Oklahoma City family fun puts theory into practice sometimes.
Spring is here, with its daffodils and redbud trees. Plants are coming to life everywhere and my children are interested in seeing more than just the usual birds and squirrels on our patio.
Sam, Isaac and Gabriel love "Wild Kratts." The only magazine subscription we take is "Ranger Rick." Going to actually see those animals, though, is something we should do more often.
The distance to get to the Oklahoma City Zoo isn't far, it's relatively centric and everyone has a good time.
This is definitely the time of year to enjoy outdoors in Oklahoma, with our beautiful springtime and sunny days that seem to beckon everyone outdoors. I visited this past week and we had a terrific time seeing the live version of what my sons love to read about, going around together and taking in some Vitamin D.
Here are three reasons to play tourist and rediscover our very own Oklahoma City Zoo:
Go for the walk: Get a great walk in on the Zoo's 119-acre campus. My sons and I try to walk every night during pleasant weather but we get bored of making the same rounds in our neighborhood. We went on the Friday of Spring Break and Zoo staff mentioned that the Zoo was hosting more than 8,000 visitors that day. I was prepared for a crowd but we really didn't see one; the grounds never felt crowded and the Zoo was surprisingly clean. I love seeing the "You've met your fitness goal" 10,000-steps status notification pop up on my phone after about 30 minutes at the Zoo. Those steps have never felt easier or more entertaining. The Zoo is just a beautiful place to go walk even if you don't love animals, with its flowering plants and paths of tulips.
Go for the conversation: Our family recycles. We talk about not littering. Endangered species. Responsible hunting. All of those topics are terrific and important, in theory. Seeing the animals they affect, though, gives the conversation context and why what we do every day matters. We heard about elephants being poached for ivory, read placards that explained the limited numbers of the animals in front of us and heard how really beautiful birds die because they choke on what people throw in the water. My pre-K child is very interested in fossils and dinosaurs, like a lot of five year olds, so seeing skeletons and diagrams makes that all the more tangible.
Go for what's new: The Children's Zoo area has greatly improved since our last visit in 2016. The Wallaby Walkabout allows visitors to enter the same space as its inhabitants, wallabies that roam freely. We had never been to a zoo where a wallaby might just walk right up to you. Photo areas, playgrounds and a restroom are also near that area for easy access. I always forget to bring something to drink but it turns out, you actually can bring a cooler with plastic bottles or water pouches, which helps mitigate cost for families too.
When I go to a large venue, I always want to know how to make the most of it and get around to what we really want to see.
Here are three tips to make the most of your trip to the Oklahoma City Zoo:
Plan your route: Talk with your group, prioritize what you want to see and borrow one of the Zoo staff's Sharpies to trace your route. Save frustration by looking at the best way to go based on what you want to see. If you're getting short on time, it may be better to hop a tram for $8 than deal with "What? We don't have time to see the lions?"
Download the Oklahoma City Zoo app: You can get special notifications through the app that aren't available anywhere else. It can also make your visit more streamlined because you'll have your phone even if you misplace your paper map.
Leave extra time for an interactive excursion: Stingray Bay, sea lion presentations, giraffe feeding and the Wild Encounters program that allows visitors to touch a baby elephant, feed a rhino or see a grizzly bear up close are all available for an extra fee. See the full list here and budget both time and discretionary cash accordingly.
My friend, Dani, visits the Oklahoma City Zoo almost every Friday. When I asked her why, she said her children feel peaceful there in an outdoor space where there's always something new to see. I totally understand her perspective now.
Sam and Isaac enjoyed a camp class in the morning, we went to lunch on-site at the Canopy Food Court and then walked through the Zoo from noon until close. Five hours didn't feel like enough; I was surprised to conclude we could have really spent an entire weekend walking the grounds. Their week-long summer camp experiences would also be worth checking into since the kids find out about specialized topics but also go out into the Zoo each day. I love that the Zoo offers the practice part of so much theory that kids already know about.
After five hours of walking, we felt like winter had melted away long ago. I'm sure that's only a hint of what's to come this spring and summer; we'll definitely be back to the Oklahoma City Zoo.
If you have tips to share about visiting the Zoo, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. We just might share them here!