Friday, January 4, 2013

Totally Texas -- Staying cool at the zoo

Penguin Days at Dallas Zoo

650 South R.L. Thornton Freeway (I-35)


We headed for the Dallas Zoo this week, willing to bet that even on a seasonably cold winter day, we’d get our money’s worth from the zoo’s discounted Penguin Days admission of $5 per person. (Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children.)

The boys were at first reluctant to go -- “it’ll be hot,” they said -- which shows what time of year we usually visit! Our first pleasant surprise was that, even during local schools’ winter break, the zoo wasn’t packed with visitors. We parked at the front gate instead of making our usual lengthy trek. Parking is $8 per car, although the DART rail line stops just outside.

There’s always room inside for the boys to run -- a standard requirement for any outing in our family. Some of the usual exhibits were closed while the zoo takes advantage of this slow season to so some remodeling. Signs warned us that the warthogs were “off exhibit” during remodeling, and we also found the giraffe feeding station closed because of the weather.

However, even most of the tropical animals in the Giants of the Savannah exhibit were outdoors and visible in spite of the cold. For the first time in my memory, we had a clear view of the lions during the 2 p.m. predator encounter near the Serengeti Grill restaurant. These big cat feeding/demonstration times take place at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily, alternating between lions and cheetahs. Our visit time coincided with the lions’ feeding, and cameras flashed like Oscar night as the zoo’s two male lions basked in attention and healthy treats from the zookeepers.

The encounter area is sheltered for both cats and visitors. But there are also great views of the lions from the floor to ceiling windows of the nearby Serengeti Grill restaurant.
Across the trail from the lions, the elephants also were active, reveling in mud baths and visible to visitors from the windows and deck of the adjacent pavilion.

Fortunately, though, some of the boys’ favorites attractions were indoor exhibits -- the bug house and reptile house, with its albino alligators and pythons, as well as plenty of normally-pigmented reptiles and amphibians. Don’t forget a few pennies for the kids to spend on the gravity feed coin toss benefiting conservation of the iconic Texas horned toads (actually lizards).

We lingered until closing time, catching dinnertime for the zoo’s African penguins, whose picture illustrates this post.

Penguin Days discounted prices continue through February 28 at the Dallas Zoo. For additional information, including feeding times and discussions,


Speaking of animals, the animatronic dinosaurs of the Heard Natural Science Museum in McKinney continue on view through February 3. Power to the dinos’ sound and movement may be turned off in exceptionally cold weather, but the life size models themselves brave the cold. See

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