Today was our very first trip to the Milwaukee County Zoo. What an amazing experience that was made all the better by the fact that our trip was essentially free, plus the cost of gas to get there! We like that a lot!
At the Milwaukee Zoo, the admission price, not including the parking fee, can really empty out your wallet. But since we are members of the International Crane Foundation which is part of the Associate of Zoos and Aquariums, we got in for FREE. We parked on the street for free and walked three blocks rather than pay for parking. So instead of dropping $51 bucks for admission (2 adults with 1 child) and parking, we paid nothing. A great way to start a great day.
The peafowl are loose throughout the zoo, a nice bonus.
We followed our time-tested practice of arriving at the destination as the doors open. This made parking easier (we pulled right into a spot not far from the entrance), the lines were shorter (there was no line at all,) and the zoo was less crowded. We enjoyed being able to get close to the animals and see them without having to wait for other people to get out of the way. In almost all cases, it is best to be early. The zoo was no exception.
You should have seen the crowds when we left two hours later. The line of cars approaching the zoo for parking stretched two lanes wide for blocks past where we parked. And the crowds, especially near the entrance, were getting big. We left after 2 hours chock full of enjoyment just as the majority of people were beginning their day at the zoo!
We had advance knowledge (because we do our research!) of two important facts about the Milwaukee County Zoo.
One: Bring a stroller or wagon. The zoo is very spread out with some of the exhibits located very far from the entrance. So if you want your kiddoes to have the energy to see as much of the zoo as possible, and you want them to enjoy it, bring a wagon so they don’t have to walk the whole way. You can rent a stroller or wagon from the zoo if they haven’t sold out, but why pay the extra money?
Two: Bring your own food. The food in the zoo is very expensive and not very healthy with few vegetarian choices. It is easy to bring your own snacks. And if you have your wagon with you, it is easy to carry your snacks around.
The Milwaukee County Zoo is beautifully laid out with many wide, shady paths connecting the different areas. Scattered throughout are many benches and tables for resting and snacking. Bathrooms and water fountains are never hard to locate. We found the zoo to be pretty easy to navigate. (Get a free map at the entrance, so you can easily find your favorite animals!)
One of our elephant friends.
The exhibits are generally very well done, with numerous informational plaques identifying traits of the animals. The enclosures are clean and the animals all look healthy. Another benefit of arriving early: many of the animals were eating when we got there, which was lots of fun. The polar bear was floating like a big, sleepy, furry iceberg (which was pretty funny!); but otherwise most of the animals were alert and active.
He’s not dead, just floating.
Several groups of animals were in large, well designed buildings. Some of these buildings were DARK- it required extra attention to keep track of Bluey in the nocturnal mammals building. Keep tabs on your kids in these spaces– in the dark, a lot of three-year olds look alike!
There is a dinosaur animatronic adventure area, which costs $2.50 additional to get into. We didn’t explore this option, because when we asked for a review from parents leaving this section, they shrugged their shoulders and said, “Eh…” We figured it wasn’t worth it, when there are so many real animals to see, plus we go to dinosaur museums regularly.
We were not able to bring Plum on this trip, but took note of an awesome looking ROPES course just inside the entrance. This also costs extra, but includes a tall climbing wall, an obstacle course, and a zip line. If you have older kids who are daring, it looked like a good treat.
As we ran out of steam, we headed for the gift shop at the main exit where we found a not unusual collection of stuffed animals, coffee cups, and t-shirts. Prices were about what we would expect. But we were able to raise our usual spending limit since we hadn’t spent any money thus far during our adventure. Bluey found an adorable stuffed alligator to take home.
If you do it right, not only is the Milwaukee County Zoo an affordable destination, but it is also highly enjoyable!