I love zoos! I have always been an animal lover and from Racine Wisconsin to Chicago Illinois to Springfield Missouri I try hard to visit zoos wherever I vacation or live. Though fairly small and requiring some serious upgrades to their older bathrooms, Dickerson Park Zoo https://dickersonparkzoo.org/ is a top Springfield destination. I’ve been taking my kids and grandkids to this entrenched Springfield attraction for 30 years. DPZ falls under the jurisdiction of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board of Springfield MO. Quite a few years back the citizens voted for a small tax to help the park system with various projects and expanding and upgrading parts of the zoo were on the agenda. They did a wonderful job with an elephant enclosure and play area, wolf den, expanded the Animals of Missouri exhibit and other fun projects. The playground near The Bush Country Café is lots of fun and a great respite area for tired parents and grandparents to relax in the shade while watching their offspring play.
When I was a child growing up in San Francisco, visiting the zoo, especially the seal enclosure where we were able to feed the seals, was one of the highlights of every year. Dickerson Park Zoo has something similar from March through October with their giraffe exhibit, making getting close to such large animals a fun experience. The newer giraffe deck where giraffe crackers are available from an attendant is so much fun and worth the extra cash for the photos you can get with your kids. The petting zoo is also a fun area especially for young children. Having a donkey or goat lip food from your outstretched hand tickles and gives parents an opportunity to teach good animal manners like holding your hand flat, petting nicely, and conquering fear. Giraffe crackers are $4 and the petting zoo food is $1, so remember to bring cash. Tokens are available at the gift shop as well as zoo food if you need to use your debit card. The Dickerson Park Zoo is hilly so get your critter snacks before you head into the park.
Zoos bring us close to animals in a way we can’t experience in everyday life and can help establish a lifelong love for animals of all shapes and sizes. DPZ is an accredited zoo which means it meets certain standards set by The Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Bottom line-they do the best they can with the space and funds they have available. I believe they’ve done a great job improving over the last 30 years. Personally I love the snake house and the otter enclosure. I recommend getting online and checking out their website, letting the kids navigate around to the animals and areas they are most interested in. Though I loved the snake house, one of my daughters did not and refused to EVER step foot in it. I had to make sure another adult or older sibling went along with me to sit outside with her while the others checked out the boas, rattlesnakes and hissing cockroaches!
One last idea! If your kids love the zoo, ask family for a Friend of the Zoo membership as a gift. My sister-in-law did this one year and my children were over the moon over the opportunity to go check out their adopted animal, visit whenever they wanted (when I had time), and in general wear themselves out walking around the zoo using their zoo key. We will never forget that special gift and I pass that tip along whenever possible. Giving experiences trumps giving stuff any day! Now get out there!
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