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A Day at the Jacksonville Zoo

Updated on November 30, 2016

Not My Preference

Zoos aren't necessarily my thing, but my step granddaughter wanted to go, and I was the nearest (and only) contender for accompanying the ten-year-old, blue-eyed blonde. "I guess we're going to the zoo," I said, after expressing a preference to the contrary.

"Yeah!" she said, and her eyes lit up like bulbs with a restored circuit after a power outage.

Links for Easy Reference and Viewing

  1. My Checklist
  2. The Location and Ride (map)
  3. 2014 Rates
  4. The Animals (pictures)
  5. Plants (pictures and video)
  6. Miscellaneous Features (elephant sculptures, anteater, The Carousel, Butterfly Hollow, and the train ride)

Starting the Day

We had planned to be at the zoo early in the morning, but, hey, it was a Saturday--and you know how Saturdays are--no one gets up early, and this was the case with us.

It was a beautiful, sunny day with barely a breeze, and when the air did stir, it was a gentle, warm gust with the feel of spring, the kind of spring that makes you want to stay at home and tend your garden.

My Checklist

  • sunblock
  • chap stick and lip balm
  • prescription glasses with UV protection
  • straw hat for me and baseball cap for Olivia
  • facial tissue
  • snack bag with chips, carrots, and almonds
  • two containers of drinking water
  • purse with money (Olivia's father allotted us $100 cash)
  • cell phone for communication and taking pictures

It was zoo day, though, and I decided to see the day as an adventure, something healthy because everyone needs a change in routine once in a while.

"Did you put on sunblock?" I asked Olivia.

"Yeah," she said.

"Don't forget to brush your teeth," I added.

She went to polish her pearls while I put together a couple of carrots and the remaining bag of almonds for a snack and filled two drinking containers with water.

Olivia returned and contributed two bags of chips to the food bag.


Author's note: Little did I know I was already breaking the zoo's rule number three: Outside food and beverages are not permitted. (I had no idea.)

The Location and Ride

Located at 370 Zoo Parkway, the drive lasted a good 15 minutes through Saturday's midday traffic. My daughter is an assertive driver, so when we got to railroad tracks, the Acura shook like a short, abrupt roller coaster ride, which may not have been good for the car's shocks, but Olivia, who was in the back seat, exclaimed, "That was fun! Do it again!" She got her wish, too, because, after a minute or two, another set of tracks crossed our route.

A marker370 Zoo Parkway. Jacksonville, FL -
370 Zoo Road, Jacksonville, FL 32218, USA
get directions

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens cover 110 acres in northeast Florida.

Entrance and Fees

My daughter had to return home to study for her computer science class, so she dropped Olivia and me near the front entrance. As I mentioned earlier, the day was very pleasant with sunshine, but pedestrian traffic was relatively heavy.

"A weekday visit would be better," I observed, but, of course, we were already there, so we simply had to relax and enjoy the day as it was.

I loved the imitation thatched awnings at the entrance to the zoo.
I loved the imitation thatched awnings at the entrance to the zoo.

As we got nearer the ticket office, Olivia read a sign stating the entrance fees, "$24.95 Adults; $17.95 Children. I texted my daughter, "It costs nearly $50 just to get in--sheesh!" I did exaggerate a bit, but would have preferred a sum closer to $30; at least now I knew why we were given $100.

Once we got to the Guest Relations Office, a lower fee was actually offered, but did not include rides. Olivia had visited the zoo on several previous occasions through school field trips and with her grandparents, but this was my first time, and I knew I wanted to be able to ride the train, which circles the zoo grounds. Olivia, too, would probably want to ride something, so I purchased the value tickets. Doing so made the necessity of handling money on the grounds minimal.

Our Value Tickets included rides.
Our Value Tickets included rides.

2014 Rates

Age Group
General Admission
Value Ticket
Member Value Band
Child (3-12 yrs)
$10.95
$17.95
$7.00
Adult (13-64 yrs)
$15.95
$24.95
$9.00
Senior (65+ yrs)
$13.95
$22.95
$9.00
Value Tickets and Member Bands allow the zoo guest to five different rides (unlimited on train and carousel). Admission for children aged 2 and under are free. Annual membership fees range from $40 to $145, depending on type.

