So as followers of my Instagram feed (or those who noticed the pictures on the Facebook page) will know, my family and I decamped from Charm City for a week for a vacation down the Shore.
Yes, I say “down the Shore”. (My wife’s the “down the ocean” or “downy Ocean” person.) Don’t look at me like that.
My mother very generously arranged for a rental house in Wildwood, New Jersey for a week, so that my siblings could come with their families (as appropriate). So a little more than a week ago, our cars converged on a nice little house a block off the boards, and we spent seven days away from it all before the new school year.
But you can’t really go to the beach every day – it does get a little stale after a while, at least for the adults. So after a few days hitting the sand and the boards, and when we thought it was supposed to be more overcast, we took the time to drive a few miles to the north, to the Cape May County Zoo.
As I state with all of my reviews – I was not compensated for this review. (You’ll see why in a moment.)
The Cape May County Zoo was, apparently, voted fifth-best zoo in the United States, and thirteenth-best in the world on Trip Advisor. (We’re not really sure how that voting worked, to be honest. 😉 ) It’s built in the middle of a county park, just off of Garden State Parkway’s exit 11, so if you’re staying in the Wildwoods or Cape May itself, there are no tolls barriers between you and the zoo. The zoo itself is open from 10 AM till 4:45 PM during the summer, and until 3:45 PM in the off-season. The parking is free and in fairly good supply, there are picnic tables and playgrounds outside of the zoo.
Within the zoo, many of the paths are tree-shaded, so there’s protection from the sun, though I’d highly recommend sunblock for your little ones because much of the zoo is not shaded. Because it’s in a park and away from any major built up areas, it’s very quiet, and the Monster did not need his headphones for sensory issues while we were wandering through the park. The temperature did start to get to him – as it did to the other NT kids in the group – but there weren’t any meltdowns.
But here’s the kicker – the zoo is free. Yes, free (as in beer). You can donate as you see fit, and you can bring in beverages (but no alcohol, you bad people!), but no snacks. They do have designated areas within the park to purchase snacks if your little ones get hungry, but we’d already brought them in the car so the kids – my two children, and my sister’s three – could have a bit to eat after the walk about the zoo. It took us about an hour and a half all-told to take in the zoo.
It is a beautiful zoo, to tell the truth, and it seems not only very well maintained, but constantly updated. During our visit, at least one exhibit (the snow leopard habitat) was undergoing work. In other areas, we saw them adding new tops to the railings to raise them a bit, and other on-going maintenance.
Now, this is hardly the San Diego Zoo or the National Zoo in DC. There are no “unique-to-America” animals in this zoo, nor are you going to be driving hours out of your way to come check the zoo out. BUT, it does what it’s meant to do well. It’s a beautiful zoo where you can see some animals in very nicely prepared spaces, and they have a wide variety from all over the world. They have a red panda exhibit and wallabies – neither of which I’ve seen frequently at other zoos – as well as elk and bison from closer to home. While they do lack elephants (and frankly, I’d have just been comparing any such habitat here to the one at my home zoo), they do have lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) for those who are looking for the staples.
The only bad thing I can mention is a lack of restrooms through much of the zoo. There are restrooms outside the main entrance (very nice restrooms at that, though for those with sensory issues, they do have hand dryers instead of paper towels), but the only ones within the zoo proper are over by the tigers… which means that there are no restrooms in the back half of the zoo. On a hot day like it was on our visit, when you’re drinking a lot of liquid to stay hydrated, this becomes a bit of a problem. (I also didn’t see any water fountains back there, but this again wasn’t a concern, since you can bring drinks with you.)
All that said, that’s a very minor downside. My children enjoyed the zoo, and I would highly recommend it as a break from the beach for your kids, if you’re down the shore and looking for something else to be doing that’s not going to cost an arm and a leg like the boardwalk can…