Thursday, July 26, 2007


That's probably one of the first words English-speaking kids learn to read, given its prevalence in alphabet books and children's stories. Certainly Cady Gray instantly recognized it on the signs leading to the Nashville Zoo, a very nice facility that we nearly always try to visit when we're in town.

And finally the kids are just about both at an age when they are excited about animals and will trudge semi-willingly from exhibit to exhibit. Noel planned this outing perfectly: We got there 15 minutes after it opened, worked our way around to end at the petting zoo and the awesome, community-built playground right when the food outlets opened (skipping exhibits when necessary to keep on schedule), and concluded after lunch with the carousel and the savannah habitat area just beyond.

That means we ended on a high note, with the kids' favorite animals (elephants and giraffes) and with the beautiful merry-go-round ride, which sent them into raptures of delight. Cady Gray chose a lion while we were waiting in line ("LION!!"), and Archer got the elephant right next door. I've never seen such an awed, joyful expression on Cady Gray's face as she wore while staring up at the mechanism over her head going round and round ("Look, there's a bicycle up there!"). Pictures will have to wait, since I didn't bring the cable to dump them to the computer.

I never got to go to zoos regularly as a kid, since the only one in Chattanooga when I was growing up was a sad bears-on-concrete-slabs affair affixed to a public park. Now that I'm a snake fan, I enjoyed seeing the massive anaconda, gorgeous emerald boa, and vibrant corn snake in the Nashville Zoo "animals of the Americas" bird, reptile, and insect house as much as I enjoyed the marquee mammals (meerkats, white-handed gibbons, and cougar cubs). This November I'm going to San Diego for the American Academy of Religion annual meeting, and since I'm going to be there extra days to attend board meetings, I'm hoping to take a day off and play tourist at their famous zoo, which I last visited as a kid on a family vacation, and really don't remember at all.

In our ongoing attempt to completely wear the kids out, we took them to Bicentennial Mall to play in the fountains in the afternoon. Perhaps it worked -- they appear to be sacking out nicely this evening* -- but it took more out of me, I'm convinced, than it did the kids. All that sun saps my energy, and by the time it's about ninety minutes from any conceivable mealtime, I'm starving and listless.

Tomorrow we plan to go to the bookstore and let Grandma buy the kids some books. Then we're flat out of ideas, with a day and a half of visit still in the hopper. Dragon Park if the weather holds ... probably Opry Mills** or Green Hills mall if it doesn't ... after that, we're stumped. Anybody with child-amusement experience in the Metro Nashville area, leave suggestions in the comments.

*Also working: Noel's plan to put them to sleep in different rooms.
**If we do go there, expect to be regaled with my memories of Opryland, a theme park I visited in my youth at least every other year.


Adam Villani said...

The San Diego Zoo is really huge. It makes every other zoo you'll visit seem small. Don't be surprised if you can't visit the whole thing before getting exhausted.

stevie said...

San Diego Zoo is amazing, but huge, as Adam noted. We went through it on a short vacation in 2003. We spent four or five hours there, and saw about one-quarter of it. The park it's in is fantastic, too -- lots of great, fun, and interesting museums. At the Natural History Museum, we participated in an exhibit that told the story of environmental ruin through minigolf.

If you two ever bring the kids to Chicago, Lincoln Park has a free zoo in the middle of the city. It's a favorite of ours (we go by ourselves sometimes!)