Upon paying our entrance fees, the ticket agent put a green, color-coded band on each of our wrists, so attendants would know we were allowed certain entries and rides without an additional fee.

Planning Our Walk on the Loops

The zoo has nine "loops," or routes to follow: Africa, Wild Florida, Giraffe/Savanna Blooms, Great Apes, Jaguar/South America, Play Park, Trout River, Australia, and Asia. In addition to these, there are two features:, namely Stingray Bay, where people can pet the swimming, real-live stingrays, and Butterfly Hollow, where numerous butterflies of six different species reside in a tented, fairy garden.

Initially, Olivia and I discussed what we wanted to see and agreed on all but three of the loops or features, but, then, I overestimated the self discipline of this ten-year-old. Everything seemed to be of interest to her once we got inside. We had the map and well marked trails so we wouldn't wander too far off course.

Our loop map helped us to navigate our way through the zoo grounds, which were also clearly marked with signs.
Our loop map helped us to navigate our way through the zoo grounds, which were also clearly marked with signs.

The Animals

I couldn't get clear pictures of all the animals we saw, but here are the ones I did get, along with a little information about each.

A large stingray at Stingray Bay has its barbs clipped periodically so visitors can safely pet them.
A large stingray at Stingray Bay has its barbs clipped periodically so visitors can safely pet them.

Birds

Tree nesting storks.
Tree nesting storks.
This rather large pelican in the Emerald Forest Aviary attracted my attention.
This rather large pelican in the Emerald Forest Aviary attracted my attention.



The zoo has three aviaries, the River Valley Aviary, the Emerald Forest Aviary, and the Lorikeet Aviary, each housing species unique to its featured part of the world.

Mammals

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This gentle giraffe heads for a feeding bin filled with freshly cut wax myrtle twigs. Zoo visitors can hand feed the giraffes from the overlook.These bongos look as if God dripped vanilla frosting down their backs.The okapi, relative to the giraffe, carries a distinct design on his backside.
This gentle giraffe heads for a feeding bin filled with freshly cut wax myrtle twigs. Zoo visitors can hand feed the giraffes from the overlook.
This gentle giraffe heads for a feeding bin filled with freshly cut wax myrtle twigs. Zoo visitors can hand feed the giraffes from the overlook.
These bongos look as if God dripped vanilla frosting down their backs.
These bongos look as if God dripped vanilla frosting down their backs.
The okapi, relative to the giraffe, carries a distinct design on his backside.
The okapi, relative to the giraffe, carries a distinct design on his backside.

(A bonobo is the smaller of two species of chimpanzees.)

Plants

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Palms and flowering trees greet the visitor near the Main Camp.A healthy bed of water plants float on a fresh-water pond along the main path.
Palms and flowering trees greet the visitor near the Main Camp.
Palms and flowering trees greet the visitor near the Main Camp.
A healthy bed of water plants float on a fresh-water pond along the main path.
A healthy bed of water plants float on a fresh-water pond along the main path.

The Asian Bamboo Gardens

The big lizard featured in the video is referred to as a Komodo dragon.

Author's note: I wish to thank John R. Markert of Accel Video Productions for this beautiful video.

Miscellaneous Features

The Life-Sized Elephant Sculptures

Olivia and I took several breaks along our walk and refreshed ourselves with the edibles and water we brought with us. During one such rest, Olivia challenged herself by attempting to climb on the metal sculpture of two life-sized elephants. Most of the children got no farther than swinging on an elephant's strong metal tail; however, one young man, whom I guessed to be in his mid-teens, made it to the head of the largest sculpture. "It's hot!" he announced.

"See," I told you I said to Olivia. "You wouldn't want to be up there."

