If you’ve never associated New Jersey with nature and wildlife, it’s time to reconsider that notion. There are many opportunities for safe, outdoor, and nature-friendly fun in the Garden State and zoos are a big part of that. If you’re raising kids in New Jersey, here are some of the best places to visit:
- Cape May County Park & Zoo
This deserves the top spot on this list because Trip Advisor just recognized it as #13 on the website’s Traveler’s Choice for Zoos in 2015. It makes sense too, seeing as it’s very accessible. It’s well known for its dedication to animal conservation and has established several “Conservation Day”s each year to educate Garden State residents on endangered species. Kids can also enjoy other activities like rock climbing, train rides, and wildlife talks. Admission and parking is free.
- Jenkinson’s Aquarium
Located in Point Pleasant, the aquarium is just one of the many attractions along the boardwalk. Kids and sea-lovers alike will be enthralled by the sharks, penguins, seals, and awesome variety of fish. Visitors can walk around the aquarium or join different events like the Lunch with a Keeper activity which gives guests and exclusive look at what happens in the aquarium, as well as several events during Shark Week. Afterwards, you can check out the boardwalk attractions like arcades and the Dark Ride, in which players don 3D glasses and battle on-screen zombies for a so-called “7D interactive experience like no other.”
For children more interested in creepy crawlies, the township of Toms River serves up this “bugseum” to educate visitors about the wonderful world of insects. Imagine visiting a bug-themed city and getting up close and personal with insects. Visitors who are up to it can even touch the bugs (supervised by museum staff, of course!).
- Six Flags Great Adventure’s Off-Road Safari
If an African safari is out of the budget, this might be the next best thing. During a 45-minute drive through 4.5 miles, budding wildlife explorers can see more than 1,000 magnificent creatures from six continents. Guests can also try unique activities like feeding and petting encounters. You can opt to hop on a guided tour bus or use your own car.
- The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
For a deeper appreciation of wildlife and natural resources, families can make the trip down to the Great Swamp in Harding Township, New Jersey, where they can view animals in their natural habitat. Visitors can learn about how people can care for the environment and preserve and support different animal species. (You can find similar experiences at the Lakota Wolf Preserve, Pequest Trout Hatchery, and The Raptor Trust.)
These are just five of New Jersey’s wildlife locations that one should visit with kids and the rest of the family. There are many, many more that you can plan to visit in the future. Kids (and adults) who love animals will enjoy the many zoos, aquariums, and parks all over the state!
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