Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kid-Friendly Summer: The Zoo

The zoo is a fantastic summer activity for the whole family. When I was a kid, we lived about 100 miles from the nearest real zoo. I seem to remember going every few years, which means we were only there a handful of times. Now I am fortunate enough to live pretty close to a great zoo, and we try to visit at least once a year.

My husband's company picnic was at the zoo this year, which means that we got free parking and admission, as well as lunch. This made for a very frugal day trip. Even if you don't get in free, though, the zoo can be a pretty inexpensive activity. At our zoo, you can park on the street instead of the pay-to-park lot. We found $2.00 off admission coupons on the zoo brochure at a tourist brochure kiosk. Packing your own lunch (and water!) would be a cost-saving way to go as well. For our trip this year, we paid only for a child's wagon rental (because we were silly and didn't think to bring a stroller) and for a ride on the carousel.

Hippos crack me up. They are so ugly. Truly. And they look so blubbery and clumsy and slow - and then they open their enormous mouths and you realize that they could snap you in half with one bite. Wild animals leave me with the same sense of awe as does the ocean. They are amazing, they are intriguing, they are (sometimes) beautiful (not hippos). But they are wild. I think a respectful and reasonable fear of wild animals is healthy.

At our zoo, there is an enclosed area wherein visitors may hand feed giraffes. The giraffes come right up and eat out of your hand. It's pretty cool. These animals, for as big and fast as they are, are amazingly mild. I don't really know if all giraffes are mild-mannered, or if these zoo inhabitants are unusually so due to their captivity and constant exposure to humans.

My daughter loved the butterfly exhibit. The butterflies are housed in a huge greenhouse full of aromatic plants. There are dozens of varieties of butterflies. As you enter the exhibit, there is a sign that reads, "If a butterfly lands on you, enjoy the moment!" A zoo employee inspects visitors before the visitors leave the exhibit, just to make sure there are no stowaway butterflies attached somewhere.

The carousel provided a nice, shady break from walking on a hot day.
The zoo offers so many interesting things to look at. Like rocks, for instance. I believe this photo was taken at the tiger exhibit. More than any other exhibit, this one made my mother's heart beat a little faster, remembering the tragedy at the San Francisco Zoo last winter.
The flamingo exhibit was the last on our zoo circuit, and the most anticipated by our daughter. Her requests for the day were to see the butterflies (check), the pandas (our zoo doesn't have them), and the flamingos. I was surprised to learn that these flamingos are not native to lush tropical beaches, but to barren Chilean regions ranging from high altitude lakes that drop to temperatures as low as -22 degrees F, to equally barren coastlines. No warm beaches and lush palm trees for these birds. We spent about 2 1/2 hours at the zoo and I would say we saw about 75% of the exhibits. We also had lunch. Renting the wagon was a good move for us as it allowed us to move at an adult's walking pace, not a three-year-old's pace. It also meant that we didn't have to carry all our stuff, and my daughter didn't tire nearly as quickly as she would have if she had been walking the entire time. A word to the wise: If you are seven months pregnant and you decide to visit the zoo on one of the hottest days of the year, be sure to bring plenty of water.

1 comment:

Linda said...

That looks like fun. I always loved the zoo as a kid, heck, I still love it! :0)