I’ll tell our zoo story mostly through photographs. For all the pictures we took, surprisingly few animals appear in them. But that’s okay. We plan to go back sometime in the near future. Also, because it takes a full 2.5 hours to drive to the zoo from our apartment, not including restroom breaks and the like, I made us leave the zoo by about 4 p.m. We ended up skipping a few parts of the zoo, which wasn’t our original intention. It was an all-day event for us, but we didn’t even see everything, and not because Jacksonville Zoo is particularly huge.
Our first stop at the zoo was the train station ticket booth. We rode the train and got a backside view of everything the zoo had to offer. That usually wasn’t all that impressive, but the kids on the train were cute, as evidenced here:
Our next stop was the stingray exhibit. Although our kids were too apprehensive to touch the stingrays, we spent several minutes watching them. I asked several questions of a zoo employee who tends to the stringrays, so it was an educational experience for me. In the end, everybody agreed that it was our favorite exhibit. There’s just something peaceful about watching marine life, at least in many situations. I snapped a couple of photos on my cell phone. They’re not great, but I’ll share a couple here.
This was the “boss” stingray, according to Eddie and Peter. It was huge, which you probably cannot tell from this photo alone. The zoo employee said it would grow to about twice that size in another couple of years. Wowzers!
One of the most intriguing sights, for me, was of an animal called an okapi. I’d never seen anything like it. It’s got the legs of a zebra, the body of a horse, the head of a deer, and the ears of a vampire bat. It’s like God’s version of Wendy’s chili, composed of all of the day’s leftovers thrown together. Or so it seems. In actuality, the okapi is not related to the zebra but to the giraffe. You can see the resemblance once you know, but it’s a quirky creature either way. I saw the okapis from the train, but I didn’t manage to get a photo of them. Here is an image taken from Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of someone who goes by the handle Raul654:
One of the highlights of our zoo trip was the inquisitive squirrel who searched our stroller while Melanie had the kids in the restroom. He continually climbed in and out of every part of our stroller. He even grabbed hold of my Diet Mountain Dew bottle and sniffed the lid for a few seconds. The kids were thrilled by the spectacle when they came out of the restroom. This particular squirrel was probably the most exciting animal they encountered at the zoo.
The reptile house was another big hit. There weren’t a ton of snakes, but the kids loved what they had. For whatever reason, they were particularly fond of the first snake we looked at, even though it wasn’t the biggest. We returned to it after admiring the other snakes, at our kids’ request.
I was a fan of the huge bull frog that resided in the reptile house. Peter’s head blocks the frog in the following photo, making it nearly pointless. But I’ll include it anyway since I’m so darn cute in it.
Playing outside of the reptile house…
At the giraffe overlook (with the giraffes mostly obscured, of course)…
Playing on sculptures…
But of course, nothing beats a children’s play area. It wouldn’t matter where you go with kids, they will care more about the play area than anything else. Such was the case with Jacksonville Zoo. Admittedly, the play area was pretty cool. I didn’t get many photos to show off what the play area was like, but aside from a couple of slides, it was comprised primarily of things on which to climb. No swings or teeter totters, just lots of rope and walls. It was a smash hit.
Every time I tried to snap a photo of Creegan playing, I would barely miss him. That’s his red shirt at the left end of the bridge. This is about a good a photo of him playing as I got.