Visiting the Zoo – A Family Guide

Jocelyn Murray October 15, 2013 No Comments



Mention the word “zoo” to a child and watch his/her face light up. People of all ages are instinctively drawn to animals.  


Kevin Pluck / cc by-sa 2.0

From majestic lions to Madagascar hissing cockroaches, the creatures that share our planet are each fascinating in their own right. Whether they hail from the African savannah or tropical rain forests, to the harsh deserts or icy polar regions, their recreated habitats in zoos offer visitors a chance to see the animals in a realistic setting, even experiencing it themselves without having to travel around the world. Here are some useful tips to aid families in making a visit to the zoo spectacular.



Map of the Denver Zoo
Donlammers / cc by-sa 3.0

Before visiting a zoo, visit their website. Download their map and make a note of the exhibits and times of any animal encounters, feedings and shows that you want to see. Going with small children often means being on a schedule with time constraints, so plan ahead and just see those exhibits and encounters that are high priority on your list. A little planning can make the difference between taking your time on an enjoyable outing or rushing around exhaustedly. 



Male gorilla at the San Francisco Zoo
Brocken Inaglory / cc by-sa 3.0

Since most zoos have trails and require walking, bring a stroller or rent one from the zoo. Many zoos even offer wagons and double strollers for rent, which is a must when little feet get tired and moods turn cranky. Hats, a change of clothing, and sunscreen are important to protect one from the sun’s rays. Comfortable walking shoes are essential. Also bring water and snacks. Some zoos allow picnics which can save spending on the often costly zoo restaurants and concession stands. 



It is usually best to arrive early when the temperatures are comfortable, the animals are most active, and the crowds are manageable.  Visit your “must-see” exhibits first. Below is a list of popular exhibits available at many zoos. 



Petting zoos have animals like goats and sheep

This is one place children can roam freely with the animals. It is a great opportunity for them to get up close and personal with all those creatures they read and sing about at home and school. Even Old MacDonald would be proud to see parents and children mimicking the pigs with an “oink oink here,” or the ducks with a “quack quack there.” This is learning brought to life! 



Children love rides, and zoos are a great place to take them. Many zoos offer miniature train and/or carrousel rides for the little ones, and are a great way to tour the zoo or simply sit back and enjoy a short ride in the park.  



Elephant / cc by-sa 3.0

Visit the popular exhibits first. Animals like elephants, giraffes, monkeys and lions will inspire wonder and giggles as your tots make the connection between animals they’ve seen in picture books and videos, with those roaming about their recreated habitats. Many zoos even have walk-through aviaries with opportunities to feed some of the feathered friends like colorful lories and lorikeets that are in the parrot family. 



Meerkats at the Auckland Zoo
Ashleigh Thompson / cc by-sa 2.0

A trip to the zoo gives children the chance to make real-life connections with many of the animals they have learned about. It is a wonderful place to engage the whole child, utilizing all their senses and enriching their world in a safe and fun environment. This is also an invaluable opportunity for them to deepen their respect and awareness of the natural world in which we live, and the amazing creatures with which we share this planet. But be forewarned: once you go, they will want to go again soon. It’s an outing that is well worth the time, and something you too can enjoy.

avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

Tags: , Tips and Hints, Travel Excursions, Uncategorized

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.