Though I am lucky enough to call Cape Cod home these days, I was born in Providence and lived in Rhode Island until I was five. One of my earliest memories is of my uncle buying me a Del’s Lemonade at Roger Williams Park Zoo. I can still taste the cool lemon and remember the excitement at being with my very cool uncle and the amazement I felt at seeing so many animals. I’ve been looking forward to sharing a similar experience with my little ones and had been planning on taking them to Roger Williams Park Zoo all summer. The weeks went by and summer has flown, it is nearly the first week of school, and we still haven’t been to the zoo! It’s a zoo emergency! So this past weekend I decided to make it a priority and I’m so glad that I did! What an adventure we had.
If you’ve been to the zoo previously, but haven’t been there in the past year you are in for a surprise! Donors such as Alex and Ani, Hasbro, CVS Caremark, Citizens Bank, and many others have given generous funding to update large portions of the zoo. It was such a treat to experience the upgrades that these donations have made possible! This year the zoo also offered special activities that are only available during the spring and summer. These activities end September 1st and if you can get there this week, then go! First was Butterflies in Bloom, which is an indoor sanctuary filled with a variety of species of butterflies and plants that attract and support them. The girls were thrilled with the close contact to these beauties and imagine my shock when my six year old said “Look! I can see his Proboscis!” apparently she was paying attention during camp at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History!
The Zoo offers the special activities at an additional, but very affordable cost, and also has the option of purchasing an Explorer Pass which gives unlimited access to all of the activities for one price. This is the route we chose and I’m glad we did because the kids couldn’t get enough of them! The second activity brought us up close and personal with some of the zoo residents – the camels! The girls got to take a ride on a camel! They loved it and my four year old ended up going on multiple times by herself!
My six year olds favorite activity came later in the day – rock climbing! This activity is a great way to get some big muscle activity going after all the walking of the zoo. A big climbing structure has been erected in the center of the zoo with harnesses and ropes. My girl loved trying to get to the top and the feeling of zipping down as she repelled back to solid ground. She might have chosen to spend all day doing this one activity, but in the end the draw of the animals was too much and she had to keep checking them out.
There is a great variety of animals and the zoo is perfectly sized for children, you can visit all the animals in one trip and feel like you’ve seen a huge assortment of creatures. We loved the giraffes, elephants, and zebras that are nearest to the entrance and guarantee that you will see some beautiful animals right away. My kiddos also loved the seals, the snow leopard, and the red panda. We were lucky enough to be there when a wallaby joey was just leaving its mama’s pouch and exploring the world independently. In this area you are really close to the wallabies and kangaroos and they might cross right in front of you on the path, it was so cool to be so close to these guys! We also got to see a baby red crowned crane which I wouldn’t even have noticed if not for my six year olds keen eyes. The giant anteaters are also proud new parents, but they are not back on display yet as they are still bonding. It’s such a treat for all of us to see this cycle of life in these animals we don’t get to see every day.
For those that have been before, you may remember the farmyard area. This is one of the areas that has been completely renovated and improved! It is so fun! In the new Alex and Ani Farmyard, the kids get to practice collecting eggs and milking cows. They also get to go in and play with the goats. There are barn owls, alpacas, miniature donkeys, pigs, and other farm animals to visit. My kids loved brushing the little goats and the opportunity to spend time doing that provided some welcome quiet, calm moments in the middle of our exciting zoo day. All the goats are named and the zoo workers will teach them to you.
We ended up getting a late lunch/early dinner there to boost our energy for the last portion of the day. They had lots of kid friendly food at affordable prices and yummy stuff for grownups too. And of course, we had to get our kid’s their first Del’s lemonade (and some for mama too)!
It was a fantastic day and we all loved it! The kids can’t wait to go back and they’re asking to go in October for the annual Jack O’Lantern Spectacular when there will be over 5,000 carved pumpkins displayed. There were signs up around the park and they really captured the kids’ imaginations! They love the idea of Halloween at the Zoo and seeing so many jack-o-lanterns at once! Every year a new theme is chosen for this festival and this year’s theme is “Jack O’Lanterns A to Z” and the pumpkin art (many carved by professional artists) will be arranged in scenes in alphabetical order, such as D is for Dinosaur, F is for Fantasy, and so on. There’s even a section honoring inspirational individuals such as Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana. There is a grand finale called the Laughing Tree which has hundreds of glowing jack-o-lanterns on the ground and high up in the trees. The crew, Passion for Pumpkins, that creates the pumpkins works nearly around the clock for 32 nights keeping the pumpkins fresh for visitors, so crazy! It sounds so cool, and I’m excited to go see it this year for the first time with my little ones!
The show runs at the Zoo from October 2nd through November 2nd from 6-11pm and is a major fundraiser for the Zoo. I would suggest heading to the Zoo after lunch and visiting all the sites there and then enjoying the early hours of the show with your kiddos. Or you can have an early dinner at my awesome cousin Ed’s restaurant, Vanity Supper Club in Providence, which is delicious and a really cool spot!
Ok back to our day, we ended at “Our Big Back Yard”, which is an amazing play and exploration area for kids and families. There is an indoor activity space, a special place to trade nature items with other kids, an outdoor play space with “the Drip Drop Water Garden,” “The Sticks & Stones Building Zone,” “Creativity Corner” where kids can make nature art, and the “CVS Caremark All Kids Can Treehouse” which has tons of hands on activities and cool corners to explore. With swings, climbing structures and tunnels carved out of the earth and made from trees, it is a great spot to end the day and get out wiggles before the ride back to the Cape. We brought a change of clothes and a bathing suit so the kids could play in the water area and the dirt without worrying about ruining their clothes for the ride home.
We had a great time at the Roger Williams Park Zoo and loved all the activities; I heard rumors that the climbing wall may still be up in October, but no promises. If it is, definitely participate! If you miss the seasonal activities this year, I’ve been assured there will be some awesome ones starting next spring as well. It’s so fun to explore attractions that are a quick trip from the Cape; sometimes we do need to go over the bridge!
Have you been to the Zoo? What did you think? What’s your favorite day trip from the Cape?
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