When it comes to kid-friendly attractions in South Jersey, it's all about the boardwalk, beaches and waterfront fun. Encompassing the southern half of New Jersey, the region includes much of state's famed shoreline towns on its east coast, as well as notable riverfront cities on the Delaware River border. Attractions in the area for kids range from big city museums and aquariums to seaside fun in the sun, with activities and entertainment for all ages, from easy-to-please little ones to picky teenagers.
The Garden State Discovery Museum in Cherry Hill caters to children up to the age of 10 with hands-on educational exhibits and play spaces that foster learning. Among the museum exhibits are the Dinosaurium, where kids can climb inside a tyrannosaur and dig for dinosaur bones; a working news studio, where they can pretend to be news anchors; and the Little Discoveries Barnyard, where children under 4 can safely play and discover in a barn-themed atmosphere. Insectropolis in Tom's River is the place to go for kids that are fascinated with insects. Attractions at this "bugseum" include Creepy Cavern, where giant tarantulas and other large spiders live, and Rock State Prison, home to the "baddest" bugs out there -- those that destroy crops or spread disease. Insectropolis also offers opportunities to touch some of the bugs during special presentations.
The 200,000-square-foot Adventure Aquarium on the Camden waterfront boasts an enormous shark tank with an underwater tunnel you can walk through, a Hippo Haven for two West African hippopotamuses, a 4-D theater and a shark touch tank. There's also a KidZone for children 6 and under with hands-on exhibits, ocean-theme activities and a pint-size touch pool. Admission to the aquarium gives you discounted admission to the Camden Children's Garden right next door, which features gardening activities and a play area for little ones. Head to Cape May County Zoo in Middle Township to see exotic animals from around the world. This free, public zoo is home to over 250 species of animals, from African lions and giraffes to American alligators and black bears. The zoo also has two playgrounds, a train ride and a carousel ride.
For rainy day fun in South Jersey, the Funplex in Mount Laurel offers several indoor rides and attractions for kids of all ages. They can ride bumper cars and go-karts, play laser tag, go bowling or check out the latest arcade games. It also has a foam ball pit and an interactive 4-D adventure ride ideal for older kids and teens. In West Berlin, spend the day at the indoor water park at Sahara Sam's Oasis. At the center of the indoor area is Tim-Buk-Tu, a multi-level jungle gym with spray features, water slides and climbing platforms. Other attractions include a surfing simulator, winding tube slides, a giant sports pool, a lazy river and a river rafting ride. Sahara Sam's also has cabanas for rent, a family-friendly cafe and an adults-only lounge.
The Wildwoods area of the Jersey Shore has a 5-mile stretch of beach and a famous boardwalk with two piers, roller coasters, carnival rides and three beachfront water parks. Take advantage of the boardwalk Sightseer Tramcars to get around the 2-mile boardwalk, and catch the free music concerts and fireworks shows in the summer. Stop by classic boardwalk shops like Curley's, famous for its thick-cut fries, and the Fudge Factory, where you can sample 60 types of fudge. Another family-friendly vacation spot is Long Beach Island, a narrow, 18-mile barrier island that separates the Atlantic Ocean from Manahawkin Bay. Kid-friendly attractions on this laid-back island include a carnival-style amusement park, a large water park and Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. Enjoy a family ride on the vintage Crystal Queen Paddle Wheeler and sign your older kids up for surfing lessons.