Are you heading out to the Metro Toronto Zoo this summer? Here are a few handy tips that you might want to keep in mind if you are not a frequent visitor.
1. Try to get there early, especially if you are going on the weekend or from Tuesday to Thursday. The weekends are just plain hairy and during the week you've got a lot of day camps visiting. The Zoo itself is huge, but some of the pavillions are small and get jammed up easily, making it difficult to bring your stroller in. You can also rent strollers with canopies- single and doubles, which if you don't have your own, I would recommend. The Zoo itself is very spread out and can be very tiring for kids and parents alike, not to mention carting all of your gear around.
2. Pack a lunch and snacks. The food concessions are outrageously expensive, Disney was cheaper! Not only that the fare isn't very nutritious or appealing, just your typical hot dogs, junk food and pizza. The best deal on food if you have to buy it is to get a whole pizza. The healthiest food I found was at the main gate, you could get a bagel and cream cheese and veggie sticks. You'll need a loan to get ice-cream for your family at about $4 each... There are lots of nice areas where you can sit on a bench or at a picnic table to eat, so enjoy!
3. If you are not planning to do the whole Zoo, here is where the best stuff is. Once you enter through the main gate, go right and head towards the Kids Discovery Zone. This is a great little play area where the kids can see some animals up close, play in gopher tunnels, climb a tree house and slide down, dig for dinosaur fossils in a giant sandpit, play in large turtle eggs and shells, and climb on a spider web.
If it's a hot day, the Splash Pad is great! It has tons of water cooling action, although be warned, the water is quite chilly! It is toddler friendly in that the flooring is rubberized. There are also 4 waterslides that range in size to accomodate smaller and larger kids. Parents, be prepared to get wet as watching your kids often requires that you enter a wet zone.
The Waterside Theatre is at the entrance of the Discovery Zone and you can catch a show there, but be warned, there is no shade, so on a hot day you'll roast!
Currently, you can visit StingrayBay, which is a special attraction for this summer, just enter to the left of the entrance to the Discovery Zone. You have to pay $3 for this, but it is well worth it. There are tons of stingrays and they seem to like being petted. To get more stingray action stand closer to the exit doors, for some reason they like that side better.
Next, visit the newly renovated Australasia Pavillion. When you leave the Discovery Zone go right to get there. This display is pretty good, there is a large "Great Barrier Reef" tank with a small shark in it and some neat creatures to see, including the Seahorse tank and some cool looking jellyfish. After this, go back towards the main gate and go left, you'll see way more animals and pavillions out this way. If you continue to go right you will be in for a rather long walk with animals in very spread out pens.
4. If you are planning to do the whole Zoo in a day get a Zoomobile ticket. It's a bit pricey for one day, but if you're going to see everything this is the best way to do it, especially if it's hot and you're not in the best shape. The Zoo is huge and very spread out and there are some fairly large hills to walk up. Getting to Canadiana is a bit of a trek. You can take collapsable strollers (probably an umbrella stroller would be best) on the mobile, but larger ones won't fit. With a Zoomobile ticket you can get on and off at different stops and you get a little tour too.
5. Don't forget your hats, sunscreen and water! Enjoy!