The Most Memorable Attraction

If I had to vote for one animal that I found the most intriguing, it would have to be the anteater. He was part of the Range of the Jaguar and South American Loop. This creature was constantly surveying the ground with his long, rather slender snout and must have measured close to six feet from the tip of his snout to the end of his tail.

"Isn't that something?" the lady next to me asked.

"He's rather like a vacuum cleaner with a duster at the other end," I commented.

She chuckled. "He certainly is!"

Secretly I wanted a caretaker to throw in an ant-filled stump so we could watch this unusual creature at work. The stumps within his domain had already been cleaned, not showing a trace of an ant.

Author's Note: I didn't take a picture of this creature because of a glass separation, but I wanted to include one here due to the remarkable construction of this animal. The critter I observed actually had a white, linear triangle stretching from his lumbar spine down his side at the fore of his hind leg; otherwise, the giant anteater below looks the same.

The anteater, nature's vacuum cleaner, complete with a tail-end feather duster!
The anteater, nature's vacuum cleaner, complete with a tail-end feather duster! | Source

The Carousel


The Wildlife Carousel off the Main Path, instead of ponies with a mix of lions or bears, represents nearly all, if not all, the animals in the Jacksonville Zoo.

This had to be the greatest part of Olivia's day. The $2 cost was already included in her ticket.

Olivia seated on a mock Okapi, one of the zoo's represented animals on the carousel.
Olivia seated on a mock Okapi, one of the zoo's represented animals on the carousel.

Butterfly Hollow

I anticipated this attraction to be the high point of my day because hundreds of butterflies were supposed to be in this tented area at the south side of the zoo. One butterfly did sit on Olivia's cap just before entering the Hollow and several feeder dishes attracted a handful of butterflies, but that was all. The fairyland setup was charming enough and the windows to chrysalis housings interesting, but the winged massage I had hoped to receive just didn't happen.

Snow Cones, Hot Dogs, Fries, and Blue-Raspberry Ice

It takes the appetite of a young one to stomach the foods offered at concession stands and fast-food stops at this, or any, zoo. The snow cone with banana flavoring came to $3.50. Olivia's dinner of a hot dog, a side of fries, and a blue-raspberry ice drink came to just under $6.

I stuck to my water, raw organic carrots and almonds.

The Train Ride

Let's face it--by the end of the day Olivia and I were exhausted.

"We'll catch the train back to the Main Camp," I said, and we waited--and waited a little longer--at the train stop near the Trout River Plaza. Finally we were able to board.

As the train began to move, the lady commentator announced over the speaker, "You will remain seated until the train returns to this stop . . ."

"Phone your dad and let him know there will be a delay," I said to Olivia. So, we rode around the entire zoo grounds. We did get a glimpse of the apes and kangaroos, which we had not planned to see on foot. In addition, the ride gave us extra minutes of rest that allowed us to walk from the Trout River Plaza to the Main Camp, and I got my only ride of the day to fulfill the fringe benefit of the Value Ticket.


When we got out the main entrance, Olivia played on the sea turtle sculpture bordering the parking lot.

I phoned her father and explained where we were.

"I'll be there in a minute," he replied.

"All right," I said. "You shouldn't have any trouble seeing us--I'm the only lady wearing a straw hat."

He chuckled. ***

Me in my straw hat.
Me in my straw hat.

For More Information About the Zoo

© 2014 Marie Flint

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    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      The total cost of Olivia's and my four-hour visit came to a little under $67, not bad for all the things there were to see and learn. If we were to become regulars, the cost of a membership would be a good deal because educational tours, in which we did not participate on the day of our visit, are conducted daily from April through November on reptiles, the Komodo dragon, alligators, penguins, bats, the bald eagle, elephants, the jaguar, South American birds, the rhino, and the apes. There's even a "temple talk" on the Lost Temple in the South American Loop.(Fun and interesting stuff for kids.)

      Smells from animal droppings weren't that bad, either. I think Olivia had more problems with the occasional whiffs of manure than I.

      If I were somehow to become employed by the zoo, I'd want to keep my focus on plant care and (maybe) distribution. I think I would enjoy feeding myrtle to the giraffes.

