Friday, March 23, 2012

I love the Zoo

Can't really tell but they are riding the lion at the entrance.

Pumpkin patch at the Fall Festival at the zoo.

For the past two years Marian has been given the Maryland Zoo family plus pass from my mom and grandparents for her birthday/Christmas present.  It is a wonderful present!  We used the pass about 15 times the first year we had it and this year we've already used the pass 5 times since January.  It's my favorite place to roam on a nice spring day, especially week days when there are so few people there.  It's a bit early in the field trip schedules so its even school group free at the moment!

Lying down with the cheetah is normal right?
My sister-in-law, Susan, got me hooked on the idea when she used to get memberships to the Chicago Aquarium and Brookfield Zoo when her kids were our kids age and take them almost weekly.  I've always wanted to do it with our kids because I saw the benefit with my niece and nephews.  Her kids didn't need a curriculum to introduce them to science, they learned it through experiencing God's creation.  Marian and Sofia have gained so much knowledge about God's creation through "meeting" the animals at the zoo.  They also have come to love reading fiction books about animals.

Since I love the zoo so much I figured I'd let people know why, because just about everyone I've met at the zoo asks me if a membership is really worth it as well as some facts that are nice to know when planning a visit, in this case to the Maryland Zoo. 

Why I love Maryland Zoo Pass:
Animal Encounter with a boa constrictor.
  • A tram ride each visit- my girls love it!
  • Completely preschool friendly with lots of climbing, hands on activities, and common animals.
  • Birds nests for the kids to climb in
  • Brushes to do something more than pet the goats
  • Saddles to sit on in the barn
  • The animal encounter areas allow the girls to interact with animals in a much closer environment than behind a glass cage, many times its just them and the keeper.  I've been really happy with how many of the zoo keepers and educators make an effort to tailor their teaching to the kids.
  • We can go as frequently as we want so I don't ever feel rushed, if the girls want to watch penguins for 40 minutes that's fine.
  • We choose to not put Mark's name on the pass yet, we can just put guest which allows two guests instead of one with the Family Plus Membership.  I always try to use those guest spots even if its just asking someone outside if they want to get in for free. 
  • Free zoo events (I don't do the ones that cost money) are a fun
Brushing the goats.

Information as you plan to go beyond the basics from the website:

In order to get to the animals, you have to either take a 1/2 mi walk or ride a tram.  Having a plan on whether or not you want your kid to ride in the stroller on the tram or not is helpful.  My 3 year old has gotten great at sitting in the seat, I don't trust my 2 year old in her own seat without me holding her.
Food- available near the barn area, but the food stand in the African Journey does not seem to be open during the week on a consistent basis.  I have bought food twice at the main food area which has been high quality and real meat (not pressed chicken fingers or something gross like that).  It has all the basics, costing about $6-$7 for a lunch.  I typically bring my lunch. 
Eating areas- There are many benches to enjoy a meal near the animals.  Our favorite is to eat lunch with the elephants.  The main eating area near the barn has a covered heated area, I'm not sure if its air conditioned. 
Riding the little red train as a special treat since Daddy was with us.

Extra activities- There are a many extra things to enjoy, however, many of them cost money beyond the cost of a ticket.  Example activities are the train, carousel, other amusement park type rides, and giraffe feeding.  We have ridden the train and it was fun, however, you don't see a plethora of animals (some sitatungua, chimpanzees, and a lemur). 

Bathrooms- With a potty training kid and being pregnant I haven't found them super convenient, in particular in the Maryland wildlife part of the zoo.  The African Journey area has 3 bathrooms.  They have recently redone one of the bathrooms that was quite nasty in the African Journey area.  The ones near food stands have sinks outside to wash hands which is great. 

Parking- Be ready to off road. I have yet to park in a paved parking area.

If you have questions feel free to post. 
Does anyone have any hints for how they make little field trips smoothly or a favorite place to go?

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