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A Day at the Zoo

Tessa Jurewicz

Family Travel


A day at the zoo is the perfect summer activity. Family members of all ages are sure to smile and laugh as they watch the antics of animals of all sizes. A little bit of planning goes a long way to ensure that this day is a fun success. Here are some tips to make this a day trip to remember.

Make a Plan

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums boasts 236 high-quality animal exhibitions in North America. The The AZA website is a great place to start planning your trip. Once you have chosen which zoo you will attend, check out a map. Chances are, even if you plan for a full day at the zoo, you will not have a chance to see everything that the zoo has to offer. Setting priorities for which exhibits are most important is a great way to ensure that everyone in your family is able to see their personal favorites. Don’t forget features such as the petting zoo, play equipment, learning labs, and other fun spots as you plan your time. Consider your child’s stamina and attention span as you create your plan of attack. 

Come Prepared

It is always best to go to the zoo prepared! As you put together a manageable-sized pack for the day (backpacks are great) consider adding: sunscreen, baby wipes (they always come in handy), hand sanitizer, hats, a change of clothes (if you have little ones in tow), and your phone or camera for great photos. Depending upon the ages of your children, you might want to consider bringing along a stroller or wagon. They not only provide a resting place for tired feet, but also a place to store your bag while trekking through the zoo. There are often concessions available throughout the zoo, but packing plenty of water, snacks, and a lunch is a great way of staying on-budget. Who doesn’t enjoy a midday picnic?

Tailor the Experience

Consider your child’s interests and age as you plan for your trip. Children and adults often enjoy participating in zoo scavenger hunts (many zoos have these available at the admissions office or online). Older children may enjoy researching favorite animals prior to your trip and adding to their research throughout the day. You can prepare younger children for your trip by reading books that feature the zoo. A few great options are:

Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss

Put Me In the Zoo  by Robert Lopshire

ZOO-OLOGY by Joelle Jolivet

Neck and Neck by Elise Parsley

ZooZical by Judy Sierra and Marc Brown

Midnight at the Zoo by Faye Hanson 

Know Your Family’s Limits

As a parent, your goal is for everyone to have the energy and patience to talk about their zoo experience on the way home. This means that you might have a plan to stay at the zoo from sun-up until sundown, but shortly after lunch you realize that everyone is fading fast. Let your children’s energy level and behavior guide you. 

The zoo is a terrific educational and fun activity to do with your whole family! These tips can help make your trip to the zoo an experience to remember.


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Tessa Jurewicz

Tessa Jurewicz is an accomplished writer who is passionate about helping parents find joy in raising a family. She has honed her passion while teaching elementary-aged children for fifteen years and earning a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education. She practices discovering joy daily in raising three young children of her own.