View Canada Day celebrations in a larger map
View Canada Day celebrations in a larger map
By Sarah Deveau
For The Calgary Herald
As a parent of three, I feel more than a little guilty admitting that although Calgary is home to a world class attraction, we rarely “do the Zoo.”
And when we do visit, we usually end up meandering aimlessly with no goal in mind. This summer, however, we’ve got a plan. With one visit alone ringing in at $47, we chose the annual membership for myself and my two eldest (at two, my youngest is free for another year) at a cost of $119.
Just three visits and the pass will have paid for itself. My plan is more ambitious, though -we’re going to visit twice weekly during summer break and use the following suggestions to make each visit unique and educational. For more information, visit calgaryzoo.org or call 403-232-9300.
Celebrate the people behind the scenes on July 3 during Zookeeper Day. Listen to Meet the Keeper talks around the grounds and score giveaways from the movie Zookeeper, opening July 8 and starring funnyman Kevin James.
Storytime for tots
Held in the Discovery Centre Atrium Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 11: 30 a.m., Storytime lets kids aged three to five listen to age-appropriate animal stories from a selection of children’s books. It’s free with admission, though a $2-donation per child is suggested.
Climb, crawl and ride
Let your yard apes work off their energy while you sit back and relax. The Calgary Zoo has two fantastic playgrounds. The Calgary Co-op Kids Zone is located at the west end of the Calgary Zoo, and features a toddler playground (for kids aged two to five), a wildlife carousel ($3 per ride) and a mini train ($3). The Kinsmen ZooVenture Playground is a larger area outside of Destination Africa with animal-themed slides, tunnels and mazes in three separate age-appropriate structures.
Kids club scavenger hunt
A child’s annual Engage pass entitles kids to receive a scavenger hunt-style sheet loaded with 10 questions that can be answered over a series of visits, or all in one trip.
“Once kids have filled in their sheet, they can hand it in to the guest relations staff for a chance to win a Behind the Scenes experience at the zoo,” says membership co-ordinator Dunia Noseda-Bonokoski.
Create an animal passport
“We never seem to be able to make it through the whole zoo without a major meltdown, so we’ve come up with a simple and educational alternative,” says Bobbi Staples of organizational company Clutter Mothers.
“Each visit we enjoy a different section of the zoo, taking our time and learning about each animal. We’ve even created homemade passports that we stamp after each visit.”
Listen and learn
“My son always asks, ‘what animal is that?’ and I usually panic, looking for the sign that tells me what we’re looking at,” says Melissa Vroon with a laugh. As co-owner of FamilyFunCalgary.com, she’s a zoo regular, but admits to chatting more than learning.
Vroon plans to spend at least one visit taking in some of the dozen or so scheduled daily animal talks with the zoo’s interpreters, and will make a point to visit biofact touchtables located throughout the grounds and staffed with volunteer docents.
Teddy Bear Picnic
Kids can bring their favourite stuffies to the Teddy Bear Picnic on Aug. 13 and 14.
“We’ll have a bunch of activities set up, including face painting, arts and crafts, and traditional lawn activities, such as croquet,” says Roz Freeman, special event adviser.
“We’re encouraging families to bring picnic baskets and set up on the west lawn and enjoy the entertainment stage.”
Don’t panic -events such as these are not as chaotic as you might think, especially if you head down at 9 a.m. when the gates open.
The rain’s OK
Don’t skip the trip if the skies have opened. The Enmax Conservatory provides a yearround horticultural showcase for all ages, including a seasonal butterfly garden where children can talk to butterfly hosts and learn about the butterfly life cycle.
“The butterflies pull families into a magical world temporarily,” says Trish Exton-Parder, the zoo’s marketing communications co-ordinator. “Kids can see the chrysalis hanging from butterfly cases and if they’re very lucky, see a butterfly emerge before their eyes.”
Also in the conservatory, interactive displays educate kids and parents alike about alternative energy technologies, such as solar cells and geothermal heating and cooling.
Stop and smell the lettuce
If your kids race from the gate to the gorillas, missing everything in between, plan to spend a few hours strolling through the zoo’s extensive gardens. Learn how edible plants can be integrated into formal planting beds or containers, and visit the conservatory to learn about plants from around the world. Call the guest relations office ahead of time to find out when master gardeners are hosting demonstrations.© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald