5 Zoos you should visit in the Northeast

Editor’s Note: We are proud to include our youngest writer, Harrison Turner, who has a passion for animals. Check out his bio below. Thanks for this outstanding review, we have a few more zoos to visit this Fall thanks to you!

Zoos are among the most popular attractions in the country. We would like to share (in our opinion) the five best zoos in the Northeast Region


  1. Turtle Back Zoo, West Orange, NJ
penguins at the zoo

Credit: Turtle Back Zoo Facebook Page

For people living in Northern New Jersey, the Turtle Back Zoo is a landmark attraction. With its family-friendly atmosphere, rustic woodland location, and diverse animal collection, it’s very easy to see why it was chosen to be on this list. Popular animals include wolves, penguins, red pandas, sea lions, and most recently: giraffes.

It also features great educational programs and a newly-opened café.

This zoo is best for: A fun, educational experience for the whole family


  1. Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence, RI
Credit: Mapio.net Photo of Elephant Enclosure

Credit: Mapio.net Photo of Elephant Enclosure

America’s smallest state is home to a terrific zoo that is by no means tiny. Nearly twice the size of the above mentioned zoo, this zoo features many exhibit zones. Africa has elephants, zebras, and wild dogs. Marco Polo (the Asia exhibit) features snow leopards, red pandas, and moon bears. The Roger Williams Park Zoo certainly excels in exhibiting lesser-known animals, such as takins, aoudads, and pronghorns.

This zoo is best for: Continental Exhibit Regions


  1. Cape May County Park and Zoo, Cape May Court House, NJ

New Jersey has another entry on this list. At 85 acres, The Cape May Zoo is huge compared to the previous two zoos. They feature many animals, such as bison, monkeys, and many different varieties of birds. The zoo’s star animals are the big cats, such as lions, cheetahs, and “Rocky” the Siberian Tiger. The zoo also renovated their reptile house after a fire. To complete your trip, just outside of the zoo, there is a carousel, train, and even a playground!

This zoo is best for: Attractive Wooded Location & Admission prices   Free!

  1. Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, PA

Both America’s oldest and longest-operating zoo, the Philly Zoo is nearly 150 years old. Despite this, the zoo has a mixture of old and new design, as their old buildings have renovated interiors. The zoo is only 42 acres, so the zoo keeps their animal population down to avoid overcrowding. The zoo gave the animals even more room by inventing Zoo360.


Zoo360 is a series of above-ground mesh walkways that allow animals to wander outside of their exhibits (it’s okay; the animals are still contained by a mesh fencing.) So when you’re observing animals at this zoo, look up, and you might find an animal observing the “free-roaming humans.” This zoo is famous for its endangered animals, such as orangutans, giant otters, Humboldt penguins, and Rodrigues fruit bats.

This zoo is best for: Animal Care / Quality of Life

Check out a friend’s trip to the Philadelphia Zoo back in 2009

  1. Bronx Zoo, Bronx, NY
Credit: Bronx Zoo Facebook Page

Credit: Bronx Zoo Facebook Page

On par with the San Diego Zoo and Columbus Zoo, the Bronx Zoo is among the best in the entire nation, and maybe even the world! Its large interior area and animal population make it famous. It has world-class exhibits, such as Jungle World, Congo Gorilla Forest, Tiger Mountain, Madagascar, and our personal favorite: Baboon Reserve. This recreation of the Ethiopian Highlands is a magnificent home for America’s only display of Gelada Baboons. The zoo also is very large, at 265 acres. It is actually the second largest zoo in America, bested only by the over-700-acre North Carolina Zoo. Most impressively, the zoo has put great pride into making the exhibits feel like the real habitats. Star inhabitants of this zoo are gorillas, lemurs, tigers, rhinos, and bison (which the zoo helped save from extinction.)


