Visitors may come to Atlantic City for the slots and the shows, but one of its most invaluable assets is outside of those resort doors. The Jersey Shore is an eco-system of diversity and beauty, and you can get closer to it than chasing seagulls on the Boardwalk. Head to one of these establishments, and head off on a wild nature adventure.
Atlantic City Aquarium
800 N. New Hampshire Ave., Atlantic City
Discover what’s really going on beyond the waves! Just minutes from the bustle of the Boardwalk, the Atlantic City Aquarium is full of family-focused fishy fun. Kids will love getting up close and personal with sting rays and sharks in the touch tanks, and will find the sweet Diamondback Terrapins irresistible. Centerpiece displays give you a quick education on the marine life of the AC area, with Fish of the Mid-Atlantic, the Coastal Zone, and even a Mullica River Tank.
1075 Stone Harbor Blvd., Stone Harbor
You look out on the seascape every time you visit, but do you appreciate how much it influences the world around you? Get a true appreciation for local wetlands and their ecosystems at the Wetlands Institute. You can stop by and tour the exhibits on your own – be sure to visit the touch tanks, the Horseshoe Crab Egg Incubation area, and the stunning Observation Tower – or come by for an in-depth info session on a topic close to your nature-ling heart. For even more natural fun, check out one of their special events, like Turtle Fest.
Marine Mammal Stranding Center / Sea Life Museum
3635 Brigantine Blvd., Brigantine
Sometimes Mother Nature needs a helping hand. That’s the purpose of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, dedicated to helping dolphins, seals, turtles, and other wayward animals rehabilitate with the aim of re-entering their natural habitat. While the animals at the center aren’t accessible to the public, the Sea Life Museum gives you a peak into who they are. Twenty-five life-sized replicas of marina animals and fish, plus touchable samples like a sperm whale’s jaw bone and dolphin spinal column, are on display, as well as educational exhibits showcasing how we can help animals avoid the plight of the center’s residents.
Cape May County Park & Zoo
4 Moore Road, Cape May Court House
Looking for something a bit more exotic. Head south to the Cape May County Park & Zoo, where creatures from around the world welcome you. Flamingos to giraffes, bears to snow leopards, the zoo houses 550 animals, many endangered. If it’s adorable residents and kid-friendly small size don’t win you over, maybe the price tag will: it’s free! Browse and meet the critters, then let the kids get a little wild themselves in the adjacent playground and park.
Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
800 Great Creek Road, Galloway
Sometimes you get the most appreciation for natural habitats by simply being a part of them. For a day of emersion, head to the Forsythe Wildlife Refuge. Fish for both fresh and saltwater varieties. Walk the trails and search for animals, from whitetail deer to hundreds of varieties of birds who make their way through the refuge during migration. Or head to the Nature’s Discovery area, where kids can climb on logs, build a nest, dig for trinkets, and even study up to become a Junior Refuge Manager, complete with ceremonial badge.