Friday, June 8, 2012

Totally Texas -- Soar and eat with the beasts

Dallas Zoo

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

(or take DART Red Line to Dallas Zoo station)


It was our first time viewing the Dallas Zoo’s Festival of Flight, with its free-flying, running, swimming birds, and the boys were nervous about getting too close to the perch the show’s photogenic young hosts set up. Or about participating. Those beaks and claws looked plenty sharp.

Before the end of the show, they were waving their hands to interact. The dozens of species of birds behaved so charmingly, even their rare bloopers drew smiles. A parrot responded to the “pretty women” in the audience with a simple “hello” instead of the wolf whistle his trainer hinted for.

The show began with a fly-over by a young eagle owl, the largest owl species, and still learning to remain calm around crowds of people. Creatures in the show ranged from domestic chickens and white doves to cranes, hornbills, hawks, pied crows and penguins -- and an American alligator named Lunchbox. An African collared raven ended by graciously accepting donations from viewers for the cause of bird conservation.

Show times are 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the birds rest.

After visiting other animal favorites, we took a lunch break at the zoo’s Serengeti Grill in the Giants of the Savannah exhibit. As usual, lions lounged against the floor to ceiling window separating the restaurant from the predators’ exhibit, ignoring the oohs and aahs of human paparazzi on the other side.

The zoo also hosts dozens of chances to view animals close up. It’s not possible to cram all of them into a single visit, so check for schedules of those you like best. The giraffes, also into savannah exhibit, encourage you to buy lettuce to hand feed them when they’re not browsing the trees and grass in their paddock.

By mid-afternoon, the temperature was warming up, so we set out for the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo and The Stream -- a water feature looking like a shallow creek running through boulders. My daughter brought the boys’ swim suits -- not mandatory, but kids won’t be able to resist the urge to splash in the cool water of the partially-shaded playground area.

The zoo is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Tickets for nonmembers are $12 for adults (ages 12-64), $9 for children ages 3-11. Parking is $7 per vehicle. See the website for discounts and special events. There’s a lot of ground to cover at the zoo’s ninety-five landscaped acres, and it’s summertime. Bring sun screen, comfortable shoes and water. (Although there are lots of drinking fountains and drink vending machines.) Stroller and wheelchair rentals are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Zoofari Market just inside the front gate.


There’s a lot of fun stuff in North Texas this weekend, but if you haven’t had your children’s eyes tested professionally, please make that your top priority. The Essilor Vision Foundation will provide free eye exams and glasses this Saturday, June 9, during the BooksmART Festival at the Dallas Museum of Art.  For details, see

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