My husband, Nick, is a history nerd. When we plan trips, he usually picks out all manner of archeological sites, historical buildings and museums to visit. Me? I like those things, too.
But I also try to find kid-friendly activities to balance things out a bit. After all, we (and by we, I mean I) won’t get to see any of that fabulous Modigliani exhibit if we (and again, totally me) are dealing with a screaming child in the lobby.
If we plan some kind of excursion before said exhibit where Chet can run around a bit, we may get away with seeing the whole thing only bothered by nosy old ladies who stop us to say our sleeping kid’s head is positioned at a funny angle. It’s a win-win.
In major Metropolitan areas, there is usually tons of kid-friendly fare to choose from. But by and large, the biggest draw is going to be some type of zoo. What child doesn’t love a trip to the zoo? Overpriced souvenirs, red-assed monkeys flinging poop, and prowling beasts of prey pretty much guarantee delight.
After hitting zoos across the globe, my husband is a little sick of them. He’ll be the first to tell you, “We’ve seen a tiger in Atlanta and, you know, it didn’t look much different in Frankfurt.” And I will begrudgingly admit he’s got a point. But we’ve now come across a few zoos that offer that little something different to make them almost as much fun for adults as it is for the kiddos.
Big zoos aren’t always the best. Though you may only hear of the city’s own zoo while wandering around in Frankfurt, a short drive towards the Taunus will bring you to the Opel Zoo. A zoo in a natural setting with elephants, giraffes and zebras you can feed, the park also has a huge playground and a stand that offers wine tasting. What more do you need?
Tiergarten Schönbrunn/Zoo Vienna
Want to see where Marie Antoinette grew up? Check out the Schönbrunn, the Hapsburg summer palace. Walk into the back gardens to Zoo Vienna, formerly the Royal Family’s personal menagerie of wild animals. All the big animals are here – some in historic baroque cages. Hang out for a bit in the monkey house — after a few moments, you won’t know just who is watching whom.
San Diego Wild Animal Park
San Diego, California:
Not brave enough to try a safari in Africa yet? Do the next best thing with a Jeep ride at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. You can also check out the acres and acres of simulated Africa by train (the park was built as a breeding facility) and the animals that call it home.
Skansen Open Air Museum
Located on Stockholm’s Djurgarden, the Skansen Open Air museum has historic buildings and reenactments. But it also has a zoo with Scandinavia’s local species. It’s a lovely, picturesque walk through the park and your kid will get a thrill out of seeing just how big a moose really is.
Jardin zoologique de la Ville Lyon
Okay, so I’m sure as you are reading this you are thinking that zoos are even bigger money pits than Chuck E. Cheese. And you’d be right. But in the Jardin zoologique’s case, not so. It is FREE, baby! You can save that 20 Euro for more noble pursuits (like the 8 rides on the Carousel located at the other end of the park or a glass of Côtes du Rhône). Although you can no longer feed the park’s famous elephants, you can check out a wide variety of species in Lyon’s biggest green space.
Have a favorite zoo of your own? Tell us about it!
Need hotels to go with those zoos? We recommend these: