Ever since my Animal Behavior class at Saint Joseph’s University, I have personally had a strong attachment to places to see animals for free. Our group in the class went weekly to see the golden lion tamarin monkeys at the Philadelphia Zoo to analyze how their social hierarchy impacted their interactions in the social group for our paper. It was amazing how much could be learned about these animals through our weekly observations.
I have also always liked visiting farms, nature centers, and wildlife refuges especially when they are places to see animals for free in New Jersey. They often have animals that can be seen as well as other activities and great programming.
When going out with kids to different places it can often be hard to hold their interest in whatever attraction you are visiting. One thing that piques the interest of all kids is animals. It is so different to read in a book about how a rooster crows versus actually seeing one do this right in front of you.
Going to see animals in New Jersey was how I taught my kids different animal names and sounds. Seeing the different foods that animals eat often helps my kids eat their own food at home, such as after they saw a hippo eating bok choy or a turtle eating watermelon.
While there are plenty of places where animals can be seen for a fee, New Jersey also offers many places where you can see animals for free. This is great especially if you have smaller children since you may not always know how long you can spend in a place.
Read on to learn about many of the NJ places where you can see animals that we have found so far. Remember that most places with animals either require or prefer masking over the age of two to help protect their animals. Animals such as primates and cats are especially susceptible to the coronavirus.
All of these NJ places to see animals for free are currently open but be sure to call ahead or check websites before visiting in case anything changes.
Where can you see animals for free in New Jersey?
NJ Zoos with Free Admission
Let’s start with zoos, we are very fortunate to have New Jersey zoos that offer free admission yearround or on select days.
Cohanzick Zoo, in Bridgeton, offers free admission yearround.
- The Cohanzick Zoo is located in the Bridgeton City Park.
- 45 Mayor Aitken Drive Bridgeton, NJ 08032 – Cumberland County
- Admission Price: Free! (Donations can be made towards the front of the zoo).
- Hours: Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm (10 am to 4 pm are prime viewing hours)
- Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas
- Masks are required over the age of 2.
The Cohanzick Zoo is a favorite for my 4 and 2-year-old children. When it comes to places to see animals for free in South Jersey this is a favorite among the locals. We can walk through the entire zoo in about an hour and fifteen minutes. They love how many large animals they can see here such as bears, tigers, and emus.
Each enclosure has some animal facts and many of the animal names can be found on their Meet the Animals page. Towards the entrance of the zoo, there is a covered bridge and later on, there is a large boardwalk area near the tiger. My kids enjoy walking on both of these.
Near the entrance of the zoo is a concession stand that is open from 10 am to 4 pm.
My son’s favorite part of the zoo is seeing all the birds that are meandering around amongst the visitors including peacocks. My kids also like the animal-themed social distancing signs placed throughout the zoo.
In the parking lot, there are picnic benches and some nice trails to walk on nearby as well. There is also a splash park open on the other side of the parking lot that is open for 7 days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day for $3 per person. It is open when the temperature is at least 78 degrees outside. Information about that can be found at http://www.cityofbridgeton.com/splash.php. There is now mini-golf offered next to the splash pad for a fee.
Bergen County Zoo, in Paramus, offers free admission part of the year
- The Bergen County Zoo is located within the Van Saun County Park.
- 216 Forest Avenue Paramus, New Jersey 07652 – Bergen County
- Visit the Bergen County Zoo website.
- Admission Price: Free if visiting between November 1st through April 30th (remember not all animals will be out during the off season)
- Admission is charged between May 1st to October 31st with admission prices listed on the Friends of Bergen County Zoo page.
- Hours: Open daily from 10 am to 4:30 pm (last admission is at 4 pm)
- Closed on Christmas
- Masks are required over the age of 2.
- Restrooms are currently closed.
The Bergen County Zoo becomes a free place to see animals in New Jersey at select times of the year.
The Bergen County Zoo has an amphitheater behind the Tamarins exhibit that holds daily shows that are included with admission in July and August. Show schedules are shown at the zoo entrance.
Current new exhibits at Bergen County Zoo include the red wolf, honey bees, chicken coop, budgie exhibit, prairie dogs, and mountain lions.
There are also train rides and carousel rides from Memorial Day through Labor Day for $2 per person each. These are open during the off-peak season as well but this depends on the weather so call ahead to see if they are running.
