By Katie Moosbrugger
An excursion to the zoo is one of my all-time favorite trips with the family! I'm kind of a zoo junkie as I've been to a bunch including the Bronx Zoo, the National Zoo in DC, and even the zoo in Rome, Italy! But I have to say the the NC Zoo in Asheboro is one of the best, and I love going back time after time.
If you are thinking of going, go soon before it gets too hot. As you can guess, a trip to the zoo involves a lot of hours outside and a lot of walking. It's a trip worthwhile for all ages, but one that's most enjoyable if the weather is bearable.
If you haven't been in a while or haven never been, below are some tips you should keep in mind...
For those of you who have never been, it's about an hour drive from Winston-Salem which means it's a shorter ride from High Point and Greensboro. The zoo has more than 1,100 animals and 40,000 plants along five miles of shaded pathways. The most popular exhibits include the polar bears, elephants, gorillas, sea lions, river otters, alligators, baboons, rhinoceros, giraffes and zebras.
The N.C. Zoo is the nation's largest walk-through natural-habitat zoo. Its African and North American exhibit regions span more than 500 acres with more than five miles of walkways. New at the Zoo is the Watani Grasslands Reserve, an $8.5 million expansion of the park's elephant & rhino exhibits. This exhibit allows you to walk out onto a long pier where they offer animal feedings at certain times of the day. We actually were there before this exhibit opened, but we'll definitely make that top of the list for our next visit.
When you arrive at the N.C. Zoo, you will see that it has two regions, North America and Africa. Each region has its own parking lots and ticket booths. After you park your vehicle, be sure take note of the parking lot number or letter for easy return at the end of your visit. Shuttles are available between parking lots. The road between the North America and Africa parking lots is about one mile. You can visit the entire Park from either entrance using one ticket.
The N.C. Zoo offers two types of free transportation for visitors: In-Park Tram and Bus Service, and a Parking Lot Shuttle Service. Both accommodate strollers and wheelchairs, however I would recommend using the smallest stroller possible if you plan on carrying one on (such as an umbrella stroller vs. a three-in-one stroller system or jog stroller). These buses get packed! And while they say the average wait is 20 minutes, it was a lot longer for us due to heavy visitation. It's worth it though, especially after a long day of walking.
Right now, the zoo if featuring its Dinosaur exhibit, and it's great! It's like a mini Jurassic Park (of course much less scary) for the kids. I highly recommend you add this to your trip. Like the Zoo's web site says, "Be sure to purchase the COMBO PASS for your best value. You'll get admission to the zoo plus THREE FUN TICKETS to use in any combination at the following venues: Dinosaur Exhibit, 4-D Theatre and Carousel. Otherwise, individual tickets are $4 each for admission to the Dinosaurs Exhibit (purchase at Junction Plaza)."
Also make note that the Polar Bears are not on exhibit right now. They are working on a habitat expansion for these bears, and it's not expected to be completed until late 2014.
As for the rest of your trip, here are some tips and suggestions the Zoo suggests you take note of before you plan your visit...Arrive early to beat the heat and the crowds! The Zoo opens at 9 am and closes at 5 pm (it closes at 4 pm between November and March).
It takes between four to six hours to see the entire park. There are over five miles of trails through the two exhibit regions, North America and Africa. If you arrive mid-day, you might choose to tour just one region.
When you arrive, please check the animal status boards located outside the admissions windows. The boards will give you daily information about feeding times, keeper talks and which animals might be off exhibit.
At the admission booth, you will receive a free Visitor Guide. The guide includes animals, exhibits and trail names which correspond with park signs to help you navigate through the Zoo.
And to get the best out of your animal watching experience, here are some tips from animal keepers...•As a general rule, animals tend to be more active in the morning than in the afternoon.
•The animals will not respond to calls, whistles or tapping on the glass. Your best bet is to remain quiet and watchful.
•Some animals tend to stay in the back of their exhibit near the Zoo's closing. In large exhibits, animals might be harder to see at the end of the day.
•Many animals use “camouflage techniques,” so be patient and look closely.
•Use your senses, like hearing, to help you find an animal. In the Aviary, listen for the rustle of leaves. Look up in the canopy and near the ground to find birds.
Have you been? What are some other tips you can offer?