12 Things to Do With Kids on a Day Trip to Van Saun Park

Enjoy the massive playground and splash pad at Van Saun Park. Photo courtesy of the park
Enjoy the massive playground and splash pad at Van Saun Park. Photo courtesy of the park

A day trip to Van Saun Park in Bergen County will give you and your family an outdoor play adventure beyond the local playground. My own family makes this hour-away journey a few times a year, and it never disappoints. With its massive playground, splash pad, carousel, and train rides–plus a zoo–a trip to Van Saun Park almost feels like a free theme park. The playground and zoo are open year-round, while some of the activities, such as the rides, are open seasonally from April through October. A little tip–there’s plenty of parking, but weekends get pretty crowded– you may want to arrive early. Please note that admission to Van Saun Park is free, including the playground and splash pad, but some features do require an additional fee, as noted. Here are 12 awesome things to do on your next Van Saun Park adventure.

If you're looking for other rec areas worth visiting, read out our rundown of the best NJ playgrounds worth driving to or our look at Garden State playgrounds that big kids will enjoy. For even more on parks and playgrounds, check out our Guide to Playgrounds & Parks in New Jersey

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goats at the Bergen County Zoo.
Meet the goats at the Bergen County Zoo. Photo by Margaret Hargrove

1. Go to the Zoo

The Bergen County Zoo is conveniently housed right within Van Saun. Visitors can explore wild and domestic animals, including bison, lions, reptiles, birds, and farm friends. The zoo’s outdoor amphitheater presents live shows in the summer months. And here’s a little tip–visit the zoo prior to the official spring opening in April, and pay no admission. The zoo is open year-round with a seasonal fee in spring and summer.

2. Walk or Bike the Path

Bring the bikes and tricycles to get exercise year-round on the 1.5-mile bike and walking path. The scenic trail passes by the zoo, carousel, duck pond and lush Washington Spring Garden. The trail boasts a bit of history too; rumor has it that George Washington and his army marched through the area during the American Revolution.

RELATED: South Mountain Reservation with Kids: Zoo, Fairy Trail, Playgrounds


The massive playground includes all the latest modern amenities and multiple structures for various ages. Photo by Laurie Rein

3. Enjoy the Playground

Van Saun’s destination playground is huge and has something to please kids of all ages. The intricate climbing structures, tunnels, swings and slides, all on soft ground, are grouped into several independent play structures by suggested age ranges. Note that the play area is ADA accessible, and includes wide ramps.

4. Have a Picnic

The shady picnic benches, some of which are covered, are great for outdoor lunches or birthday parties. Barbecue grills are available (may require a permit). In the warmer weather, snack trucks are often parked throughout the property.


Hit the splash pad when it's hot outside. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala

5. Hit the Splash Pad

Cool off at the aquatic-themed splash pad. Kids will have a blast running through the oversized misty lilies, cattails, and sea creatures while dancing in the puddles.

6. Play Sports

Have a ball at Van Saun, which houses three fields for baseball, soccer, and softball, plus tennis courts. Come back in the winter for a sledding adventure.

RELATED: Great Day Trip Ideas for NJ Kids

carousel at the Bergen County Zoo.
The colorful carousel goes at a pace that's perfect for tots. Photo by Margaret Hargrive

7. Take a Carousel Ride

 

Hop on a horse, zebra or even an elephant, and take a spin on the park’s Millennium Carousel. The old-fashioned carousel, which operates seasonally, offers a fun and breezy break from the playground. (Fee required)

8. Ride a Pony

The park offers children over 2 and under 90 pounds the opportunity to ride ponies on a small path from April through October. (Fee required)


Go for a mini-train ride. Photo by Rode Gordon Sala

9. Hop on the Train

Perfect for little ones, climb aboard Van Saun’s miniature train ride and catch a glimpse of zoo animals and park views. Wave to the buffalo! (Fee required)

Let it Glow buffalo lanterns at the Bergen County Zoo
Animal Lanterns light up the night at Let it Glow at the Bergen County Zoo. Photo Courtesy of the zoo

10. Let it Glow!

From late November through January, enjoy a magical holiday lantern spectacular. (Fee required)

11. Come for an Event

Van Saun is a hot spot for all kinds of exciting events throughout the year. In the summer, the park hosts free kid-friendly movies after dark as part of their Zoo-Flix program. In the fall, bring the costumed kiddies to Zoo Boo for trick-or-treat fun. And don't miss Bergen County's Winter Wonderland, which features skating, food vendors, Santa visits, and other fun winter-themed activities.


Take the kids to a workshop in the park. Photo courtesy of the park

11. Try a Workshop

Throughout the year, babies through school-aged kids can attend storytimes and public programs at the zoo, including the Backyard Detective, Farmyard Friends, Wild & Crafty Animal Tales, Wild Pets, and much more. (Fee required)

12. Go to Science Camp

Science-loving kids will have a blast at the summer science club for ages 6-12. Meets 3 days/week. (Fee required)

What’s nearby

While you’re in the area, grab lunch or take a stroll in downtown Ridgewood, minutes away from Van Saun. The downtown streets are lined with restaurants and shops. Our favorite is Country Pancake House. For an indoor break, Paramus is home to a plethora of shopping malls and centers.

Top image: The covered bridge at Van Saun. Photo by mammabarrios via Instagram.

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