December 4 2008 by Karla Henriquez
"Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo." - Paul Simon
A few years ago, while in Orlando for a conference, I decided to check out Disney's Animal Kingdom. I hadn't been to a zoo since I was a kid and was a little worried the experience wouldn't be as wonderful for the adult me as it had always been for the child me. As it turns out, there was no need to worry - I spent at least thirty minutes just watching the hippos leap and twirl underwater and found out that the zoo is delightful no matter how old you are.
For those with children, visiting the zoo is especially exciting because children seem to be naturally drawn to animals! My 9-month old daughter kicks her feet and squeals when she passes a dog on the street, laughs aloud at pictures of lions, and can't get enough of her Wild Animal Baby magazines. For kids, a trip to the zoo is equivalent to you having front-row tickets to your favorite band's concert - it's their chance to see the pictures they've been looking at for so long come alive!
However, going to the zoo can seem like a great undertaking. Here are my tips for a successful visit:
- Visit the park's website before you go. Check the hours and see if there are extra charges to visit areas you might be interested in. Find out if there's a capacity limit, and if so, what time that is usually reached. If you are a member of another zoo, check to see if there's an affiliation that will allow you to save on the price of admission. Find out where to park or how to get there on public transportation. If possible, buy your tickets online.
- Before you leave to the zoo, check the weather. If you're prepared for rain or snow, you can still enjoy your visit, even in inclement weather, because the animals may be more active and it will be less crowded.
- Pack sunscreen, dress appropriately for the weather, and wear comfortable shoes. If it's raining, take a poncho as many zoos have banned umbrellas.
- Take binoculars and a camera.
- If you're with a group, discuss a meeting-place in case you get separated.
- Don't rush through the exhibits - watch and enjoy the animals!
- Plan to catch a show or a feeding. These experiences always prove to be both educational and entertaining.
- If you're with children, engage them by asking questions and pointing out your observations. You might be surprised by how much they know and want to learn.
- Take breaks. Sit back, eat a snack, have a drink, and watch the people at the zoo.
If you're lucky enough to live near a zoo, you can have a great time getting to know the animals at your local park. If not, try visiting a zoo or aquarium on your next trip out of town. To find a park, visit the Association for Zoos and Aquariums' website, where you can look up accredited zoos by state or country (although the list of countries is short).