Call of the Wild

Feeling a bit caged-in by your surroundings? Explore New Jersey's great outdoors and learn about the state's wildlife and natural resources.

Meadowlands Environment Center Class is always in session at the information-rich Meadowlands Environment Center in Lyndhurst.

GO FOR: After checking out the center's interactive exhibits that tell how the Meadowlands' roughly 8,400 acres have changed over the years, head out to the grounds for bird watching or hike a trail around the wetlands.

STAY FOR: In the evening, spend an hour or two under the stars. The William D. McDowell Observatory conducts public viewing nights on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8pm and 9pm, weather permitting.

Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center: If bait and hooks make you queasy, then Hackettstown is the friendlier way to fish.

GO FOR: Take a self-guided tour around the Pequest Trout Hatchery and learn how the facility stocks New Jersey's waters each year for the fishing community. You'll be able to see where the trout are raised, check out a live fish exhibit and more.

STAY FOR: Pack a picnic lunch and explore the grounds or bring the kids and participate in one of the facility's fun-filled group programs.

Trailside Nature Science CenterLocated on the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside, the Trailside Nature Science Center is but a small part of the reservation's more than 1,800 acres.

GO FOR: Trailside's visitor center boasts interactive exhibits, crafts and educational programs for adults and children alike plus the state's first natural history museum.

STAY FOR: Stick around and discover the rest of the Watchung Reservation. Whether you do it by foot or on horseback, the numerous trails offer sites such as deserted villages, old cemeteries and spots where you may just catch an up-close glimpse of the area's wildlife, including the unique piebald deer, a genetic pigment deficiency similar to being an albine.

James A. McFaul Wildlife Center: The James A. McFaul Wildlife Center in Wyckoff is a great place to see the Garden State in all its glory.

GO FOR: An indoor exhibit includes reptiles, amphibians and aquariums. The facility shows free movies every Tuesday.

STAY FOR: Among its many offerings, the 81 acres showcase Daffodil Hill (which true to its name, is covered in daffodils) along with ornamental grasses and an herb garden. The center's exhibit hall overlooks a waterfowl pond and during the warmer months, a butterfly/hummingbird garden buzzes with activity.

New Jersey Audubon Society: A nonprofit, statewide organization, the New Jersey Audubon Society promotes conservation of the area's natural resources and land. Some of the organization's locations are open to the public. Each year the society hosts the World Series of Birding in Cape May. Teams of bird watchers are challenged to count as many species as possible during a 24-hour period. The society also operates the Cape May Bird Observatory in Cape May Point.

GO FOR: Photography buffs and bird watchers will particularly enjoy Bernardsville's Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, the headquarters of the New Jersey Audubon Society. Yearly, the grounds play host to more than 200 species of wildlife.

STAY FOR: Are you constantly encouraging friends to recycle? Or maybe you pick up litter wherever you might see it? Either way, if environmental preservation is your passion, be part of the solution as an Audubon Society volunteer! Look here for a listing of volunteering opportunities near you.