Over 200 animals and birds roam freely and in good care at Popcorn Park Refuge Zoo in Forked River, which, as its name suggests, is a sanctuary for animals in need. I’ve always been curious about it because Popcorn Park is different than most zoos in New Jersey— the animals here have all been rescued from desperate circumstances or death, and the Associated Humane Societies oversees it. Kids get to learn all about these abandoned animals, feed them delicious popcorn (hence the name), help out around the zoo and even adopt the animals. This smaller-sized New Jersey zoo was on my family’s bucket list, and we were pretty excited we got to visit the zoo on a road trip home from Storybook Land.
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5 Things To Know About Popcorn Park Refuge Zoo
First things first, Popcorn Park Zoo’s history
It all began in 1977 when the zookeepers rescued and treated a raccoon caught in a leg-hold trap and gave him a home for life as he could never be released and survive. Soon after, Popcorn Park Refuge Zoo became a permanent home to all types of animals. You will see exotics, wildlife, farm animals, and birds who suffered abandonment, cruelty, injury, illness, handicap, exploitation, old age, or who would not be able to return to the wild safely.
You can get through the park pretty quickly
And thankfully so, because we had our toddler in tow. Popcorn Park Refuge Zoo is a smaller-sized zoo, making it easily walkable for all ages. Older kids should be able to easily manage to see every animal from American black bears and Bengal tigers to monkeys and wallabies in about an hour (or less, if needed). Feeding the animals isn’t allowed, but there are a few exceptions—you can purchase on-site peanuts and air-popped popcorn to feed some of the farm animals and roaming birds.
Consider sponsoring an animal
Not only can kids visit with and feed the animals, but all of the zoo residents can be sponsored through the Popcorn Park Wildlife Club or by donating directly to the Popcorn Park Zoological Society. Sponsorship provides food and medical attention to the animal of your choosing, and each month your family will receive a check-in on the animal. These sponsorships also make great gift ideas for the animal-loving child in your life.
Or, perhaps adopting a ‘pet’
Take your sponsorship one step further, and make the ultimate (and exciting) investment through adoption. Popcorn Park is looking for caring and friendly families to adopt their kittens, dogs, hamsters, and rabbits. Because these animals have already been through a great deal of suffering, it is a priority of the zoo to adopt them out to loving and nurturing families who will give the animal a lot of attention and love. Having a pet will not only provide your children with responsibility but also a new friend.
No outside food is allowed at Popcorn Park Refuge Zoo
Like most zoos, Popcorn Park Refuge Zoo doesn’t allow outside food on property. But you can get buy a few snacks, like cold drinks, ice cream, peanuts and of course, popcorn at the park. If that’s not enough for your family, be sure to pack an easy grab-and-go snack or lunch and plan to eat it in your car or a nearby park. We parked and ate in our car in their parking lot near the main road and took a quick walk down a dirt path to get into the park. I also recommend slathering on sunscreen and wearing a hat because most of the park is not in the shade. I always have my daughter in sneakers with socks at NJ attractions, and I like to wear a backpack, so my hands are free to feed the animals and chase my daughter.
Popcorn Park is open daily from 11 AM to 5 PM with early closings on holidays (and admission into the park stops at 4:15 PM). A small admission fee helps support the animals. Visit their website to learn more about visiting Popcorn Park Refuge Zoo.