If you’ve been on TripAdvisor’s website lately, then you have seen more than 700 reviews — excellent ones at that — about the Cape May County Park & Zoo. The zoo, located in Middle Township, is recognized internationally and has won many Top Charting spots such as the No. 13 2015 Traveler’s Choice Award — in the world, mind you — beating much larger zoos in places including Beijing, Moscow and London. And, it’s ranked No. 5 in the nation as the best-reviewed zoos in the U.S.
With all the excessive technology in the world, a zoo might seem to be the last thing on your mind while vacationing at the shore or just looking for something to do if you’re a local. But if you Google search “Things to do in Cape May, N.J.,” this flawless safari park is at the peak of every list … and here’s why:
1 It’s free and open every day ...
… with the exception of Christmas. You can visit the zoo anytime between their daily hours of 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., right off Exit 11 of the Garden State Parkway. Admission is always free, but they strongly encourage donations. If you decide to swing by, be ready for an all-day excursion, because you’re more than likely to spend all seven hours there — and it’s quite possible that you still won’t be able to see and do everything. The zoo can get especially busy on rainy summer days, since folks can’t take advantage of the beach. Those soggy days can be quite advantageous to guests, because the animals tend to get rather active, since they can cool off easily from the water. And it’s always amusing to see them shake it off.
2 Lions, and tigers and bears, oh my!
It’s almost impossible to keep track of how many animals and species there actually are, but Assistant Parks Director Jean Whalen says, “Last I checked, we have more than 160 different species of animals.” As of today, the zoo holds approximately 490 animals, but that can change at any time. It can be a struggle to get photos or count how many are added, as mothers birth regularly. Some “family favorites” guests enjoy seeing are the amur tiger — which is actually endangered — the African lion, snow leopards, red pandas, giraffes, elephants and cheetahs.
3 What’s new?
New additions are coming soon including a snow leopard house and habitat, covered in an almost-invisible steel mesh, where zoo reps are hoping to house a new breeding pair of snow leopards. It’s sized at 2,500 square feet with a nesting room and spacious private dens for an entire snow leopard family. Guests will have a memorable, nose-to-nose encounter with these rare and intriguing cats through the large glass wall. Also, the zoo recently finished a makeover on the lion habitat, and the tigers and cheetahs will soon have new homes as well. Plans are in place to expand the tamarin exhibit, and within the park, construction workers will soon begin work on an aerial adventure rope/zip line to debut spring 2016.
4 Become a proud parent and adopt an animal
No, you don’t literally have to take the tiger or monkey home. But by adopting an animal, you will help the zoo continue to provide healthy food, care and veterinary needs for your animal over the course of one year. If you still aren’t sold on the idea adopting one, remember that your donation is considered tax deductible. For a $35 sponsorship, you will receive a photo of your animal, a fact sheet and an official adoption certification; or go for the $50 sponsorship, which comes with all of the aforementioned items plus a stuffed animal.
5 Moonwalk with the flamingos
Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, may not be with us anymore, but at least we can still see his flamingos from his Neverland Ranch. In 2007, the zoo received 13 Chilean flamingos from his infamous ranch, which may just about top any reason to visit, including the free admission. The flamingos can be found in the Flamingo Yard during the summer and inside at the World of Birds Aviary during winter. Fun fact: It is true that without their special diet — mostly composed of crustaceans and shrimp — they would lose their pink color.