Two fun days in Cape May, NJ: Review of top attractions Cape May Zoo & Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center Cruise!


Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center

Growing up in New York City, the so-called “TriState” comprising of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, played a big role in where I would venture out to during the early years of my driving years.  Even as I got older, I was always interested in exploring these three states so close to New York City.  

Among my friends, I was the first to get my driving learner’s permit at the tender age of 16.  I couldn’t wait to drive!  I would intently watch my dad driving the family car as a youngster, seeing how he would use his right feet to modulate the accelerator pedal or the brake pedal, all while smoothly turning the steering wheel.  I studied studiously to learn how to drive by watching my dad drive at every opportunity.

When I was 15 or so, my dad took me to an empty parking lot near Shea Stadium (now Citifield, home of the New York Mets baseball team), to teach me how to drive.  I remember being extremely excited and eager to finally learn how to drive!

I was a natural at driving.  I’m usually calm & collected and that translated well to how I drive.  I made good strides and by the time my 16th birthday came, I was ready to apply for my learner’s permit.  I passed the written portion of the exam with flying colors and within few weeks, I was ready to take the road test portion of the exam.

I still remember getting ready to take the road test like it was yesterday!  My test proctor got in my car, and like my dad ingrained in me, I was very focused and responded to his commands with respect and eagerness.

He asked to fix put on my seat belt and after doing so, I adjusted my mirrors, turned on my left turn signal to merge onto the street.  I made couple of right turns, then a left turn.  He then asked me to parallel park which I had done without issues.

After seeing how I had aced every single task he had asked me to do, he asked to head back to where we had started.  I had passed the road exam, and I finally got my driver’s license!  It was a wonderful feeling to be free, to be able to live the American dream of being able to explore this great (and enormous!) country.

As soon as I got my official driver license, I took my buddies to various locations throughout the tristate including Atlantic City, Six Flags Great Adventure, Manhattan, Yankee Stadium, Foxwoods Casino, to name just a few.  My exploration of the tristate area never stopped since getting my driver license.  Although these days, I’m exploring way outside the tristate area exploring the West Coast and the South for example, I’ve never forgotten how cool the tristate area really is.

During my wife and myself’s stop at the Borgata in early September, we decided to visit an old friend in Cape May Zoo, as well as somewhere completely new in Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center.  Cape May Zoo was a destination we know well, having visited multiple times with friends and family.

Cape May Zoo

Located in Cape May County, about 35 miles south of Atlantic City, Cape May Zoo is one of the top attractions in Jersey Shore.  Encompassing 85 acres, it boasts roughly 550 animals representing 250 different species.  The zoo is one of those rare places these days where the admission and parking are free!  They do take donations however, and we recommend giving something to help them out.

We took the Atlantic City Expressway heading west towards Cape May.  The drive would take under an hour and we arrived at the familiar zoo.  We were greeted by the entrance station staff who handed out maps of the park & the zoo, with a bucket for donations.

We chipped in a few dollars and we headed into the park.  Parking, even on a weekday was not easy, and we had to drive further into the park for additional parking near the Cape May Adventure Park (zip line & tree top adventures).  

After parking, we followed the throngs of people heading towards the zoo.  We found the entrance to the zoo, on our right, then walked into a strong odor of farm animals on our right.  We saw pigs, goats, cows, and they greeted us with that unmistakable aroma(?) of earth, urine, and dung.  Well, we did sign up for this, didn’t we?

First animal we saw that day, the pig!

Despite their strong smell, we enjoyed seeing these animals.  I decided to buy some feed for goats for a dollar to try my hands at feeding them, and somehow, all the goats zoomed in on me immediately.  They knew when a sucker(me) was about to feed them!

I put out my hand and before I even knew what was happening, all the feed was gone.  Wow, that was fast.  It was so much fun, I did it the second time!  As unsanitary as having those goats with their slimy tongues lick my hand clean, I felt like a little kid out on a picnic at the zoo.  It was fun, even at my age!  

Names of animals I fed!

Lucky for me, I saw several fellow feeders gravitating towards a wash station with soap!  I headed over there myself to clean my paws after a close encounter with multiple slimy tongues.  

We followed the nicely paved walkway and saw so many cool birds along the way: geese, bald eagles, pheasants (free roaming), flamingos, and others.  

