Thursday, April 4, 2013

Akron Zoo

The signage at the entrance welcomes visitors into the parking area.

A Day at the Akron Zoo
by Joanna Wilson

Wanting to get outside and enjoy one of the first sunny Spring days of the year, I spent the afternoon at the Akron Zoo.  To be honest, I haven't been to the Akron Zoo since the 1970s--and I don't remember much.  So I felt like it was certainly time to re-visit one of our city's institutions.  Expecting the place to be empty on a weekday during the school year, I was quickly corrected.  The parking lot was full and the zoo was active with people during my visit--a reminder that everyone else in Akron is eager for warmer weather to arrive just as I am.

The South American penguins were active in the water...

...and the flamingos were sitting pretty.

And not just the people--even the animals were out in the warm sunshine.  The bird exhibits were all filled with activity and movement while the large mammals seemed happily laying about sunning themselves.  One of the highlights of my day was walking into the enclosed aviary and being inside the enclosure with all of the dizzying flying, squawking, and chirping surrounding me.  I could even easily spot the wild turkey in the aviary--it too was sitting in the sun although its feathers perfectly matched the ground it sat upon.

This kimodo dragon is also in an indoor exhibit--I didn't realize how BIG these things are!?

Even if it hadn't been the best of weather, some of the best exhibits are the indoor ones.  I stood for a long time enjoying the fruit bats in the bat house.  Behind one glass wall were a VERY large number of small fruit bats all hanging in the dimly lit enclosure.  Only after I stood there for a long while could I see small movements by the bats and then I realized how MANY there were!  It made me feel uneasy so I turned away to the glass enclosure across the room to see more fruit bats--these ones were HUGE!  I was lucky enough to arrive just after feeding time because one bat was just at eye level hanging upside down with his head in a metal bowl of chopped apples.  Dare I say he was adorable?

All along the walkways are parcourse signs to add fitness to your animal watching.  Or, perhaps it's just for the entertainment of the zoo animals?

Park employee Josette manned a cart asking visitors to play a game about whether animals were either nocturnal or diurnal.  I got more than a few wrong :(  Later, Josette moved to the touch tank for people to directly experience underwater animals.

One of the things that most impressed me about the Akron Zoo are the many interactive opportunities for kids and adults to participate in and maximize their zoo experience.  The park encourages fitness as you walk from exhibit to exhibit with signage that instructs physical activities.  There are also numerous stations that allow visitors to interact with what can be learned about these animals or their environments such as the underwater touch tank, the Nocturnal Game, or the wheel-spinning Tiger Survival Game.  I also appreciated all the zoo's walkways that were lined with beautiful plants, trees, and bushes--most of which are labeled to help identify what kind of plants they are.  Of course, there's also riding the train, feeding select animals, and taking a spin on the carousel. 

Spin the choice:  Can You Survive in the Wild? The Tiger Survival Game is another example of an interactive element at the zoo.

Not traditional carousel horses, this ride is filled with animals from all over the world.

Yet, my most favorite part of the zoo was the numerous creative and decorative elements throughout the park.  Akron Zoo is filled with animal sculptures, statues, and even topiary.  These beautiful details enhanced my walk around the grounds and inspired me to appreciate my day with the animals.  These sorts of elements were far more edifying than expected.

Gorgeous decorative wall at the zoo.

Animal sculptures fill every turn and nook within the park.

I couldn't resist getting my photo taken while seated upon a butterfly bench on the edge of the french gardens in the zoo.

If you're looking to plan a visit to the Akron Zoo, let me call your attention to a new sprawling set of exhibits opening in July.  Called Grizzly Ridge, there will soon be wolves, bears, eagles, and even otters in separate enclosures.  The construction work is going on now and it's hard to not get excited about the expansion to come.  How long has it been since you've been at the Akron Zoo?

Coming THIS summer!

The Akron Zoo website:
Through the month of April, open everyday 11am-4pm for $6 per person
May through October, open every day 10am-5pm for $10 per person

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