I am greatly anticipating our scheduled visit to the Toledo Zoo next week. My daughter needs a specialty dentist in the big city, so we’ve decided to throw some fun in there as well with a trip to the zoo. It will probably be my last one until after I have the baby, unless they have a wagon available for rental that’s big enough for very pregnant me AND the 3 kids. Since it’s only March and I’m not due until July, I think I can still handle the large amount of walking it takes to get around the zoo – we’ll see anyway. I naively thought that pregnancies would get easier with experience, but it seems that I forgot to factor in my increasing age – I am almost 10 years older than I was the first time I was with child – and I feel it!
Toledo Zoo is very large. It’s a very nice zoo, but there is lots of walking. It remains one of my favorite zoos in the country however, and I’ve visited at least 20. Toledo has lots of animals, but they are pretty spread out. Also, because the zoo straddles a major road, you have to trek up and down a ramp and across a long pedestrian bridge; all of which is not so much fun if pregnant or in the heat of the summer. But overall, it is one of my favorite zoos. Even though the gorilla’s indoor exhibit is pretty small, I really enjoy how close you can see them, and they don’t seem unhappy being in a small exhibit… unlike a gorilla at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. He had a really small indoor enclosure, and we witnessed him charge at a little boy – it was very scary and thank goodness that glass was thick! This was years ago, and I think Henry Doorly has since re-built their gorilla exhibit. Another zoo with a lot of walking is the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago, Illinois. Brookfield has lots of walking, but unlike Toledo, the animals are spaced further apart, so much of the walking is without seeing animals. It’s been a few years since I’ve been there, so maybe they’ve changed this, but it’s not one of my favorite zoos, unless we’re talking about sentimental reasons – it was the site of my husband’s and my first “unofficial” date. One zoo that sticks out in my memory as one of my favorites is the Folsom Children’s Zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska. The name is misleading, they had quite an array of animals there; including red pandas, camels, reindeer, leopards, monkeys, a variety of reptiles, seals, sloths, emus that like to be pet, and there are still many more I haven’t named. All in only 19 acres, nestled right in the city. Which sounds large, but once you get in there, it was really the perfect size. Not much walking at all, lots of animals who all had lots of room in their environments, and it was very nicely landscaped with mature trees and such so that you forgot you were in the middle of the city. We used to live close enough to walk there, but the only problem with this great little zoo is that it was only open from April – October. If you are ever in Nebraska, the Folsom Children’s Zoo is a must-see. Being a native Chicagoan, it’s strange that I’ve never visited the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is also in the middle of a city, albeit a much larger one than Lincoln. But I’ve heard good things about it, and maybe one of these days, during one of our bi-yearly visits to the area, we will give Lincoln Park a whirl so I can add it to my zoo resume.
Before our trips to the zoo, I like to visit a really cool website to brush up on my animal facts. It really makes zoo trips more interesting if you know a little more about what you’re looking at. Check out this online database that is maintained by the University of Michigan: https://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/index.html
And finally, if you are still reading this, you must be an animal lover like me. If you also like to read, I highly recommend my favorite book written by my favorite celebrity: Jack Hanna, called “Monkeys on the Interstate”. If you ever watch The Late Show with David Letterman, you know that poor Jack often comes across as a bumbling fool when he’s on the show. He is an animal expert however, and he is much more entertaining to watch than most animal experts. He and Letterman tease each other mercilessly, and there is almost always some sort of animal mishap that occurs when Jack is involved, always with hilarious results. His book is a narrative of the same sort of episodes, all taken from his life as he was growing up and also from when he went on to become the director of the Columbus Zoo. By the way, being an Ohioan, I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Columbus Zoo, and I will say that it did not disappoint. If you read Jack’s book, you will read about how he brought the zoo from anonymity (he notes in his book that when he first arrived in Ohio, people would always ask him,”there’s a zoo in Columbus?!?”) to one of the most renowned facilities in the world. There was a lot of trial and error involved in acheiving this, and again, many hilarious hijinks, all of which are detailed in the book – it is really entertaining reading. And it’s not just a clever title – there really were Monkeys on the Interstate, thanks to Jack and one of his hare-brained ideas! Maybe I will take another look at it on the long ride to Toledo next week…