Wednesday, May 27, 2009
"New" Zoo Review
I have discovered over the years that perhaps the best way to keep things happy at home is to leave your abode. Pack a lunch, load up the minivan, and take a day trip. Don’t forget the kids! I always find it quite refreshing to have a day outdoors away from all of the screens that have taken over our lives.
I love the way that the true Minnesotans refer to this zoo as the “New Zoo” although it must be nearly 30 years old as opposed to the aging Como Park Zoo in St. Paul. Our last visit to the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley was four years ago. After our visit this weekend, I’m asking myself why I haven’t returned sooner. My rule of thumb for any large attraction is arrive before noon to beat the crowds. It also helped that it was a cloudy and a bit blustery day. Our longest line of the day was the ticket line to get into the zoo. It made us contemplate ponying up the $125 for a season pass just to use the extremely short “Members Only” line.
Once we made it through the gate we made a mad dash over to the Shark Feeding. We really didn’t need to rush as this was a bit of a let down. The kid were expecting a typical “feeding frenzy” of sharks, fish, bloody carcasses, chaos in the tank, etc. Instead it was very tame and organized with the typical environmental chatter of “save the oceans” echoing in the background.
Enough of that . . . time to see some fierce grizzly bears at the Russia’s Grizzly Coast exhibit. The bears, along with the wild boars and leopards, didn’t look too fierce as they were happily enjoying their mid-day nap. (We did return later in the afternoon when they were much more active.) The only somewhat active animals that morning were the hyper-by-nature prairie dogs. By now, the kids were STARVING so we decided to take in the new Africa! exhibit that had just opened that morning. We enjoyed our lunch surrounded by African animals that can survive in our chilly Minnesota summer. Lots of ostriches and zebras with the odd flocks of Canadian geese thrown in.
By early afternoon, the sun along with throngs of people had come out. After visiting the Family Farm and walking the Northern Trail, we still had hours to kill before our I-MAX movie started. We were left to walk through the Tropics Trail and the Minnesota Trail. I’ve always liked the Tropics Trail as it is tropical and warm with an abundance of birds, orchids, and small creatures. The gibbons put on a spectacular show complete with acrobatics and mating calls. We ushered the kids away from the amorous gibbons before they actually completed the act! A quick walk through the Minnesota trail did help me correctly identify the creature I’d encountered on the bike path last month--a river otter!
Our last stop was the I-MAX theater to view the new Ben Stiller movie: At the Museum: The Smithsonian. By this time, everyone was ready for 90 minutes of sitting down entertainment. And how can you go wrong with an I-MAX movie?
I was very pleased with this trip to the zoo as it was by far my easiest zoo excursion in over a decade. I wasn’t pregnant like so many other women visiting the zoo that day. I didn’t have to push a stroller or wagon while hefting a large backpack with food and supplies on my back. No one tried to scale any fences or attempt to crawl into any animal cages. They sell Caribou Coffee! Best of all, everyone was potty trained. (Although my 6-year old son does still have the fascination with public toilets as he visited every one he possibly could find.)
I’ll not let four years lapse between visits and may return this summer for one of the Music in the Zoo concerts. For more information on the Minnesota Zoo visit mnzoo.org.