Last week I had the pleasure of chaperoning my son’s 1st grade field trip to the NC Zoo. Our family has frequently visited the NC Zoo and every time I have a new and exciting experience. I thought I share a few tips for visit the NC Zoo, chaperoning a field trip to the NC Zoo of just general tips for visiting a zoo with children.
1. Be flexible – As with anything that involves children being flexible with your schedule, expectations and time are key. I try to let the children I’m with set the pace. I ask them which animals they’d like to see most and inform them that we will have a lot of fun but may not be able to see or do everything. The NC Zoo is a particularly large zoo so it’s fairly unrealistic to expect a group to see and do everything.
2. Plan your route – After I asked my kids which animals they really wanted to see I mapped out a quick route so we could see a much stuff as possible, do as little walking as needed and end near our final destination. The NC Zoo has trams that connect 3 different locations throughout the park. We utilized the trams to get us to most of the animals we wanted to see. (We arrived in North America, took the tram to Junction, walked the Africa loop back to Junction, rode the tram back to North America where we ended our day.)
3. Take breaks – We ate an early lunch right before we entered the zoo so everyone was fueled and ready to go. However, we took a few bathroom breaks and water breaks. We sat down a few times and stopped to play at some of the designated play areas. Since we set our expectations at the beginning we were able to enjoy our time and not feel rushed to see everything.
4. Skip the Extras – The NC Zoo has a lot of extra activities, some of which charge an additional fee. (carousel, 3-d movie, tours, etc) Because we were limited on time we skipped most of the extra activities, especially the ones that cost money. We came to see animals so we stuck with our plan and saw animals.
5. Learn Something – At several of the exhibits throughout the park there are staffed displays where zoo employees have items that you can touch and learn more about the animals. Most of the staff are knowledgeable about the animal they are presenting and they love to answer questions.
Overall, I’d say the key to having a great trip to the zoo is to be prepared, be flexible and relax. Visiting the zoo is a lot of fun. I tried really hard to be engaging and excited about the animals so the children in my group would feel the same way too. They asked a lot of questions, I tried to find the answers. We all learned new things about animals and the great work zoos do for animal conservation.