The Turtle Back Zoo | West Orange, NJ

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Turtle back zoo, essex county, New Jersey zoo

Last week, we made a trip up to West Orange, NJ to visit the Turtle Back Zoo. I hadn’t been to this zoo since I was a camp counselor, and had to lug all of my rambunctious camp kids through the exhibits. Needless to say, I’d only had memories of hard labor when it came to this place. It was pleasant to see that there had been lots of changes to this attraction.

I took the kiddos all by my lonesome to the zoo. Now, if Turtle Back had been a large place, I would not have survived the day. While the zoo is substantial, Turtle Back gives you the feel of a small zoo with a big impact. While the animals were plentiful, we didn’t feel as if we were lost in a sea of exhibits. We went at our own pace, and I took the opportunity to let the kids direct our journey, letting me know which animals they’d like to see.

The crane was a favorite of Sonny, along with the sleeping wolves and the black bears. The Gibbon monkeys were adorable (and loud) and all three of us really enjoyed the reptile house.
(Update: Alicia from TBZ left an awesome comment below and let me know that the Gibbons are actually Apes! Thanks Alicia!)

turtle back zoo, west orange NJ, New Jersey zoo

The day was a bit warm, so our trip into The Reptile House was a welcome treat. The last time I visited Turtle Back Zoo, this exhibit didn’t exist, so I was very excited to see it. We viewed the Komodo dragon, lots of frogs and lake dwellers.
Our all-time favorite animal in the reptile house was the Python named Angie. Angie gave all the kids a “dance” and was very lively. I’d never seen a snake be so animated in an exhibit and it really made our trip memorable.

train ride, turtle back zoo, new jersey zoo

A ride on the Turtle Back train was needed before we left the park. While the kids were pretty tired, they begged to get in a quick trip around the tracks. It was extremely cute and the breeze was a welcomed addition to the hot and humid day. Speaking of which, Turtle Back Zoo offers small misting machines all over the park on warm days. How cool is that?

Before we left, we were surprised to see one of the two Peacocks that strut around the park. We were told that they do walk around the park at their leisure, but hadn’t seen them most of the day.

turtle back zoo, peacock, new jersey zoo

This handsome guy walked right up to Sonny, Duchess and me. He didn’t show off his feathers, but we were still pleased to see him up close.

Although we only stayed a few hours, The kids got to see some of their favorite animals, choose some new ones to love, played at the playground, ride on the carousel, have a picnic lunch with Mom and it was all done for under 20 dollars. I see this as a go-to summer trip from now on. Hey, maybe we’ll take Dad with us next time. The Husband deserves to see a dancing snake too, right?

About Amiyrah

My name is Amiyrah and I'm an an African American fashion & lifestyle blogger based in Ohio.

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  1. 8.28.12
    Anonymous said:

    The Popcorn Park Zoo in Little Egg Harbor, NJ is awesome, too. It’s a refuge for abandoned and abused animals. You may want to check it out if you and your family are in the area. P.S. – As I’m typing this, I’m listening to the Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds version of James Taylor’s “Fire and Ice”. Nice!

  2. 8.28.12
    Amiyrah said:


    yup we know all about Popcorn Park Zoo. Since i’m stationed in Atlantic City, I pass the exit for it every drill weekend. Since it’s so far from us, we’d probably never go. Believe it or not, Central Park zoo is closer to us than Popcorn Park zoo lol.

  3. 8.29.12
    Alicia said:

    Hi! I work at TBZ, & I just wanted to say that I’m glad you & your crew had such a good time! 🙂 I’d like to tell you a little bit about some of the animals you mentioned: gibbons are actually apes, not monkeys. I’m sure you know the term “great apes”; gibbons are the only “lesser apes”. When they sing, you can hear them all over the zoo! 🙂 The reticulated python is actually a female. We recently had a naming contest for her; I believe the winning name was Angie.

    The misters are a welcome thing for the employees, too! We can get quite hot during the course of the day, so walking through one on our way down to lunch is a nice treat.

    The zoo doesn’t actually close down for the winter – the only days that we’re closed (excepting really bad weather) are Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, & New Year’s Day. So if you’re bored, stuck inside on a winter’s day, call the zoo to make sure the weather hasn’t kept us closed, & if not, come on up & visit! 🙂 It’s always much less crowded during the colder months.

    Again, I’m glad you had such a good time at TBZ! It’s a lovely place to work. 🙂

  4. 8.29.12
    Amiyrah said:


    Thank you so much for all the information! And here I thought I learned it all during our trip. The fact that the Python is a female and her name is Angie makes me smile. I’ve never met an Angie I didn’t like.

    I love that the Zoo is open year-round! I’ve never heard of a Zoo doing that, so now we have a great place to go during fall and winter weekends. I completely appreciate you commenting and we hope to see you at the park soon!

  5. 8.29.12
    Alicia said:

    You’re very welcome! 🙂 There’s always something new to learn at the zoo! We frequently have events (go to for a schedule) during the year, even in the colder months; I’m in a band, & we’ve played there twice so far this summer. We’re going to play again on a weekend – the tentative date is September 22nd. Have a peek at our website, too!

    I’m very happy to talk about TBZ; I’ve been there for over 2 years, year-round, & it’s the most amazing job ever. Please do come again – I’ll be up at the farm, so be sure to stop by & say hello! 😀