It's been a few years since I took my kids to the Hogle Zoo. The kids have gotten older and just aren't as excited about it, and as entry prices go up, it's harder and harder to justify going. This year, though, we've heard all the excitement about the new polar bear and seal/sea lion exhibit, called "Rocky Shores". My relatives who've gone have told me how much fun they had and it seemed like a good time to go back. The last time we went, there were baby tigers in the new big cats area. This time, there are lots of new bears and the zoo hasn't ever had seals or sea lions that I can remember.
It's October, and the weather has been gorgeous this week, and since we didn't have school today, we thought it was a good day to go. I took just my two youngest kids, ages 11 and 14, and we (along with 2/3 of Utah) went to the zoo.
The parking lot was very full. There were people everywhere. And about 6 million strollers. That's okay, I figured it would be busy. We paid nearly $30 ($9.75 for my son and me and $7.75 for my daughter) and in we went. One through the gate, the first thing visitors see is very large blocked off areas. The zoo is currently constructing a large African Savannah exhibit, due to open next year sometime.
We did get to see the polar bear, the seals and sea lions, the grizzly bears and the tigers. We didn't see any lions or cheetahs or cougars. (Maybe they're unavailable until next year? Maybe they're gone? We didn't find them if they're still there. The elephants were out and about, and we saw a few other exciting things, but I do have a couple of complaints. (And where are the penguins!!??!)
First, it was very crowded and people with strollers seem to be getting RUDER. I was amazed how many of the walkways were blocked by 4 or more strollers, tiny kids, grandparents and parents just STANDING THERE in the middle of the sidewalk, blocking the entire thing. Ridiculous. I had stroller-riding kids at one time; I understand it's hard to navigate spaces like that, but I always tried to not be in anyone else's way, especially on sidewalks or where foot traffic is MOVING. I was surprised by just how many inconsiderate people there were at the zoo today. Not everyone was rude, but those who were made it more difficult for the rest of us to see exhibits and enjoy our time there.
Second, we had seen everything there was to see within about an hour and 15 minutes. $30 for three peopel is nothing compared to Disneyland or even Lagoon (the local thrill-ride amusement park), which cost $86 and $34.50 per person, respectively, but for my $30, I expect at least a couple of hours worth of animal viewing. Since about half of the zoo is currently closed for construction, I think tickets should be half price. That seems reasonable, doesn't it?
I understand a zoo is a very expensive thing to run. I know. But I also know that the majority of the funding for the zoo comes from government grants and funding, charitable giving by philanthropists, and other sources. I doubt that ticket prices provide the majority of the necessary money.
These negatives aside, the zoo is still a relatively fun place to spend an hour or two, and frankly, if my kids had wanted to walk around again, we would have spent more time, but we felt like we'd seen it all and there wasn't anything worth seeing twice.
We will go back when the rest of the zoo is open again. They are re-routing the train to go through the new African exhibit, and that could be really cool-- kind of a pseudo-safari experience, and I wouldn't mind going to see the big, exotic animals on another less-crowded day. If I can get discount tickets and if the whole zoo is ever open at once again.
The best part about going today was the weather. It was cool, sunny and gorgeous. Many animals were active that might be more dormant in the summer heat, and though it was crowded (the whole state is out of school today), it wasn't as bad as peak summer days.