Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in New Jersey and Staten Island

Explore zoos, nature centers, and botanical gardens in New Jersey, Staten Island, and Fairfield County, CT. Read through our guide to find petting zoos, arboretums, nature preserves, farms, and public gardens, all packed with fun nature activities for the whole family. Let your little ones loose to try their hands at zoo feedings and touch tanks, explore wooded trails, and learn about exotic plants. The spring season is the perfect time to explore the outdoors. Review our comprehensive list of zoos, nature centers, and botanical gardens in towns such as Closter, Englewood, Fairfield, Greenwich, Paramus, Stamford, Tenafly, Westport, and more.

Also see: Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in NYC, Long Island, and CT


Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in New Jersey

Bergen County Zoo
216 Forest Ave., Paramus
Hours: 10am-4:30pm daily
Admission: May-October: $8 ($4 for county residents); $5 children ages 3-14 ($2 for residents); $2 seniors and disabled ($1 for residents); free for children younger than 3 and active military members.

See farm animals, reptiles, birds, and much more. The zoo hosts a variety of special events throughout the year as well as a wide range of children’s programs. The zoo is part of the Van Saun County Park, which also includes the historic Washington Spring Garden as well as a train ride, carousel, pony rides, and picnic and fishing areas.

Closter Nature Center 
154 Ruckman Road, Closter
Hours: Vary by activity; trails open dawn to dusk
Admission: Donations appreciated

A nature haven in suburban New Jersey, the center includes 136 acres of ponds, brooks, meadows, and forests, as well as 3 miles of hiking trails. Visitors can explore the area on their own, or attend a lecture, guided nature walk, or other educational environmental program, including after-school programs for children during the school year.

Flat Rock Brook Nature Center
443 Van Nostrand Ave., Englewood
Hours: Trails and picnic area are open dawn to dusk daily. The center is open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Monday-Friday; Saturday-Sunday 1-5pm
Admission: FREE

A 150-acre preserve offering 3.6 miles of forested public hiking trails with highlights such as a cascading stream, wildflower meadows, and ponds. Year-round environmental education programs for all ages, along with guided hikes and an aviary with birds of prey.

Skylands/New Jersey Botanical Garden
Morris Road, Ringwood
Hours: 8am-8pm daily. Winter hours: 8am-6pm
Admission: FREE; parking is $5 for New Jersey residents, $7 non-New Jersey residents on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 

Visitors can wander through formal gardens or along paths through the woods and see unusual plant species from around the world. Skylands’ specialty gardens include the Annual Garden, Perennial Border, Crab Apple Vista, Wildflower Garden, Lilac Garden, Peony Garden, and Octagonal Garden. The Rhododendron Garden and Hosta Garden are the only fenced gardens in order to keep deer away. Free, guided garden tours are available at 2pm on Sundays from May through October. The botanical garden also offers tours especially designed for families. Visitors can also buy tickets online and arrange to take guided tours of the 1920s Tudor Revival Skylands Manor House for $7; $5 seniors and students; $3 children ages 6-12; free for children 6 and younger.

Tenafly Nature Center
313 Hudson Ave., Tenafly
Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday 11am-4pm; trails open dawn to dusk daily
Admission: FREE, but donations are appreciated

This nature preserve encompasses nearly 400 acres, including several nature trails (open dawn till dusk) where you may catch sight of red foxes, white-tailed deer, or the more than 50 species of birds that reside there, not to mention an impressive display of trees and other local flora. The visitors’ center in the John A. Redfield Building houses natural history exhibits and live animals; it also offers public programs for children and families throughout the year.

Turtle Back Zoo
560 Northfield Ave., West Orange
Hours: 10am-4:30pm daily
Admission: $15; $12 seniors and children ages 2-12; free for children younger than 2

This expansive zoo houses a wide variety of animals, from kangaroos and emus in the Australian exhibit to leopards and red pandas in the Southeast Asia exhibit. You’ll also see penguins, otters, sea lions, wolves, bears, a large collection of reptiles, an assortment of farm animals on Essex Farm, and all manner of sea creatures in the Tropical Currents Aquarium. During the warmer months, the zoo also offers rides and attractions including a playground; a train ride through the South Mountain Reservation (price included with admission); a butterfly tent; and pony rides at Essex Farm ($2). The Endangered Species Carousel is open year-round ($2). See the zoo’s online calendar for regular special events.


Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in Staten Island

Blue Heron Park and Nature Center
222 Poillon Ave., Annadale
Hours: 9am-5pm daily
Admission: FREE

This 222-acre park surrounds wetland ponds, swamps, and streams that drain into the Raritan Bay. View the bird-feeding station at the edge of the woodlands, which attracts a wide variety of local birds. The nature center has live animal exhibits including turtles, snakes and insects, and a Nature Library where visitors can browse its nature-themed collection of guidebooks, books, and magazines. Participate in nature-based educational programs run by urban park rangers at the nature center and Friends of Blue Heron Park. Naturalist-guided walks offered from Saturday-Sunday, 12-4pm (call to verify availability). The park includes a handicap-accessible trail.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden 
1000 Richmond Terrace
Hours: Dawn to dusk. Galleries: Wednesday-Sunday 10am-5pm; Thursday-Friday 12-7pm; Saturday-Sunday 11am-5pm
Admission: For gardens and galleries: $5; $4 students and seniors; free for children younger than 12

Snug Harbor’s 83-acre park-like setting contains gardens, museums, theaters, educational opportunities, and seasonal festivals. It includes a Chinese Scholar’s Garden, Healing Garden, Rose Garden, White Garden, and Tuscan Garden, and several other gardens, each of which feature aesthetic and functional flora. The center also features regular educational programs for kids as well as group tours. Educational programs include classes based on history, horticulture, architecture, performance and visual arts, as well as health and nutrition. There is also a Heritage Farm and New York Compost Project that includes environmentally-oriented classes and workshops on basic farming and composting techniques.

