Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

In our quest to visit a zoo or aquarium in every state in the United States, we decided to cross Alabama off our list during our recent trip to Gulf Shores.  Turns out, that there is a little zoo that sits right on the main drag in Gulf Shores.  Don’t let the size fool you.  This zoo was awesome.  In fact, it is high on my list of favorites from all the zoos we’ve been to.  What this zoo lacks in size, it makes up for in visitor experience.  They have different animal encounters where you can actually mingle with some of the wildlife.  Most of the animals could be hand-fed food that was available for purchase as you entered.  And, the animals (even the exotic ones) were extremely close to the viewing areas. It was a really intimate feeling, something you don’t normally feel at a zoo.  Because of all these reasons, the Gulf Coast Zoo has aptly adopted the slogan ‘The Little Zoo That Could’.  They could, and they did!  We had the BEST time.

We got there right as the zoo opened – a little drizzle wasn’t going to stop us!

We immediately found the kangaroo encounter and held this little lass. May I introduce, Lolly.

One of these is my son, and one of these would make a kick-ass pet…

I mean, seriously. How cool is this?

Excuse me? Can I rest in your pouch?

Our next stop – the lemur house! These guys were hilarious!

Once you’ve bottle-fed a lemur, babies just don’t cut it anymore…

Nothing like being photobombed by a lemur!

Excuse me, do I have anything in my teeth?

Hey Mom – CHECK THIS OUT!

If this guy could have figured out how to squeeze his horns out of the fence, his whole head would have been out.

Yep, that’s a full size tiger about four feet from us. Notice the eye contact…

This guy has blue balls. Er, I mean, a blue ball.

Time to feed these little guys…

That lion was about 6 feet from us. Luke was roaring at him. Anna was more interested in her bag of Cheez-Its. Maybe we’ve been to a few too many zoos?

On the way out we were passing the reptile encounter. I bet that Alex wouldn’t hold the snake. He is deathly afraid of snakes, so he told me that there was no way in hell. He then dared me to hold the snake. Not being one to back down from a dare…
Meet Magic, a twenty-foot anaconda. She hasn’t attacked anyone – yet.

The Details:

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

1204 Gulf Shores Parkway

Gulf Shores, AL 36542

http://www.alabamagulfcoastzoo.org/

Open year-round except on major holidays.

*Admission: Adults (13-54) – $10, Seniors (55+) – $8, Children (3-12) – $7, Children Under 2 are free

Tips: Bring cash for animal food and encounters.  Don’t miss the animal encounters!  Go early!

2012 Road Trip – Philadelphia (Part 2)

(Read about the first part of our trip here.)

Sunday morning, we made the drive to downtown Philadelphia.  Alex is a huge history nerd and had never been to Philly before. Since it’s the birth of our nation’s independence, we opted for a bit of a history lesson while we were there.  We swung by the Liberty Bell on the way to tour Independence Hall.

Do we look like tourists, or what?

Yeah, he was pretty stoked.

Apparently the park ranger that we were stuck with for our tour time was aiming for an Oscar nod in her performance of tour guide.  And, she hated kids.  If my kids would make so much as a peep, she would take a dramatic pause, glare at us, and inform us of the exits if we needed them.  I simply smiled through a completely red face.  Kill ’em with kindness, that’s what I say.

KIDS – STOP EMBARRASSING ME!
(George Washington’s chair in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed.)

We made it through Independence Hall in one piece (and without flipping off the witchy Park Ranger) and Alex was excited to have soaked up some history.  But, the fun wasn’t going to end there.  Outside of Independence Hall, you could board a ‘Ride the Ducks’ tour.  We rode the Ducks once in Branson, Missouri, and knew that they would be a bit more welcoming of children, so we went for it.

Much more our style!

The tour took us all over downtown Philly so we could see a ton of the historical sites.  We even went for a little float in the Delaware.  Even for a non-history geek, it was pretty cool. We saw a TON of Philly landmarks (City Hall, The Philadelphia Mint, Ben Franklin’s grave , Betsy Ross’ home,  LOVE Park, etc…) in a relatively short amount of time.  Since we weren’t planning on going back to stop at any of those places, it was perfect.  Bang for the buck – worth it!

Soak it in, kids.

Rocky, Rocky, Rocky

After the tour, we loaded in the car and set out to find our very first authentic Philly cheese steak.  Alex is a bit of a foodie, so he had taken it upon himself to research where to go.  We ended up at Pat’s King of Steaks.  The kids were asleep in the car, so Alex bravely ordered for us.  Apparently they have a whole new language when it comes to cheese steaks.  Alex ordered his ‘whiz wit’ (with cheese sauce and onions/peppers).  I decided against that, and opted for provolone.  Bigtime mistake. Alex’s was WAY better than mine.

