We are always looking for fun things to do with Aiden. The more active we keep him the happier he is throughout the day. During his nine months, we have been to two different zoos and a two different petting zoo/farms. This post will focus on the larger zoos and why we think it is a great activity for a baby.
San Diego Zoo
When Aiden was about four months old we visited the San Diego Zoo. I was excited to visit this zoo because I have heard so many great things about it. I was warned that it would take a full day to get through the whole thing. It was not a priority for us to see the whole thing, and of course, Aiden wouldn’t know the difference so I wasn’t too concerned. We brought two bottles with us which we figured would cover nine hours. We ended up getting through the zoo in just three hours (one feeding).
The zoo was beautiful and family friendly with lots of interactive things for younger children to do. Upon arrival, it was recommended that we take a bus around the park to familiarize ourselves with the zoo before we set out. Since we weren’t interested in spending the full day there we skipped that. We decided that we wanted to see the Koala, Polar Bears, Hippopotamus, Rhinos and Penguins at a minimum because we don’t have those at our local zoo.
The Koalas were fairly close to the entrance so we looked at those first and a couple of other things nearby. Then, we set off to the furthest point on the map which was the Northern Frontier where the Polar Bears are. It’s a good hike so we stopped along the way, by the elephants, to feed Aiden. Once we saw the Polar Bears we worked backward to check off the rest of our list.
There is an admission cost to visit the San Diego Zoo. There is also parking, but we Ubered there from our hotel which didn’t take very long, or cost very much.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo
We brought Aiden to the National Zoo recently. We are pretty lucky to call this zoo our local zoo! Dan and I hadn’t been there in years, and the last few times we went there was a lot of construction. The construction is now complete (for the most part) and the zoo was better than ever. We especially enjoyed the Asian Walk where the Elephants and Pandas are found.
The San Diego Zoo trip worked out so well we decided to use a similar game plan, with one important exception — we had to see the Pandas first. We arrived early and had our game plan ready. Panda Bears and the Red Panda were our only must see at the National zoo. They are close to the front of the park and, of course, very popular so we went there first. Our tactic worked and we were able to see the Pandas without too much crazy crowding. It was also really nice with all the renovations because you used to have to line up to see them in a building behind a glass pane, but now everything is open and there are plenty of sight points to see them.
After the Pandas we went to the furthest point on the map down Olmsted Walk to where the “Great Apes’ and ‘Great Cats’ were, stopping along the way to see different animals. We took our feeding break in the Orangutan Think Tank Center which was perfect because it was air conditioned and the Orangutan was entertaining. There was a ton going on in the park that day. We saw an otter enrichment and elephants walking along a path and then stopping to eat maybe 50 feet in front of us, which was fun to see. There were other similar opportunities for which we did not stop. On the way back, we visited the American Trail and stopped by the seals and sea lions. I think this was our favorite part because there is a mini splash park by the sea lions that Aiden loved. It was a really hot day, so I think we all enjoyed it. We finished in three hours, just like the San Diego Zoo.
Admission to the National Zoo is free, but parking is on the expensive side. You can metro, but really the cost for two adults to metro is actually close to the cost to park. It could also take a lot longer to get there. We ended up purchasing a membership which gives us free parking (including that day). If we go to the zoo two more times it will pay for itself. I am sure we will have no problem doing that.
Tips for a successful zoo visit with a baby:
- Make a plan of attack. Decide in advance what animals you ‘must see’.
- Get there early! Your baby is probably up at the crack of dawn. Take advantage of that and get to the park as close to opening as possible.
- Start with the animals that are the furthest away from the entrance (or the most popular in the case of the National Zoo’s Pandas) and work your way back.
- Bring a stroller and baby carrier so baby can see what’s going on, but can take a nap if he/she is tired.
- Bring water and snacks. The food is expensive at both parks. Plus you don’t want to waste valuable time waiting in line when you could be checking those must see animals off your list!
- Make sure you have a hat and sunscreen.
Have you visited any zoos? Let us know which ones we need to see!