Staten Island Zoo
614 Broadway, West Brighton
Hours: 10am-4:45pm daily; closed major holidays.
Admission: $10; $7 seniors; $6 children ages 3-14; free for children younger than 3; free for all on Wednesdays after 2pm. Free parking.

The zoo’s mission is to instill in visitors, especially children, an understanding and appreciation of living creatures, through programs, camps, and various other events. Visitors can view small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and tropical fish in the zoo’s exhibits. Zoo education programs are available for children of different age groups (see the website for details). All programs include live animal presentations and general admission to the zoo.

The Greenbelt Nature Center
700 Rockland Ave.
Hours: Greenbelt is open dawn to dusk daily; nature center is open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm (April-October). Carousel, in Willowbrook Pond (2 Eton Place, off Richmond Avenue) operates Friday-Sunday 11am-5:45pm in (May–October), Wednesday-Sunday 11am-5:45pm in June ($2 per ride).
Admission: FREE

The Greenbelt consists of 2,800 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and meadows. It features four major foot trails, each marked on trail maps (available online and at the nature center), and includes three easy-to-moderate trails ranging in length from 3.8 to 8 miles. The nature center offers a variety of environmental education programs, summer camps, and other family-friendly events and programs; see the website for a full calendar of events.


Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in Fairfield County, CT

Audubon Center of Greenwich
613 Riversville Road, Greenwich
Hours: Trails open sunrise to sunset daily; visitor center open 10am-5pm daily
Admission: $6; $3 children and seniors

The center’s walking trails span 7 miles and 285 acres, past lakes, ponds, and rivers. The center also has bird blinds, which are spots to watch for birds—including the center’s many species of hawks—where they can’t see you. Visit the Nature Playscape, which is a play area for children made from natural materials.

Bartlett Arboretum
151 Brookdale Road, Stamford
Hours: Grounds are open dawn to dusk daily. Silver Education Center is open Monday-Friday 9am-4pm.
Admission: Admission is free; donations are appreciated

The arboretum features extensive gardens and a collection of plants and trees, as well as hiking trails in the woodlands nearby. Silver Educational Center houses a horticultural resource library, a gallery featuring a variety of art exhibits, and a plant clinic during the growing season.

Connecticut Audubon Society Nature Center
2325 Burr St., Fairfield
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-3pm
Admission (suggested): $2; $1 children

The birds of prey compound is a viewing area for raptors. The center also includes a sanctuary, wigwam replicas, and hiking trails and is home to animals like snakes, turtles, and millipedes.

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo
1875 Noble Ave., Bridgeport
Hours: 9am-4pm daily; closed major holidays
Admission: $15; $12 seniors and children ages 3-11; free for children younger than 3

The zoo includes the New England Farmyard, Wolf Observation Learning Facility, and South American Rainforest exhibits, with more than 300 animals representing mainly North and South America. Plus, keep a lookout for the peacocks wandering about!

Darien Nature Center
120 Brookside Road, Darien
Hours (summer): Monday-Thursday 9am-2pm; Friday-Saturday 9am-1pm; closed during August
Admission: Minimum $5 donation suggested

The center features a small trail system, ideal for kids; a pond with ducks; and rotating exhibits as well as a permanent exhibit with more than 40 animal species.

10 Woodside Lane, Westport
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday 1-4pm; grounds open dawn to dusk daily
Admission: $7; $5 seniors and children younger than 12; free admission to the grounds

With a mission to educate the community about nature and the environment, Earthplace offers 70 acres of wildlife sanctuary, which include hiking trails, an interactive natural history museum with live animals, and public nature programs and events. For kids, there are animal halls with more than 40 live species, a nature-themed playroom, an outdoor birds of prey exhibit, walking trails, and a playground open on the weekends.

Nature Conservancy’s Devil’s Den Preserve
33 Pent Road, Weston
Hours: Sunrise to sunset daily
Admission: FREE

The preserve is the largest tract of protected land in Fairfield County. It offers more than 20 miles of trails, acts as a habitat to about 40 bird species, and holds the remains of charcoal and lumber production sites. The area is deeply wooded, with rock formations, streams, and swamps.

New Canaan Nature Center
144 Oenoke Ridge, New Canaan
Hours: Visitor center and greenhouse: Monday-Saturday 9am-4pm; Birds of Prey, Arboretum, and Gardens: dawn to dusk daily. 
Admission: FREE

The center includes 2 miles of hiking trails on the grounds, which include wet and dry meadows, two ponds, wet and dry woodlands, dense thickets, an old orchard, and a cattail marsh. The center also encompasses seven aviaries in its Birds of Prey exhibit, a world of bees exhibit, an arboretum full of native and nonnative trees, several specialty gardens including a Wildflower Garden and The Bird and Butterfly Garden, and a 4,000-square-foot greenhouse featuring exotic species of flora.

Stamford Museum & Nature Center
39 Scofieldtown Road, Stamford
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday 11am-5pm
Admission: $10; $8 seniors; $6 students (with ID); $5 children ages 4-17; free for children 3 and younger. Observatory: $5; $3 children.

The center is a New England working farm with heirloom breeds of animals, an otter pond, an observatory with a 22-inch research telescope, changing exhibition galleries, a planetarium, early education classrooms, and a vast hardwood forest with 80 acres of hiking trails.

Woodcock Nature Center
56 Deer Run Road, Wilton
Hours: Monday-Friday 9:30am-4:30pm; trails open dawn to dusk daily
Admission: FREE

The Center sits on 149 acres with trails, boardwalk trails, a pond, live animals and birds of prey. It offers environmental education programs and summer programs for kids.