Who doesn’t love a day at the zoo? New Jersey offers plenty of options, from large zoos to small, local animal parks and privately operated animal rescues. Here are our picks of the top New Jersey zoos.
Cape May County Zoo
707 Route 9 North, Cape May Court House
The Cape May County Zoo provides free, year-round admission to 85 acres of beautifully maintained exhibits. Opened in 1978, the zoo is home to 550 animals representing 250 species of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Guided tours, special animal encounters and a behind-the-scenes tour are available for a fee.
Turtle Back Zoo
560 Northfield Ave, West Orange
Take a hike through a natural area of mature oak, hickory and maple trees to see bobcats and barred owls, or embark on an adventure to the African Savanna at the Turtle Back Zoo’s Africa Adventure Exhibit. This South Mountain Reservation zoo offers the chance to get to know and appreciate the vast variety of animals – some of them native to the Garden State – and wildlife through a network of trails and interactive exhibits.
Bergen County Zoological Park [Van Saun County Park]
216 Forest Ave, Paramus
This “New World” zoo features wildlife from North and South America. Visitors have the unique opportunity to view such rare and unusual species as Baird’s tapirs and Andean condors—not to mention the scary American alligators. In addition to the live animal exhibits, the Bergen County Zoo offers train and carousel rides ideal for kids, wildlife and feature-film screenings in the mini-theater, and summertime animal presentations.
Popcorn Park Zoo
1 Humane Way, Forked River
The Popcorn Park Zoo was established in 1977 to provide a refuge for sick, elderly, abandoned, abused, or injured wildlife that could no longer survive in its natural habitat. Over 200 of these rescued animals and birds now live in spacious surroundings in the heart of the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey, waiting for their unique stories to be told. You may be greeted at the Popcorn Park Zoo gate by a gaggle of geese. Once inside, monkeys will clamor for your attention in the monkey house. You can also catch sight of all kinds of native wildlife, including white-tailed deer, bobcats and American black bears.
45 Mayor Aitken Drive, Bridgeton
New Jersey’s first zoo is home to nearly 100 animals representing more than 45 different species from around the world. Although a small zoo, this hidden gem—situated on 15 acres within Bridgeton’s 1,100-acre municipal park—provides a home for some larger-than-life animals, including Holly, the Asiatic black bear.
Johnson Park Zoo
River Road, Piscataway
A wide variety of farm and exotic animals are on display within fenced-in areas at this animal haven, which is open daily from dawn to dusk. The 473-acre Johnson Park Zoo—located on the banks of the Raritan River—is open daily. Interpretive signage is displayed to provide an educational as well as a fun and free zoo experience. Kids can feed the animals—and enjoy themselves in the neighboring playground.
Space Farms Zoo & Museum
218 County Road 519, Sussex
New Jersey’s largest combined zoo and museum offers opportunities to visit and observe more than 500 animals representing 100 species, including bobcats, tigers, lions, wild ponies, timber wolves, various types of foxes, leopards, jaguars and llamas. There also are farm animals for children to feed. The private collection of North American wildlife at Space Farms is said to be the largest in the world.
Although not zoos, here are a couple of other attractions for lovers of wildlife:
1390 White Bridge Road, Millington
The Raptor Trust is home to approximately 50 resident birds, an on-site medical and rehabilitation center and education center. The trust is a result of Len Soucy’s long-time interest in nature and, particularly raptors, birds of prey. Open to the public seven days a week.
Rizzo’s Wildlife World
1 Gold Mine Rd., Flanders
Rizzo’s Wildlife World has 4,700 square feet of exhibit space filled with professionally crafted wildlife enclosures. There are also more than 2,000 gallons of aquatic exhibits containing fish from all around the world and an indoor zoo. Expert wildlife educators lead semi-guided tours. Experience up-close encounters with the likes of turtles, lizards, snakes, chinchillas, and more than 150 other animals. Rizzo’s is open six days a week (closed Mondays); admission $10.