We were enticed out on that particular day not only because the weather was lovely (albeit "cool," in Florida terms), but also because they were offering rides on the train for a dollar. Ellie always wants to ride the train, but we have never opted to spend the time and money doing so. When we saw this promotion, we figured this was our day.
We arrived at the zoo early, and I'm not sure if it was the timing of our arrival or the cooler temperatures or just pure luck, but for whatever reason, the animals were the most active we have ever seen them. It all began with the rhinos who, instead of napping on their hill in the distance, were up and moving about. One was even right up by the observation station!
Rhino, up close and personal!
The kids checking out the rhino
Likewise, the zebras were up and moving, and right up along the fence!
Good morning, zebra!
We hit the reptile house, at Ellie's request. She loves the snakes! This time, she also took a particular shine to a tiny turtle.
"Look at the little baby turtle!"
Quick photo op by the elephants...
Eric and Ellie
...then onwards to the leopards, who were on the prowl.
Leopards on the move
Then it was over to the lions, who were amazing. There were three little lion cubs, who put on quite a show for us! They were insistent on playing with their dad, but dad was not so enthused. Mama Lion also had a lot on her mind, apparently, as she kept roaring! I told Ellie she was saying, "I love you, babies!"
Mama and one of her cubs
Speaking her mind
VIDEO: Mama Lion Roaring
Daddy lion is not amused.
VIDEO: Lion cubs playing with their dad
Dad Lion moved to the far side of the exhibit, but the babies found him there, too. Also, love the elephant embracing the role of "nosy neighbor."
After the lions we headed over to the Australia section for the other main event of the day: the sea lion show! The sea lion show is a new and temporary exhibit. It costs a little extra, but we wanted to make sure we saw it! It was a lot of fun, and the kids really enjoyed it.
Watching the show
Varying degrees of sea lion hand-standing
After the show, we posed for a photo with the stars!
E.J. is killing me.
We naturally had to make a stop at the carousel...
She chose the classic carousel horse!
...then it was time for the train ride! Ellie really enjoyed it, and it gave us a new and different look at the zoo. We got to see a newborn baby giraffe, too!
Please keep one hand on each parent at all times.
(In case you're curious, yes, that's one of her "Elsa gloves.")
Rhinos as seen from the train
We wrapped it up after the train ride. What a successful day at the zoo!
E.J. was pleased!
We had so much fun that we went back to the zoo just a couple of weeks later. This time our visit was largely inspired by the birth of a baby gorilla that we wanted to see. Unfortunately, we didn't catch the little gorilla, but we had lots of other fun instead!
First, we walked through the Florida Loop, which we usually skip. Ellie loved playing on the big alligator statue.
Then it was time for more reptiles...
She's crawling like this snake.
...and the bald eagles.
This bird is legit.
From there we headed over to the primates, but on our way to the gorilla exhibit we got sidetracked by the bonobos. There were four mother/baby pairs out, including what looked to be a rather young infant. The other babies were so playful! They were chasing each other around, dragging blankets, swinging, and giving each other piggy-back rides. Every now and then they would stop and find (presumably?) their mothers and nurse for a bit then go back to playing. The mama with the littlest one just toted him(/her?) around like it was nothing! I was amazed at how she would cradle him and swing/jump from place to place. They were all a lot of fun to watch and we spent quite some time at that exhibit.
Mama with her wee babe
Inside I was screaming, "Support his head!"
I feel you, Mama Bonobo. My baby makes me yawn like that, too.
When we realized the mama gorilla was hiding her baby off in a corner, we prioritized what was left. We took Ellie to see the penguins...
She loves the penguins!
...then offered her a choice of one last thing to do: ride the carousel or brush the goats. To our surprise, she selected goats.
She's a great goat-brusher.
It was another great zoo morning and Ellie was especially sad to leave. I love that even though we've been to the zoo just about once a month since we purchased our membership, we still get to see and do new things regularly! The Jax Zoo really is great, and we will certainly be renewing our membership this year. I'm glad Ellie enjoys it so much, and I'm sure that in the coming year, E.J. will, too!