When it comes to zoos, the one in D.C. is the like overachieving older sibling that everyone knows and loves, while the one in Baltimore is often ignored. That is a crime, and I simply will not stand for it. I recently went to visit the Maryland zoo, and had an amazing time. The zoo in Washington, D.C. might be bigger and free, but here are five reasons that it's worth the money to come to the little-sibling Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. All photos were taken by me, Eva, as I wandered the zoo path.
1. Two Words. Penguin. Exhibit.
Recently, the Maryland Zoo unveiled Penguin Coast, a huge habitat for a flock of endangered African penguins. Lean over the railing and watch them zoom up and out of the water like tiny, adorable torpedoes. Or hang out inside the penguin education center, which is seated under the water, and watch them swim by aquarium-style. I am not even exaggerating when I say they could make a grown man squeal with joy.
2.You Get Up Close and Personal
It's fun to see animals from a distance, but even better to see them up close! Of course, everything is very safe for both the animals and the people, but it's still breathtaking to be within ten feet of a massive polar bear, a towering giraffe or a flock of flamingos.
If you look closely, you can tell that there's glass between myself and that ginormous bear there. But the views are really clear, and the only thing preventing you from getting an amazing look at the animals is their nap schedule. (The zoo has a leopard, for instance, but he was napping in a far corner of his enclosure and was not in the mood for photo shoots. Psh, celebrities.)
But if the leopard wasn't willing to play with me, the goats more than made up for it. The zoo includes a farmyard, where guests are invited to pet and brush goats (with tiny, adorable goat brushes!). I sat down and began brushing the nearest goat, and he rubbed his head against my leg like a cat. When another goat got to close, my new and jealous friend immediately headbutted him away, then returned for more brushing. It was incredibly flattering.
Though they aren't always around for it, the zoo also allows guests to buy leaves to feed to the giraffes. Yep. That's right. You can say to your friends, "Oh, you know, just fed a giraffe today." They will be just as jealous as my goat friend, maybe even more.
3. Nostalgia, Nostalgia, Nostalgia
Did anyone else watch the Kratt brothers as kids? How about Zoboomafoo? I watched them on PBS all the time when I was a little girl, and I dreamed of being able to play with and learn about the animals the way the Kratts did.
So when my friend and I walked down the path, and I saw these guys...
...I may have run over and yelled, "IT'S ZOBOOMAFOO!" in front of approximately 4 trillion kindergarteners. No shame in my game.
Seriously, though, any fan of the Kratts, or The Wild Thornberries, or any other animal-centric show of the last twenty years will be in heaven here. The variety of animals is outstanding, and there are some super-rare ones (like an okapi!). The keepers are all knowledgeable and friendly, and they're used to kids asking anything and everything, so no need to feel dumb asking a question. If only we were all Eliza Thornberry, and could ask the animals ourselves!
4. There's SO much to do
If 200 different species of animals aren't enough for you to look at and sometimes feed/brush, there's still plenty going on. There's a carousel (with lots of animals represented, not just ponies!), a tiny train to ride, camel rides and eateries. You can even take a behind-the-scenes tour that brings you even closer to the animals. And if you and your sweetheart love this place with a passion, you can even get married here. That's right. They do weddings. (Zoboomafoo as your best man is not included, unfortunately).
5. They have just as much Maryland pride as we do!
There's a huge emphasis on Maryland pride and conserving animals native to Maryland. A large section of the zoo is dedicated just to showcasing the really fascinating animals that live here, like otters, owls, giant salamanders called Hellbenders, and snakes. The stars of the Maryland show, though, are Rise and Conquer, the two ravens that live at the zoo.
I'd never seen a raven in real life before, and I was taken aback by how gorgeous it was. No wonder Poe was moved to write a poem about one! I'm not sure if the one I photographed was Rise or Conquer, but either way, he's a goodlooking bird. These guys make regular visits to M&T Bank Stadium so fans can meet them at home games. I wonder if we can make tiny Route One t-shirts for these guys.
Have you been to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore? What's your favorite animal to visit there?
This post was written by Route One Apparel blogger, Eva Niessner.