Big Yawn — Photo courtesy of Tim simpson1
Wide-mouthed wonderful beasts like this guy are always amazing to see in captivity. This big cat's home is the Columbus Zoo, one of the top 10 picks from our readers in our Besties competition. How wonderful that this zoo also has an aquarium to view sea creatures too, like this friendly ray.
The San Diego Zoo is proud of its little 2 year old panda "Yunior." Adorable baby animals are always a rare treat to get to see, and many cities even give them front page press. For a cool listing, see our slide show here of others around the country.
Be sure to start out with a map of the zoo you are exploring, and make a plan for seeing your child's high priority animals. Inevitably, most children fade after a couple of hours and there is never enough time to see and do it all. Be sure to pack the sunscreen and stop and rest for an ice cream cone or drink along the way. Exhaustion does not make for a happy camper and you'll want your child to have pleasant memories of their zoo experience, so they'll want to return. For the younger set, strollers are definitely the way to go, as little legs have trouble covering so much ground.
Hippo bath — Photo courtesy of ABQ BioPark
Happy as a hippo is what this guy is at the Toledo Zoo. Seeing animals underwater gives a whole new perspective to their size and weight, seeing them gracefully, slowly swim with their massive bodies. It's always so hard to believe they could be harmful and dangerous when seeing them in this state of supposed bliss.
Most zoos have other attractions besides the normal exhibits. Kids love going to the petting zoo, or even experiencing the free roaming birds on the grounds, such as the beautiful peacock. Camel rides, carousels and trains make for great photo opportunities and fun.
Zoos are wonderful in that they are easy for all ages to enjoy. If it's your family favorite, check into annual zoo passes that are available and other kid activities offered, such as overnight adventures sleeping with the animals. And zoo donations are always appreciated in helping make for more and better animal environments.