This zoo is best for: Viewing the Most Species of Animals



If you would like to learn more, then check out these helpful websites

Association of Zoos and Aquariums Website



harrison smallAuthor’s Bio
Harrison Turner has loved animals all of his life. He has visited many zoos up and down the east coast. He loves to visit the Turtle Back Zoo, which is not far from home. He longs to one day study the strange behavior of zoo animals.

Kalahari Resorts, Poconos PA

Kalahari Resorts, Poconos PA

Hi Readers! Long time no write.  Gotta say, our Kalahari trip was so much fun! We recently went to Kalahari Resorts ona Groupon with 5 other families.

Hotel Check In

The day you check in, you can start using the water park at noon.  They will email or text you when the room is ready (supposed to be at 4pm, however one of our families was slightly after).  We kept all our stuff in the car, but looks like they can store the baggage, and you can have them bring the items to the room but right around that check in time, you can expect delays, like our friends did (about half hour).

Also one thing we WOULD LOVE for them to change, is that the bracelet (that is tied to your credit card and is very convenient for the swim up bar, and lunching in the waterpark) de-activates at 11AM at checkout. This means you can’t charge anything to the credit card that was on file for the bracelet so you can’t really make use of the “carrying no wallet” during the day of check out. My friend was in line for lunch and could not pay because she assumed it was still active.

Groupon Tip

Also special note for the Groupon deal ($199/night + tax for overnight) make sure you ASK for the Arcade Card, we did not get ours, but was able to get it after check out when we realized we never got it. They keep all groupon arcade cards in the drawer in the back. We also had much confusion on trying to get a group of rooms using groupon, but it all worked out in the end. We still loved our experience there.

So I bought an overnight visit with my family, what’s the most time I can spend in the water park?

*Water Park usage for an overnight stay= NOON day of check in (to pre-register) to 10PM day of check out. BRACELET ENDS AT CHECK OUT TIME!

Any day passes available?

Why yes! Prices vary depending on the date, saw ranging from $29-$49. But buy them in advance, in Kalahari’s link here!

Water Park Logistics

If you are under 48” you are required to wear a life vest. They enforce this.  Also you cannot have anyone under the age of 6 in the hot tubs.

We loved the layout of the water park.  It was perfect for our group of families.

Outdoor Area- Kalahari Resorts Swim up Bar, Pool, Hot tub!

Very “chill” outdoor area, that was shallow, with zero entry pool.  Love the gradual descent into the water.  The adults have access to the swim up bar “Zanzibar”. Limited chairs, so make sure you go early to reserve your chair.  There is a hot tub that goes in-between outdoor and indoor, the kids absolutely loved to be able to enjoy it unlike other vacation spots where there are no kids allowed.


Middle Area

Right in the middle is the favorite of my “non-thrill-seeker”, the Splashdown Safari, with mild and moderate water slides.  Perfect for our sub-group, a 4 yo &  6 yo buddies and my 8yo.  Surrounding the Splashdown Safari is a great lazy river.




Baby/toddler Area



Cheat Sheet


For more information on Kalahari, check out their website here!

Crayola Experience, Easton, PA

Walkway to Crayola

Just follow the crayons!


Phone: 610.515.8000
Email: eastonexperience@crayola.com


GPS Address:
Crayola Experience
30 Centre Square
Easton, PA 18042


Special discount offer for NJ Playgrounds fan. Use code “njplay” at check out tickets.crayolaexperience.com and receive $3 off every ticket!  Tickets regularly $17.99 per child/adult will be just $14.99 each.

Crayons at Crayola

Who’s in there?

Take the trek just over the NJ border into Easton, PA for a colorful and creative experience at Crayola.

The kids and I recently enjoyed a relaxing Black Friday away from the mall and inside the Crayola Experience.

This was our 2nd visit to this fun-packed indoor play place, and at the ages of 11, almost 10 and almost 8 they still LOVED it. Sure, some of the attractions were a bit wee-sized for them, but there was plenty to keep them entertained, including watching the toddlers who were enjoying the play spaces designed for them.