Sometimes pony rides are available for $3 per person. They are located in the middle of the park next to the soccer fields. There is a weight limit of 90 pounds to ride the ponies.
Thompson Park Zoo, in Jamesburg, offers free admission yearround.
- The Thompson Park Zoo is located within Thompson Park. It is close to Manalapan Lake. Driving directions can be found on their website.
- The GPS coordinates for the Animal Haven are N 40° 20′ 36.135″, W 74° 26′ 10.4454″. It is located on Forsgate Drive in Jamesburg/Monroe Township. – Middlesex County
- (732) 745-3900
- Admission Price: Free
- Hours: Open from dawn to dusk
The Thompson Park Zoo is a place in Central New Jersey to see animals for free. It has some animal enclosures within Thompson Park. Due to the Ida storms, some enclosures were rebuilt and rearranged for the animal’s safety.
It is a great place to visit with kids who love deer! Behind the main enclosure reside the most deer I have ever seen in my life in one location. We walked around and watched them for a long time since it was interesting to watch their interactions with each other.
There are also smaller enclosures with other animals such as goats, emus, turkeys, and pigs. Walking around the animal area without stopping would take 20 minutes but it took us an hour since we liked watching each of them.
Be sure to check out the picnic benches, walking paths, lake, and playground nearby after you are done.
Cape May County Zoo, in Cape May Court House, offers free admission yearround.
- The Cape May County Zoo is located within the Cape May County Park.
- 707 U.S. 9 North, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
- Admission Price: Free! Parking is free as well. Donations can be made at the entrance to the zoo and in drop boxes throughout the zoo.
- Another fun way to support the zoo is by adopting an animal. Learn more on their adopt an animal page.
- Hours: Open daily from 10 am to 4:30 pm.
- The zoo is not open on Christmas and it closes early at 2:30 pm on some Holidays.
- No pets are allowed.
- Food is allowed in the park outside of the zoo but cannot be brought into the zoo itself.
- Do not visit if ill or if you have a fever. Face coverings are now required inside the Reptile House and the World of Birds. Social distancing is suggested when outside.
The Cape May County Zoo, probably the most popular place to see animals for free in New Jersey, is currently open at limited capacity. If it is full when you arrive you may have to wait to enter the zoo.
The Zoo also has a gift shop, Safari Cafe, Tiger Hut, carousel and more. There are playgrounds located right outside the zoo as well.
The Cape May County Zoo has a collection of over 550 animals. Allow at least two hours to walk through the zoo. They have a variety of fascinating animals including bison, lions, snow leopards and more.
To read about their animals before your visit, visit their animal page. Check the zoo website for events that occur throughout the year.
Cheap and Free NJ Nature Centers with Animals
Rancocas Nature Center in Westampton
- The Rancocas Nature Center is on 210 acres of Rancocas State Park.
- 794 Rancocas Mt Holly Rd Westampton, NJ 08060 – Burlington County
- Suggested price of $2 per visitor
- Hours: Trails are open from dawn to dusk. Visitor’s center is open from 12 pm to 4 pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. This has restrooms inside.
The Rancocas Nature Center has some animals to see inside the nature center and on their property grounds which include turtles, owls, birds, and snakes.
My kid’s favorite part of their visit is going to Dragonfly Pond and seeing all of the frogs there. We can often see between five to eight different frogs each time we visit. Listen to some frog calls before you go.
If you go past the pond there is also a music wall that kids love to visit as well. Be sure to look at the back of it as well! There is also a sensory activity area with fun things for kids to walk on. Nearby there is also a waystation garden for butterflies behind the old barn. Next to the parking lot, there is also a butterfly house and children’s garden to visit as well. To see pictures of all of these things visit the Rancocas Nature Center website.
Visit earlier in the morning or at dusk if you would like to see deer while hiking their trails. You could also sign up to participate in their guided hikes and learn more about the sounds and sights of the forest as you hike. This can give you an idea of other wildlife to keep a look out for when hiking.
I highly recommend getting a Rancocas Nature Center membership to participate in the other programs as members usually receive a discount on programming or free admission to special events.
Tulpehaking Nature Center in Trenton
- The Tulpehaking Nature Center is located in the Abbott Marshlands.
- 157 Westcott Avenue Trenton, NJ 08610 – Mercer County
- Admission Price: Free
- Hours: Open on Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm and on Sunday from noon to 4 pm.
