Zoo Camps

Zoo Camps

Join us at Turtle Back Zoo for some wild fun!

The mission of Turtle Back Zoo camp is to foster an appreciation for wildlife and the natural world through fun and educational activities.

To further our mission of conservation, education, and stewardship, campers will be introduced to the extraordinary world of animals, nature, and science.  Children will enjoy age appropriate camp activities that include games, teacher-led lessons, behind-the-scenes visits, up-close animal encounters, hands-on science projects, and fun crafts.  Join us for a week during the summer or on a school holiday during the school year.

During the summer, we offer week long summer camps for children entering Kindergarten and grades 1-8.  Camp is 9am to 4pm, with extended care options available.  Camp fees are $450 to $475 per person per week.  We also offer mini-camps throughout the school year on days that coincide with many of the major school holidays.  Available for ages 5 to 10, our mini-camp days are from 9am to 4pm (no extended care option).  Mini-camps are $90 per person per day.  We provide a fresh fruit or veggie snack for all camp sessions; campers bring their own lunches or additional snacks.  We do our best to host a tree nut-free environment for our campers.

Summer Camp 2020 at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo

To Register for In-Person Camp:  Click Here

Age Groups and Camp Themes

• Age 5 & Entering K: Zoo Tales
Stories from the book series “Over in the…” inspire learning about animals and our world.

• 1st and 2nd grades: Wild Colors
Focuses on colors and how they help animals adapt to their environments.

• 3rd and 4th grades: Wild Appetites
How and what do animals eat? Herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, decomposers, consumers and producers will all have a place at the table.

• 5th and 6th grades: Junior Conservationists
Explore the world and learn how animals are protected and conserved locally and globally.

• 7th and 8th grades: Zoo Crew
Learn all about being a zookeeper from feeding the animals to creating enrichment, to building habitats.

Curriculum is repeated throughout the summer. Weeks 1 through 9 are for campers ages 5 and entering K through rising 8th grade; week 10 is only for ages 5-10. Before and After extended care is available for weeks 1-9 only with limited availability.

Week 1: June 29 – July 3 (Canceled due to COVID-19)
Week 2: July 6 – July 10
Week 3: July 13 – July 17
Week 4: July 20 – July 24
Week 5: July 27 – July 31
Week 6: August 3 – August 7
Week 7: August 10 – August 14
Week 8: August 17 – August 21
Week 9: August 24 – August 28
Week 10: August 31 – September 4 (Wild Colors and Wild Appetites curricula only)


COVID-19 Summer Camp Update

We have received directives from the Essex County Parks Department, Essex County Health Department, and State of NJ regarding the safe implementation of our Summer Camp Program during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  We are working hard to create a safe summer camp experience and will be implementing many policies to safeguard campers and staff.  There may be further changes as the situation evolves in this region.  Measures include, but are not limited to (or may be discontinued under guidance):

  • The first week of camp is not available since summer camps can’t open until July 6; the rest of the camp weeks are currently unchanged
  • You can receive a full refund if you cancel at least 2 weeks before the start of your registered camp week (our normal cancelation policy is 3 weeks)
  • The larger camp age groups will have their capacities decreased
  • Temperature checks will be required of staff and campers before reporting to work/camp
  • There will be health care staff to check temperatures
  • Camp will have its own dedicated custodial staff to sanitize camp spaces and bathrooms multiple times a day
  • The HVAC system in our building will be serviced before and during camp to ensure fresh air intake and proper function
  • A regular schedule of handwashing will be maintained
  • Many of the items that would normally be available for touching will be limited (stuffed animals, biofacts, etc.)
  • Parents/chaperones will not be permitted in the camp classrooms
  • Drop-off and pick-up procedures will be modified to reduce mixing of camp groups
  • The water fountain that is used for camp will be for filling bottles only (no drinking from the fountain)
  • Suspected COVID-19 cases will be separated and sent home (campers and staff)
  • Mixing of camp groups will be limited; mixing of camp groups with zoo visitors will be as limited as possible
  • Masks will be worn by staff and campers while outside in the zoo with the public
    • The state encourages everyone to wear masks at all times; we understand that may not be possible for some campers
  • Camp will be outside more than usual; the zoo has allocated dedicated outdoor, covered spaces for us (the Party Gazebo and Education Patio)
    • Please keep this in mind should you register your child for camp; we will always have indoor spaces available for campers, but we will definitely be spending more time outside

To Register for In-Person Camp:  Click Here



Virtual Summer Camp!

