Monday, July 12, 2010

A zoo of a day

My family and I returned from a fun filled vacation visiting family and friends to the lovely heat of the past weekend.  Since weather.com couldn't seem to decide if there would be thunderstorms until the last minute we were tentative on weekend plans.  But yesterday morning looked good enough for a trip to Southwick's Zoo.
I love zoo's.  As a parent it is wonderful to see a child's face when they see an elephant up close or have to arch their neck to see the head of a giraffe.  Each time the experience is the same, amazement at the size of the giant tortoise or the antics of the spider monkey as he climbs along the cage.  But children aren't the only ones who enjoy the zoo.  As an adult and even a teenager/college student, the zoo was and is always one of my favorite date options.  Dinner and a movie gets boring after a while, but a nice afternoon at a zoo is fun and sweet and lets you be a little more original.

There are several "zoo's" in our driving area.  From the Boroughs you can visit the Franklin Park and Stone zoos near and in Boston or see a few animals at the Ecotarium or Davis Farmland.  But to me, Southwick's is a gem...the perfect zoo for young and old.

I expect most of my readers have visited Southwick's already but I had such a great time today, I wanted to share some of the photos I have taken over the past couple of years and remind everyone what makes this zoo so spectacular:
  • Variety and Size - There are tons of animals at Southwick's, enough variety that I missed a few the first times I visited.  And I never feel like I am just seeing another enclosure with more goats or deer.
  • Walk-ability - There are two points for me on this one.  First, I don't want to feel like I have to hike a mile to get to the next animal.  Nor do I want to see animals living the way we pack into cities.  There needs to be enough space without requiring a driver.  Southwick's does a great job here, it is compact but somehow spacious.  Second, the heat.  Especially this weekend, or really any summer weekend it is hot outside.  Walking around in the blazing sun detracts from the zoo experience.  This is my biggest issue with the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston.  I am exhausted if it is a hot day.  If I want to bask in the sun, I will hit the beach.  Southwicks seems to be mostly shade.  I intentionally thought about this today and looked to see how much sun there was and I have to say at least 75% is shaded.  One caveat on this point...I was at Southwick's in April before the trees were fully grown and on that day it was very sunny.  Even Southwick's can't speed up leaf growth on deciduous trees.
  • Proximity to the Animals - Maybe it is the design of the enclosures or maybe Southwick's has more social animals, whatever it is I have always felt I can get the closest to the animals at Southwick's.  When I lived in Pittsburgh this was one of my major pet peeve's of the zoo there.  It always seemed the animals were so far away...even when they seemed close to the enclosure edge.
  • Continued Improvements - I have been to far too many zoos that have not changed in 10 or 15 years.  It definitely seems that Southwick's Zoo is working to make the park better and better.  One of the latest (opened late in 2008) additions is the SkyFari Sky Ride.  My boys are big enough to enjoy this chair ride through the park and it is a great experience.  For my kids...or even if I was on a date, I think it is worth the $5 ride price.
The only downside to Southwick's is the price.  For a family it is expensive, $18.75 for adults, $12.75 for kids 3 and up.  I can still pass my youngest (who is 3) as being "almost 3" but the cost still adds up.  Personally, I buy the 12 pack so all admissions are only $10.  In a year I will visit at least 3 or 4 times and if I see the end of the season in sight, I can invite friends so they only need to give me $10 per person.  There is also a AAA discount of $2.00 which you should take advantage of if the pack of passes is not an option.  If you are not a AAA member Southwick's offers a coupon themselves, just print it out - Southwick's $2 coupon

As I said I love a zoo, and Southwick's is my current favorite.  I am happy to have it so close...it's just another reason the Boroughs is so great...location.   For those who love animals I included a link to the web album.  I hope you enjoy.

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