Van Saun Park and Bergen County Zoo: A One-Stop Spot For Everything Holiday

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Want an NYC holiday experience in the Garden State? Capture the charm of Central Park without the crowds by visiting the Van Saun Park Winter Wonderland in Paramus. From an open-air ice rink, a beautiful twinkling tree, a carousel, and ice bumper cars, the experience rivals one you’ll find in the city, minus the trip over the George Washington Bridge. While you’re there, the Bergen County Zoo’s ‘Let It Glow!’ is just steps away, where you can see over 30 gorgeous, lantern-lit scenes come to life. Scroll down for what to know about both events, and to keep the holiday spirit going, don’t miss holiday activities in New Jersey. (featured photo taken at Let It Glow!)

Bergen County’s Winter Wonderland at Van Saun Park

Winter Van Saun Park Ice Skate

Photo taken at Winter Wonderland at Van Saun Park

Skate the night away at Van Saun Park

No need to wait in line or navigate crowded spaces—Bergen County’s Winter Wonderland has a time slot system that ensures everyone gets their turn in the park. There is no set age requirement for skaters, and rentals cover every size from toddler to adult. Little beginners will love pushing the winter character skate aids like penguins and polar bears, and if they get the skating bug, there are ice skating lessons and a Learn To Play Hockey experience partnered with the NJ Devils. But what really stands out are the ice bumper cars— yes, you read that right—bumper cars that glide along the ice, no experience required. Each “car” has inflatable bumpers and steering so you can glide merrily along all over the ice (just watch out for crashers). The experience operates separately from open skate at an additional cost, and it includes two rides during a 45-minute session and is first come, first serve (rides last 8 minutes). 

Van Saun Park light

Photo taken at Winter Wonderland

Eat, drink, and be merry

What’s a wonderland without festive food? Sip on a cup of cocoa or mulled wine from the Wine Garden and sample treats from the food trucks as you warm up under heaters in between skates. And at select times, Santa and Mrs. Claus are hanging out in their workshop, waiting for kids to hear their lists and to take photos. After, hop on a carousel ride (your carousel ticket is included in the Winter Wonderland admission) or board the train on the weekend days. 

Let it glow!

Let it glow tiger Van Saun Park

Lanterns come to life at the Bergen County Zoo this winter. Photo taken at Let It Glow!

See lanterns come to life at Bergen County Zoo

When the sun goes down, Bergen County Zoo’s ‘Let it Glow’ brings the whimsical to life with 30+ scenes created out of glowing lanterns. It’s a separate event from Winter Wonderland, but it’s worth checking out to see the dazzling displays of your favorite zoo animals lit up— everything from an animatronic crab blowing bubbles to color-changing butterflies, highlighted by towering trees with brilliant colors against the night sky. Wander down the pathways and view a sea turtle, an American alligator, and even a giant angler fish.

When you complete the walking path, stop by the zoo’s general store for a s’mores kit to have the gooey sweet treat while warming up by the fire pit. Before you leave, take the 10-minute journey tracing the zoo’s perimeter (each Let It Glow! ticket comes with a train ticket). Ride through illuminated tunnels and view floral landscapes and lantern scenes featuring hippos, pelicans, dancing flowers, and color-changing butterflies.

Van Saun Park

Photo taken at Let It Glow!

What to know before you go

Bergen County’s Winter Wonderland at Van Saun Park is open for skating between now and February 25, 2024. The All Access ticket grants admission to the event grounds, and it is good for the one carousel ticket and one ice skating session during your selected time. General admission tickets are also available but do not include a skating session or carousel ticket. Additional ice skating sessions and carousel tickets can be purchased separately. During Winter Wonderland operating hours, an admission ticket is a prerequisite to skating, and there is no general admission charge during Open Skate nights. The rink is typically open but check ahead in case of inclement weather.

Let It Glow! will run from now until January 14. Walk through the zoo, see the larger-than-life lanterns, and enjoy a train ride (the train ride is included with admission). The paths through the zoo are lit and clearly marked. Fire pits are also available if you need to warm up. Keep in mind that you should do the train ride last because you cannot re-enter the zoo once you complete the train ride. 

If you plan on going to both the Bergen County Zoo and Van Saun Park, make sure you account for the time slot system. The tickets are separate, so if you want to give yourself some wiggle room with timing, consider doing a 5-7, then 7-9.

Bergen County Zoo & Van Saun Park 
216 Forest Avenue
Paramus, NJ 07652

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About Author

Melanie Bodner has always had a love for writing, but now she has a new love…being a mom. Before having her kids, Melanie was no stranger to writing or working with children. She wrote for a local newspaper as a reporter and taught English and Dance in a public school. Now Melanie enjoys spending time with her kids, doing yoga, writing and decorating her home. Check out her Instagram @burlapbythebeach.

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