The Tulpehaking Nature Center in Central New Jersey is another free place to see turtles in New Jersey. Tulpehaking is a word from the Lenape which means “Land of the Turtle.”
If you visit inside the nature center itself there is a room with some interesting displays, a larger room that has a few animals inside including a turtle, and then a bigger room with toys for kids. There are also clean restrooms available inside and a gazebo in front of the center.
There are many birds along the marsh trails and turtles around the Spring Lake area of Roebling Park. My kids enjoyed some of their programming 2 years ago and the Tulpehaking Nature Center has now started up some weekend programs.
More Places to see Animals for free in New Jersey – NJ Animal Rescue Centers
Funny Farm Rescue in Mays Landing
- 6908 Railroad Blvd Mays Landing, NJ 08330 – Atlantic County
- (609) 742-9410
- Admission Price: Free but donations can be made via Paypal or mailed to them
- Donation information can be found on their website.
- A one-time waiver form needs to be filled out before visiting. You can complete the waiver at https://waiver.smartwaiver.com/w/5ade1771c1457/web/.
- Hours for visiting: Open on Sunday from 8 am to 4 pm and on Tuesday from 8 am to 4 pm
The Funny Farm Rescue is a sanctuary that houses farm animals that were not wanted by others to prevent euthanization. Their animals include pigs, turkeys, goats, a baby emu, and more. There are over 550 animals that reside at the Funny Farm Rescue in South Jersey. Animals freely walk around the farm.
Donations help pay for their food, veterinary expenses, and facilities. Read more about the Funny Farm from other Jersey Family Fun writers who have visited there.
Grayrock Farm Sanctuary in Clinton
Grayrock Farm Sanctuary is a 10 acre farm in Clinton, New Jersey that provides a sanctuary home for rescued farm animals. Private tours are available. Please message them at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule.
Mount Laurel Animal Hospital Farm
- This farm is located outside of the Mount Laurel Animal Hospital building.
- 220 Mt Laurel Rd, Mt Laurel Township, NJ 08054 – Burlington County
- Admission Price: Free
- Open daily
YES! There’s an animal hospital in New Jersey where you can see animals for free! The Mount Laurel Animal Hospital has a farm in the front and along the side of the building. Animals there include longhorn cattle, pigs, emu, sheep, and more!
Parking is alongside the road between the hospital and the main road since spots in the parking lot are for people bringing animals to the hospital.
Bring some plain cheerios if you would like to feed some of their animals. Sometimes they also have bags of these out front for visitors to use for feeding. Feeding the animals is my kids’ favorite part of their visit.
More places to see animals in New Jersey for free
Terhune Orchards in Princeton
- This farm and winery is located in Princeton, NJ.
- 330 Cold Soil Road Princeton, NJ 08540 – Mercer County
- Admission Price: Free on weekdays. Check before going on a weekend since there is often a fee when they have events occurring.
- Hours: Open Monday to Thursday and Saturday to Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm. Open on Friday from 9 am to 7 pm. Open from 9 am to 5 pm on July 4th and 5th.
- Open all year except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Terhune Orchards isn’t just for picking fruits and vegetables! It has many animals that can be seen including donkeys, goats, chickens, and rabbits. There are some animals that roam around the farm as well as cats and various birds.
Currently, you cannot feed the animals. There are handwashing stations in multiple locations and a bathroom in the front near the parking lot.
They also offer a nature trail, pedal tractors, kid play areas, tractors to climb on and more! Throughout the year they are also having various events on the weekends. Their Facebook page is usually the most up-to-date source for picking and event information.
Creamy Acres Farm in Mullica Hill
- The animals are located on the Barnyard Walk at this farm.
- 448 Lincoln Mill Road Mullica Hill, NJ 08062 – Gloucester County
- Admission Price: Free to see the animals. Other things have a cost.
- Hours: The Barnyard Walk that holds the animals is open from 10 am to 4 pm on Wednesday through Saturday in the Spring.
- It is currently closed for the summer months and will reopen on September 11th, 2021.
Creamy Acres Farm is a great place in South Jersey to see cows for free if you have kids who love cows since this is a dairy farm. The Barnyard Walk also included other animals such as ducks, pigs and donkeys. They also have events throughout the year that can be found on their website.
Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville
- People must walk along the paths around half of the farm to see all of the animals.
- 70 Woodens Lane Lambertville, NJ 08530
- Admission Price: Free depending on when you visit the farm. Check the website for the date you plan to visit to make sure there is a way for you to visit for free on that day and that there are no paid events that day.
- Hours: Open 10 am to 4 pm on Tuesday through Saturday. Often reservations need to be made to visit so check with the farm first.
- It is closed on Sunday, Monday and Mercer County Holidays.
With events yearround and so much to see for FREE, Howell Farm is truly an idyllic place. Nestled between hills the living history farm is a combination of a trail, farm animals, crops, and the workings of a farm from long ago all in one place.
Our kids love seeing the sheep peppered about the landscape or jumping over the fence. They also enjoy visiting the horses and chickens here.
Check their calendar for times you can visit. Most of their Saturday events are free to attend. One of our favorites was their Maple Sugaring Event with the tasty pancakes.
One of the things we love most about New Jersey is its plethora of animals that can be seen in so many different places for FREE. But that’s not all the places you can see animals.
MORE Places to see Animals in New Jersey
The following are a few more places we love visiting animals in New Jersey. Admission is not free, but we still think these are worth making a few trips to while your kids are still young.
Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange
- The Turtle Back Zoo is located at 560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange.
- It is open 10 AM – 4 PM.
- Turtle Back Zoo admission is $17 for adults. Children ages 2-12 and seniors are $14.
- Visit the Turtle Back Zoo website.
In recent years the Turtle Back Zoo has changed … for the better! With a new African Adventure area, a Treetop Adventure course, the Touch Tank, and the train everyone loves, a day at Turtle Back Zoo will be one your family won’t forget. Read more about this North Jersey zoo in our review of Turtle Back Zoo or our articles about Turtle Back Zoo.
Space Farm Zoo in Sussex
- The Space Farm Zoo is located at 218 County Road 519, Sussex.
- It is open seasonally (usually March – November) 9 AM – 5 PM.
- Adult admission is $20.50, children 3 – 12 are $17.
- Visit the Space Farm Zoo website.
500 animals await you at Space Farm Zoo and Museum! Come for the animal feedings or the parrot show, and stay all day at this iconic zoo that’s been a North Jersey staple since 1927.
Other Places to View Animals in New Jersey
- Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ
- Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Point Pleasant, NJ
- Sea Life Aquarium in East Rutherford, NJ
- Sahl’s Father Son Farm in Galloway, NJ
- Lakota Wolf Preserve (Warren County) – 89 Mt Pleasant Road, Columbia, NJ. 908-496-9244.
- Merrill Park Animal Haven (Middlesex County) – Middlesex Turnpike, Woodbridge
- Read our review of Merrill Park here
- Pequest Trout Hatchery (Warren County) – 605 Pequest Road, Oxford, NJ. 908-637-4125.
- Six Flags Great Adventure ~ Animal Safari (Ocean County) – 1 Six Flags Blvd, Jackson, NJ. (732) 928-2000
A Few Tips for Visiting NJ Places to See Animals
Get your kids excited to visit these places multiple times by creating your own scavenger hunt. Take pictures of each animal you see at a place on a visit. Then, print them out on a sheet of paper to have your kids find each of them at their next visit.
Some of these places let you feed animals as well. Come prepared with quarters for machines with corn kernels or seeds. Bring along some dollar bills just in case bags of animal food are sold at concession stands. You could also bring along some plain cheerios or older bread BUT never feed the animals unless signage or staff members say it’s allowed.
If you bring along snacks and drinks be sure to keep them in your car as some places do not allow outside food to be brought in. Others that do allow food often may have some animals roaming around freely which might be a concern for eating (for example peacocks seem to have a penchant for peanut butter sandwiches).
Bring along masks since many places either prefer or require you wear them to help protect their animals. Remember to also bring hand sanitizer and/or alcohol wipes in case some places allow you to pet or feed animals when you are there.
Although admission is free to these places it is also always a good idea to give a donation to help these places take care of their animals.
The best way to teach children about animals, animal sounds, names, and more, is by going to see animals for free in New Jersey. By engaging with animals kids learn to have an appreciation for other living things and it reduces their fear of the world around them.
Click over here to read all of our blog posts about New Jersey & other local zoos. For more family-friendly activities in New Jersey visit these blog posts: