South Jersey Zoos & Aquariums
1 Riverside Dr., Camden
“Our goal is to become the most ‘touchable’ aquarium in the country, if not the world,” says spokesperson Kim Walker. Families can reach into open tanks to feel sea stars, jellyfish, sea cucumbers, sharks and now stingrays, with the opening of the new tropical Stingray Beach Club exhibit this summer. Aquatic animals you can observe include hippos & hammerhead sharks.
Tour Tips: When you arrive, pick up a map & show schedule, which details daily programs including 4D shows (for an extra fee) and keeper talks at Seal Shores & on Penguin Island. Consider packing an extra T-shirt in case kids get wet in the touch exhibits. Before and after your visit, check out GillsClubhouse.com, a website just for kids with games & educational activities.
Fun Fact: The African penguins can eat more than 20 percent of their body weight in small fish on a daily basis. That’s comparable to a 100-lb. person eating 100 quarter-pounder burgers every day.
$17.95-$21.95 admission, younger than age 2 free. 856-365-3300, www.adventureaquarium.com
Atlantic City Aquarium
800 N. New Hampshire Ave., Atlantic City
Turtles are among the animal highlights at this aquarium, located in historic Gardner’s Basin. The massive loggerhead sea turtle Groman, which weighs about 200 lbs., has been in residence since the Aquarium’s opening more than 10 years ago. Newest additions are smaller Diamondback terrapins.
Tour Tips: Make it a day at Gardner’s Basin, featuring restaurants, boutiques & a crafter’s village. There are also Atlantic City Cruises’ sightseeing & dolphin-watch boat rides, which can be fun supplemental activities to the aquarium trip. In the aquarium, you can watch a pro diver feed cownose rays in the main tank, daily at 11am. Kids can feed sharks & rays themselves in the touch tank at 12noon. A 2pm animal show highlights snakes, scorpions & other exotic creatures.
Cost Cutter: Visit the website to download & print a coupon for $1 off admission for up to 4 guests.
$5-$8 admission, ages 3 & younger free. 609-348-2880, www.acaquarium.com
FREE Cape May County Zoo
707 N. Rte. 9, Cape May Court House
Nestled within Cape May County Park, this zoo offers free admission every day. See more than 550 animals & 250 unique species, including a brand-new bald eagle exhibit. The exhibit had to be rebuilt after it was destroyed in the February 2010 blizzard.
Tour Tips: Spend the day at the zoo & its surrounding park, where you can enjoy picnic areas, walking trails & playgrounds. Plan your trip ahead of time by visiting the County website, where you can download & print a map of the zoo & a scavenger hunt activity for kids.
Fun Facts: The zoo experienced a baby boom in the spring. Among the newborns is a pair of snow leopards. Only six snow leopards have been born in the U.S. so far this year, including the two at Cape May. Kids can enter a contest to name the snow leopards through Aug. 15.
609-465-5271, www.capemayzoo.org or www.capemaycountygov.net
FREE Cohanzick Zoo
45 Mayor Aitken Dr., Bridgeton
New Jersey’s first zoo offers free admission daily. White tigers, leopards & lemurs are among the animals you may spot here.
Fun Fact: The zoo gets its name from the Lenape Indian tribe, the Cohanzick Indians, who once resided alongside the Cohansey River.
300 Ocean Ave., Point Pleasant Beach
Located on the boardwalk at Point Pleasant Beach, Jenkinson’s Aquarium features sharks, penguins & Luseal the Seal, who has lived at the Aquarium since it opened in 1991. In the Pinelands exhibit, families can learn about endangered species found in New Jersey.
Tour Tips: Your hand is stamped when you enter the aquarium, so you can come & go all day. Call to register for monthly Behind the Scenes Tours, Sat., Aug. 1 & Sat., Sept. 18, 9:30-11am for $10-$14. The aquarium comes outside Thursdays in August, when you can listen to stories on the beach just north of Jenkinson’s Pavilion, 6-7pm.
$6-$10 admission, ages 2 & younger free. 732-899-1659, www.jenkinsons.com/aquarium
Popcorn Park Zoo
1 Humane Way, Forked River
Operated by the Associated Humane Societies, this zoo & on-site shelter keeps & cares for rescued animals. Visitor favorites include Sweet Pea the deer; Tammy the Turnpike Turkey, who was rescued from the NJ Turnpike; and Princess the Camel who “predicts” NFL winners during football season. (Princess chooses which hand she’d like to receive a treat from her feeder, which corresponds to a team.)
Tour Tip: Learn about the stories of the animals on the website or while you’re at the zoo with your family. “Our goal is to have people walk out of here with more compassion for animals,” says general manager John Bergmann.
$4-$5 admission, ages 2 & younger free. 609-693-1900, www.ahscares.org