Insider's Guide to South Mountain Recreation Complex, West Orange, NJ

South Mountain Recreation Complex
••• South Mountain Recreation Complex. Adina Tovy/Getty Images

There’s no better time to head outside for an adventure right in your own neighborhood! Whether you're in need of good old fashioned family fun, a unique date idea, or an exciting day with friends, look no further than the South Mountain Recreation Complex along Northfield Avenue in West Orange, New Jersey.

The 36-acre facility is bursting with entertaining activities, all within walking distance of each other.

Once you arrive, you’ll discover just how much there is to do, and we guarantee you'll be coming back all season long. Watch monkeys and sloths swing from trees at the Turtle Back Zoo or do some swinging yourself at the Treetop Adventure Park right next door. Peep the information below for details on the attractions on offer at this Essex County treasure.

Turtle Back Zoo

The centerpiece of the complex is the Turtle Back Zoo and since its opening in 1963, it has been a top attraction for North Jersey residents and visitors. Long rated the “number one zoo in New Jersey,” visits now provide even more to explore after recent renovations. The zoo features hundreds of animals from all over the world, including a brand new giraffe habitat. There is a learning center, marine touch tank, and train ride (all included with the price of admission) for curious kids and adults alike. In addition to a myriad of interactive exhibits, there is also a classic carousel, snack carts, and a brand new zoo cafeteria –Savannah Café.

Feed the farm animals and then take a short walk to see the wolves and bears. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot one of the zoo’s resident peacocks taking a stroll along the same path that visitors use. Like the gibbons and penguins, these peacocks are not shy. Stay up-to-date on zoo happenings by checking the online events calendar; you won't want to miss the Holiday Lights event in the winter, or Zoo Camp in the summer.

Admission:
Adults: $14.00
Children (ages 2 to 12): $11.00
Seniors 62+: $11.00
Children 23 months and under: Free
Safari Double Strollers Rental: $7.00

Hours: 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Sunday

Treetop Adventure

The Treetop Adventure offers two adventure ropes courses – one for children and one for adults – as well as a separate zip line. The instructors are uber-professional and always make sure the safety and comfort of patrons come first (because we know you were raising a brow just reading about zip lining). Before ascending either course, a thorough demonstration is given on proper harness wear, helmet wear, and how to hold onto the various apparatus throughout the courses. These courses are certainly a challenge. Leap, balance, crawl, and shimmy from platform to platform through the forest at a height of 35 feet. All ages and skill levels are welcome, and if you find that you’re simply not digging the adventure before completing the course, a guide will come to rappel you down. This one-of-a-kind workout is great for small groups, as each person can encourage each other, and you can all feel a sense of accomplishment. Can you say team-building activity for co-workers, anyone?

Guests can take a trip down the thrilling zip line with or without completing either ropes course. Consult the website for complete information on proper attire and reservations. Word to the wise: be sure to wear athletic sneakers!

Admission:
Adult Course: $28
Junior Course: $18
Zip Line: $13
Adult Course and Zip Line:  $33

Hours: 10 a.m. to dusk – the last reservation is made an hour before sundown. Call 973-731-5800 for current hours (days open vary by season) and to make reservations.

Richard J. Codey Ice Skating Rink

The Richard J. Codey Ice Skating Rink has been a mainstay in West Orange for 58 years! This massive construct features two separate rinks, snack and drink machines, and a small video game area. The rink, famous for having been the practice rink for the New Jersey Devils, provides a nice cool respite from the spring or summer heat.

Free skate sessions last either 90 minutes or two hours and are usually offered twice per day. Check the calendar for the current schedule. Don't fret if you don't own skates: patrons can rent either figure skates or hockey skates for a small fee.

Admission:
Adults - $8    
Child/Senior - $6 (Seniors’ Thursday: $5)
Skate Rentals - $4
(Group Discount for 15 skaters or more: $1.00 off admission and rental)

Hours: See the current calendar for the free skate schedule.

Safari Miniature Golf

Who doesn’t love mini golf? What could be better than this quintessential suburban spring and summer activity? A safari theme adds a new twist to this classic pastime!  Play alongside life-sized elephants and listen to jungle sounds emanate through the bushes as you putt. You’ll almost forget that you’re mere miles from New York City. A range of club sizes are available, including smaller sizes for children.  Make it a real competition if you decide to keep score on your official safari scorekeeping card.

Admission:
Adults: $10
Children: $8

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays, and Sundays

McLoone’s Boathouse

Worked up an appetite after a long day of golfing or skating? Try McLoone’s Boathouse, located right next to Safari Miniature Golf. A short walk across the shared parking lot makes this a most convenient dining option to conclude (or start) your day at the complex. McLoone's is part of a small chain of restaurants run by Tim McLoone, a New Jersey entrepreneur and philanthropist. The restaurant offers American cuisine, perfect for a snack or lunch, as well as a full dinner menu (order up the Lobster Mac and Cheese). For a real treat, try the Sunday brunch, complete with raw bar and omelet and waffle station!

Prices vary; brunch prix fixe price: $34.95 for adults and $14.95 for children ages 3-11

Hours: 11:30 am - 10:00 pm

The Waterfront

The Waterfront comprises a converted reservoir surrounded by a lighted path and flowers local to the area. It has become a popular spot for runners and joggers as well those wishing to take a leisurely stroll around a lovely landmark. If you're feeling adventurous, take a swan boat (a paddle boat in the shape of a large swan) out onto the water; just be ready to use those leg muscles to keep it moving! Visit the covered picnic area or sit in one of the comfortable deck chairs and enjoy some ice cream available for purchase. After sundown, the beautiful reservoir fountains change colors; the perfect backdrop for the 1.7-mile walking path. We know what you'll be Instagramming next. 

Admission: Free

Boat rental: $14 for a 2 person paddle boat and $19 for a 4 person paddle boat  

Refreshments: prices vary

Regatta Playground

This unique playground is a favorite among families of local towns. The kids call it "the Pirate Park" because of playground equipment in the shape of two giant pirate ships within the park as well as other nautical themed apparatus. Kids love pretending to sail the high seas as they climb and slide. Children as young as toddlers can enjoy this park, which also includes music-themed and rock-climbing areas. There are plenty of benches and Adirondack chairs located around the perimeter for adults or anyone wanting to take a snack break.

Admission: Free

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily

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