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Summer isn’t complete without a trip down the shore! While it’s great to spend sunny days building sand castles and playing with the kids in the surf, there are many great educational spots that you should carve out time to visit. Here are a few of my favorites along the South Jersey shore. 

Animal Encounters

Cape May County Park & Zoo / Cape May Courthouse

Stroll through 85 beautifully landscaped acres to view over 500 animals at the Cape May County Zoo. Be sure to check out the awe-inspiring snow leopards and the comedic antics of the river otters – they always bring a smile to my face! Admission and parking are free! www.capemaycountynj.gov

Cape May Bird Observatory / Cape May Point

This observatory was founded in 1976 by the New Jersey Audubon with the goal of connecting people with nature while being a leader in research and environmental education. Bring your binoculars to catch a glimpse of the native wildlife in this preserved habitat. This a great place to view both the spring and fall migrations of songbirds, raptors and the beloved monarch butterfly. Be sure to bring water to keep hydrated while you are bird watching. www.njaudubon.org

Wetlands Institute / Stone Harbor

This wonderful nature center is kid focused and has a variety of events each week as well as week-long summer programs. Learn about a variety of sea creatures including crabs and turtles, wade in the bay and investigate life under the sea, and view local wildlife feedings.  They have a breadth of summer happenings you don’t want to miss. www.wetlandsinstitute.org

Historic Adventures

Historic Cold Spring Village / Cape May

Step back in time with a visit to this living history village. The museum boasts a variety of 18th & 19th century buildings and demonstrations including a blacksmith, book bindery, basket weaver, potter and many more. www.hscv.org

Harriet Tubman Museum / Cape May

This museum celebrates and honors the courageous acts of Harriet Tubman and “her missions to guide enslaved people to freedom“. The museum also “highlights the pivotal role Cape May played in the fight for freedom”. www.harriettubmanmuseum.org

NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum / Cape May

This restored 1940’s aircraft hangar is home to a variety of aircraft and hands-on educational exhibits. The whole family will learn about the history of aviation and World War II. www.usnasw.org

Architectural Artifacts

Lucy the Elephant / Margate

This whimsical building is in the shape of an elephant! It was built in 1881 as a tourist attraction and was even a home for a brief time. This architectural treasure is fun for all ages to explore so be sure to include a tour on your itinerary. www.lucytheelephant.org

Doo Wop Preservation League Museum / Wildwood

“Brimming with cool artifacts, fun memories, fascinating history and bright neon lights, the all-new Doo Wop Experience and Neon Sign Garden is a celebration of architecture, design, music, pop culture and everything else that made Wildwood famous in its heyday of the 1950s and 1960s.“ www.doowopusa.org

World War II Lookout Tower / Cape May

Tour the last remaining free-standing WWII lookout tower in NJ as you learn about the defense system that was put in place during the 1940’s. You will have a stunning view of the surrounding area from the top of the tower. www.capemaymac.org

Cape May Point Lighthouse / Cape May Point

Climb the original spiral stairs and learn about the history of the 157-foot-high lighthouse and the day-to-day life of the keepers who cared for it. This lighthouse is currently active so if you are there near sunset you’ll also be able to catch a glimpse of its bright light! www.capemaymac.org

These are just a few of the many great spots to explore this summer. Share your favorite educational beach spots with us in the comments below.

Keep going! Keep growing!