The San Diego Zoo and a Birthday

October 17 (no comment about this post coming 2 months afterward…) was the anniversary of my birth (thanks Mom!) and I got to spend a beautiful Southern California day at the San Diego Zoo with my favorite people.

Am I such a huge zoo lover that we planned our trip around going to the world famous San Diego Zoo on my birthday? Not quite. The timing happened to work out this way. I certainly have nothing against zoos, but I don’t love them. What I do love is that my kids love them. I love how excited they get to see, and sometimes touch, different animals. I love how it awakens their curiosity just to be there, and I love the questions and conversations that come about naturally as a result. