Family & Education

Family Tips: Taking Your Crew to the Zoo

BY Barbara Danza TIMEFebruary 20, 2019 PRINT

A trip to the zoo is one of those things that you mean to do more often but you don’t quite get around to, and then, oops, the kids are off to college.

Put that trip to the zoo back on the front burner. It’s worth the effort to both check out the local zoos in your area and to pencil in a stop when traveling as a family.

Educational Value

A visit to the zoo is an educational experience for kids and adults of all ages. It’s one thing to read about animals or see them in a documentary; it’s another thing entirely to view them in real life.

The study of nature, and animals in particular, lends itself to learning about geography, different climates and cultures, ecology, and geology. Providing context for many children’s interest in animals enhances their understanding of the world at large.

Many zoos have a variety of hands-on experiences and exhibits that cater to a wide range of ages. In addition, there are often special experiences or behind-the-scenes tours you may wish to participate in, especially if you have one or more children who are interested in a certain type of animal.

Supports Conservation

Zoos often get a bad rap, based on totally legitimate concerns from the past. In answer to such criticism, however, zoos have come a long way, and good zoos around the world operate under high standards. In fact, part of a zoo’s mission often includes making conservation a top priority, and your visit supports those efforts.

Wholesome Family Fun

A trip to the zoo brings the whole family together. With fascinating and entertaining exhibits around every corner, it feels like a day full of adventure. What’s more, celebrating the natural wonders of the world with your family is a great tradition to embrace.

What your children need most of all is your presence, and a day at the zoo provides a great environment for everyone to focus on the same activity at once—away from work, from digital distractions, from chores and other responsibilities. It’s just wholesome family fun.

Top Zoos in the US

There are some truly excellent zoos that should make their way to your zoo bucket list. Most notable are the San Diego Zoo, the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, the Bronx Zoo in New York, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, and the Philadelphia Zoo (America’s first zoo, which opened in 1874).

If you and your family plan to find yourselves in the vicinity of such great zoos, add them to your itinerary for sure.

Zoo Trip Tips

Go early. Animals are often more active in the morning hours, so arrive at opening time to have the best experience.

Bring a stroller. Even if your little ones’ stroller days are just about behind them, bring it along for a full day of walking.

Speaking of walking, make sure everyone has comfortable and supportive shoes. This is not the time to break out the heels or even try out a new pair of sneakers. Tried and true is the way to go so that you can comfortably last from the first exhibit to the last.

Pack snacks. Many zoos have picnic areas, so you may be able to pack an entire lunch and avoid the onsite food options, which are likely to offer fast food. Even if you just carry enough to hold everyone over, though, granola bars, water, nuts, and fruit are great options to keep energy high and meltdowns low.

Other handy items to bring along include hand wipes, sunscreen, umbrellas or ponchos, and hats to shield from the sun.

Blogger Susan Heid of advises her readers to plan their zoo trip in advance. “Take some time and check your local zoo website for daily schedules and special events,” she says. “This way you can pick a day which might have some special features you can see that are already included in your admission.”

Barbara Danza
Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart. Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.
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