Friday, August 17, 2012

Off to the Zoo!

One of the things on our Summer Bucket List was a trip to our local zoo. It's small, but it's just enough for the twins to handle -- sometimes I think when you attempt bigger trips/plans they fail because it's just too much for little ones. But my state's only zoo is less than 45 minutes away, and, even better, I got in for free!

Pawprints! Or "Blue's Clues?"
Our local public library offers passes to certain area attractions where you get a discount on admission, or in this case, get in for free. The zoo pass is such a great deal -- and a popular pass -- because it lets in two adults and up to four children in without paying admission. You have to reserve the pass, which I did, and pick it up and return it on the day you use it. I figured out that the library pass saved me $32 in admission; if the babies were over 3 years old, it would have saved me $52!!

So off we went -- with me OVERJOYED that admission was free! I packed a lunch so we didn't have to worry about trying to get food at lunchtime in the zoo's cafe and/or pay for it as well. My mom came along for our adventure as well.

Galapagos tortoise
The first animal we encountered was a Galapagos tortoise. They were on loan for the summer from a Texas zoo and they were fascinating! They were massively huge -- so incredibly large! And apparently incredibly old. The two in the exhibit are 70 and 90 years young. The 90-year-old one was "playing" with a ball and making these loud, loud noises. I never knew a "turtle" could be so loud! And yes, they were not only tortoises but turtles -- not all turtles are tortoises, I learned. Tortoises are turtles that have adapted to living on land. Instead of webbed feet, they have toenails to dig. It was all so fascinating. I could have watched them for a while -- they were very active and so close to the fence.

Beautiful flowers!
We have been to this zoo twice since Big Girl was born. Since our last visit, when Big Girl was around 5 years old, there have been many positive changes. I was pleased to see that the park seemed very clean, with beautiful plantings. (Y'know, every since I've been to Disney World, I have high standards for any "attraction" we visit... I was pleasantly surprised with the zoo this year.)

They have added several nice new viewing area-style buildings, including one in the wolf exhibit.

Wolf Observation Center... Timber wolves are on one side; red wolves on the other.
They also have a random assortment of animals from both near and far, including white-tailed deer, llamas, bison, prairie dogs and others. However, the one we were looking forward to seeing was the beautiful Siberian tiger.

Tiger, tiger...
There are a few tigers here, and they are attempting to breed some babies. They are just so beautiful, with their bright, graphic fur coats. They are just impressively big. Below, Big Girl tries to measure up, but I think the lion's size is more her speed. Too bad we didn't see the King of the Jungle today.

Tall girl, but not tall as a tiger!
After seeing the tigers, we headed into "Alligator Alley." From what I can remember, this whole exhibit seems redone, and it's much better. Clear windows make it easier to see everything instead of cage enclosures. The alligators were fun to watch..

Twins watch the gators.
There is really only one indoor display building, a Rainforest exhibit with a few monkeys, birds, caiman, ocelot and vampire bats, among other small creatures. There are no strollers allowed in this building, which means the twins had some freedom!

Toucan! So colorful!
The twins behaved quite well, except for one tantrum moment when they didn't want to turn around to head back out the door. But they didn't mind getting in that stroller again, which was a relief. It's so much easier to have them "ride" -- we can move faster, they can have a snack in their tray, and they don't run in two different directions!

Sweet little girl.
The zoo also has an indoor carousel. We all went for a spin, but it wasn't very successful! The twins had never been on a merry-go-round. Bunny Twin got upset, as I expected she might, but her brother -- who likes fun things -- suddenly got upset because she was upset. My mom and I sat on a seat for the ride instead of putting them on the animals. Big Girl rode a zebra, however. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a picture because it was hard to handle the babies and the camera! The bonus was it wasn't too expensive: Carousel rides were half-price on the day we visited and adults ride free with a young child, so the ride only cost $3 for all five of us, and my Mom generously footed the bill.

Veggie garden outside the zoo's cafe.
I love the bamboo teepees for the tomatoes.
So happy to see when restaurants grow veggies outside their doors.
We ate our picnic lunch at one of the many, many outdoor tables in the picnic grove. I was glad to pack a lunch, not only because it's cheaper but because it's faster -- the line for food at the cafe was very long and I overheard people complaining about it taking so long. The zoo was busy! There was a small outdoor stand with ice cream treats, so Grammy treated the kids to a cool snack after lunch.

The zoo has a lot of wandering peacocks, including several near the picnic grove. This one was very friendly:

Our lunch companion.
Have you ever seen a white peacock? I haven't.

Big cow!!
Before heading home, we stopped in the gift shop to check out the souvenirs. Big Girl had her heart set on finding Buddy Twin a stuffed tiger. But I ended up getting them each a small stuffed animal -- a downside to my "free day" budget, but since the day was free it was the only out-of-pocket cost I had except for the gas to drive to the zoo. Also, the library pass was a "zoo member" pass, which allows you a 10 percent discount at the gift shop!

It was a fun day, and I was glad to get all three kids out for a simple day trip before school starts in a few weeks.

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