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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We're Going to the Zoo Zoo Zoo, How About You You You?

My little sisters loved Raffi, so whenever I take my kids to the zoo I sing that song...

On this first day of Spring, we have the most wonderful weather in Rochester, NY. It's in the low 70s and it feels perfect. As my four-year-old said this morning, "It's no-jacket weather!" So we packed up our lunch, hats, and sunscreen to go to the Seneca Park Zoo zoo zoo, how about you you you?!

The Seneca Park Zoo is perfect for younger kids (and I know the big kids like it too!). It's a short ride, parking is free and rarely a problem, and we can get through the entire zoo and back again in about two hours. I grew up in downstate NY and we used to go to the Bronx Zoo a few times a year. It took about an hour or more to get there, my parents had to fight the crazy city traffic on the way, we paid for parking, and the zoo is so large that most visitors use the monorail and/or skyline to see the whole thing. Inevitably one of my three siblings would need a nap or a third outfit change when we were on the side of the zoo that was the complete opposite of our parking lot. Don't get me wrong, the Bronx Zoo is amazing and I still love visiting (my kids have been there a few times already), but it's truly an ordeal that requires much effort. The Seneca Park Zoo, on the other hand, is much more manageable with little ones.

We started off our day visiting the orangutans playing outside. They have such great personalities; it's always fun to watch them. Today, the smaller orangutan was playing with a stick and the bigger one kept taking it away. It got my boys laughing. Next we said hello to the rhinos. There was a big pile of poop in the middle of their section, so that's always hilarious too. We saw the hyenas getting their water trough filled, the wolves got some treats (fish! go figure), and the tiger was napping. Then we moved on to their favorite spots.

Favorite Spot #1: The Cougar
There are two tunnels by the cougar exhibit that lead to a viewing area. My boys would go in and out for about an hour if I let them. Only my four-year-old is tall enough to actually see through the windows, but they both love it anyway.

Favorite Spot #2: The Construction Site
Today my two-year-old kept asking to see the mighty machines. The new "Step Into Africa" exhibit will be open in May but my boys have enjoyed the renovation process - especially the construction vehicles. Unfortunately, the big trucks all seem to be gone now, and the fence is covered so we can't sneak a good peek. I guess this is now a former member of the favorite spots? But they were good sports about it, and we moved on to...

Favorite Spot #3: The Sea Lions
Who doesn't love to sit by the water watching the sea lions swim around, jump up on the rocks, bark at each other, and occasionally play with toys? Today we sat and ate our snacks there, but last time we visited was truly amazing. We happened to arrive at the Rocky Coast exhibit just as the sea lions were getting their meal. The zoo keepers placed fish inside watering cans and other toys, then tossed them all into the water. Even when all the fish were in their bellies, the sea lions kept playing with the toys - tugging at the watering cans, flipping super-sized whiffle balls around, and probably looking for more fish. But it was incredible to see!

Favorite Spot #4: The Z.O.T. (Zoologists of Tomorrow) Zone
We could spend hours in this indoor section. My boys love to take the stuffed animals out of the carriers and pretend to be veterinarians. They use stethoscopes, bulb syringes, toy bottles, and bandages to give the toy animals an "exam" and to help them feel better. There's even an incubator and other sophisticated looking instruments (none of them are in working order, of course) so they really feel like they're in a veterinary hospital.

Favorite Spot #5: The Playground
After we make all the toy animals feel better, we usually end our visit at the playground. They love climbing the "mountain," racing each other down the slides, and crawling through the log tunnel. My four-year-old usually attempts to climb the giant spider web but he hasn't conquered it yet. Later in the season, there is water in the little man-made creek near the playground. On hot days, we bring swim suits, a swim diaper for my little guy, towels, and water sandals and they'll spend most of the afternoon just wading in the creek, walking across the rocks, and splashing each other.

Then it's usually time to head home!
Sometimes, on the rare occasion that we're not pooped and it's not too hot out, we'll turn left out of the parking lot and pull into the next lot near the other playground. I'll load the boys in the wagon again and we'll head across the street to walk down a path that leads to a bridge over the Genesee River. It's a fun walk with great views, plus you can almost taste the Genny Cream Ale in the air. (ha)

Thanks for reading! Please use the comments section - what's your favorite part of the Zoo? Any tips for spending the day there with your kids?...

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