Zoo Camp

The Bug loves the Cincinnati Zoo.  I don’t think I can overstate that fact in any way.  Her lifelong dream is to be a zookeeper, but she has recently narrowed her focus. She wants to be in the Bird Show…or more accurately she wants to be in charge of the Bird Show.  This girl has goals.

With her love of the zoo, it was only natural for us to enroll her in Zoo Camp this summer. While the zoo offers a couple different camp options for the little ones, we went with their half-day morning program called “Growing Up.”  She loved it!

Each day I dropped her off in her classroom, which was really a tent overlooking the giraffes. Since she has always had a soft spot for the giraffes, I’m surprised she was able to focus at all, but she learned a lot!  Her teacher is a zoology major at a local university and was INCREDIBLE with the kids.  (And I know a thing or two about being patient with 7 year olds.) Not only that, but they had three “volunteens” in their class to help the learning and fun go on.

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Every day, they focused on a different kind of animal — insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. They had visits from animals in those categories and went on hikes to see them in their enclosures at the zoo.  All along the way, they sang songs and played games.  Their time together ended with a craft about that particular animal.

THE BUG LOVED IT!

We made plans early in the week to eat lunch together at the zoo on Friday.  Now, I’ve mentioned before that we normally pack a lunch to save some money, but I didn’t tell The Bug that we were going buy pizza instead of eating a sandwich.  She flipped out with excitement.  (Seriously, it doesn’t take much when you’re 7.) On our way to buy our food, I told her we had to hurry if we wanted to make it to Bird Show in time.  Oh! My! Goodness! I had one hyper girl on my hands! We hooked up with one of her camp buddies at lunch and had fun hanging out with her and her family that afternoon.

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I highly encourage you to enroll your kid in Zoo Camp.  Slots fill up fast, so start looking for sign ups in Spring 2017.  Just to warn you… The Bug plans on taking a full day slot next year.

Here are some pro tips.

  • Take something to do.  It was silly for me to drop her off at the zoo, head back to Kentucky, then turn around and get her again.  So, I camped out with a laptop and did some blogging last week.  They have free wifi throughout the zoo, so come prepared. The views above your laptop are probably much better than what you see in your office anyhow.

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  • Don’t be a nerd and hang out with your laptop the entire time.  You have a world class zoo right there in front of you!  See some animals before you get your cup of coffee and hit the wifi.

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  • Find your kid during the zoo hike.  The Bug’s teacher was really cool about me meeting them at random times and places to snap a picture or two.  I never wanted to be in the way and just wanted a quick hi and picture.  It got so The Bug was looking for me while they were out and about.

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  • Don’t forget the Pizza and Bird Show Trick.  It’ll be a winner every time!  Add some ice cream too.  I give you permission to compromise.

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One other thing, I’m already pushing The Bug to be a volunteen when she turns 13.  This is an awesome opportunity to spend time in and around the zoo helping out and seeing if this is what she wants to do full time.

 

Zoo Day!

One day, not long after The Bug came into our lives, my wife told me, “I want to get a zoo membership!” And just like that, we’ve been members at the Cincinnati Zoo for six years now. It is literally our favorite place to go and I am fairly certain I can walk it blindfolded.

When The Bug was just a baby, we took her and by far her favorite animal was the waterfalls. Seriously. It didn’t matter what animal we saw, it was no big deal for her.  But when we passed a waterfall, she just wanted to watch it for the longest time. As she got older and realized the animals were pretty cool, the giraffes quickly became her favorite. She had a giraffe shirt she would wear for zoo visits and had about 5 or 6 six toy giraffes to play with.

Something happened in the last year or so.  Now, she has to go to the Reptile House as soon as we get there.  Most kids aren’t sure if they want to pet the snakes the handlers have around the park.  Not The Bug. She strokes them like old friends and would happily wear one if she found the right handler to let her do it.  She also loves the Insect House and gets excited when I’m with her.  Cause Mommy won’t go in there.  Something about tarantulas.  (Why are there spiders in the insect house? I’m still not sure.)

We kicked off summer with a visit to the zoo Memorial Day morning. The Bug was so excited to go, she was up early and helping to get breakfast ready, all in the attempt to get out the door on time. We dressed patriotically and were able to walk through the gates before the heat was oppressive. The Bug couldn’t decide where to go next.  Had we followed her plan, we would have bopped from one side of the zoo to the next.  As it was, we attempted a circuitous route around the zoo and almost saw it all (including the Cheetah Run) in about 4 hours.  Then it was time to go home and rest up before Memorial Day dinner.

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Here are some pro tips if you want to visit the Cincinnati Zoo.

  1. Get a membership. Obviously, this only helps you if you live locally, but everything is covered.  Admission, parking, and the train and carousel. Boom! No hassle. No worries. And, members get in earlier than the commoners AND get a discount on food and souvenirs.
  2. Get there early.  The crowds haven’t formed yet.  The animals are active. The heat hasn’t kicked in yet. Early is good. This is a great tip for Festival of Lights too. Get there in the late afternoon and you can see animals before it gets dark. And when it gets dark you’ll already be there and not have to wait in crazy lines to get in the zoo!
  3. Bring your lunch. We don’t like spending a lot of money on food if we don’t have to, so we always pack a lunch.  The zoo allows outside food so I always have a backpack full of food with me.
  4. Use a backpack carrier instead of a stroller or wagon. When The Bug was little, I loved to carry her in the backpack carrier. She could see what I could see and there was no awkward in and out of the stroller moments.  My hands were free, and we could talk. Now, of course, she walks for a couple hours then I carry her on my shoulders.
  5. Sneak some money for Dippin’ Dots when your wife isn’t looking. Seriously. We all know that Mommy is #1. Handing your kid a bowl of the ice cream of the future is a sure-fire way to buy her love.  (And members don’t have to freak about the price. It’s cheaper for you!)

We love the Cincinnati Zoo and hope that you can love it too!