Disclosure: Thanks to Knoxville Zoo for providing tickets for our visit. The opinions posted here are 100% mine.
When you’re trying to find something fun for the kids to do in the summer, you can pretty much guarantee that anything that involves animals will be an instant hit. When asked where they want to go, my kids usually respond with these two options: Disney World and the Zoo. Since Disney World is a good 12 hour drive away and the zoo is less than 2 hours away, guess which one wins out most of the time? You guessed right, we head to the zoo quite often on our free time! The Knoxville Zoo is a great place to visit with kids because the staff is so knowledgeable, patient, and friendly. We’ve often come across staff members working with an animal and enjoyed a few minutes of one-on-one time to learn about that creature. There’s always something fun going on, so be sure to check their event calendar to see if you can get in on the action. On our most recent trip, we enjoyed getting to see the new giraffe experience that recently opened. It was a great visit and I’m excited to share it with you!
First, my kids always have to visit the Wee Play area of the zoo. Sometimes we circle counter-clockwise around the zoo to land here at the end. It’s a great place for parents because (1) it’s air-conditioned and (2) there are benches. Let’s face it, after a full day at the zoo, a bench looks like a five-star hotel. It’s even better if your toddler can play at arm’s length with some blocks and you can just breathe for a while. That can happen at Wee Play, people. Take advantage of it. My kids could easily spend a full two hours here.
After we left the cool of the Wee Play center, we headed toward the butterfly house. I don’t know the official name for this place, we just always call it the Butterfly House because that’s what it is! I spent an obscene amount of time trying to get a butterfly to crawl on my finger. Remember how much fun that was when you were a kid? It still is!! There are so many beautiful butterflies in here. There is even a window full of cocoons; some even moved with the butterfly trying to emerge. It was sooo very cool. I loved my kids’ reactions to the butterflies as they flew about. The butterflies, not the kids….although the kids did a fair bit of flying around, too.
Then it was time to head for the Williams Family Giraffe Encounter. Although it was under construction when we visited, there was a handicapped-accessible ramp that could already be used to access the platform. Giraffes were still visible along the fence as always, but there was a huge area where visitors could view the giraffes and even feed them!! Keep in mind that this is all at the will of the animals. The staff members I spoke with said that some zoo guests get upset when the giraffes don’t come over to visit. We have to remember that these are animals in captivity; they don’t have the desire to be petted like a dog or cat would. It was really fun to be up at the giraffe’s level though. The staff members were careful to remind us not to take any items beyond the marked point in the platform. If an unfortunate drop of the camera occurred, it wouldn’t be safe for the animals and you might not get to retrieve your item until the zoo closed. Uh-oh. Glad we kept a safe distance. I was pleased to see that there was a hand sanitizer station right at the exit so that I could douse my kids down with some germ killers.
A trip to the zoo just isn’t complete without a camel ride. We dish out $5 per kid every time we visit. They love this part of the day. There is a new camel at the riding center now. He was being walked around the circle so that he could get acclimated to his new surroundings. He was really pleasant and seemed to enjoy the attention of the crowd.
Remember how I told you that the Knoxville Zoo always has staff members ready to share the cool animals with us? This time, it was for the birds. We saw two birds up close and personal. We also enjoyed the animal show where the birds literally fly down right beside the audience. It was so cool!! The best part of that show is that they have animals from the local shelter in part of the act. There are dogs that have been abused and injured who are now happily performing for the Knoxville Zoo. It was obvious that they enjoy every second of it!! We were enthralled. It was a nice break in the midst of a very hot day.
We also enjoyed a nice ice cream treat while were were visiting. Sometimes we bring beach towels and swimsuits and let the kids play in the awesome splash pad area. On this trip, though, I didn’t bring them because we had plans for after our zoo trip. If you’re making a day of it, you’ll want to consider doing that.
If you’re in the Knoxville, TN area and need a fun activity, consider heading to the zoo!! You can get a family membership for almost the cost of a one-day trip. It’s a great deal and such a fun way to spend time as a family.