Organizing a trip to the zoo is one of the great experiences of childhood – and adulthood, don’t forget. It can be a great field trip for kids, one that can make even the most video-game-addled child discover the joys of seeing the strangest, wonderful and inspiring things on earth: the animals of the world. With just a little bit of planning, you can make just one single day a memory that any child jump up and down like a kangaroo on a pogo stick.
But where to go? And how can you make it as enjoyable as possible? It’s not difficult.
Just about every major city in the world has an official zoo, affiliated with a zoological society. If you’re within a few hours’ drive of some zoo like the Bronx Zoo (New York City), Wellington Zoo (New Zealand), Toronto, the Australia Zoo, Yokahama, Berlin, Philadelphia, the National Zoo (Washington, DC), San Diego (California) or dozens and dozens of other zoos affiliated with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, don’t pass up the opportunity to go there. Oh, that reminds us…
Fish are animals, too. If you live near or are visiting a coastal city, don’t neglect to go to an aquarium. Three-quarters of the earth is ocean, and the animals that live there can be seen in these wet zoos. From sharks to dolphins, benthic (deep-sea) fish to ooky, slimy, weird and wonderful never-seen-before fish, a visit to an aquarium can be a wonderful experience.
Drive-Through Animal Parks
Sometimes, driving along a highway from one place to another on vacation, you’ll see a sign for a drive-through zoo. It might be a safari-like operation in South Africa or a bear park in Montana. Usually they’re reasonably priced, but they give good value for the money. Just remember to keep the windows rolled up!
Sometimes what makes the greatest impression on a child is not an exotic animal, such as a leopard or a grizzly bear. What about a few sheep or a turkey? Even chickens running around a yard can be great fun! Look for a farm-zoo in your area. Often, they’ll have corn or milk bottles for sale, so the kids can feed the animals. Keep your eye on the goats!
Pack for a Long Day
Zoos can be a long slog for the family, particularly when younger children are along. The distance from the snake pavilion to the camel compound and then back again to see the monkeys can easily add up to a mile or more. Make sure the kids have hats, sunscreen and lots and lots of water (not soda drinks). Take frequent rests; use the time to talk about the animals you’ve seen and the ones you’re going to visit. Pace yourself during the trip and it will make the difference between a fun trip and cranky children who need a nap.
Gone to the zoo? Been there, done that. Not so fast! Take the kids to the public library and check out some books on animals. Give them sketchbooks and crayons and have them draw their favorite animals. Talk to them about animals, and how humans interact with wildlife (and farm animals). Perhaps gently disabuse them from the cartoonish depiction of animals in movies: No, they don’t talk and they don’t practice “kung-fu” for goodness sake. But, they are beautiful and they can also be seen in the wild, all over the world. The same Sandhill crane your child sees in a zoo can also be seen flying over Lake Superior.
Yes, let’s go to the zoo! Let’s celebrate the wonderful world of animals!