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“best zoo in the area”
Review of Turtle Back Zoo

Turtle Back Zoo
Ranked #3 of 20 things to do in West Orange
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 4 September 2013

The Turtle Back Zoo has added one or two attractions per year for the last few years. If you haven't been in a while, you may want to go back. It is run by the County of Essex. Many of the "staff" are volunteer docents. The paid staff are minimally trained youths. Hence, I can understand the comment from CarolN 1226 about the attendant at the pony ride insulting one of her children. The pony rides are for small children and there is a height restriction for "too tall." That might also be a weight restriction to protect the animals. The zoo makes a strong effort to protect the animals.
We have been going for years and enjoy it every time. Our nephew is now 8 1/2. this time he rode the zip line and had a blast. The staff at the zip line and Adventure Trail were more professional than at the animal exhibits. they were very knowledgeable and well-versed in safety considerations. There is a separate fee for the Adventure trails (one is junior one is adult) and the zip-line $10. YO can go directly to the Adventure trails and zip-line without entering the zoo if you wish.
The new sea lion exhibit and touch tank are great additions.
Unfortunately you cannot count on seeing every animal on every visit. They are not always active and sometimes are in their caves or homes away from sight. The larger animals are mostly outside all the time though and in view.
The train ride is a big hit. it's no extra charge and kids love it. it's about a 9 minutes ride through woods, a tunnel (train storage shed) and along the lake shore. The line gets long but it's worth wait for youngsters.
You can bring your own picnic lunch (recommended as the food facility is high-priced and, in my opinion, not nutritious or tasty). There are many picnic tables.
Next door to the zoo is a miniature golf course with an animal theme. Next to that is an upscale dining facility, McLoone's Boathouse, and next to that is a paddle-boat area. Between McLoone's and the paddle boats is walk-path along the lake shore.

1  Thank curioustraveller33
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"train ride"
in 109 reviews
"sea lions"
in 26 reviews
"touch tank"
in 40 reviews
"red panda"
in 17 reviews
"holiday lights"
in 14 reviews
"pony rides"
in 39 reviews
"giraffe exhibit"
in 16 reviews
"tree top adventure"
in 14 reviews
"reptile house"
in 17 reviews
"day trip"
in 31 reviews
"zip line"
in 25 reviews
"few hours"
in 26 reviews
"big cats"
in 12 reviews
"essex county"
in 22 reviews
"adventure course"
in 11 reviews
"interesting animals"
in 8 reviews
"perfect size"
in 12 reviews
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546 - 550 of 735 reviews

Reviewed 4 September 2013 via mobile

We have been there a few times, but this was our first time since the addition of the sea lion exhibit. Park is well done and very manageable in size. It has lots of hills so bring comfy shoes and a jogger stroller (something with big wheels) if you need one.
Staff on the ticket booths on the attractions are a bit rude at times but some people take it personally. The wait for the pony ride almost does not seem to be worth it. We went on a Wednesday when they had extended hours yet most of the attractions closed early.

Thank onfus
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 September 2013

We love Turtle back zoo, however this time I'm very disappointed. We visited with the kids and they were looking forward to the "Pony Ride" when we got there my husband went to buy the tickets for our 3 kids (2,5,8) and the "Lady" who was selling them told my 8 year old that he was to Fat to ride! He immediately starts to cry and I got very very upset with this women how can she tell a child that he is too fat! And them when I call her out she told me whatever. I demand to speak to a manager but nobody was in the picture. I would suggest who ever is in charge of this place to teach there employees some customer service they can not be telling a child this horrible things. I'm very hurt and disappointed with Turtle Back Zoo! NEVER coming bak!!

1  Thank CarolN1226
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 September 2013

A beautiful compact zoo with lots of hands on things to do in a nice setting. Very kid friendly. Large parking area.

Thank Larry R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 31 August 2013

We had a fantastic day at the South Mountain Recreational Complex in West Orange, NJ. The Turtle Back Zoo is a part of this complex and there is so much to do here. The setting is gorgeous as it is nestled in the reservation. Me, my wife and daughter spent the day doing paddle boating, zip lining and it was great. The staff was very courteous. The zip line and tree top adventure course has been a great addition and there were quite a few kids.
I would highly recommend this place for families with kids of all ages

3  Thank Nisha B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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