Van Saun Park in Paramus has been a family friendly day trip destination for decades. There is a lot to do and a day spent in the park won't bust your budget.
In fact, the Bergen County Zoo is free until May. Many of the animals on a recent visit were already out on display for the season. Admission for Bergen County residents (from May through October) costs $4 for adults, $2 for kids age three to 14 and kids under three are free. You can get the most bang for your buck during July and August when the zoo opens its amphitheater and presents daily animal shows.
Zoo Camp is a hidden gem in Bergen County. Eligible campers must live in Bergen County or be zoo members -- there is a lottery system in place since spots are limited. Applications must be received by March 1 for inclusion in the annual lottery.
Kids from age five through 15 can attend the camp from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday on the week of their choosing for $150. Kids are separated by age level -- younger kids tour the zoo and meet animals in a classroom setting while kids age 12 to 15 are considered junior zookeepers and are able to enter the animal enclosures and help with their care.
Do your kids love pony rides? Van Saun has you covered. The rides are offered from April through October. In fact, Indian Hills Farm is returning to the park this summer to run its popular pony camp. The camp is open to kids age five through 13 and costs $375 per week. Camp runs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and includes riding instruction for students from beginners to advanced riders as well as instruction on grooming and tacking the ponies. Camp opens the last week of June and runs through the final week of August.
The Van Saun train is a perennial favorite -- rides cost $1.50 and the train is open six days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Train is closed Mondays. The carousel is also very popular -- rides are also $1.50 and it is generally closed Tuesday mornings.
A family bike ride or walk is easily accomplished on the 1.5 mile train that winds through the park. Kids will enjoy the many playgrounds at the park which include an ADA playground for children with special needs.
Looking for a bit of history? Look no further than Washington Spring located in the center of the park. It's part of the retreat of Gen. Washington's army during the Revolutionary War.
Feeling sporty? The park offers a tennis center as well as soccer, baseball and softball fields which can be accessed by obtaining a permit. Getting hungry from all that activity? Simply obtain a permit to use one of the picnic areas that include electrical hook-ups as well as grills. There are many other free picnic areas for simple family meals that won't require grilling.
Do you have a fishing license? Bring your rod and reel to the park and see what you might be able to hook on your line.
In the winter months, Van Saun is also known as a fantastic sledding destination with several hills to choose from -- smaller ones for the little guys and more steep runs for the bigger kids.
The park is located at 216 Forest Avenue in Paramus -- click here for a full map of the park so you can begin your family adventure.