      Whatever you do--don't forget the sunblock! ***

    • cecileportilla profile image

      Cecile Portilla 3 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Hi Marie:

      You did an excellent job promoting the Jacksonville Zoo. Those are awesome pictures! I have not been to a zoo in over 10 years. The tree with the nesting storks is really pretty. I though I was looking white flowers initially. You have inspired me to make plans to take my son to a zoo before he gets too old. I really enjoyed the video. Voted up!

      By the way Olivia is beautiful.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Wow, Cecile, you're really on top of this--I'm still trying to add a detail to my comment! As always, I appreciate your visits.

      I couldn't include some of my pictures because they became pixilated in the HP program due to cropping in preparation.

      The small detail I wanted to add about the cost was Olivia's purchase of a bag of hand-sized, plastic zoo animals. There were 11 different animals in the bag, and the cost of it was under $14 (about $1 or so per animal, plus tax). For us, the best gift and souvenir shop was at the southern end of the zoo near Butterfly Hollow, but I didn't allow her to buy any more because she had already spent $13+ on the toys. I felt that was enough for the day for such a youngster.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Story well told. Thank you for taking us along on your visit to the zoo. The pictures are wonderful. Oh, and I commend you for spending the day with child.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you, Dora, especially for the commendation. The family, like the Acura over the railroad tracks, has been experiencing some bumpy roads. Olivia craves the attention I give her, and we get along well; we're both Gemini.

    • Alphadogg16 profile image

      Kevin W 3 years ago from Texas

      Very interesting hub Marie, as I was in Jacksonville several times last year but did not get the opportunity to visit the zoo. Your hub gives readers the feel of being right alongside you in zoo tour. Being an animal lover I will definitely have to check the zoo out the next time I'm in Jacksonville. Thumbs up on your hub.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you, Alphadogg, I was hoping that the hub would give that feeling of being with me. I think the personal touch for this experience makes zoo visiting more desirable than if I had given an encyclopedic account of what to find there. Blessings!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      What a wonderful day out Marie.

      Voted up , across and shared.

      Eddy.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      We always get a chuckle out of being "members" of our zoo. Well done here. It was kind of nice to read and see that our visits are just like yours!

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Wow, I think I would have like the anteater the best, too. I had no idea they were so hairy! He's rather formidable, isn't he? Great information here, Marie. Thanks for the trip!

    • nihongotraveler profile image

      Nathaniel 3 years ago from Everywhere and nowhere; currently Boulder, Colorado

      I went to the zoo there once, and only once.

      I personally thought that the Orlando Zoo was better and more entertaining.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you, Eiddwen, Eric, Ann, and nihongotaveler. Your reads and comments are much appreciated. Blessings!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      What a delightful hub Marie. Looks like you and Olivia had a great day together. Voted up.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      We did, Jodah. Thank you!

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      Looks like you had a wonderful day at the zoo and took some great pictures. Spring is the best time to visit zoos because the weather is so nice and everything is blossoming. Enjoyed and voted up!

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you, Writer Fox. It was a lovely day. I appreciate your comment and vote.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Marie,

      Great read. Wonderfully-written and presented. Great graphics. Voted up and all of the way. I am so glad to have met you on HP. Actually on my being dishonorably discharged from the Marines HUB. You are one talented writer.

      Keep up the fine work.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you, Kenneth. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub. Comments always inspire me to continue writing.

      Now that HPPro Beta is being introduced, perhaps my editorial suggestions will be less needed here.

      Blessings!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Marie,

      I did enjoy this hub very much. I do not know about HPProBeta. What is this system? And what did you mean by your editorial suggestions will be less needed? I am confused.

      Please help.

      Blessings back to you.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      HubPro Beta is a new system being introduced by Hub Pages. You can read about the system's details here: http://blog.hubpages.com/2014/07/introducing-the-h...

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 7 months ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      A friend just advised me the rate for one adult, without rides, is $17.50. You can check updated rates on the zoo's webpage, a link for which is given above in the article.

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