Central Florida friends, if your Saturday mornings begin with, “What are we going to do today?” Then I am excited to answer that question before you even ask. (Sorry to my readers from elsewhere, I wish I could help you too!)
Have you ever been to the Brevard Zoo? No? Well, until recently I hadn’t either. I had heard rumors from trustworthy sources that it was a great zoo, but in my mind Brevard is oh-so-far-away and not exactly a spur of the moment outing. But planned in advance, we got moving on a Saturday morning and headed out. Now that we have been, we will be going back for sure. Wherever you are in Central Florida, it is worth the drive. Trust me.
The Brevard Zoo is unique in that it sits on 75 acres of land including conservation land that can’t be built on. The shear square footage combined with the natural surroundings provides a unique zoo experience with board walks leading through Florida’s natural habitat where you will find critters of every size. But don’t just walk through the zoo when you can zoom on a zipline through the trees or paddle through the wetlands.
Beyond the animals of today’s time, you will find a wooded path taking dino lovers through a prehistoric pathway in the new exhibit Dinosaurs: Dead Or Alive? Mini adventurers will love exploring the trail of animated dinosaurs on a journey to learn if dinosaurs still walk among us. (You might be surprised by the answer.)
Normally into all that glitters and sparkles, our princess was totally amazed by the dinosaurs and her introduction to fossils. Visiting the exhibit before it was open to the public (it is now open through Memorial Day 2012), we missed learning about dinosaurs from staff and volunteers located throughout the trail to answer questions and fill curious minds with fun facts. But judging from our tour guide’s wealth of knowledge, there’s a lot for little ones to learn about the dinos who line the trail. K was pleased to be the map carrier, obsessed with learning the name of each dinosaur we came across.
Having seen many a plastic dinosaur in my day, I have to tell you these are the best animatronic dinosaurs I have ever seen. The movements are so fluid and the texture of the plastic so life-like that you might just come to believe you are on a safari to explore living dinosaurs. Watch out, some of the prehistoric pals are so life-like you might actually find yourself getting sprayed. (You’ve been warned.)
Half way through the nature hike down the dino trail you will find yourself at field camp where kids can get hands on with an archaeological dig, learning to wrap bone fossils for transport, a mini zip line and a little snack time. (Lots of places for mom and dad to have a seat too.)
The dinosaur exhibit is dino-mite (I couldn’t resist), but since this was our first visit to the Brevard Zoo I have to share with you my absolute favorite moment of the day. Feeding the giraffe. YES, at the Brevard Zoo you don’t just look at the pretty giraffe, they come right up to you and you can feed them! It was incredible. Not only are giraffes my daughter favorite animal, but to be able to touch these breath-taking creatures that I have only ever seen from a distance. AMAZING. I worried K might be a little afraid, but she jumped right in feeding the beautiful creatures. (Anyone can feed the giraffe, but it costs $1 per piece of food. Bring cash, you don’t want to miss this.) I could have spent the entire day right there watching and feeding the giraffe, but my own family was getting hungry too. So we had to move on.
Since lunch came next, I must commend the zoo on its food quality. Everything was reasonably priced and tasty. Just watch out for the native wildlife. We were attacked by vicious, fry-stealing birds. And I mean vicious, with my four-month old sitting in my lap a bird swooped out of the trees and took a french fry out of my mouth as I tried to eat it. I kid not. It was lovely eating outside by the water, but those birds!
Speaking of birds, you must also feed the birds while at the zoo. Hilarious! There are two areas to feed the birds, one with nectar and one with seeds on a stick. Small and/or timid children will delight at feeding the calm cockatiel seed sticks. Feeding the lorikeets should be left to braver, older children. K tried it, but quickly decided it was more fun to watch the birds swarm mom and dad. (One nipped my finger a bit too, which would have resulted in waterworks if it had been K.)
I’ve never had such a hands-on experience at a zoo before, and I can’t wait to go back to check out the Treetop Trek, the kids water play area and, of course, feed the giraffe again! Moms and dads, I highly recommend answering the question “What are we going to do today?” with, “We are going to the Brevard Zoo!”
Visit the Brevard Zoo and check out Dinosaurs: Dead Or Alive? from now through Memorial Day weekend (great day trip idea for spring break). Find directions, ticket information and more online at www.brevardzoo.org.
Disclosure – I was invited to attend the Brevard Zoo as part so I could provide a first-hand account of the exhibits, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.