My best friend from growing up came to visit! Ever since I left NE to go to college, we have been trying to plan for her to come and visit, but it never worked out. And then, with about a week's planning, she was able to make it work and come. Yay!
We had many adventures while she was here - antique shopping, grocery shopping, and her and I going to see a nearby tourist area (currently abandoned) and having the car stall while we were turning around in a "Fun Center" parking lot (doesn't it just sound like the plot to a bad horror film?). But our biggest adventure was our trip to the zoo :)
I've been wanting to check out the Binder Park Zoo for a while, and thought her visit would be a good chance to go. We, honestly, didn't have high expectations because we knew it was a smaller zoo. We figured it would be a lot like Potter Park Zoo. We were amazed.
It is a smaller zoo, but they have done such an incredible job with the extra special touches that it really leaves a big impression. For example, the foliage there is amazing - tree lined paths and covered bridges. I actually didn't make the twins wear hats because it was so shaded! Another thing I liked was that their exhibits were LARGE. There was always a lot of room for the animals to roam around, and the habitats looked natural. So often (especially at smaller zoos) it feels like the wild animals are super caged, and this wasn't the case. Also, they did a lot of theme decorating (which I loved) - when you entered the hut by the snow leopard they had Mongolian prayer flags hanging around the entrance and special music playing; when you entered the swamp they had shacks, signs, and "Possum Peat;" and the Children's Zoo was filled with cartoon animal statues for kiddos pose near for pictures. But our favorite, by far, was the African excursion where they made it look like you were going through customs to an African country. In the "jungle" they had you look for signs of poachers - like their campsite or elephant bones. And all along the way they had various ranger stations or huts set up with things (like a checker board with a game in progress or water jugs) that made it so real. One of the huts (which I can attest truly looked like a hut you would find in the African bush) was open for kiddos to explore and see what living in a hut would be like! Other cool things were the train, the carosel, and the walk of Nations where there were not only dozens of flags from different countries, but maps on the posts to show you were that country is located (big for the geographically challenged, like me!).
The twins had a GREAT time. They talked to and giggled at lots of the animals. Their favorites were probably the Mongolian Horse (that we are convinced started putting on more of a show because he heard Ryan giggling), the Emu (it was biting at, and eating, bugs that were flying around and they found this hilarious), and the monkeys. The animals that LOVED them: the pigs (one came from the other side of the pen to see them), the monkey (that came and sat in the window when it saw them so they could get a good look), and the grey bird (just after I said, "lets just walk by here, birds tend to be boring," this bird flew over, stood right in front of the twins on their level, and started doing a dance. Then it proceeded to follow us as we walked by the aviary, doing the dance every time we paused! The adults even had fun (you can see us trying to do chinups to earn enough points to become park rangers in Africa - we all managed to do 1, but none of us managed to do enough to get the 5 points...). We definitely want to go again because we only left 2 1/2 hours for the trip...and we didn't get to fully do everything we wanted to (plus there is lots I want to see again because it was cool!). We loved this zoo!
My hope, as you may have guessed, is to do a tour of zoos this summer. Both Ryan and Allie love animals, but I also always really enjoyed going to the zoo. It's a fun (and educational) way to spend some time outside, while also getting some exercise. Plus, I have to scout out the zoos to see which one we will frequent next summer!