Pat doesn’t lie – he is the king. And his cheese steak melts in your mouth.

Maybe not the most appetizing to look at, but looks are so, so deceiving.

Regretting my decision, we headed back to Sesame Place for another round at the park.  At the park, we watched ‘Elmo’s World Live’, rode some more rides, ate dinner, and caught a glimpse of the parade. Anna’s Sesame Street cup runneth over.

Let’s play ‘Chopsticks’!

Hi, Oscar!

Monday, we were up with the sun.  Really no different from any other day of our lives since bringing children into this world.  We drove into rush hour toward the Philadelphia Zoo.  We’ve decided that we’d like to try to visit a zoo in every state in the US.  We’ll see how that goes… Anyway, we can now cross Pennsylvania off our list.  Bonus – the Philly zoo was the first in the country.  I don’t think the animals are original to the zoo, but some of the structures were.  It was neat to see how everything was set up and how the exhibits were laid out in a tiny space.  The downside was that the zoo was expensive and all but one food stand was closed due to lack of traffic.  Not my favorite zoo, but not horrible by any means.

Mom! Those birds are PINK!!! *GASP!!!*

And this bear is … WHITE!

We managed to find some food for the kids at the zoo, but Alex and I decided to swing back through at Pats King of Steaks for another round of cheese steaks.  I was still disappointed that Alex’s cheese steak from the day before was so much better than mine.  I wanted a redo, and Alex was more than happy to oblige.  Heck, he was now a pro at ordering them.  Could have passed as one of the locals…

Alex and I managed to eat our cheese steaks in the car while the kids napped.  ‘Whiz wit’ is the way to go – I made that sandwich my ‘B’.  We made it back to the hotel just as the kids were waking up.  The plan was to check out of our hotel the next morning, so I needed some serious time to do our laundry and pack.  There was no way to fit enough clothes for all of us for the entire trip, so I was planning on doing laundry mid-week.  Alex took the kids swimming while I schleped our dirty clothes to the laundry room and started packing our stuff up.  It’s amazing how quickly stuff scatters and expands.

I’m not quite sure how we managed it, but all of our crap made it back into bags and was loaded into the car the next morning.  It was like a real-life game of Tetris.  Literally – floor to ceiling bags.  We grabbed breakfast at the hotel, checked out, and pointed the car toward Camden, New Jersey and the Adventure Aquarium.  The aquarium was nothing short of awesome.  There weren’t many people there because it was a weekday, so the kids were able to run around like crazy people.  They had a blast.  Heck, we all had a blast.

One with the fishes

Inside a tank … pretty cool!

Bravely touching all the sea creatures.

We grabbed lunch at the aquarium before loading back into the car.  The plan was to make the relatively short drive to New York City while the kids took their afternoon nap.  (Napping in the car served us well during our trip.) We waved ‘goodbye’ to Philadelphia and set out for the big city…

— To Be Continued —

2012 Road Trip – The Philadelphia Zoo

My family has a weakness for animals.  Naturally, a good zoo is always a hit for us!  It seems like we visit the zoo anywhere we go – Philadelphia was no exception.  Turns out the Philly zoo was the first zoo in the country.  How about those apples?

We went on a weekday morning, so there weren’t many people there.  The thin crowd was nice, but most of the restaurant options and some exhibits were closed.  It was nice to be able to let Anna run freely and not worry about losing her in a crowd, but overall we weren’t that impressed with the Philadelphia Zoo.  It was rather expensive to get into and not very large.  In all fairness to the Philly Zoo, we live near one of the coolest zoos in the country – and it’s free.  Other zoos have pretty stiff competition to live up to.

Making a wish!

Flamingos are a natural favorite for little miss – all pink!

The Parsons men and the polar bears

We found our way to the Children’s area for the petting zoo.  I was looking at the rabbits when I realized that I didn’t have my phone in my pocket.  Freaking out, I tore through the diaper bag looking for it.  Still no sign, so I started retracing my steps.  I kept thinking about all the pictures from the trip that were on my phone.  I was in a panic.  Frantic, I stopped one of the workers and asked if there was a lost and found in the zoo.  The kind man radioed somewhere and discovered that a phone was found in the children’s area and was in an office.  He took me with him, asking what color the case was.  When I told him it was grey and teal, he handed over my phone.  I was SO relieved! I give the workers 5 stars!

My little bunny and carrot!

Anna loves a good pony ride!

The Details:

The Louisville Zoo

3400 W Girard Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19104

http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/

*March 1 – October 31: Open daily 9:30a to 5:00p, November 1 – February 28: Open daily 9:30a to 4:00p

– Admission is $18 for children 2-11 and $20 for adults, Parking is $15, some food available for purchase