On our recent vacation to Southern California, we asked the kids what they wanted to see.
“The Zoo!” they emphatically responded.
It never fails, we always enjoy the world famous San Diego Zoo. They have the most animals, the best new exhibits and are always improving old ones. And the Polar Bear Plunge is no exception.
Until it underwent the revamp, the polar bear exhibit was relatively simple with a viewing area of the animals both in and out of the water.
But now, much like the Elephant Odyssey, it’s more of an experience.
The viewing area has been expanded and at certain times, visitors can even watch the bears being fed. My favorite new addition is the life-size bear statues that you can stand next to and thank God that you didn’t meet a real bear in the wild. The adult polar bear is HUGE!!
Out front, there’s a giant storybook that tells about the polar bears and their way of life. Our kids enjoyed turning the pages and demanded that mom read to them every word.
The little one’s will like both the ice cave that they can crawl in, as well as the real-life helicopter that helps tell the story about how scientists track these grand beasts.
And without taking a position on Global Warming, the final addition to the exhibit details how the bears’ habitat has changed in recent years and the challenges that they face.
No trip to San Diego is complete without taking the kids and heading into Balboa Park to visit the world famous San Diego Zoo.
The many exotic plants, birds, winding tree covered trails and unique animal enclosures always provide a great family atmosphere. And it’s a great place to eat. My favorite is lunch high above the Ituri Forest of Africa and then enjoying a snack near the Giant Panda exhibit.
On this visit we were excited to see what the zoo had done with the elephant exhibit. When we last visited in 2008, the elephants were hanging out in a fairly normal enclosure.
So as we walked into the new Elephant Odyssey exhibit, we expected to see something new and exciting…with elephants.
But the live elephants weren’t there; at least not initially.
Instead, we were greeted by thousands of years of Southern California history – tar pits, American lions, giant sloths, saber toothed tigers, wooly mammoths, and eve a few ancient elephants – all in life-size form that the kids could climb.
After watching the tar pit rise and fall to mimic the excavation of a real dig and then examining the skulls of different ancient beasts that were pulled from the sludge, we arrived at the African lion enclosure. Interestingly, the sign in front of the cage warns you to be aware of spraying. Yes, it’s what you think and they can shoot it up to 10 feet. Yuck.
Finally, we came to the elephants. But the interesting thing here is that you can watch them in a traditional exhibit and then walk around behind the building that houses them and see the trainers grooming and feeding them. On this day, they were trimming and cutting the nails of one of the Indian elephant females.
I have to hand it to the zoo; they really outdid themselves on this one. Great history lessons, up close and personal with the animals and behind the scenes on how to care for the elephants.
And just this week, they unveiled the new polar bear experience. Can’t wait to see it next time we’re in San Diego!
We received a private tour of Elephant Odyssey and were able to explore on our own, courtesy of the San Diego Zoo. We were not required to write anything in particular and all opinions are our own.
Many of the pictures in this post were shot by my kiddos! Seems I have budding photographers on my hands, eh?
It was a dark and stormy night…actually, that’s the beginning of another story. It was quite a nice day when we first drove through Balboa Park’s tree lined streets. As we approached the San Diego Zoo’s parking lot, there was electricity in the air. More than likely though, that was just the previous night’s dinner making itself known.
Anyway, we all were very excited to meet with one of Christine’s blog buddies – an Aussie, named Tonya…she met us with her two kids and we proceeded through the gates.
The best thing about the zoo is the up close and intimate feel you get with the animals. From the first time we went to the zoo back in 2000, we’ve always loved to first go down the trail toward the Ituri Forest. It gives you a feeling of being in a different place, Africa perhaps. That’s where the gorillas’ and monkeys live. The great thing about the gorillas is that usually one or more of them will sit right next to the glass and stare at you…then they turn their back on you and sit down. Or rush at you screaming and beating their chests. It’s great fun for the little ones.
Afterword, we head down toward the tigers and watch them lazily stare at us from the other side of the glass…it’s a good thing they’re well fed! And then it’s onto my favorite animal, the most dangerous one in Africa, the one that kills the most people every year…no, it’s not the lion display, but the hippos. You can see the dung in the water as you walk up and the hippos are swimming around. One of the keepers told me they have to filter it every day to keep the water clean. I guess one wouldn’t be able to see much otherwise. It’s great to see those big tusks and giant jaws that could crush you in half…
Later we make our way up to the panda exhibit where they tell us to be quiet, but I don’t think the bears really care too much. They just sit and eat bamboo while a zoo person mumbles on the microphone. Too funny.
The kids really love the sky tram. We take it from the front of the park to the back near the polar bear enclosure. The twins ask if they can spit over the side – boys. Anyway, the views are great. Peaking above the trees, some of Balboa Park’s museums that exhibit Spanish style architecture, many of which were built for the 1935 California Pacific Expo, are visible.
Throughout the day, we see the giraffes, elephants and the koala bears, among so many others. I still remember Ethan – when he was about three or so – saying “hoershes” when he saw the gazelles.
Finally, we take the tram around the park to catch everything we missed on foot. And our driver’s narration of the trip is laced with worse humor than mine…but that’s what makes it so great. He’s coping with having to put up with people like us all day long every day, so the least we can do is laugh at his corny lines. He made me laugh.
By 5:30, the kids are done…or is that Christine and me? Anyway, we head out the gate knowing that when we get back to San Diego next time, we’ll definitely visit the zoo again. A trip to San Diego wouldn’t be the same without it.
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