That’s right!  In light of the health concerns expressed by some of our camp families, we’ve decided to offer a Turtle Back Zoo Virtual Camp (TBZVC) for a few weeks this summer so that you can still bring a little bit of the zoo home to your kiddoes.  Please see below for the virtual camp schedule.  We’ll still do some fun animal-themed games, go for zoo tours, and sit-in on a private animal presentation, just like in regular camp.  Plus, we’ll have a few special activities up our sleeves as well.  Email mhunt@parks.essexcountynj.org for more information.

TBZVC Details

  • TBZVC is for campers ages 5 to 10
    • Digital Ducklings, ages 5 and 6; Theme: Colors and Patterns; $70 per session
    • Virtual Vultures, ages 7 to 10; Theme: Habitats and Behaviors; $110 per session
  • Groups will be limited to 10 campers
  • Session 1: week of July 13; Session 2:  week of July 20
    • curriculum is repeated from session 1 to session 2
  • There will be activities each day of the week, both live and posted interactive (with a counselor) activities
  • TBZVC camp will be held on the Webex virtual platform
  • Campers and their families will be invited to join our virtual camper only Facebook and Google Classroom to access camp resources and additional activities
  • Required supplies will be minimal and easily obtainable
  • Full refund for cancellation if requested at least one week prior to the beginning of the registered camp session


Register Here:  Virtual Camp Registration


TBZVC Session Schedule




General Camp Information for All Camp Sessions (in person)

  • Camp hours are 9am to 4pm
    • Limited availability extended care sessions are available during summer camp weeks 1-9 only:  Before-care is drop-off no earlier than 8am; After-care is pick-up no later than 5pm
  • Drop-off and pick-up are at the Berson Education Center, located on the east side of the zoo complex (there’s a large giraffe statue in front of the building) unless you are directed to a different location in advance; transportation to and from the zoo is not provided
  • All campers must be signed-in and -out by the accompanying parent/chaperone; adults must present a valid photo ID to sign-out
  • Campers must bring their own lunches; major allergen-free foods are very appreciated
  • Campers must be dressed to go outside; camp is rain, or shine, or snow, or cold
  • Please label any medications; check-in medications with the counselors
  • If there is a major weather event, you will be notified via an email from CampDoc if there is a delay or cancellation
  • General daily schedule; varies per camper’s age group, animal availability, weather, etc.
    • check-in
    • discovery activity/game
    • lesson
    • snack
    • zoo visit
    • lunch
    • animal presentation
    • lesson
    • zoo visit
    • craft/scientific experiment/take home activity/game

Please Note

*New Jersey is considered a “no touch” animal state. Campers will see a variety of animals up close, but contact is limited to only domestic species, touch tank, aviary, butterflies, and giraffe feeds.

General Registration Information

*Please note, some sessions may already have sold out. You can sign up for the wait list through the registration link above.

Don’t have a CampDoc account yet? Read below to learn more about our new online registration system.

Payment must be made in full at the time of registration through CampDoc.com in order to secure your child’s place in camp.  Camp tuition for single day camps is $90/camper.  Summer camp tuition is $450 for ages 5 through grade 6; $475 for campers entering grades 7 and 8.

Cancellation/Refund Policy
For mini-camps, cancellations with full refunds will only be accepted up to two weeks before the first day of your registered camp session.  Cancellations made within two weeks of the first day of your registered camp session are not guaranteed any refund.

For full-week summer camps, cancellations with full refunds will only be accepted up to three weeks before the first day of your registered camp session. Cancellations made within three weeks of the first day of your registered camp session are not guaranteed any refund. Cancellation requests can be submitted via your CampDoc.com account or emailed to mhunt@parks.essexcountynj.orgFor Summer Camp 2020, the cancellation policy for in-person camp has changed to 2 weeks until further notice.



We have a new system to register for zoo camps. All registration and forms can now be filled out online!

The first step is creating an account through the camp registration link found under the camp you want.

Have more than one child? All the information is kept under one account. Just add a new participant and enter in the information.

We know you might have questions with this new system, so feel free to reach out to us at #973-731-5800 (ex 103, 230, 275, or 236) or use some of the resources below to help answer some of your questions on the new system.

CampDoc has an extensive support page that you can access by clicking the Lifesaver Icon located in the top right corner. Here you will find many helpful documents that can help you use CampDoc to its full potential!

Here is a direct link to the support documents: https://support.docnetwork.org/hc/en-us/categories/115000363510-Participants.
If at any time you have questions that may not be in our support pages, you can contact our Help Desk at 734.636.1000 or you can email them at help@campdoc.com.[/minti_box]

Turtle Back Zoo

The Essex County Turtle Back Zoo will re-open to the public on Thursday, June 18th with Timed Tickets Only. Learn more and Reserve