Abby loves animals. I mean LOVES. Names of animals came right behind “mama” and “dada” as her first words. We have a baby animal book that is read a minimum of 3 times a day and a zoo puzzle that accompanies her pretty much wherever she goes so when we were starting to think of ideas of what to do for her birthday, a trip to the zoo was a no-brainer.
We are lucky to have several small zoos around us that we have been to before (and will likely visit again this summer) but we wanted to do something new and bigger for her birthday so we planned a trip to the NC Zoo. My family drove to VA and luckily John’s family lives really close so we met up and planned for a picnic and exploring. Unfortunately I didn’t factor my spoons into the equation.
Two things we ran into – 1) I think everyone in the state had the same plans for Saturday so the place was absolutely packed. We stood in line close to an hour just to get tickets. Thankfully the place is huge. 2) The place is huge. I mean HUGE. I knew it was big. I looked at the map and talked with some friends who had previously visited but it wasn’t until we pulled in that I actually got it. The Zoo is divided into 2 sections: Africa and North America. The zoo recommends planning a minimum of 2 hours to see Africa as it included 2 miles of trails. North America includes 3 miles of trails and takes a minimum of 3 hours to see everything. If you do the math you can see that to see the entire zoo would include 5 miles of trails and that is not including the distance you may have to walk from parking to the front gate (we ended up in overflow parking which was way out in the middle of nowhere).
So here are my tips for planning and surviving a trip to the NC Zoo as a spoonie as well as pictures from our fun day:
1) Plan to go on a weekday (think Tuesday-Thursday) to avoid crowds. I would also plan to visit in the Spring or Fall versus Summer to avoid the heat.
2) Divide the Zoo into 2 trips – Africa one day and North America the next (we plan on hitting up North America this fall!)
3) Plan for frequent rest breaks. The exhibits are spread out and there are a lot of hills but there are plenty of benches for rest stops between them. You may want to take advantage of the wheelchair rental (both manual and motorized) as well.
4) Pack snacks and drinks! There are gift shops but they are at the very front of the park or in the dead center. If you are prone to drops in blood sugar, you will definitely want to make sure you have something on hand. You cannot take a large cooler into the park but you can carry food and drink in a backpack.
5) Have fun! Realize that you may not see it all and that is ok! Had I had it in my head that we had to see everything before we left, I would have been very disappointed but thankfully I was given a heads up so we were sure to enjoy everything that we were able to get to. Make the trip as enjoyable as possible by taking it slow and taking it all in!
Do you have any summer travel tips you would like to share?