Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cape May County Park and Zoo

Location: Cape May Courthouse, NJ (directions)
Bathrooms: Yes
Eating area: Yes (can reserve picnic areas and gazebo for special events for a fee)
Parking: Yes and free
Attractions: Over 550 live animals, World of Birds and Reptile House, Pathway to Diversity, playgrounds
Around the area: Town and beaches of Historic Cape May and other beach towns
 Fee: FREE (donations are greatly appreciated)

A trip to the Jersey shore is not complete without visiting the Cape May County Park and Zoo. It also makes a great day trip! The recent beautiful weather was just perfect to pack some lunches, load the kids into the car, and view the animals running wild (I mean the lions, tigers, and bears...not my kids!).

We drove nearly an hour and a half with the windows down, viewing tons of farmland, farm stands, garden centers, and antique stores (couldn't help but make a few pit stops to check out the merchandise!). We arrived at the zoo right around 11am and found plenty of parking in their free parking lot.
The park is over 200 acres (85 acres being the zoo) with so much to offer! You will find two playgrounds with benches, walking and biking paths, covered pavilions (available for reserving for a fee), and the gazebo by the lake.  All areas are great for having a picnic or a snack before or after visiting the animals.  There is a Safari Cafe selling food and there are a number of stations inside the zoo selling drinks. However, NO food is permitted in the zoo. Our kids enjoyed the two playgrounds while my husband and I rested on a nearby bench in the shade. Both playground areas have swings, slides, and climbing equipment and plenty of seating.
The playground area designated for older kids

The younger (under 5) kids playground
Undeniably, the main attraction of the park is the zoo. It features over 550 animals displayed in a very unique natural-like setting. The zoo is located in a forested area, so the trees provide lots of shade which is very much appreciated on a hot day! The "boardwalks" lead you through the North American forest creating a sense of calm and relaxation, but also anticipation and excitement as to what you will find as you wander deeper into the forest! Before you know it you have reached the African plains and you are so close to the giraffes and zebras!

Entrance to the African Plains!

View of the giraffe

close up of zebra
We also really enjoyed the lush tropics in the World of Birds enclosed free flight aviary. Wow! We saw all kinds of really interesting birds flying right above our heads!
 And of course, the Reptile House...filled with snakes, turtles, and the famous Albino Alligator was fascinating to everyone except my husband who LOATHES reptiles!
The amazing number and variety of animals kept the attention of my little ones and they were so excited to see more. They LOVED feeding the goats at the farm animals exhibit, seeing the crocodiles swimming, coming almost eyeball to eyeball with a bear, viewing the bald eagles, and laughing at the crazy monkeys!  Here are some of the other animals you can expect to see in this slideshow:

The Cape May Zoo is one of our favorite zoos for a number of reasons.  First, it is affordable being FREE! Second, it is not overwhelming and you are able to view the entire zoo in about 3 hours, and third, the zoo exhibits are unique in that they are shown in a natural state within areas of untouched forest. This zoo is definitely worth the trip!

  • The zoo is not open late (10am to 4:45 in the summer and closes at 3:45 in the winter), so I suggest getting there early. As with other zoos, the animals are more lively in the morning when it is cooler than in the hot afternoon sun. 
  • Pack a lunch.  The fact that the zoo is in a park with plenty of eating areas, it makes the best place to have a picnic. Remember you cannot bring food into the zoo. 
  • Bring hand sanitizer.  All the kids love to feed the animals and there are two areas with coin operated food machines. While there are hand sanitizer stations available, I don't think they are close enough to the touch zoo.  By the time, we got to the station, my daughter already had her thumb in her mouth! I should have had sanitizer immediately following the feeding!
  • Print out the map! (here is another map)I think the zoo's layout can be a little confusing and sometimes have you wondering if we went down certain walkways.  Also, trying to find the bathrooms seemed like a chore. Familiarize yourself with the layout ahead of time.
  • Use the bathrooms when you first enter the park! The bathroom facilities are located right before you enter the zoo and another bathroom facility is near the tiger exhibit.  Make sure everyone uses the bathroom before heading to the African plains...its a long walk back!
  • You might to bring a few dollars for the Wildlife carousel and Butterfly Junction Train Station.  They are two dollars per ticket.  I like that they are tucked off to the side of the entrance and exit, because if you maneuver just right your kids just might not see them!
Hope you have wild time!


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