If anyone had told me that there’s a solid zoo less than half an hour from Central New Jersey, I would have thought they were joking. On Saturday, a visit to the Turtle Back Zoo proved me wrong.
Located in West Orange, the zoo is a part of a broader South Mountain Recreation Complex that also includes an ice skating/hockey rink, a mini-golf course, paddle boats a restaurant, and a nautical themed playground. Admission is reasonable – $15 per adult, $12 per kid 2 to 12, and no charge for children under age 2.
There were three sheep who had recently had babies. Quinn loved getting to see them up close (and, of course, say lots of “baaaaa!”). There was a llama (no, not this one), alpacas, a lion, giraffes, hyenas and, my favorite of the day, the red panda.
We barely made it to the area where you can pet the stingrays, as it was about to close. Quinn wasn’t sure about sticking his hand in the water either but he gave it a try. Perhaps some swim lessons will help that bit.
We are excited to go back once he gets a bit older and can talk with us more about what he’s seeing and hopefully take more advantage of the interactive exhibits (current options include riding the ponies, feeding the goats and petting the stingrays).
Following our visit to the zoo we went to dinner at McLoone’s Boathouse. The facilities are massive but even then, there was a bit of a wait – the downside of a pretty day following seemingly endless cold weather.
The menu isn’t cheap – on the higher side for New American food covering seafood and burgers – but it’s a perfect setting, located both by the Orange Reservoir and to the South Mountain Recreation Complex.
We went with their cod and a the beet and goat cheese salad. Their cocktail menu was great as well. I had an Elderflower mojito that was delicious and refreshing.
I have a feeling this is a spot we will be back visit again soon.
Turtle Back Zoo
560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange
9 Cherry Lane, West Orange –