Next to Disney World, nothing gets a kid more excited than the idea of going to the zoo for the first time. Recently, Ariana had her first field trip to the zoo and couldn't contain her excitement. Her entire kindergarten class visited Lowry Park Zoo, a 24-acre facility that houses more than 1,200 wildlife.
There were many reasons why the little one was beyond thrilled about this field trip. For one, visiting the zoo is better when you have an exploration buddy, in this case, Gabie, who shared every "ohhs" and "ahhs" at the magical sight of giant elephants, playful tigers and splendid manta rays, just to name a few.
Secondly, this little girl was so excited about the trip because she was eager to go on a school bus for the first time. Yes, this trip was a lot of firsts for this five-year-old! She was more than eager to report that her first bus trip was "magical." Only one other thing could possible top that: Being in the zoo itself and seeing all the rare and endangered animals.
There are multiple exhibits at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, but her favorite is the Safari Africa exhibit. To experience the full exhibit, we hopped on a Safari trolley where a guide drove us around the entire area and pointed out unfamiliar wildlife in each enclosure. We saw okapis, zebras, cheetahs (the little one's favorite!) as well as magnificent African elephants. Lowry Park Zoo is home to three elephants from Swaziland, one from Namibia and two calves born at the zoo. Our guide also noted that the male elephant is always separated from the rest of the herd as he prefers to be solitary.
When planning a zoo trip with your little one, wait to visit until they are old enough to truly appreciate the full experience. As rookie parents, we made the mistake of taking Ariana too early to the Newport Aquarium in Cincinnati in the past—she was either uninterested or terrified to see the giant mammals. Learning from our mistake, we made the decision to wait until she's older before bringing her to the zoo. This time around, she enjoyed every bit of the experience, including seeing the gigantic rhinocerous up close.
Don't skip the bird sanctuary when in the zoo. The girls were delighted to see different species of birds, including eagles, hornbills and lovely flamingos in bright tangerine color. They were truly a one-of-a-kind sight to see!
Over at the Florida exhibit, the girls saw the Sunshine State's diverse wildlife, including manatees, crocodiles and the Florida panther. In fact, the girls (above) were simply in awe at these pre-historic-looking creatures.
Next to the sting ray exhibit is the aquarium for otters. The otter was clearly loving the attention as it kept showing off its amazing swimming and diving skills close to the glass where the kids were huddled to get a closer look at the tiny animal. As clearly shown on the little one's face, she was impressed by the little creature's aquatic performance!
Aside from its wildlife exhibits, Lowry Park Zoo also has a mini aquarium which displays sea horses, rare schools of fish, turtles and other amphibians.
Perhaps the highlight of the day was seeing the tiger and her baby cub play and chase each other. It was so adorable to see these wild creatures play hide-and-seek and playfully pounce on each other. It was almost easy to forget these are natural predators that are, in the wild, born to haunt and prey.
Overall, it was such a wonderful experience for the kids. On the way home, this little girl summed up her day: "Best day ever!"