“Is the ice cream truck open because then I’ll go?” Big dude declares from his nest of blankets on the couch.
I resist the urge to tell him that I was telling him that we were going to the Edmonton Valley Zoo, not asking him – especially since I am just excited that the ice cream truck is now opened.
The Edmonton Valley Zoo is a staple attraction in my house. I rediscovered the zoo when Big Dude was about a year old and my love for the zoo has only grown. In my house the animals at the zoo are not why we go – in fact, it’s not uncommon for use to spend three hours at the zoo and only see the zebras, sea lions and the Urban Farm animals.
Below are my (and my dudes) favorite things at the zoo:
- The “Beaver Dam” and Ice Melt area: Once you enter the front gates if you walk straight up the hill and past the zebras you will find the Beaver Dam and Ice Melt area. The entire area is open for kids to climb, explore and adventure. Today we had my two boys (6.5 and 3.5), my almost 5 year old niece and her 1.5 year old brother and all four kids had a blast. Big dude climbed to the top of the dam, splashed in the water, and scrambled up the large rocks in the area. My little dude and his cousin experimented with moving rocks around the small stream to redirect the flow of water. Finally after an hour we made them move on but quite often we can spend our entire visit in this area. Advice – Be prepared for your kids to get wet and bring dry socks (and shoes if you can).
- The Artic Shores: This is a newer area of the zoo and is also located straight up the path from the main entrance. We always make this a stop because it’s a very rare day that the seals are not visible and active in the water – making it a hit for the kids. Plus there is also another small play area in this section that the kids enjoy climbing on. Advice – on quiet days get your kids to run back and forth in front of the seal window, sometimes the seals will join in the game and follow along with them.
- Ice Cream: Open seasonally – which explains Big Dude’s excitement today – the ice cream truck that is located in the large carnivore section is our favorite place to stop for a summertime zoo treat. With a nice selection of 10-12 flavors there is something for everyone – stapes in our house are the Superhero and Birthday Cake flavor. Advice – get the kid size cone because the scoop is very generous.
- The Urban Farm: Open seasonally – I try to get to the Urban Farm each time we visit in the summer because it is really interesting for the kids to see how much the calves grow between visits. Populated with calves, chickens, goats, sheep, a peacock and an alpaca this is a great chance for city kids to interact with farm animals they usually only see in books. Advice – wash your hands before and after going into the Farm area – last year I forgot to wash little dude’s hands before going in and he did not appreciate having the goat lick him (and lick him and lick him).
- Train ride and carousal: The train ride is only a few minutes long but it’s a fun experience for the kids to see the different animal exhibits and to wave at everyone in the petting zoo. And the carousal is a fun way to end your trip (they recently moved it to near the exit) – with horses the perfect size for smaller kids. Advice – if the train ride is important to your kid, I’d suggest heading there first, especially if you are visiting in the morning. The line can get fairly long as the zoo fills up.
- The Entry Plaza: It might seem funny to end with the Entry Plaza but there is a small water feature area (think very small spray park feature) centred around a concrete fish that my boys love. By saving it for the end, I don’t care how wet they get and it’s a perfect way to encourage them to leave the zoo without a fuss. Advice: Stand back and let them get wet. It can get pretty crowded with kids but it’s amazing to watch the cooperation between kids as they figure out how they can all use the space.
The final thing I’ll say that I love about the zoo is that it is small enough that my oldest happily walks the entire time with no complaints about getting tired but it’s also completely stroller/wagon friendly (both items are also available to rent on-site).
Honestly after 5 years, I’m sure that there are still animal exhibits that we haven’t seen – what’s your favorite animal exhibit at the zoo? Maybe one time, I’ll make it a date night with hubby and actually see all the exhibits.
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