We moseyed on, taking our time looking at each bird, then came upon the mammal section.  We saw gigantic camels getting groomed by caretakers and we saw the massive American bison soon thereafter.  Wow, majestic creatures…

We liked that these large creatures had room to roam and not just get stuck behind a tiny prison-like cells.  As expected, both of these majestic mammals got the most attention they deserved as they were incredible to look at…Having couple of baby bisons (called “red dogs” as calves are born with reddish-colored fur) following their moms certainly helped that cause.  Very cute…

We found snow leopards area which was fascinating.  It paced left and right, wearily eyeing each and every one of us who were fascinated by them.  Their fur were beautiful: white with black spots and stripes. Cool.

We walked along and found the African savanna themed area with giraffes and gazelles.  The zoo does a great job housing these animals in their natural habitat (or as close to it as possible) without keeping them in tiny cages…

The zoo really has impressive numbers of animals, then and now.  We had a great time getting reacquainted with the zoo, and to get outside for some fun and exercise.  At 80+ acres, it definitely requires energy to see them all!

Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center 

While researching possible itinerary for our trip to Atlantic City, I came upon a 2 for 1 Groupon coupon for this whale/dolphin watch cruise.  Instead of paying $100 for two for a 3 hour cruise, we paid just $50 for two, thanks to Groupon!

Because our cruise was at 1:30 p.m., we headed down to Cape May again from our hotel in Atlantic City at around noon.  We didn’t want to miss our cruise.

The drive would take bit longer than the previous day (around 45 minutes), but we arrived with time to spare.  There was free parking, which is a godsend in Cape May.  After parking, we checked in at the small booth in front of the ship and we loitered around the dock until boarding time.  

It’s always exciting to board a boat no matter how big or small it is.  I’m no fan of the seas (I sometimes get seasick on small vessels), but I knew we would be on a bigger ship and we won’t be docking out in the middle of nowhere as that really gets me seasick!

I remember going tuna fishing near Boston when I was young, and my brother and I really got seasick (we were throwing up and spent most of the time lying down).  We did sail 3 hours far into the seas and we had docked for 30 minutes at a time, and ever since that boat ride, I still have trepidations about going far out into the seas!

Our ship departed exactly at 1:30 pm.  Everyone onboard was excited to see some dolphins and whales (hopefully).  Light breeze was blowing, and we looked around the marina.  What a view…

We sailed along the Cape May Harbor seeing how different everything looks from that vantage point.  This would be the first time we would be on a ship near Jersey Shore, and it was beautiful:  the wide open views of the Atlantic Ocean, the colorful homes out near the shore, and various ships of all sizes enjoying the day.

The day started out cloudy when we departed the marina, but within 10 minutes, it started to clear up really nice!  We saw patches of sun trying to peek through the clouds and within another 10 minutes, sun finally showed up, making everything look radiant and absolutely stunning.

The sun finally!

We passed through Cape May Canal, passing the Cape May Canal Bridge and the historic Cape May Canal Swing Bridge which was used by railroads to cross the canal.  Sailing through the canal was awesome with wonderful views of marshes, sea birds, and homes.

As we made across the canal, a flock of seagulls followed our ship’s wake, with many of them keeping up for several minutes.  That was a sight we have not seen much of in the past!  Cool…

At the mouth of the Cape May Canal and Delaware Sound, we saw the famous Cape May/Lewes Ferry Terminal on our right.  We saw a ferry waiting to sail, massive and docked near the terminal, as well as a ferry waiting to come into the terminal.  Awesome!

Our ship sailed on, going farther out into the wide open seas.  Within minutes, the nature interpreter onboard announced the appearance of dolphins near our ship!  It was absolutely amazing to see them swim so close to our ship.

We saw a pod of dolphins of varying sizes, effortlessly gliding in and out of the waters.  We got a kick out of seeing a mother and a baby swimming side by side, with the baby keeping up right next to its mom.  It was so awesome to see!

We must’ve seen over 20+ dolphins during our trip, although we didn’t see any whales.  Oh, well.  Maybe next time…

After around 2 hours out on the seas, our ship slowly made our way back to the marina.  Even though we didn’t see whales, it was still a successful sailing thanks to dolphins.  It was absolutely fantastic to see them in their natural habitat and not in an aquarium.  

In conclusion:

Despite having left New York City some 20 years ago, we still consider ourselves New Yorkers.  We still consider the tristate area one of the best places to explore in the United States.  There are so many world class attractions, both natural and man made, within these 3 states.

We loved revisiting old friends like the Cape May Zoo but also exploring for the first time, a whale/dolphin watch cruise in Cape May.  There are so many attractions in the tristate area, and these two are two of the most popular ones in New Jersey.  We highly recommend them!

Thank you all for reading and happy trails!


Wandering Money Pig

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