Thursday, August 17, 2006

Toronto as a Tourist Guest Post: The Toronto Zoo

Oh hi! (waves). It’s me, Kate. Not Scarbie. If you hadn’t guessed from our oh-so-clever banter below, Marla and I are guest hosting while Scarb is road-tripping for the next two weeks.

Did you come here hoping Scarbie had posted a new entry? Or did your Bloglines notify you to a new “Martinis for Milk” entry and you rushed over because you were really hoping she had posted while on vacation? And then were you all “shit, yo, it’s some candy-ass other blogger trying to be Scarbie, talking all street?” Sorry in advance, folks, but I’m going to use as much license as I can with this gig. I mean c’mon, we all know one of the best parts of guest blogging for Scarbie is that I CAN SWEAR A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT, right?

So come along with me, motherfuckers, and let’s get this party started.

Yes. So the Toronto Zoo (which, apparently I can't link to because Blogger hates me tonight. Bite me, Blogger).

If you’ve been following this blog lately, you know that our formidable hostess has been posting a new section entitled “Toronto As A Tourist.” Seeing as I’ve been going to the zoo with my husband and child for about 8 months now, I told Nadine I would definitely be up for posting about it. We’ve gone upwards of about 10 times already this year and it has been an excellent antidote to preschooler energy on long summer afternoons. Those long, seemingly unending afternoons, especially when your 3 year old gives up her nap and runs circles around you and it’s only 1PM and GODDAMN can’t you let mommy have a nap pretty please? You won’t get to nap at the zoo (I asked – you can’t), but you will get to see your kid experience pure joy when they see a monkey throwing poo at its reflection for the first time. Even for the adults, it’s pretty cool to see some of the animals. While there definitely are moments of “ummm…but this isn’t a lion’s natural habitat!”, I also believe the zoo does an excellent job with conservation and education efforts. Where else is my daughter going to learn about the critical endangerment of Sumatran orangutans, up close and personal? Where else is she going to see a mama orangutan hold up her baby for all to see, kiss her on the forehead, and lie down to cuddle? (I saw this people, and it was one of the most emotional moments I have ever experienced).

To make things easier, I thought I would break up my thoughts on the Toronto zoo into some basic dos and donts:

Dos:

• Get the family membership. If you plan on going more than twice a year, you will save money. We have a family pass to the zoo, which means we paid $115 (including GST and PST) at the beginning of the year and the general admission fee is waived for all of us each time we go (two adults, 1 child). Considering general admission for adults is $19 each and children ages 4 – 12 are $11, the membership pass paid for itself within a few visits. Last time I was at the zoo I noticed that they have bumped up that family membership price to $130 (plus GST and PST) but it is still very much worth it.
• Bring your own stroller so you don’t have to rent one while there. A lot of people I know also bring wagons, and if that’s your thing then so be it. I am all about the stroller, though, as it has better packing abilities down below, and also hides the Tetra Pak away from prying fingers
• Be prepared for NO REAL COFFEE shops. They do have the lame “Roasters” at the front gates when you first walk in, but no other places I could find along the way (and the zoo is enormous, so count in having a caffeine fix at least twice). The fast food option is pretty much dominated by Harvey’s, which is owned by Cara, which also owns Second Cup. So I can’t for the life of me figure out why there isn’t a Second Cup at the zoo? The only reason I could come up with is maybe the zoo is concerned that all those plastic tops and cups would be tossed and the animals could choke (which, unfortunately, does happen at the zoo. Apparently last year some asshats left plastic bags lying around and an orangutan choked to death on it).
• Find out the zookeepers' schedule (by going to their website which fucking Blogger won't let me link to) and try to attend at least one of those talks. It is so worth it. These are people who know the animals best and truly love to talk about them.
• If you go in the summer, end your day at their excellent splash pad (otherwise known as Splash Island). The kids will love getting wet and you will love sitting in the shade. And then they will be so very tired that they will nap in the car on the way home and you will have 30 minutes of peace. You know it’s all about the naps, right?
• Bring lots of water. You will be walking tons and will need the hydration.
• Take the zoomobile at one point. It can be a really great way of seeing some of the outdoor exhibits without having to walk there. And that can work in spades if your squirmy little worm tells you “my legs are falling off from walking”
• Use the bathroom when you first enter the gates. And by this, I mean make sure any children who are either in the midst of toilet training or are already trained go and pee. The bathrooms tend to be few and far between and you will want to take advantage of the pee stop while you have it. Also, I have found the ones right near the front gate to be the cleanest.


Don’ts

• Do not bring Kentucky Fried Chicken into the zoo. Because you were wondering about this, right? Well let me tell you straight out, doing this does not win you any friends with the other parents at the zoo. While you are chowing down on the greasy skins that came out of 3 giant brown paper bags, sitting on a hill waiting in line to see Barbie (god kill me now), and the surrounding children in line are staring at you with their perfectly packed organically-grown veggies and non-fat dip, their parents will hate you. They will hate you with the hatred of a thousand bitter tired hot sweaty parents who also don’t want to stand in fucking line to see fucking Barbie but are putting up with the tearful pleas as you are. And you will see them hating you and you will feel really really bad.
• Do not feel guilty when you tell your child to stop climbing on the fake rock formations they have all over the place with big signs on them saying “PLEASE DON’T CLIMB!” Also, don’t feel guilty about telling your child NO really really loud when another parent does let their child climb on the rocks. Your child will yes, cry and ask you why you never let her do anything fun, but you will get to feel superior for a moment for following the rules. And don’t feel guilty 5 minutes later when you tell your child it’s OK to pee behind a bush.
• Do not forget the sunscreen in the summer. It gets crazy hot out there in the sun. Along these same lines are: wear appropriate clothes (not black dress pants) and maybe even a hat.
• Do not overdo it. The zoo is HUGE. The Canadian section alone takes an hour to walk out to and back. Have a goal in mind (like two pavilions) and be happy if you make it to these.
• Do not go on the weekends in the summer if you are not good with crowds. I would suggest instead that you try and go during the week, because it is people crazy there otherwise. In fact, if on the road to the zoo you see that the first parking lot is full and that they are waving people over the second FAR FAR AWAY parking lot and if you are already tired and grumpy before you even park, turn back now. You will definitely not appreciate the extra 10 minute walk in the unpaved sand to get there. You might also feel a bit creeped out as you look around you and see you are moving in a sea of strollers, all moving at the same pace. If you are already in this situation though, it is probably best not to make matters worst by lying on the hill by the side of the road telling yourself"I can do this, I can do this" loudly.

Hope this helps somewhat. On the whole, we have very much enjoyed going to the zoo – and I do encourage y’all to give it a shot if you are in Toronto and you have not done so already. And um, if you see a crazy lady lying down on the side of the road eating KFC while her 3 year old runs in circles singing “I ain’t no hollaback girl” over and over again, just nod and keep walking, OK?

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