Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Zoo Atlanta Field Trip

Yes, we went on a field trip.  Frankly, we needed a break from the cleaning out so I (Greg stayed behind to continue the fight) took the kids to our favorite place in Atlanta, the Zoo, and as usual, it did not disappoint.  Our time is at a premium right now so even though a field trip seemed frivolous, I managed to make it efficient by doing some multitasking while in Atlanta. I picked up Braves tickets since we haven't been this season and introduced the kids to the world of Swedish furniture with a little stop at Ikea. We really Carped Diem!

Zoo Atlanta has been open since its circus beginnings in 1889 when a bankrupt traveling troop abandoned a menagerie of animals in Atlanta's Grant Park.  It doubled its collection when an Atlantan entrepreneur, Asa Candler, donated his private collection in 1935.  (I guess his neighbors didn't care for the smell.)  The Zoo acquired its most famous resident in 1961 when the infant gorilla, Willie B. arrived. As a kid in the 70s, I remember visiting the zoo and feeling depressed seeing Willie B. in his concrete cage.  Wow, he had a tire swing!  What Fun!  I bet gorillas could swing for hours on that!  To my sadness, I can still see the sorrow in Willie's eyes as he sat staring at me from his cage.  No swinging at all.  Cut to the 1990s when I returned to Zoo Atlanta for the first time since my childhood.  I was amazed!  It was a happy place to be!  It thrilled me to see Willie B. in the "wild" with other gorillas.  He was master of his domain and pleased with it.  I saw no trace of sorrow anymore.  It seemed that the Zoo had undergone an heroic transformation in the late 80s after losing its accreditation and being reported as one of the worst zoos in the country.   Today, they continue to maintain and create wildlife areas for some of the rarest animals on earth being one of only three zoos in the country with Giant Pandas that have bred successfully in captivity.

Already tired in the Georgia heat.
Our field trip began in the African section of the Zoo.  (Click to see a full map of the zoo.)  This area contains all the animals of the African Savanna and Rain Forest.  Emma's favorite is the Giraffes and the zoo currently has three.  We love watching the zebras, rhinos and lions, but the addition of the meerkats and warthogs made us smile.  I don't know why the kids were embarrassed when I broke into hakuna matata.  If you're not familiar with that song, check out the video.  (I've decided to make it my theme song for the year!)

We made it safely past the lions sleeping in the sun to the Ford Rain Forest section where all the monkeys, drills, orangutans and gorillas live.  We watched several primates swing, play, eat and sleep.  The Conservatory is a wonderful air conditioned spot to stop and learn a little about the rain forest in general and gorillas specifically.  Emma and I had a one-on-one lesson in there while Anabel and Wyatt went on to the observation deck above.  She and I read about the four levels of life in the rain forest: forest floor, understory, canopy and emergent layers.  We also learned that a gorilla can be identified by its nose like people can be identified by our fingerprints.  Each gorilla has a unique nose print.  Emma played a nose print matching game and got 100% correct.

Next, we made our way to the Reptile House which once housed many of the caged animals in the old zoo.  Today, it is full of venomous and non-venomous reptiles from around the world.  As is my tradition upon entering, we went straight to the black mamba case to confirm it was safely secured.   Still there? Check.  Now to enjoy the rest of the creepy crawlies.  My parents always taught me to assume all snakes are poisonous and therefore, all snakes are bad.  As an adult I have learned that is not true.  First of all, snakes are either venomous or not; none of them are poisonous.  On a recent field trip to Amicalola Falls, I learned the easiest way to tell a venomous snake from a non-venomous snake.  Do you know?  Venomous snakes have a triangular shaped head while a non-venomous snake has a rounded head.  Also, if you are near water and see a snake swimming, if you see only the head it is non-venomous, but if you see the whole body on top of he water, it is venomous.  (I wasted a lot of time memorizing the red touches black/yellow rhyme.  I always got it mixed up anyway and have yet to see a colored snake in the North Georgia woods.)  As a parent, I wanted to set the record straight and teach my kids how to identify the snakes correctly so at each case I would ask the kids to look at the head and tell me venomous or non-venomous.  Wyatt said, "Why do we need to look at the heads?  The sign says it right on the case what it is."  I replied, "Have you ever seen a snake in the wild holding up a sign? No? Look at the head then confirm your guess with the sign."  Parents: 1  Kids: 0

Jack Black meets his character's namesake.
Zoo Atlanta added many new animals in recent years, but the most popular by far are the Giant Pandas, Lun Lun and Yang Yang.  They recently had a new cub named Po after Kung Fu Panda.  Check out the Panda Cam for live viewing of the pandas escapades.

There are also two new tiger cubs and new sun bears.  The zoo built a beautiful area for these animals which puts you above them for viewing of each.

We always end our trip with the petting zoo and children's area.  After passing the kangaroos that are too dangerous to pet, we brushed the tamer goats, sheep and pot-bellied pigs.  This used to be my kids favorite spot, but they may have outgrown the petting zoo I am sad to say.  They also used to love the endangered species merry-go-round and zoo train, but none of them wanted to ride them this visit.  Wyatt wanted to do the massive rock climbing wall, but we needed to beat the traffic...

Actually, not as messy as Greg while eating.
Overall, the zoo was a fantastic family day out.  The kids learned as they played and I enjoyed being with them and not packing for one day.  We joined the Zoo again.  As with Fernbank Museum, if you visit it at least twice in a year, being a member saves money.  We plan to return to Zoo Atlanta this fall for a Family Nightcrawler since we will need a place to stay when we come back.  A night at the zoo should make us feel right at home.



  1. The zoo was great! My favorite part was the gorillas! They were so cute!


  2. I loved the zoo!!!! It was so fun. My favorite part was the meercats. They were so funny. I thought going to the zoo was so fun! (^-^)


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