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A Review: The Virginia Zoo
Where is it?
3500 Granby Street Norfolk VA, 23504
A little About the Zoo
This is a neat little zoo. Sure, its not as big as the National Zoo in Washington DC or Henry Doorly in Omaha, NE, but this is a very nice zoological park none the less. It as the classic zoo animals like lions, tigers, giraffes, and elephants. But, it also has a wide array of local animals too. Like many zoos in the United States the Virginia Zoo is accredited by the AZA (Association of zoos and aquariums). This means that the Norfolk Zoo follows strict guidelines when it comes to animal care and health.
The Virginia Zoo is broken up into several parts: Asia, Africa, Australia, North America, the petting farm, and the small animals house.
This is one of my favorite exhibit collections. The Asia section of the zoo was recently renovated and you can tell that a lot of time and money went into making this section better. There are various species of primates, including the ever popular orangutans. There are tigers. There are even small clawed Asian otters, which are always a big hit with children. There are birds throughout the section, some are quite colorful.
One of my favorite exhibits is the red panda exhibit. The exhibit is open all around you. Its like you are up in the trees with the red pandas. I've very rarely seen these animals move, but when they do its amazing to watch them walk about the trees with ease.
In this section you will find classics like: lions, giraffes, and elephants. But, you will also find some more rare creatures like the bongo, which is an endangered species. There are also fennec foxes, ostriches, zebra, and a white rhinoceros. The giraffes and elephants have an indoor enclosure that is open to the public, this means that you can see training sessions with these animals. If you ever have the chance to watch exotic animals in a training session I suggest you take it.
This is also the section of the park where you will find the zoo cafe. It has typical theme park food and is reasonably priced. There is plenty of seating both inside and outside. This area is also home to the new veterinary building.
Do you like to visit zoos?
Australia and North America
There aren't very many exhibits for these two groups. Lets face it, in a zoo that is located in North America many visitors don't want to see local animals. They want to exotics, so the species native to North America are often left out of many zoos. At the Virginia Zoo you will find a few iconic animals: the bald eagle, bison, and prairie dogs.
As far as Australian animals go there really isn't much variety. There are some kangaroos and emus. It is entertaining to watch the kangaroos hop around if you happen to walk by while they are awake. They recently renovated the Australia exhibit. Guests are now able to walk through with the animals. Some of the animals will get rather close to the walking trail, while other stay away. It is a neat experience and allows guests to get up close and personal with the animals.
The zoo is bordered by the Layette River. There is a natural inlet that goes right inside the zoo grounds. This is where you will find a lot of native wildlife. All of the animals that you see are wild and have come in on their own free will. There are turtles, fish, frogs, and many species of birds. There are sometimes of the year when you will even see swans passing through.
The Petting Farm and Small Animals House
This area of the zoo was recently renovated. The petting zoo is home to various barnyard species where kids and adults can get up close and personal with the animals. The goats are a big draw and are rather friendly. There are several peacocks that roam freely around the zoo grounds, do not try to pet these birds.
The small animal house is home to many species of reptiles and mammals. Many of the mammals that you will find in this area are nocturnal so the areas where they are are kept dark. The zoo was kind enough to have two entrances, one where you can view all of the animals and one for people that wish to avoid the reptiles and giant spiders.
This is a very respectable little zoo. You can tell that the animals are well cared for and the exhibits are kept up nicely. In the summer there are a lot of places to get snacks, but in the off season there is only the cafe at the back of the zoo. There are plenty of places for kids to play, and many interactive exhibits. The zoo has a large staff of volunteers that are able to inform guests about the animals in the zoo's collection. There is a beautiful garden between the North America and Australia exhibits that is filled with color.
There is only one gift shop at the zoo. Personally, I was not too impressed with the selection of items found in the gift shop, but I also do not have young children. I am more interested in home good things and there are few of them at the gift shop. However, I was very pleased to see that the zoo features artwork created by some of its animals in the gift shop. These unique pieces of art are very reasonably priced. I was able to get a large (19.5 by 25) painting that one of the elephants had done for only $40. How many people do you know have elephant art in their home?
If you would like more information on the Virginia Zoo you can visit their website here.