650 S. R.L. Thornton Freeway (I-35), Dallas
How long was it since we’d been to the Dallas Zoo? Way too long! We set out this week to visit what had been one of our favorite haunts when the boys were too young to be in school fulltime. They have other interests now, but even going on third-graders aren’t too old to love seeing longtime animal friends again. They started wriggling in their seat belts as soon as they spotted the giant giraffe statue visible from the freeway.
We wanted to be in time for SOAR, the free-flight bird show in the ZooNorth section. We marvel at the stately crowned crane, the huge eagle owl, and the singing parrot who’s sometimes puzzled about how many “ee-i-ohs” to insert into her rendition of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”¾ or maybe just wants to keep trainers on their toes. The boys feel quite sophisticated now that they realize patter about how the hunting birds have solved the zoos rodent problem is the cue for “release the trained rats!” which swarm gaily across the backdrop.
Yes, it’s not all about the birds. We were amazed by the show’s latest rodent cast member, a 75-pound South American capybara who ambled onto the stage looking like a cross between a guinea pig and a particularly shaggy sheepdog.
We bought lunch, but the zoo welcomes picnickers with newly refurbished outdoor eating sites. We compromised by bringing our own afternoon snacks and refilling our water bottles at the drinking fountains.
Then it was off through the tunnel under the DART rail line to the Giants of the Savannah exhibit for close encounters with the zoo’s largest predators, in this case, the brother and sister cheetahs. Predator encounters alternate cheetahs and lions. (Parents will be relieved to know that the zoo now separates male and female lions since last fall’s mauling of one of the lionesses.)
The outdoor aviaries, the elephants, the reptile house and the Bug U! house, one of the boys’ favorites, and it was time to cool off at the Children’s Zoo, with its play area and artificial stream. We brought the boys’ swimsuits, but it’s fine to jump in wearing shorts and tees.
The zoo is open daily (except Christmas) from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. However, July 19 and 26, it stays open until 9 p.m., adding live music with its Safari Nights programs. The late night programs are included in regular admission, $15 for adults, $12 for children ages 3-11, free for kids ages two and younger. The zoo also offers discounts for military personnel and their families and DART ticket holders. Adults ages 65 and older get in for $5 on Wednesdays. Parking is $8 per car.
For additional information, daily senior discounts, and group and school rates, see www.dallaszoo.com/.