I’m friends with a lot of hippie types who love the earth and animals and kale and stuff. I love all of those things too. But something that puts me at odds with some of those folks is: I take my kid to the zoo on a weekly basis. And it’s actually become one of my favorite things to do.
I love the zoo because it’s a great place to take my toddlers and also get some social time in myself. It’s outside, so Etta in particular is happy right off the bat. There are animals all over the place for practicing our words and animal sounds. It feels free, because we bought a membership, for what I thought was a very reasonable price. There’s a really great, fairly accessible playground where I can literally just sit on a bench and my kiddos can get themselves up and down the slides, even Claire. The entire place is stroller/handicap accessible. The food prices are reasonable, and they give members a discount. There’s a train and a carousel. And, most importantly, I can meet up with a posse of other moms, and we actually get to chat and hang out as we push our caravan of strollers around the zoo.
We keep an eye on each other’s kids. We hold doors and snag dropped sippies and help hold down squirmy babies during particularly heinous diaper changes. You forgot to pack snacks and your kid is getting hangry? One of the others will have you covered.
And the best part? It fills up a whole morning. Etta and I can drop Claire off at preschool, hit the zoo at opening at 9:00, and I can push her right past her usual 10:30 nap time, get her home around 11 or 11:30, put her down, and have her nap until 2ish, when it’s almost time to pick up her sister around 3:00 or 3:30. It’s glorious. No other activity makes our day go so smoothly. I struggle to fill a morning at home with any sort of activity that doesn’t involve resorting to TV after an hour because Etta doesn’t know what to do with herself without her twin around, and without fail, when I spend a ton of time prepping for some Pinterest Inspired enrichment activity, it will crash and burn mightily. I can think of no other place in town that would provide that much semi-educational fun while also allowing me some precious grown-up time, unless some bar adds a playground.
So sure, share posts on Facebook about how sad you think zoos are. Pre-kids, I might have agreed with you. Now? I’m going to be posting pics at the zoo until I hear something heinous about my local zoo. Instead, I see a zoo that’s growing and expanding and getting better all the time. They just had 4 tiger cubs. There’s an awesome and fairly new penguin exhibit, where we watch feedings at 9:30. There’s a baby gorilla and a baby camel, too. Many of the elephants were rescued from circuses. There are actual bunnies hanging out in the gorilla enclosure in some sort of weird interspecies friendship like I’ve never seen. And just this week, I saw some of the cutest baby tortoises ever, the size of eggs, whose parents are about as big as my dogs.
The zoo: hottest toddler fun in town, and pretty big fun for moms too. If you can get over the shade thrown by your tree-hugging friends.
*Note: I will always advocate for the better treatment of animals, but I remain a person who occasionally eats meat, and a person who visits the zoo.