Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh my!

I grew up to love the outdoors. I still remember camping with my family and I remember my dad choosing to take the scenic route when we traveled. There were times when our whole vacation was planned around the outdoors (as well as history, another one of my loves, but that is for another post). When I was young my dream was to either become a forest ranger or a zoo keeper. I was very blessed to have been to able to visit numerous zoos and aquariums by the time I graduated from high school. Still today I love the outdoors.

That is one of the reasons why Sarah and I really enjoy taking our kids to places that help them to appreciate the outdoors and nature. Of course our missionary work with Christian camps promotes appreciation of God's creation, but also, like my parents, we take our kids to zoos and aquariums whenever we can. In fact, my kids have seen a whopping twelve zoos (that I can think of right now) and three aquariums. Maybe in a future post I will attempt to list them all. It would be fun to find the websites and have the boys rate their favorites.

Just this past Saturday we had the great pleasure of visiting Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington DC. Once again the boys loved it as did their parents since it was free! Yes, all of the Smithsonian's facilities (at least the ones I've been to), including their museums and the National Zoo don't cost a thing.

John Allen said that he liked the monkeys and gorillas.

Joshua said that he enjoyed the snakes and the poison dart frogs.

Jacob's favorites were the lions and tigers.

Sarah and I enjoy all animals and really delight in watching our boys light up when discovering new things.

There are a couple of minor things that I must warn you about though.

First there is not a lot of parking for the zoo and the parking is a little pricey at $22 for the day. When doing some research, though, I found a really neat website called Parking Panda. Parking Panda is a site where you can actually reserve a parking place and not have to worry about finding a place in a crowded parking lot. We reserved a parking place about three blocks away from the zoo entrance and the price was just $21 - cheaper than actually parking at the zoo.

Second, the food at the zoo was rather expensive. Really, though, it was comparable to the prices of food at most zoos or similar attractions. The usual offers were typical fast food items but I will say that the food was very good and, you make up for it by not having to pay an entrance fee for the zoo.

Finally, the zoo is built on the side of a hill. The entrance we went in just happened to be at the top of the hill. We didn't notice that we were going down hill because there were so many animal exhibits and buildings to go into. However, once we were down we had to go back up! There were more animals and exhibits on another path going up, so there was a lot of stopping and looking, but we were still tuckered out by the time we made it back to the top. Thankfully our car was parked down the other side of the hill, so it was downhill after we left the zoo.

With that being said, I would highly recommend Smithsonian's National Zoo. Anything that the Smithsonian does is top notch and their zoo is no exception. This is one of the best zoos that we have been to and remember, we have been to a lot! As mentioned before, the price of the parking and the price of food is really not an issue when you think that you would spend that much just on entrance fees of most zoos.

I would also recommend using Parking Panda. Although our parking place was three blocks away, having a reserved space relieved the stress of hoping there would be a space available and driving around looking for one when you arrived. It was simple to go to their website, choose a lot and use a major credit card to reserve a space. Your confirmation is either emailed or downloaded once the reservation is made. Different parking lots do it different ways, but we parked in a hotel parking garage and all we had to do was show our confirmation download to the valet parking attendant when we were ready to leave and he opened the gate for us. It really was painless.

Click on the links above, explore and have fun. We sure did!

This post is part of the following great blog hop from the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Please click on the banner to check out other great nature studies for your homeschool from other great Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers.

Nature Study for Your Homeschool

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