The Calgary Zoo is a world-class facility that showcases modern zoo-keeping practices with their focus on conservation and education. And, for Calgary parents of young children–it’s the place to let your toddlers and preschoolers run wild. No cars to worry about, an awesome play structure, indoor gardens… and, oh, yes, all the animals.
Day passes are expensive, but memberships are reasonable. When Cinder and Flora were younger, this was the membership we used most extensively, especially during the winter. We’d hang out with the gorillas in the African Rainforest on -30 days, and watch the monkeys for hours in the Primate House, and then eat our lunch while watching the hippos swim. On warmer days, we’d explore the Canadian Wilds or the Dinosaur Park.
When we started homeschooling, turned out an awful lot of homeschoolers had zoo memberships too, so we often met at the zoo and strolled through it at a snail’s pace while our kids got to know each other and explored. Much easier than getting 18 kids together in someone’s house!
As our children have gotten older, the lure of the zoo has gotten less. We haven’t used our passes nearly as much this past year, and plan to let them lapse for a while when they expire. But for the toddler, preschooler, and K-3 years, we were at the zoo almost every week.
If your child loves animals and if you want to have a regular place, with indoor and outdoor options, to go to throughout the year, a zoo membership is a great option. (Good to know: Many school boards will refund its cost as part of your funding–but not all. Check with yours.) If you’re not quite sure a zoo membership’s worth it, do the math of what a Homeschool Day at the zoo (there’s at least two a year, one in the fall and one in the spring) will cost you–after you stop gagging, you might want to plop down for a membership to have the option of returning and strolling through the zoo at leisure.
TIP: Kids memberships are, really, cheap. A child’s lowest-level membership is $22. Really, that’s peanuts. If only one adult is going to be taking the kids to the zoo regularly, get just one adult pass for the family. The one time a year dad joins you, suck it up and pay the day fee. Or, ask on Facebook or Freecycle.org if anyone has any zoo coupons. They do exist.
And, of course, you want to know:
ARE THE HOMESCHOOL PROGRAMMES WORTH IT? Yes, for the most part, if there’s a topic that particularly fires up your child at that point. Myself, I’d prefer to spend my money on one of the enrichment programmes: Zookeeper for a Day, Bath time with the Elephants, Behind the Scenes with the Penguins. Another great way to get more out of the Zoo is to come in the evening, as the gates are about the close, and the keepers and interpreters have more time to spend chatting. Or come first thing in the morning, when they’re still fresh and rarin’ to go! We’ve found all of the zoo staff and volunteers, without exception, to be thrilled to take the time to chat with an inquisitive child (or adult) about the animals they love.