Family Nature Club

Join us to play and learn with

TBZ’s very own Family Nature Club!


 Family Nature Club (FNC) is about discovering our world: it’s about playing WITH nature, not just IN nature.  Experience the sounds, smells, and sights of the outdoors with FNC as we explore our natural heritage within Essex County’s parks.

FNC Nature Adventurers is a hiking program where we explore our local ecosystems, from rivers to forests and more.  We strive to foster discovery of NJ’s fascinating biodiverse wildlife and the roles that they fill within our local ecosystems, no matter how big or small!  Most programs have a discovery theme, but in the spirit of nature, anything can happen!

FNC Nature Guardians is focused on community engagement by connecting families with local conservation actions and citizen science research, shaping our understanding of the natural world.  This evolving program began as we created a garden to provide habitat for our VIP’s: Very Important Pollinators!  Filled with native plants, these plants will create important habitat for at-risk populations of insects, including bees from our horticulture beehive, Monarch butterflies, moths, and so many more that rely on our local flora.

See below for more details about Family Nature Club and what it’s all about.  Family Nature Club does not include zoo admission.  Family Nature Club does not always meet at TBZ; you will receive detailed instructions if we plan to not meet at the zoo.

2022 Dates and Themes!

To Register for Nature Guardians Programs:  Click Here

Type “FNC” in the search text to find our events.

2022 Dates and Themes!

Nature Guardians All About Fireflies: Sunday, July 10, 1-3pm, recommended for ages 6+

What do you call them: fireflies or lightning bugs?  Just in time for summer, join us for a citizen science initiative to learn about our favorite bioluminescent residents and how you can participate in a scientific study!  This program is hosted at our Berson Education Center and will include an educational presentation, activities, crafts, and more.


To Register for Nature Adventurer Programs:  Click Here

Turtle Trek: Sunday, June 26, @9-11am, recommended for ages 6+

Join us to discover our zoo’s namesake: turtles!  Together, we’ll explore the woods in search of our favorite shelly residents and how we can protect them.  Recommended to bring/wear sneakers or hiking boots (waterproof recommended to explore the streams), jeans/comfortable attire with tall socks (to protect from poison ivy and ticks), reusable water bottle(s), bug spray, sunscreen, and other weather appropriate gear.  Meets at Tulip Springs: 64 Cherry Lane, West Orange NJ 07052.


Pollinator Parade: Sunday, July 24, 9-11am, recommended for ages 6+

Pollinators! We know them, we love them; those amazing, butterflies, bees, beetles, and…bats?  Yes, we said bats!  Join us to discover how to protect our VIP’s (Very Important Pollinators) who are responsible for the food on our table, the flowers in our meadows, and the trees blossoming in our woods and backyards.   Meets at the South Mountain Dog Park statue on Bear Lane, Maplewood NJ 07040.


Invasive Species: Oh My! Sunday, August 7, 9-11am, recommended for ages 6+

Invasive species: many of us have heard about the Spotted Lanternfly (see them, squish them), but what other invasive species are nearby?  How did they all get here?  What does it mean to be invasive?  Join us for a FNC hike to discover NJ’s invasive species and what steps we can take to reduce the risk of current and future threats.  Meets at the Waterfront at the South Mountain Recreation Complex, across the parking lot from Turtle Back Zoo’s main entrance.


History Hike: Sunday, August 21, 9-11am, recommended for ages 6+

Did you know the South Mountain Reservation was formed in 1895?  Join us as we hike through the South Mountain Reservation and explore Essex County’s natural history and one of its famous landmarks: Turtle Back Rock.  Meets at Turtle Back Rock Picnic Area: 142 Walker Road, West Orange NJ 07052.


Frequently Asked Questions…


What is Nature Play? Nature play is playing WITH nature, not just IN nature, and is a great way to interact with nature no matter your experience level or play style. Run, climb, build, dig, or even just sit and experience the sounds, smells, and sights of the outdoors.

Family Nature Club is a great activity for your family. Please register each person in your family group.

Covid-19 Health and Safety: Everyone will be outside, social distancing and face coverings are optional.

Family Nature Club does not include zoo admission. You can purchase zoo admission separately at if you’d like to attend the zoo earlier in the day. The zoo will be closed by the time the FNC program has concluded for the day.

Family Nature Club backpacks, filled with nature play goodies, are available for purchase on the day of your event ($10 cash only). Please email your interest in purchasing a backpack to before the event. See below for more details about the backpacks.

Who Should Come
Nature Adventurers is for all ages and all abilities, though best recommended for 6+. There’s something for everybody- teens and adults are invited and encouraged to join in the fun, not just little ones! If you have accessibility concerns, please contact your Nature Play Leader, Katie Fenyar at who will work with you to accommodate.

What to Bring
• Close-toed shoes and long pants (recommended for playing in tall grasses and the woods)
• Reusable water bottle*
• Sunscreen, bug spray, raincoat, poncho, or other seasonal or weather gear
• Epi-pens, inhalers, or any other necessary medications for anyone in your family
• A camera to capture the memories
• Your imagination and eagerness to have fun!

What Not to Bring
• Anything you don’t want to get dirty, wet, broken, or lost
• Electronic devices you might get glued to (phones are ok if you’re just taking pictures). We will be ‘unplugging’ and do not want the electronics to become a distraction.
• Grumpy attitude!

*NEW! Nature Adventurers Backpacks
We now have drawstring, water-resistant backpacks available with your own starter kit of adventuring supplies to take home! These are not required but recommended if you intend to come often or go on your own adventures outside of our meetups (or both!). Inside you’ll find:
• a reusable water bottle
• a telescoping net
• a blank nature journal
• colored pencils and sharpener
• a laminated copy of the Nature Adventurers Handbook
• a guide for Nature Play Resources that we recommend including books, websites, and apps
• a water-resistant pencil case
• 3 animal print adhesive bandages
• a small bug jar with a magnifying lid
• 2 Nature Adventurers stickers
• paracord

These are while supplies last. We have them in the following color themes: Magenta, Red, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Lime Green/Black, Forest Green, Teal/Bright Orange, Light Blue, Royal Blue. When purchasing a ticket with a backpack, please indicate what color(s) you would like. If you do not select a color or we run out of that color, we will select one for you.

Cancellation with refund may be made up to 7 days before the originally scheduled date and time; no refunds will be offered less than 7 days prior to the originally scheduled tour date and time. Cancellations may be made by email:

  • Date June 6, 2022
  • Tags Animals, Conservation, Education, Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, Family Event, Family Play, Nature, Science

Turtle Back Zoo

Zoo Open Daily 10am to 4pm | The Zoo will Close early Saturday, July 9th. Last Admission 2pm.