We joined the Zoological Society. I don’t know if I mentioned that before but it seemed logical given our child’s deep devotion to all things animal. The membership basically rocked our socks the first time we used it because one of the perks is your own fancy pants entrance. We foolishly went on a Saturday and the line to get into the park was almost to the parking lot. But not for us, we strolled right on up and right on in.
This zoo is broken into two regions; Africa and North America. That first time, we started in Africa. But there are two loops, one for the big game animals and one for the little guys. We kinda did it wrong and ended up going through the monkeys and bugs a couple of times before linking up to North America. It got late and the park was getting ready to close so we tore through North America kinda hurriedly. We also missed some of the animals that had already been put away for dinner or whatever they do behind the scenes when the tourists are all gone. Still, we walked back to Africa and got to glimpse the giraffes and elephants which are my favorite animals by far.
This time, we started in North America. It was hot. Most of the animals were asleep far away in the shade but we did get to see a lot of the aquatic exhibits that we missed the last time. The sea lions were out and being very photogenically compliant in their swimming around in front of all the windows (I mean for those who are halfway decent at photography unlike yours truly). There were lots of fish of course. We saw the otters being silly. But once again, the polar bears were not available. They haven’t been available the last several times I’ve been to the zoo. Methinks they may no longer be residing in the zoo at all, and the teams are just buying time until a new pair arrives, but that is mere speculation. We may just have fantastically bad timing.
They also have several kid zones throughout the park. Animals are cool n all, but all that walking gets kinda boring. Let’s SLIDE! I let Hannah loose in one while Shelby rejuvenated with some french fries and shade. I’m fairly certain we could have just stayed there all day and she would have been pleased as punch. Instead, after about 20 minutes of playing I lathered her in sunblock and strapped her back in the stroller to continue our trek toward Africa.
And that’s when it all started to go horribly wrong.
It was hot. And though the paths offer a lot of shade, they also offer a lot of hillish type walking. Particularly up to the exhibits. Oh yeah, did I mention that Hannah had one of her UP UP UP nights the night before and didn’t let us go to sleep until 5:00am? So everyone was already kinda edgy and raw from being up all night. Hannah was tired of being in her stroller but could not be counted on to stay on the path. Shelby was hot, tired, and soooo not interested in chasing Hannah and the subsequent hysterics when we tried to wrangle her back into the general direction we were attempting to walk. I was hot, tired, and trying to balance humoring Hannah and appeasing Shelby.
And then Hannah started sweating sunblock into her eyes. Which she tried to rub out with her slippery sweaty sunblocky hands. And she would only eat a bite of one snack before getting upset and requesting something else. And Shelby ran out of ice cold Diet Coke. And then Hannah just had a complete meltdown about shoes and heat and stinging eyeballs and WHAT ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT PARENTS? ALL I SEE IS A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT COLORED ROCK BECAUSE THERE IS NO WAY MY BRAIN CAN CHANGE THAT INTO A SLEEPING GRIZZLY BEAR.
It was nap time but I couldn’t stroll Hannah fast enough to get her relaxed and sleeping. (She falls asleep in the stroller often, but really only if she has consistent movement at an up pace. Not super fast, but also not general meandering.) We never made it to Africa. We got as far as the center junction before we finally decided to call it quits and catch the tram back to the North America entrance. I took Hannah to the restroom while Shelby started the car and got the AC blasting. Hannah found contentment sitting in the sink and turning the water on, completely dousing her shoes and legs but thankfully not her outfit as I had stupidly not packed her a spare. A quick and loudly protested diaper change later, we buckled her up in the nicely cooled backseat. Within seconds, she was napping peacefully and stayed that way the whole drive home and then some.
I’m glad we paid for the membership. I would have been frustrated and harbored resentment if we had driven the almost 2 hours to the zoo and paid full price for about an hour and a half inside only to then drive 2 hours back home. But as it was, we recorded some valuable lessons about what to pack, how to manage time and expectations, and what times to shoot for given the kid’s temperament. I look forward to further exploring presentations and feeding times to increase our likelihood of a) seeing active animals at all and b) showing Hannah something super cool. (I mean, this trip she seemed to be the most fascinated by a large bird that sat fairly closed to the exhibit viewing area cleaning it’s wings. So sleeping lions and tigers and bears lose out to something that actually moves. Imagine how cool it would be if we actually saw lions tigers and bears moving! [I don’t think this zoo even has tigers.])
We’re also planning a quick trip out to the coast this summer as our Zoo membership includes access to several aquariums as well. I think that will be a more successful trip what with the indoorness and air conditioning and water. But then again, she may just have a meltdown because we won’t let her in the tank with the fishes.
Toddlers. It’s a darn good thing they’re cute.