There's a Lot for Kids to Do at N.C. Zoo
The arrival of spring and a new visitor season always mark a special time at the North Carolina Zoo. But it's even more significant this year with the unveiling of a new exhibit, the arrival of new animals and the launching of a new series of special events.
Children have their own special place at the zoo with the opening of the "kidZone," an interactive exhibit designed to put small children in touch with wildlife and the natural world. The featured animals in the "kidZone" will be "Tort" and "Retort," a pair of giant Galapagos tortoises. They were the first animals ever purchased by the zoo in 1973 and have returned for a six-month reunion visit.
Wrapped around these new attractions is "ZooFling," a series of special events each Saturday in April that highlight the return of spring and the increased animal activity that comes as winter gives way to warmer weather.
Kids who enjoy looking for bugs, climbing, running or making mud pies will love the "kidZone." Located in the former Australian exhibit in the zoo's North American region, "kidZone" will allow children to explore animal homes, animal tracks and other signs of animal visitors.
Hands-on activities will include digging, building and investigating close-up the life cycle of frogs, butterflies, bees and other small creatures.
Live animal encounters in the "kidZone" will get the little ones up close and personal with reptiles, mammals and birds so they can discover the wonder of wildlife and learn how these animals live and survive in the wild. A new maze also invites children to follow the call of the wild in search of five mystery animal stations hidden deep within its twisting turns.
Other "kidZone" activities will encourage children to create art projects using natural materials and to construct enrichment items for the zoo's animals. Youngsters can also discover what it's like to be a zoo vet or keeper using costumes, tools and animal props.
"ZooFling" events, set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Saturday in April, will reveal to visitors the secrets to animal appetites, creature comforts, and wild lifestyles. They include:
- Egg-Stravaganza on April 7 is an egg hunt with the animals. Different types of eggs filled with food treats will be placed in various exhibits to see how they will spark the animals' curiosity. Among the animals to be featured are otters, cougars, polar bears, birds, baboons and meerkats. Radio Disney will also be at the zoo on April 7 with fun activities for kids.
- Feast of the Beasts on April 14 is designed to teach visitors about the zoo's animals and their diets. Participants can even do a little taste-testing for themselves. There will be scheduled feeding times, keeper talks and animal food displays set up throughout the park. Critters to be included are giraffes, gorillas, sea lions, bats, puffins and other birds.
- Party for the Planet on April 21 is a celebration of "Earth Day." The whole family can enjoy educational fun throughout the zoo and discover what each person can do to help take care of the earth and save animal habitats. The Caribbean sounds of Jonathan Scales and his highly acclaimed steel drum band will also be featured in the zoo's amphitheater.
Radio Disney will be back on site for the kids, and various state and natural resource organizations will have displays throughout the park.
Kids can meet Smokey the Bear with the N.C. Forestry Service, get their faces painted or participate in a scavenger hunt. There will also be a display on the zoo's own award-winning green practices, including recycling programs and converting waste cooking oil to biodiesel fuel.
- Creature Comforts on April 28 will include opportunities for visitors to meet zoo keepers and learn about animal enrichment programs at the zoo. Featured creatures will include otters, cougars, puffins, birds, chimpanzees and residents of the Sonora Desert exhibit.
Special entertainment will be provided in the amphitheater by choral groups from Hampton Leadership Academy and Gillespie Park Elementary School. Face painters will also be located in the African Plaza.
A schedule of all the events, locations and times will be posted on signs inside the zoo and can also be checked in advance by visiting the zoo's Web site at www.nczoo.org
The zoo is located on Zoo Parkway (N.C. 159) six miles southeast of Asheboro off U.S. 64 and U.S. 220. Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for children 2-12 and $8 for senior citizens and college students. Summer operating hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily will resume on April 1.
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