Thursday, July 25, 2013

Grin and BEAR it at John Ball Zoo

If you've read any of my posts from the last month or so, first of all THANK YOU!  Second of all, you know we've been in and out of town and have taken part in many adventures, big and small, this summer. Of everywhere we've been and everything we've done, one of my kids' (and my) very favorite things we've done was an absolutely amazing visit we had at the zoo.

The zoo?

YES! The zoo!  John Ball Zoo, to be more specific.  

This is technically the same zoo I went to when I was a kid, but that statement feels like I'm stretching it a bit because so very much has changed and been added, especially in the last couple of years.  I loved it then, and my kids love it even more now.  

I knew it was going to be a great day when I parked the minivan, we all unloaded, and my son started screaming with delight, "Look, Mom! A SQUIRREL!  There's a squirrel right there!"  His trip was made complete within 23 seconds of being there, and we hadn't even left the parking lot.  A squirrel.  Behold the wonders of the zoo.  I was a little worried he might actually pass out upon walking through the gate, but we threw caution to the wind and went for it anyway.

I know it's hard to follow up with anything more exciting besides that squirrel, but stay with me for a minute.

Our absolute highlight of the day was the very first thing we did that morning.  My kids got to feed the grizzly bears.

Yes, you read that correctly.  

No, I did not feed my children to the grizzly bears.  


When I told my sister we were going to do this, she started laughing.  "Wait a minute.  You are going to let your kids feed the bears?  Like real bears?  You are terrified to let your children feed the ducks at the pond by my house.  How on earth are you going to let them feed grizzly bears?"  

(Unfortunately, I must confess this is a true statement.  I tend to get a little freaked out by animals from time to time, and may have made my kids throw half a slice of bread at the ducks coming toward us and high tail it back to my sister's house when we were there last.  I'm not exactly what you'd call an animal lover.  Which makes me loving the day at the zoo even more bizarre.  But I digress...back to the bears...)

Just so everyone can breathe a little easier, the bears were indeed locked up in a separate room (but you knew that, right?) when the kids went in to feed them.  All the kids listened intently about the new exhibit, and exactly what they'd have to do when they got inside.  I don't think I've ever seen my kids this focused.  I may start telling them they are getting ready to feed bears when I need them to clean their rooms or put their shoes on or brush their teeth.  I'm willing to try just about anything...

They got to go in and scatter the food around their habitat, and were even encouraged to throw some of it up higher on some of the rocks.  Does it get much better than being told to throw food around where bears live?!  I found out that the bears' diet is made up of a lot of fruit and veggies, and not as much meat.  The kids got to put out carrots, apples, sweet potatoes and 'bear popsicles' - frozen oatmeal, fruit and yogurt.  

Once all the food was tossed around and hidden for the bears to forage for, we got to stand at the windows and watch them look for it.  

 What is incredible about the new bear exhibit (it just opened in May) is how CLOSE you are to the bears!  They are RIGHT THERE!  So cool.  (And yet somehow that is so much safer to me than ducks.  I mean, come on, there's glass protecting me from that big huge grizzly bear.)

Our day continued with checking out lots and lots of amazing animals and checking out all the cool spots to play and relax for a little bit.

We rode the Funicular and had fun watching the trees go by as we rode down.

My kids fed the budgies, and yes, I did bite the bullet and actually went in with them so I could take some pictures.  (Am I impressing you with my sheer acts of bravery yet?)  They were in their glory, as birds landed on their feeding sticks, one after another.

They had fun petting sting rays, too.  They were both a little unsure at first, but then giggled and told me how cool they felt.

The petting zoo is always a hit.  Of course, we had to stop and wash our hands at Petticoat Station before moving on to the next adventure.

We spent some time at the top of the boardwalk, where there are a couple of different spots for kids to play.  There is a Treetop Outpost "playground" area, and also a play camping area, a place for kids to build their own shelter out of small logs, and a place for kids to try balancing on some bigger logs.  After looking at animals all day, it's a great spot to let them run and burn some energy.  It's also shaded and a good spot to get out of the sun on a hot day!

The schedule for the day is posted on this handy dandy board when you get into the zoo.  (There's also an app for that.  Yup.  Really.)

It posts what is going on daily in terms of feedings or animal trainings or anything else "special."  There are a LOT of interactive experiences all throughout the zoo, too, that we just stumbled across as we were walking around.  My inquisitive 5-year-old especially liked getting the extra information from the zoo employees posted around the zoo, and he loved being able to ask any questions he wanted.  

So yes, all in all, we had a fantastic day, jam-packed with amazing memories and tons of hands-on experiences.  Here's the best part...YOU can do all that amazing stuff, too!! Even the whole bear gig.  Yes, I am serious.  You just need to be at the zoo at opening time (9:00am) and then make a bee line for the bear exhibit.  If you make it in time, and there aren't too many kids there already, your kids just might get a chance to head on in and throw food.  In a bear habitat.  For real.

And if you're feeling even more adventurous than bears, my sister has some crazy ducks by her house if you'd like to go check those out, too.

When you can grin and bear it, You Are a Good Mom.  


If you haven't already, be sure to stop by and check out the "You're a Good Mom" page on Facebook.  "Like" it and any new blog posts will be delivered right to your news feed!  Thanks!


  1. You all rocked that Zoo and that makes you a Great Mom, sometimes it is very hard to swallow our fears and let them move past where we have to stop. That's generational growth and if we do that-we're good moms. You did that.

    1. You are always so encouraging, Lynda! Thanks for your kind words.


site design by designer blogs