Visit your local zoo during March and April for optimal animal viewing, educational experiences with your children and a budget-friendly outing. Usually when people think of a trip to the zoo, it brings to mind pulling around a wagon loaded with kids and a cooler during the heat of the summer or a place packed with other hot, sweaty people. What most people don’t realise is that the best zoo visits often happen during the off-season. We have visited our local zoos and Wildlife Parks many times during these months and always had a great time, here’s why.
Prime Animal Viewing and Interaction
During the summer heat, the animals react in a manner similar to humans; they want to lay about in the shade and avoid the heat of the day. This is why most people have never seen lions romping around playing and usually just see a big cat lying on a rock sleeping.
During the transition months in late March to early April, the animal activity is much different and much more entertaining to watch.
Unmatched Educational Opportunities for Kids
Visiting in non-peak months has other benefits as well – mainly crowd levels. During the chillier times, the zoos will be less crowded and there won’t be throngs surrounding each exhibit, making it hard to catch a glimpse of the animals.
Instead, you will find that you’re able to linger at the exhibits comfortably. You can spend time watching the animals, and if you are a photographer, you can take your time to snap away at leisure without people bumping and crowding into you.
Stretch Your Budget Farther
Another overlooked bonus is that the off-season is prime time for souvenir bargain hunting in the gift shops. Most zoo gift shops will have a clearance rack full of goodies during this time frame. Sure, no one wants to wear a sleeveless shirt during the month of March, but with discounted prices they make an awesome reminder of your zoo trip once the summer months do hit.
In my family, my older kids really enjoy finding t-shirts from the various zoos we visit, to wear when we visit another zoo. They love it when keepers or volunteers spot a zoo logo and strike up a conversation about said zoo.
Take the Chance to Chat with Zoo Keepers
Speaking of zookeepers; this is probably the most outstanding reason to visit the zoo during the off-season. During peak times, any enrichment areas setup will be swarmed by guests. It is a completely different story during the off-season.
Not only is it common to come across the enrichment centres with no one else around, but the docents and keepers are not hurried and mobbed, so they can take their time and answer questions and provide very interesting learning experiences at the stations.
One thing my children really enjoy is when the keepers are able to tell them the names of nearby animals and help them pick out individuals from the herd. With kids, this really seems to help them form a better connection with nature; instead of just a lion, they know the lion’s name is Zero and often the zoo keepers will give you very detailed information about the animal such as its birthday, its quirks, if it has any family members at the zoo and even treats that it enjoys. This really helps kids see that animals are not just “things” but they are living beings with personalities and desires, just like humans.
The off-season provides wonderful opportunities to connect with the animals and keepers at your local zoo. It provides endless educational opportunities for both adults and children, in a very laid back, welcoming atmosphere. After visiting the zoo during the off-season, you will have a hard time believing it is the same place you visited during the dog days of summer.