Review of a Fun Day at the Dallas Zoo
We were in Dallas babysitting our two grandkids and the forecast called for an unusually warm and sunny January day, so I promised the grandkids the night before that we would take them to the Dallas Zoo. At what felt like 2:00 in the morning I heard "Dukie, get up - we're ready to go to the Dallas Zoo - hurry!" With sleep in the eyes I jumped in the shower and was ready to go in 10 minutes and we were out of the house at 8:15! That early, I figured that we would be the only ones at the Zoo but to my surprise at least 100 cars had beat us. We found a parking spot about 100 yards from the entrance and set off for a fun day at the Dallas Zoo - and we had a blast.
Here are just a few reasons why I can highly recommend the Dallas Zoo, which was named one of the Nations "Top Ten Zoos" by USA Today:
- the Zoo is very well done and the animal's habitat looks like their native environment - with vines, ponds, waterfalls, boulders, trees, native brush and fauna, and more
- the viewing areas are spacious and afford a good view of the animals and include some very interesting facts about the inhabitants - for example, , how long is an eagles wingspan, how many babies in a giraffes litter, how much does a full grown elephant weigh?
- the Zoo is broken into sections (like Giants of the Savanna, Gorilla Trail, Wings of Wonder, and Primate Place) so it's easy to pick a section where you might want to spend some extra time
- it's great for young kids with viewing areas that are their size, a Children's Zoo, and of course all the candy, popcorn, souvenirs, animals, and more that kids love
- there are over 2000 animals to see and learn about
- for a small extra fee there are attractions that the kids will love like: T-Rex Express Train, Pony Ride, Feed the Giraffes, and the Endangered Species Carousel
- the Zoo well laid out and easy to navigate
- the daily Zoo Keeper Talks are interesting, educational, and informative
- the staff is friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable
- the Zoo is very clean, well maintained, and smoke free
As soon as we walked in I heard "Let's go see the gorillas and elephants" - so we walked through the tunnel to Wilds of Africa. What a really cool area with everything from an aviary to zebras - giraffes, ostrich, lions, cheetah, gorillas, crocodiles, chimpanzees, and more. All together that are 13 very well done exhibits all of which resemble the animals natural habitat. Some of what I really liked in Wilds of Africa included:
- watching the elephants and giraffes in a native type setting
- feeding the giraffes lettuce - I've never seen such a big tongue as it grabs the lettuce right out of your hands
- I could watch chimpanzees and gorillas for hours as they play, swing through the trees, and just monkey around
- watching the grandkids leap from rock to rock or pose with some of the really cool metal animal sculptures
After a couple hours in Wilds of Africa we went back under the tunnel to ZooNorth and the first stop was to re-fuel with a huge bag of popcorn and to plan our route to make sure that we didn't miss anything. ZooNorth is huge and home to over 20 different exhibits and attractions. Our first stop with the Children's Zoo with lots of fun things for the younger kids - a stream to wade in, petting zoo, pony rides, barn animals, birds, and the Discovery House.
And for the next two or three hours we saw: the Wings of Wonder (a variety of unique birds - eagles, vultures, etc.); the gigantic Galapagos Tortoise; a giant anteater; Texas Cats (bob cats, mountain lions, and more); the reptiles and amphibians in the Herpetarium which is home to at least 100 small exhibits for snakes (read this article about identifing snakes - the good and the bad), spiders, lizards, and lots of other creepy stuff; some Australian animals like a koala, emu, kangaroo, and wallaby; Bug U where the Zoo's Texas invertebrates live; tigers; otters; a couple cages with primates; a majestic tiger, and Nature Connects.
Nature Connects is where the kids (for a fee) can ride the T-Rex Express train or play with legos in the tented Stay and Play Brickyard which is presented by LEGOLAND Discovery Center. In the Brickyard, kids of all ages can build, experiment, problem-solve, and connect with science, technology, engineering, and math. Each week, master builders and LEGO enthusiasts will be on hand, challenging children to recreate the pros’ nature-themed models while teaching youngsters how to build sculptures that connect to nature. We also got to see a remarkable traveling sculpture show featuring the wizardry of award-winning artist Sean Kenney. Created from more than 700,000 LEGO bricks, the larger-than-life sculptures include an 8-foot-tall hummingbird frozen in flight; a 7-foot-wide peacock displaying its colorful feathers; a gardner and boy made with over 46,000 LEGOS; a playful polar bear family created from an impressive 133,263 bricks; a wheelbarrow; and more. The exhibit is only at the Zoo for four months.
ZooNorth at the Dallas Zoo is outstanding and it's hard to pick a few things that really stood out, but here are my favorites:
- everybody loves those cute cuddly Koalas
- monkeys are always fun to watch
- a couple of the birds in the Wings for Wonder were amazing
- I loved learning more about the hundreds of reptiles and amphibians in the Herpetarium
- the LEGO creations were amazing
The daily Keeper Talks included Macaw, snakes, birds, a tiger, and a koala. We missed the Cheetah encounter but did watch an enjoyable 30 minute show in the Amphitheater called DinoSOAR where trained birds soar, swoop, and dive as they perform aerobatic feats during the SOAR. Hawks, owls, toucans, hornbills, ibises, ravens, eagles, and others demonstrate natural behaviors as they fly through the audience. One bird flew from the stage to a guest toward the back of the Amphitheater, grabbed the dollar bill he was holding, and flew back and deposited in a donation box. At the end of the show you could walk up to the donation box with some money in your hand and the bird would grab it and stuff in the donation box.
After all of that walking and watching the animals grazing, I was starting to get hungry and the Dallas Zoo offers several choices:
- Zoofari Food Court - enjoy the wide variety of choices including hot, tasty burgers and hot dogs, pizza, deli sandwiches, and fresh salads
- Wilds of Africa Grill - burgers, hot dogs, and grilled chicken sandwiches plus fries, nachos, pizza, popcorn, beverages, and ice cream
- Serengeti Grill - floor-to-ceiling observation windows give you up close views of the Zoo’s pride of lions while you dine on tasty burgers, hot dogs, barbeque, and salads
several spots selling popcorn, sweets, ice cream and other goodies
Some of the special adventures and services the Dallas Zoo offers includes:
Every half hour there are keeper talks about most of the animals as well as live animal presentations every half hour
Backstage Safari is a 90-minute guided tour with behind-the-scenes access. You’ll feed apples to the world’s largest land mammal, the African elephant; hold an endangered penguin; and experience a special Wild Encounters show with introductions to remarkable animals, such as a cheetah or serval, tamandua, eagle owl, and more.
The Zoofari Market offers an array of animal gifts and treasures plus everything from hats to cameras to stuffed animals or books
Stroller and wheelchair rentals
Special services and catering for larger groups for birthday parties, corporate events, reunions, and more
Lots of educational opportunities like camps and night programs, family camp outs in tents, special teacher programs, guided tours of the Zoo, photographic adventures and lots more
What a fun day at one of the best zoos in Texas.