equestrian Center in West Orange. A place I’ve no doubt passed by countless times, but knew nothing about.

First of all. Indoor corral for the lesson? Oh yes please! Especially since it was a tropical 98 degrees outside.


A pair of riding boots, fitted for a riding hat, one horse selected later, and she was off.

m - ready-001

Nick and I watched from behind a glass wall, plenty of seating for family members, and air conditioning. No lie.

She walked. Cantered. Trotted. Got off the horse by herself. Learned proper techniques about body positioning. And shot us many sidelong smiles.

She was thoroughly enjoying herself.

m - assume the position-001

After the lesson, she went with her instructor to the stables to learn how to properly groom the horse. Which brush was used for what. What direction to brush in and why. Applied a gel thing to the horses hooves to prevent cracking from dryness. Led the horse back to his stall. Visited her horse’s boyfriend next door.


It was the perfect introduction to what it’s like to ride and care for horses.

And she left the equestrian center the happiest little five year old I know.

Check and check.

But because she is all about horses, I needed something for Nick. While he likes horses just fine, he also has this brewing penchant for height, and speed, and water.

I started noticing it about four or five months ago.

I have no idea where it came from, but he has become completely fearless in those aspects, and is a bit of an adrenaline junkie.

Zip lining, rock climbing, diving.

Higher, faster, better.

So when I saw a LivingSocial deal for an aerial workshop at The Circus Place, well that seemed perfect. Climbing ropes and mastering the trapeze, learning straight from real-life performers.

It’s good to be a kid.

He took the class last night. We had no idea what it would be like and we were really walking in blind. After a little bit of warm-up, they were off learning how to climb the ropes and silks. To say you need upper body strength would be an understatement, but he was wriggling up and down like it was nothing. Learning the proper way to grip with his feet and arms. And before you knew it, the hour was up and it was a cool down period.


Once we were back in the car, I quizzed him on what he thought. They didn’t work on the trapeze yet (it’s a series and I’m guessing they work their way up), so I didn’t want him to feel let down.

I needn’t have worried. He loved it. Everything about it, but especially climbing higher and higher into the rafters of the place.

Check and check.

Now for more details on the actual places we visited, in case you want to check them out for yourselves:
Essex Equestrian Center – easy to find and a dedicated parking lot. Very nice staff and they do a variety of things there, including riding lessons, boarding, and summer camp. They also do birthday parties as well. While it is a little on the pricey side for birthday parties, it would be perfect for a smaller gathering. While we were there, we met some of the ponies and horses that they use for the parties (one was Molly, which is the pony that Madeline practiced her grooming techniques on), and they could not have a more perfect disposition for children’s parties.

The Circus Place – they hold the aerial lessons and circus workshops for both children and adults. Great exercise and a unique way to develop your upper body strength. It is located in an industrial section of Hillsborough, and they are relatively new. The facility is on the smallish side, with no air conditioning, but the instructors were great. They also do birthday parties, summer camps, juggling, unicycle instruction and more.

As for the rest of the summer bucket list items? We’re coming for ya!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joanne July 12, 2013 at 6:23 am

I love that you found an activity for each of them! Those must have been the two happiest kids on the planet!
Joanne recently posted..Recipe: Summer Squash Tartines with Ricotta, Rosemary and Lemon


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