Lions and Tigers and Bears… Eating Popcorn?!
The Popcorn Park Zoo Animal Rescue and Sanctuary plays a big part in my childhood memories growing up in New Jersey. My parents used to take us often when we were younger and we would spend the day there. Back then, deer roamed freely throughout the park and ate popcorn right from your hand. Now that I have children of my own, I love to spend the day there with them so they can experience it for themselves.
The Popcorn Park Zoo is different from traditional zoos in that all of the animals there are rescues. That’s right, even the tigers and the bears are rescue animals. Each animal has his or her own sign explaining exactly how the Humane Society rescued them. Some are from roadside zoos, some were illegal house pets, and some were even confiscated at the airport after someone attempted to smuggle them in!
3 Reasons My Family Loves the Popcorn Park Zoo
- The most obvious reason – you get to feed the animals popcorn! (No, not the movie kind that is dripping with butter. The zoo sells plain popcorn that is safe for the animals.) Nearly all of the animals eat the popcorn but our favorite ones to feed have to be the bears. If you have a strong enough arm, you can throw it into their enclosure and they will scoop it up ever-so-delicately and eat it, piece by piece.
- Each and every time, my kids love to hear the stories of how each animal was rescued by the zoo. Now that my oldest two can read, they take turns at each area and read us the history of that certain animal. (and they get a BIG kick out of finding out their names!)
- It feels less like a zoo and more like an interactive experience. This is the least “stuffy” zoo that you’ll ever visit. Your kids can run from area to area and no one will blink an eye! (except maybe the geese and peacocks roaming the grounds) Even on a crowded day at the zoo, there is plenty of space to spread out and see the animals.
A few tips about visiting the Popcorn Park Zoo:
- The parking area is small and is a shared space with the Humane Society. Once the lot is full, you will need to backtrack and park on the main road.
- The bathrooms are located outside of the zoo inside a trailer in the parking area. Make sure your kids go before entering the zoo because it’s a long walk back once you are deep in the zoo.
- There is no snack bar or food area inside or outside of the zoo. There are, however, picnic tables in a wooded area by the parking lot. You can pack a picnic lunch to eat there after the zoo and be able to get up close and personal with the peacocks that wander the lot.
- If you are bringing a stroller for your child, make sure it has sturdy wheels. Most of the zoo ground is grass or dirt but there are also large sections of sandy soil. A jogging stroller works best to navigate through those areas.
The Popcorn Park Zoo is located at 1 Humane Way, Forked River, NJ 08731 in Ocean County. Park hours are 11am-5pm, 7 days a week. (Holidays are 11am-2pm) 609-693-1900. Admission: $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and children under 12, FREE for children under 3. Learn more at their site.