Plus, there were lots of changes since the last time we’d been there almost two years ago! New things to do and see.

Our Approach

We decided that when we got there, we’d go against traffic and start at the top floor and move our way down.

Spin art station at Crayola

Prepping to spin

We took the glass elevator to the top and got out in a room filled with the scent of melting wax.

The kids enjoyed drip art, spin art and a melt-n-mold station where they made their very own Crayola man crayons, dinosaurs and bling rings.

The puzzlemaker

Art becomes puzzle

The 3rd floor was action-packed with a great indoor playground, activity stations for drawing, gluing, cutting and painting. A great puzzle maker station and an indoor glow room. Check out the video of the dancing crayons!

Don’t forget your tokens!

When you enter the Crayola Experience you are given tokens that you can exchange for some very cool items include the ability to create your own crayon, make your own marker and pick up some model magic. We also really enjoyed the new show which explains how crayons are made and the kids had a blast inserting themselves into some coloring pages!


Before we left (almost 4 hours after arriving! without even stopping for lunch, that’s how engaged the kids were!) we went back up to the Floor #4 to do

Playing with water

Water is always fun

the WaterWorks exhibit, a play space, featuring, you guessed it, every kids’ favorite, water. Cute little Crayola boats navigate a river complete with locks and other engineering marvels that facilitate water based transportation. Educational and fun… definitely the theme for the  day!

Save Time to Shop

On our way out we passed through the gift store which is chock full of all sorts of great gifts, tools, toys and craft kits.  My 7 year old picked up a box of 96 crayons with a built-in-sharpener that has kept him happily busy for 2 days now, the 9 year old found some amazing window markers that have a crystallized effect and the 11 year old got a new mold that we haven’t seen in stores before for his melt n mold at home factory.

All in all, a great day! And, Easton is a super cute town too, lots of great little shops nearby. Parking is very easy and there’s a café and snack stations all around for those of you who can’t go as long as we did without some sustenance. Plus, we came home with a bag full of great art work, some of it even gift worthy!

Get your kids to Crayola and don’t forget to purchase your tickets ahead of time online and get $3 off per person! Just use this special link or visit tickets.crayolaexperience.com and add the promo code njplay.



Great Wolf Lodge, Pocono Mountains

Just before Thanksgiving, 2011 my family and I had the great pleasure of visiting Great Wolf Lodge in Scotrun, PA in the Pocono Mountains.  I have to admit, I was hesitant about going. I figured it would be crowded, maybe cold… and overpriced.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  It was great and a fabulous deal for a family of five! Below is our latest deal from Groupon (3/1/2016)!

$360/night during midweek (March 30-31st) at Great Wolf Lodge in Scotrun, PA. Regularly Weekends are above $500/night!

Posted by NJ Deals for Kids Activities on Tuesday, March 1, 2016

When we visited, our kids were 4 (almost 5), 6 and 8 . Our room was perfect for us! It was one of the “kids cabins” and there was a set of bunk beds and a daybed in a section of the room that was partioned to look like a little cabin built inside our room.  The kids had their own TV in there and we had our own TV in the main room .. .and a fireplace.  It gave us just the amount of privacy we all needed.

The water park was also pretty much perfect with “right sized” activities for everyone. There is a kiddie/toddler area with 3 or 4 smaller slides that are completely managable for a 3 or 4 year old but that my 6 year old enjoyed too. That same area has lots of little fountains and a water basketball area.  Not far from that area is a very large hot tub perfect for warming up if you do get chilled.  The same side of the water park area also includes a large wave pool that the bigger kids couldn’t get enough of… the shallow part of that pool also features fountains that are sure to keep a 2 or 3 year old occupied for hours.

There are 3 or 4 larger slides that weren’t too scary for my 4 year old but gave us adults just the right amount of thrill too.  Everyone enjoyed the lazy river and all 3 kids had a ton of fun trying to traverse the lily pad/stepping stones and the larger pool with taller basketball hoops and a floating snake.  Another HUGE hit was the large playground structure that featured a few more water slides and the huge bucket of water that rained down us on a regular basis.

There’s two options for dining and a bar and larger nicely maintained locker rooms.  There were plenty of towels and places to sit although I can’t say we sat much at all…

The restaurant in the hotel had a wonderful buffet breakfast. We didn’t have dinner in the hotel but I imagine it was probably good too. There are plenty of dining options in the surrounding area.

The hotel also features “MagicQuest” which completely entranced my kids and from the looks of it, many others too.  You rent (or buy) your very own wand and follow instructions provided in a little book to uncover hidden symbols, jewels and more throughout the hotel.  Literally, the hallways are full of kids focused on their quests, helping one another and squealing with delight as they uncover the final item on their quest for a “healing” or “ice” rune.  It’s fun to watch treasure chests open to reveal various gold, jewels or crystals and even more fun to watch as kids wave wands at objects that then come alive and move or even speak.

There’s a kiddie spa on premises too… we didnt’ have to time to check that out but it looked delightful and I believe there’s also an arcade room.  We didn’t get a chance to explore that either.

We did attend the evening story hour where the woodland display in the hotel lobby comes to life in sing and dance. Very cute!

All in all, it was a great mini-vacation and a ton of entertainment was included for the cost of the room.  I would highly recommend a stay any time of the year, although it seems especially appealing in the Winter months, I also noticed they had some great looking outdoor pools too! It’s probably fun any time of  the year…

I’ve included some photos we took but they really don’t do the place justice. Check out their website for better photos and even videos. And, look in the 2012 Kidstuff Coupon book for a 20% discount.  I tried to use my coupon and couldn’t.  I was told it’s based on availabilty and the number of rooms left at the time of booking… so maybe if you call early enough the discount will be available? Or maybe if you have flexibility you can all and ask when it’s available?

Lastly, we realized 3 weeks after our visit that my daughter left the American Girl Doll she saved for all summer in the room.  We called and left a message for the lost and found with little hopes of recovering it.  We were delighted when we got a call back the next day and 2 days later the doll was on our doorstep!


Dutch Wonderland Review, Lancaster, PA and Willow Valley Resort

Dutch Wonderland is located on 2249 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, PA.

***Special vacation report***

So after the overwhelming response on our facebook fan page on where we should go on vacation, we listened, and went to beautiful Lancaster County in Pennsylvania.  We were not disappointed, here’s our review:

Double Tree Willow Valley Resort

Accomodations at Doubletree Resort (Willow Valley no longer there) =  perfect for our kids, as well as a great place to stay on a rainy day with a perfect indoor toddler sprinkler pool connected to the main pool) equipped with a water slide that empties to a deeper section.  I can’t tell you anything about the golf course, but you may want to take a trip to tripadvisor.com, there were plenty of reviews there for this resort.

I was still able to stand at the end of the slide to catch my oldest (5y) (and I’m 5’0″) but my husband hung out mostly with him, while I was with our 3y.

Sorry this no longer exists, they closed this down in 2012, but the Doubletree has better accomodations and that still is there.

Before it closed in 2012, our room was a bit humid (we were right next to the Willow Valley indoor pool), it was clean and did the job. There was a pool table, shuffleboard and an outdoor pool that was too cold for me, so we stayed in our section. Hot tub was restricted to 8y+ and the walk to the Doubletree isn’t too far to enjoy the sprinkler pool.

Dutch Wonderland

Terrific for my boys, they are 3y and 5y and both of them had fun, great wooden roller coaster for the daredevil in your family, and a good number of the smaller rides for under 36″ and 36-42″ crowd. I took only a fraction of pictures of the rides, if you want to browse their rides check out their website, it really is a great guide according to height restrictions. 

