From day trips to festivals and concerts, there are lots of activities to choose from within New Jersey. But if you are hoping to get your eyes—and maybe even your hands—on some wildlife, a zoo or aquarium could be a fun way to spend the day. Whether it’s amidst big cats such as tigers and lions or underwater beasts like hippos and sharks, there are places to satisfy every animal lover. If you’re in NJ and looking to catch a glimpse of some exotic animals, both land and sea critters, stop by any of these 10 zoos and aquariums throughout the state.
Cape May County Zoo – Cape May Court House, NJ
If you are looking for something fun for the family, the Cape May County Zoo is a great place to head for the day. There are tons of animals to see such as lions, bison, cheetahs and zebras—just to name a few. Outside of the zoo’s regular exhibits, the park also offers encounters that allow groups of up to four the chance to get up close with animals such as giraffes, camels and reptiles.
Working to reintroduce new populations of wildlife into their natural habitats, the zoo also partners with conservation programs. Take a look at their website for special events ranging from yoga to concerts. While admission to the zoo is free, donations are accepted at the gates.
Space Farms Zoo & Museum – Sussex, NJ
Space Farms in Sussex County, NJ is the largest private zoo or aquarium of North American animals in the United States. The zoo has more than 500 animals to see, including big cats, bears, monkeys, reptiles and more. The park also allows visitors to join in on daily bottle feedings of the nursery farm animals. And when you are looking for a place to get out of the sun, their museum offers displays such as old-fashioned carriages and wagons, antique cars, and Revolutionary War memorabilia.
Tickets to Space Farms Zoo & Museum are available through their website, ranging from $17 to $20.50. The park is open daily, rain or shine, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Adventure Aquarium – Camden, NJ
One of the largest aquariums or zoos in NJ, Adventure Aquarium has an impressive selection of aquatic life to explore. There is an assortment of colorful fish, including Blue Hippo Tang and Common Clownfish—Dory and Nemo. As well as hippos, eels, sea turtles, stingrays and so much more. The aquarium also boasts a large collection of sharks, with an impressive 7-foot-long Great Hammerhead Shark calling it home. All of the exhibits are indoors, with the exception of the penguin habitat, which makes it a great way to escape the heat.
Purchasing tickets ahead of time is highly encouraged as entry is limited. Check their website for times and prices. Memberships to the aquarium are also available for the true aquatic lovers hoping to get in multiple year-round visits.
Jenkinson’s Aquarium – Point Pleasant, NJ
Located on the Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant, the aquarium has sea animals from around the globe on display. From coral reefs and sea urchins to sharks, turtles, penguins and even seals, there is a plethora of underwater life to see. And when you are done viewing the marine life, head upstairs to their rainforest exhibit to check out tropical parrots and monkeys and even Wally the sloth.
Tickets cost between $9 and $15. Throughout the summer they are open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. But before heading over, check their website for up-to-date hours and to book encounters to get up close with some of the aquarium’s animals.
Turtle Back Zoo – West Orange, NJ
Part of the South Mountain Reservation Complex in West Orange, Turtle Back Zoo has loads to do and see. Exhibits feature reptiles, big cats, flamingos, kangaroos and wallabies, and more. The African animal exhibit is packed with lions, hyenas, African penguins, and giraffes that you can feed. The zoo has partnered with the non-profit Sea Turtle Recovery to rehabilitate injured and sick sea turtles before releasing them back into the wild. Donations to the care facility can be made in person at the exhibit or online.
Tickets are available from $14 to $17 both at the door and ahead of time through their website. The park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with extended hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays in the summer.
Cohanzick Zoo – Bridgeton, NJ
First opened in 1934, Cohanzick Zoo is New Jersey’s first zoo. The park has more than 45 species on just 15-acres within the larger Bridgeton City Park. Some animals to view include big cats such as tigers and leopards, as well as monkeys such as gibbons and lemurs. Other animals that can be found are kangaroos, donkeys, parrots, emus and plenty more.
Admission to Cohanzick Zoo is free. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but for best views of the animals, they suggest going between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Owned and operated by the city of Bridgeton, the park is funded by donations through its non-profit. Check out the zoo’s “wish list” of items to donate online.
SeaQuest – Woodbridge, NJ
SeaQuest is an aquarium and petting zoo in Middlesex County, NJ, with other locations across the United States. The 20,000 square-foot attraction in Woodbridge not only offers lots of sea life displays but activities that let you get hands-on with some of their critters. Stick your feet in with tiny “kissing” fish, feed sloths or otters, or even dive into the tank and snorkel with stingrays, reef sharks and tropical fish.
Admission costs between $12 and $18, with additional fees for hands-on experiences. Go to their website to purchase. The aquarium is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with extended hours on Saturday and Sunday.
SEA Life Aquarium – East Rutherford, NJ
Located at the American Dream Mall near the Meadowlands, SEA Life Aquarium has more than 3,000 underwater creatures to view. Take a walk through the impressive 15-foot deep ocean tunnel packed with everything from tropical fish and jellies to sharks and stingrays. Or, stop by the seahorse exhibit to check out different species of the tiny critters. If you are adventurous, you can even stick your hands into a rock pool filled with anemones, prawns and giant pink starfish.
The aquarium is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tickets for entry are available online and range from $24 for kids and $28 for adults, with bundle packages that include Legoland Discovery also for sale.
Bergen County Zoo – Paramus, NJ
Within Parmus’ Van Saun Park is the Bergen County Zoo. As a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the NJ park aids in animal conservation efforts. Resources from the zoo are used in conjunction with other AZA members to protect wildlife in Central and South America. When visiting, expect to see mountain lions, wolves, monkeys, horses and more. While there, also be sure to ride their famous train and carousel.
The zoo is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but is open until 7 p.m. on Thursdays. Tickets and prices can be found online, with Bergen County residents receiving discounted rates.
Popcorn Park – Forked River, NJ
Popcorn Park is an animal sanctuary operated by the Associated Humane Societies in the Pine Barrens. The creatures here have faced illness, injury, cruelty and abandonment, or simply could no longer survive in their natural habitats. Animals that can be seen at the sanctuary include bobcats, tortoises, a variety of monkeys, and more. Wildlife that can be rehabilitated and re-released return to the wild, while others remain in the park. Rescues at Popcorn Park include Bengal tigers purchased to be used for hunting and a Black Bear that was used as payment for a car before being saved by the refuge.
Admission to the park is $4 for children and seniors and $7 for adults. The zoo is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Donations can be made to the Associated Humane Societies and Popcorn Park online.
Main photo from @seaquestwoodbridge