Thanks to a warm winter and several unused snow days, my kids had a few extra days off this Memorial Day weekend. So, my husband and I took advantage of the extra time yesterday and took the kids to the Turtle Back Zoo in Essex County, N.J.
We have a lot of great zoos near us, as where we live in Central New Jersey is close enough to both the Philadelphia Zoo and the Bronx Zoo. The lesser known Turtle Back Zoo was a great pick for us. The zoo was easy to get to, parking was free and easy and there were no crowds. Plus, admission for the family only cost us $34! Among the many animals my kids saw were penguins, a peacock that roamed freely throughout the zoo, prairie dogs, bear and bison.
My children’s favorite exhibits were the zoo’s butterfly exhibit (which runs through Labor Day) and the parakeet exhibit. In the butterfly exhibit were Monarch and Painted Lady butterflies that land on you if you keep still or if your shirt (like my flowered shirt) appeals to them. My kids encouraged the butterflies to perch on their fingers by wiping their hands on the sugar-watered soaked sponges that the zoo had throughout the exhibit for the butterflies to feed on. At one point, one of my daughters had 10 butterflies – one for each finger – perched on her hands.
The parakeet exhibit was filled with yellow, blue and green parakeets that fed and flew just inches from us. We purchased $2 birdseed sticks from the zoo and used them to feed the beautiful birds (which are actually native to Australia), with many of them perching on the sticks as my daughters held them. My kids were quite gentle with both the birds and the butterflies, and it was a great chance for them to see and interact with these beautiful creatures up close!