They had a great dive show, a cute Thomas the Tank engine show with energetic actors, and a story time with the princess that my son was on stage with other kids. Best seats in the monorail are in the back for the view.

The other great thing about DW is that they had a nice water park similar to Sesame Place, however they do not have a wading pool, that my middle son really enjoys.

Lots of sprinklers/splashing though, and the 5y old loved the big water slide and I can’t count how many times they went down.  I’m sure we missed a bunch of rides, check out their website for all the info..

Our Rainy Day

There is no shortage of things to do in Lancaster, we took in a movie and played in the sprinkler pool at the hotel, and then visited the Choo Choo Barn.  This was right before the big Thomas event, so we weren’t able to enjoy Strasburg Railroad to its fullest extent.  For things to do for your train lover, check out Strasburg’s site.  Another great stop, was Dienners Country Restaurant recommended by a friend.  It only cost $1.80 for my 3y old and $3.00 for my 5y old (60 cents/year) and the adult buffet portion was reasonable as well.

If you have any comments to add, feel free to do so!

Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, PA

phl1134th Street and Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, PA. *guest post*

There are some great attractions at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Great exhibits, all kinds of animals including very cool carnivores, including lions, tigers, cheetahs, bears, and others.  Primates, penguins and a bunch more, check out their animal index to see if they cover some of your favorites. 

For more details and their great age guide check out the official website.

Logistics:  (This is for the regular season Mar 1- Nov1)

Philadelphia Zoo is located in Fairmount Park.

Parking is available along Girard Avenue (35th and 38th St.)

Open daily from 9:30AM – 5:00 PM

Pricing: (for March 1- November 1 2009 season)

Adults (12y and over)- $18.00

Child (2y-11y)- $15.00 (under 2y is free)

Attractions Highlights:  Besides some great animal sightseeing


there are some cool attractions for kids including, (pricing as of Aug 2009)

 the train ($3)



swan paddle boats ($6), phl5

rainforest carousel ($3)phl7

hot-air balloon ($15) (family of 4 – $50)


If you have some feedback on this zoo, and any helpful pointers or tips, please comment below!

Today’s guest pictures come from Katja, one of the coolest moms in the R&F universe. Editor note: I’m a big fan of Ronnie B. and his incredible interviews, and his show has kept me sane when I’m in the mood for a little honesty, and uncensored radio. Definitely not for your kids, but if you are curious, check em out on Sirius XM and one of the features I look forward to, Unmasked.  

Kids’ Castle, Doylestown, PA

Update: We made the trip here on September 2011. Here are some of our pictures!

Doylestown Playground Kids Castle

What a Castle








doylestown2425 Wells Road, Doylestown, PA. Guest-post alert! wow, amazing! A BIG Thank you to Annie, a close friend of our family and proud grandmother! I look forward to visiting this park soon! I can’t beat the description straight from their website (doylestownpa.org)

“Adjacent to the Township Building on Wells Road. A one hundred and eight (108) acres family-oriented park providing for a multitude of active and passive recreational opportunities.

Amenities of the Park are: 5 Tennis Courts with coin operated lighting, 2 Basketball Courts with coin operated lighting, 1 Volleyball Court, 1 Tot Lot Play area, 3 Soccer Fields, A1 Golf Link (135-150yards), 1 Picnic Pavilion (reservations are made through Doylestown Township Administration), 1 Amphitheater, 1.5 Miles Biking/Hiking/Jogging Trails, Kids’ Castle and a 21 station Health Check donated by Doylestown Hospital.

Photo of Kids’ CastleKids’ Castle is an eight (8) story wooden playground structure designed & named by children of Doylestown Township through an art contest in 1996. On February 5, 1997, Kids’ Castle Committee, Township staff, residents and children of the community met with architect Bob Leathers of Leathers Associates, Ithaca, New York to work on refining the initial playground design.”

A great link for this park and for more pictures is Maria Neels’ article check it out!