A visit to the Cape May Zoo is an incredible experience that wows kids of all ages. The South Jersey facility is our family's favorite zoo, and we explore it several times a year.
At this world-class zoo, you can get up close and personal with a bobcat (that my 3-year-old has appropriately named "Bob"), watch ring-tailed lemurs frolic in the treetops, and thrill as kangaroos and wallabies take leaps and bounds. Your family will experience all this wildlife and much more, and all for FREE.
Read on for all the ways to make the most of your visit to the Cape May Zoo and check out our Zoos and Gardens for New Jersey Kids Guide for other great places to visit.
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Your kids will love spying giraffes in the field.
Highlights of the Cape May Zoo
Sprawling over 85 acres, the zoo is home to more than 550 animals representing 250 different species. The Cape May Zoo is rated 13th in the world by Trip Advisor and the fifth-best in the U.S.
One of the highlights is the African Savanna exhibit. You walk on an elevated boardwalk through a forest until you come to a spotted leopard in an enclosure to the right. Usually, this feline is just laying down in the sun, but we lucked out on our latest trip and got to see the trainer feed him. After the spotted leopard habitat, it opens up to a giant grassland spanning 57 acres that has massive termite mounds, a towering ostrich, and lanky giraffes striding around. Follow the wooden path and you pass oryx and Watusi (African grazers) off in the distance, and then you walk right by some zebras. During our most recent visit, we even noticed a baby zebra.
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Catch a glimpse of the snow leopard at the Cape May Zoo.
Each time we visit different animals surprise us. We rarely catch even a glimpse of the snow leopard, but this visit he was prowling around his enclosure, and to our delight, walked right up to our kids. Despite the heat, the lions, cheetahs, and black bears were pacing around their fields and walked along the fence so we could stride right along with them. Watching the male lion flop down in the shade reminded me of a scene from The Lion King.
The red panda was merely napping on a tree branch, but he was close to the walkway and looking particularly adorable in his slumber. My children were enthralled watching a turtle walking around in the Capybara habitat when we heard a big splash. We ran to the other side of the bridge to see a Capybara, which looks like a giant guinea pig, leaping into the lake for a swim.
My kids always enjoy the reptile house. It includes a huge, albino Burmese python, a remarkable rattlesnake, and the interesting matamata turtle. Just outside the reptile house are enormous tortoises and an impressive alligator. Another exhibit that never fails to please us is the one housing the tamarins. It has a few different species, and these playful little primates love to run and jump in their giant cages. During this visit, we even got to witness the especially adorable baby tamarins.
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The zoo has owl exhibits.
Practicalities For Your Visit to the Cape May Zoo
Even though the zoo is FREE, it does ask for donations to keep it running. Expect to spend 2-3 hours exploring the zoo if you want to see everything. Parking is FREE and although it is limited, we have always found a spot, even though sometimes we need to drive around for a bit. The zoo has two clean bathrooms within it. Some of the stalls in the bathrooms did have pull-down changing tables. The Savanna Gardens and the brand-new Safari Café serve simple snacks, beverages, and fast-food-type items. The menu can be found here. Outside food is not allowed in the zoo, but nobody checked our bags when we entered. There are tables with umbrellas located at the cafes and benches throughout the zoo. Paved walks make it easy to bring your stroller, or you can rent one at the gift shop. There is lots of shade in the zoo, but be sure to wear sunscreen and bring hats and water on hot days.
The zoo is located inside the giant Cape May County Park which also has a lot to explore. There is a wildlife carousel, a train for kids to ride, and you can sift for gems and stones right outside the entrance of the Cape May Zoo. Additionally, a gift shop and a café are located just outside of the zoo entrance. If your kids still have some energy to burn off after the zoo, you could visit one of the three fantastic playgrounds, all of which have handicap-accessible attractions. You will also find a disc golf course for older children. There are many pavilions that you can rent, as well as benches in the park and bathrooms.
More Things To Do in Cape May
Why not make a weekend out of your trip? There is a lot to do in the area, including walking around the charming downtown area of Cape May. You could spend a day playing in the waves and sand on the beach in Cape May or explore the exciting boardwalk in nearby Wildwood. Other adventures to consider are biking along an abandoned railroad in Cape May with the Revolution Rail Company, exploring aviation history while your kids climb aboard airplanes and jets at the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum, or taking a trip back in time at the Historic Cold Spring Village. As parents, we always enjoy a stop at the Cape May Brewery, which has a family-friendly outdoor area with a tent and a beer garden.
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The zoo has will keep your kids occupied for hours.
Know Before You Go to the Cape May Zoo
- The zoo is FREE! Keep in mind that donations keep the zoo FREE.
- During the summer the zoo is open daily from 10am-4:30pm. In the fall/winter the zoo closes at 3:30pm. The only day the zoo is closed is Christmas Day.
- The zoo is located within Cape May County Park, where you'll find bathrooms, pavilions, and three playgrounds. The park is open daily from 7am until dusk.
- Parking is FREE but limited. Visiting earlier could ensure you find a spot.
- Strollers and wagons are available for rent in the gift shop.
- The map shows three bathrooms inside the zoo, but when we were there only two were open, one by the brand-new Safari Café and one near the entrance. The bathrooms have changing tables.
- You are not permitted to bring outside food into the zoo, but you can have it in the park. However, no one checks your bag when you enter the zoo. Inside the Cape May Zoo, there are two cafes. They serve mostly fast-food-type items and simple snacks.
Photos by the author