I have not been to The Gulf Breeze Zoo in years! My grandfather and I used to go often, and I have many great memories from there, but I went a few years ago and had a bad experience... we saw very few animals, the ones that were there did not look happy... it was very sad.
So I stayed away a while, until yesterday when my Dad and Wanda had the idea to take the girls for the day. I asked if I could tag along, and I am so glad that I did.
I had the kind of day that I remember with my Grandpa - and we all remarked on how beautiful everything looks. It was an absolutely amazing day.
We headed towards The Zoo in the early afternoon, but I called ahead to ask what the best time of day was to see the animals.
The girl explained that normally as the sun starts to go down - around 4 or 5 - that they come out again and its also the time they feed the animals. PERFECT! So we killed some time and then headed back to The Zoo.
On the way out there I stopped by Target for a new Zoom Lens for my camera. It was on sale so I was a happy camper.
Though I do wish I had spent some time getting to learn it a bit first. Of the 200+ pictures I took, about 50% are AMAZING - like magazine quality - and a few... well, they are magazine quality of the CAGES but not the animals in them.
My favorite picture so far:
And then there are the images like this one:
Even with my not-so-stellar performance behind the camera, I still did manage to get some fantastic shots of our day to make our memories last forever. (These are all UN-touched! I just added the name and border!) Here are some of the best ones:
My favorite part of the day was the "Free-Flight Aviary" where they had probably 200 parakeets (I looked it up and they call them Australian Budgies...) flying free, and you can go in and feed them seeds that are stuck to popsicle sticks.
The girls freaked at first afraid the little beauties were going to hurt them, but after a few minutes, we were all having a blast, COVERED in little bitty birds.
While walking around we spotted a peacock lying kinda half on its side... kind of at a strange angle. We told one of the young ladies working the grounds, and she not only immediately went and checked on the bird, but took a moment to tell us a bit about them and some of their habits.
You could tell this girl loved her job. We were super impressed with her. (I wish I had gotten her name!)
We also rode the Train which was a blast. We sat in the very back so that I could take great pictures... it was the first time ever that I was TOO TALL for something! There was NO foot room in the caboose! It was a great opportunity for a picture though!
My Zoo Tips:
- Go in the late afternoon - like after 3pm. The Zoo is open extended hours in the summertime, so you still have plenty of time to enjoy the entire Zoo, but the critters are more active. Plus very few people were there - probably because of the heat, but it truly wasnt THAT bad.
- Buy several Bird Feeder sticks! They are only $1 and they go pretty quick. Those
parakeetsAustralian Budgies are well skilled in getting the seeds off quickly.
- They have a covered picnic area just outside of The Zoo where you can pack a lunch and eat before or after your visit. You are not allowed to take food in for obvious danger to the animals, but there is a place you can spread out and enjoy a picnic.
- Wear comfy shoes! I wore flipflops and my feet were KILLING me. There is SO much great stuff to see now, that you do not want to miss any of it. Wear comfy shoes even if your feet get hot, tennis shoes are the way to go.
- They have drinks for sale scattered around the grounds, and even though they are $2 each, it is MORE than worth it on our 100* days.
- Take plenty of quarters. They still have the old bubblegum machine style food dispensers that I remember from 20 years ago that only take quarters, and you KNOW you are going to want more food half way through. Because really, what is more fun than feeding and getting totally slobbered on by 15 different animals... right?!
- Everywhere we walked on the premises was wheel chair and stroller accessible. If you have a little one - even if they normally do not ride in the stroller anymore- I would still recommend taking it. If for nothing else, to carry your purse!
- And finally, you do not need a zoom lens for all of these great pictures - the animals were so close I often had to stand back to be able to zoom in on the shot. At The Zoo you get to have a real live experience of these animals "up close and personal."
We are all still beaming at how beautiful everything was at The Zoo, especially after the threats for it to close down in the last few years. Though I was sad to see that they have turned the old Cafe into the "Reptile Pavilion," it is still a great place to go and spend the day with your family.
We will go back often, and I am considering buying Season Passes. If you have ever been to The Zoo, I highly recommend you go and see it again. It was a truly fantastic day, and though it made me miss my Daddy-T tremendously, it was great for my Dad to "carry on the tradition" with my girls.