My old stomping grounds. The Palm Beach Zoo. I used to work there. It was such a fun job (read more about what I did here). Now, I'm back. The Zoo asked me to help host a Bloggers Day and of course, I said yes.
If you grew up in the area, you probably know the Zoo as the Dreher Park Zoo. To newcomers in the area like me, it's the Palm Beach Zoo. Late last year, the Zoo added "& Conservation Society" to its name to help bring awareness to the important conservation work it does, inspiring others to act on behalf of wildlife and the natural world. Along with the name changes, have come some major upgrades to the 23 acres that 700+ animals call home. Let's take you on a little tour.
1st stop: SAFARI TRAIN
The Safari Train is new since I left. And really cute, too! The kids all seemed to like the animals and the music as the choo-choo went around the track. The train is located right next to the Wildlife Carousel, which was the backdrop of a fashion photo shoot that I helped bring to the Zoo. More details here.
2nd stop: Woo-ville
Students from G-Star School of the Arts designed this eco-friendly holiday display, transforming the usual picnic area into Woo-ville. It was here that we enjoyed a cup of coffee. But not just any cup of coffee. This is made especially for the Zoo. And it's the highest grade available - organic and bird friendly. What does that mean exactly? I thought it meant if the grounds fall on the ground, it's safe for birds to eat. Not so much. Bird-friendly coffee is coffee that comes from farms that provide good, forest-like habitat for birds. So instead of being grown on land that has been cleared of all other vegetation, bird-friendly coffees are planted under a canopy of trees. That shade allows beans to ripen more slowly, resulting in a richer flavor. It's quite tasty!
While we sipped, we listened. The Zoo's marketing department explained all the fun events for the holidays like Zoo Year's Eve on December 31 which includes an organic apple juice toast at noon, Animal Birthday Celebrations on New Year's Day for the Zoo's North American black bear brothers, Mexican spider monkey, and Florida panther ambassador and the second annual Save the Panther 5K Race for kids and adults on January 3. More details here.
We also learned about the great membership programs. Did you know that you could get an annual family membership (two adults and all dependent children ages 3-18, kids under 3 are free) for only $145? The adults in that membership could be grandparents instead of parents. Read more about their membership programs and the benefits here, including free or discounted admission to more than 140 other zoos, aquariums and museums across the country.
3rd stop: Malayan Tiger Habitat
Our visit to the Malayan tiger habitat was an HISTORIC moment. It was the first time one of the Zoo's Malayan tigers was exploring their new habitat. Berapi, the female tiger who gave birth to three male cubs in 2012, tried to hide from our cameras. I snapped a quick picture as she laid among the lush landscaping. You should definitely see if you can spot her or any of the three others tigers on your next visit. The Palm Beach Zoo is one of only a handful of zoos in the country where you'll see Malayan tigers. They are endangered with fewer than 500 of them in the wild. That's why the Zoo's species survival program is so important. The Zoo is hoping Berapi will have more cubs in the future.
4th stop: Aldabra Tortoise Encounter
This up-close animal experience is so much fun. It was my last project at the Zoo and the first animal encounter they offered. In fact, you can see a picture of Lil Tank and me on their promotional materials here. For only $15 for members and $20 for non-members, you can touch, feed and depending on the weather, give the three Aldabra tortoises a water bath. What's also great about this add-on experience is that it's available for younger kids, too. Definitely one you'll want to add onto your Zoo admission ticket.
Here are some fun facts about Aldabra tortoises. The males weigh on average 550 pounds, females about 330 pounds. They can live to be nearly 200 years old. During the encounter, the zoo keepers talk about simple things we can do to prevent harm to these animals like clipping the plastic rings used to hold your six-pack of soda or beer.
5th Stop: Exploring the Habitats
Wandering the 23 acres on the Zoo grounds, it really felt like you were among the habitats of the animals. I love that the pathways are shaded. We also spotted a zoo keeper feeding animals by paddling a canoe in the water. You can feed some of the animals, too. There are machines near the Florida Pioneer Home, where you can buy food for the ducks and flamingos.
As you walk around, you also notice the various ways the Zoo promotes ways to conserve including using solar energy and recycling waste. Great way to teach your children lessons on how to reduce our carbon footprint and protect the natural world.
One other awesome thing to do at the Zoo that I failed to get a picture of (since I saw it multiple times a day when I worked there) is the Fountain Plaza. It's a water play area where your kids can wear their swimsuits and splash around. When we first took Monkey & Lil Tank to the Zoo, they didn't want to explore and see the animals because the fountain is right when you walk in. Just FYI...
FINAL STOP: WILD THINGS GIFT SHOP
You can't leave the Zoo without stopping to look for zoo-venirs! There you'll find lots of unique animal-themed toys, clothes, hats, books and jewelry. I'm modeling hand-made jewelry from countries that help support the Zoo's conservation mission. The pictures don't do it justice because the pieces are gorgeous and of great quality.
You can also pick up some items that will help continue the conversation of conservation at home. The butterfly is a reusable ice pack for boo-boos. The colorful rhinoceros is made of the same material as erasers. The owl snack bag is reusable.
I always have a great time at the Palm Beach Zoo, whether with our kids for family fun time or just NewsyDad and me enjoying their adult-only events like Brew at the Zoo. It offers something new and different just about every time you go.
We're offering our Newsy Parents readers an opportunity to win four VIP tickets to the Palm Beach Zoo. Giveaway ends January 30th at 12:00 a.m., open to U.S. residents, ages 18+. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Enter using the giveaway form below. Good luck!
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