Zoos serve as terrific destinations for conservation, education and good old-fashioned fun. One visit could spark a lifetime love affair with the animal kingdom, possibly inspiring a child to one day pursue a career in zoology. Since its inception in 1889, Zoo Atlanta has provided countless families with a great excuse to take a walk on the “wild side.”
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As one of the city’s most beloved destinations, Zoo Atlanta is continually adding new animals, attractions, programs and events to enhance its guests’ experience. Due to the “wild” popularity of this particular venue, it’s wise for zoo-goers to plan to arrive early and spend the day in order to soak up all of furry-friend-loving fun a visit to the zoo can offer. While there, visitors will definitely want to add the following items to their zoo to-do list.
Lions and Tigers and Bears… Oh MY!
Needless to say, when one visits the zoo – animals should top the list of things to see. Zoo Atlanta offers a wide variety of beautiful creatures from all around the world and all over the species spectrum. Guests can begin their tour gazing upon a flock of flamingos, then wind their way through the zoo to see African elephants and lions, a Sumatran tiger, giant pandas, giraffes, zebras, orangutans, gorillas, monkeys, lizards, snakes, exotic birds and so much more. For a more interactive experience, guests can pay a visit to the petting zoo in Outback Station or opt for add-ons such as giraffe feedings, parakeet adventures or wild encounters that include meeting and feeding an African elephant, Komodo dragon or giant panda in an unforgettable behind-the-scenes encounter.
Cool Off in the Splash Fountain
New to Zoo Atlanta for 2013, the Splash Fountain offers kids a fun way to cool off while they’re at the zoo. Sporting 18 water jets on interactive pads in a 2,500-square-foot section of the zoo’s KIDZone area, this latest addition to Zoo Atlanta’s lineup has been met with rave reviews from pint-sized patrons and parents alike. Presented by Atlanta Fulton County Recreational Authority, the Splash Fountain will be open daily at 10 a.m. through October (weather permitting).
Come Play (or Perch) in the KidsZone
In addition to the new Splash Fountain, Zoo Atlanta’s KidsZone offers a great place for kids and parents to play with a miniature train that runs a circuit around part of the zoo, a merry-go-round featuring beautifully painted animals of all different species, a rock-climbing wall and a sprawling playground. Blessedly, there are also lots of benches and wall ledges on which tired parents can perch while the kids run and play.
Situated alongside Atlanta’s Grant Park, Zoo Atlanta is surrounded by shady trees and picnic tables that beckon guests to enjoy a lovely picnic in the park. For families who were so excited about getting to the zoo that they forgot to pack lunch, Zoo Atlanta offers a number of year-round restaurants and seasonal concessions designed to soothe even the most savage beast. The Wild Planet Café offers indoor seating and crowd-pleasing menu items such as chicken tenders, hot dogs, burgers and salads; and Flamingo Joe’s supplies guests with even more snack items such as frozen treats, pretzels, popcorn, cold beverages and more. Depending on the season, there is also Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog stand, Willie B’s, Otterly Cool and Dippin’ Dots from which famished families can choose.
Catch a Show
Zoo Atlanta is as much about conservation, education and building awareness as it is about entertainment. Regular shows include “Fantastic Flights” at the Wildlife Theater and “Wonders of Wildlife” at Amy’s Tree. Guests should also check their zoo map upon arrival to find out when and where they might meet a zookeeper or see an animal training demonstration. They can also visit the “plan your day page” on the Zoo Atlanta website before heading downtown to find out what’s happening at the zoo the day of their visit. Burgeoning biologists and zoologists may want to take it a step farther with more in-depth zoo educational offerings such as Safari Day Camps, NightCrawlers or Keeper for a Day – each providing guests with a special and rare behind-the-scenes look at Zoo Atlanta.
Kasie Bolling is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.