Posted December 18, 2013
By ISABEL BRADOR
MIAMI — As a child, I loved the zoo. Saturdays were filled with wonder and excitement as I stared at the giraffes, ate enough ice cream to make my stomach ache, and promptly fell asleep in the car on our way back home.
While the zoo still invokes happy childhood memories for most visitors, it’s impossible to not notice the whining children, the exhausted parents and the fact that sometimes the animals just are not active enough to view in their exhibits. Yet, Zoo Miami, one of the main zoos in South Florida, is a zoo that avoids that stigma.
Contrary to popular belief, zoos can be a great place to spend the day with a significant other, a friend or a chance to spend the day with your thoughts and animals. The Zoo Miami offers more than 100 exhibits and is home to more than 500 different species of animals.
The broad walkways, interactive exhibits and wide variety of activities make Zoo Miami an engaging visit for both children and adults. Also, for couples, a trip to the zoo can be a break from the endless cycle of movie and restaurant dates.
The No. 1 rule to a visit to any attraction is to get there early. Arriving an hour from when the zoo opens allows guests ample time to enjoy seeing the animals in their exhibits and to participate in the various interactive experiences available.
If planning an early visit seems impossible, go in the late afternoon. To maximize a visit avoid arriving around noon, when the heat is almost unbearable and the animals are usually hiding from the sun or fast asleep. If noon is the only arrival time possible, bring plenty of sunscreen and a visor. Also, be sure to double check the surfaces of playground equipment or any outdoor seating areas.
Thankfully most of the zoos interactive activities run throughout the day, ensuring that guests will be able to experience most, if not all, the zoo has to offer, regardless of arrival times. Some of the most popular activities are the camel rides and the rhinoceros and giraffe feeding stations which allow guests to experience a face to face encounter with these animals.
While these activities are not included in the price of admission, they are a more affordable alternative to pricey, private behind-the-scene tours.
The zoo also has an air-conditioned gallery sponsored by the Zoological Society of South Florida called “Dr. Wilde’s World.” The gallery features traveling permanent exhibits which focus on habitats and cultures from various regions of the world. Entrance to the gallery is included in the price of admission and the exhibits are always a favorite of guests both young and old.
Currently, the gallery space houses a haunted house in celebration of Halloween. The attraction is a bit spooky, and is not included in the price of admission. The zoo has a clear no-refund policy on the haunted house, so choose wisely if children are involved.
In addition to interactive exhibits, the zoo boasts more than three miles of walkways and 327 acres in developed space: making a good pair of walking shoes a must. The walkways are lined with flora native to South Florida and are broad enough to accommodate both the golf carts used by zoo staff, pedestrians and the armada of bicycles available for rent.
While the bicycles can be pricey, a two-hour rental can cost up to $32, they are worth it if guests have a time limit or individuals in their party who have a hard time getting around (i.e. individuals with disabilities or with toddlers). If a bicycle is out of budget the zoo has wheelchairs and strollers which are available to rent. Guests must be 21 or older to rent and drive the bicycles, so bring ID along.
For guests who have both the time and capability to walk, the zoo is dotted with misters, water playgrounds and kiosks which sell plenty of water and frozen treats to keep hydrated and cool. They are a great opportunity to get better acquainted with a date or friend over a sundae or frozen smoothie.
While three miles may not seem like much, in the South Florida heat and humidity it can seem daunting and perhaps near impossible to get through the exhibits without spending a fortune on water bottles and sports drinks.
A word to the wise and budget-conscious, while th
e Zoo Miami does not permit outside food or drink, it does sell refillable water bottles which pay for themselves in free refills. The kiosks make a great opportunity to get better acquainted with a date or friend over a sundae or frozen smoothie.
Also, if avoiding large school groups on the day of your visit is a priority, avoid the zoo during school days and try to plan a visit on a Saturday or Sunday morning. While there will be a large volume of families with their own children, guests can avoid the chaos of having 50 under-chaperoned school children loose in the zoo. At the very least, most children present on weekends will have direct adult supervision.
Zoo Miami lends itself to be a wonderful outing for those with or without children, and those with or without significant others. With its broad walkways, interesting activities and wide array of animals, the zoo has something to offer anyone, even those who just want to treat themselves to a day with their thoughts.
- Address: 12400 SW 152nd St., Miami Fla. 33177
- Phone: 305-251-0400
- Times: Everyday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
- Admission: Adults $15.95, Children (3-12) $11.95, Children ( 2 and under) free,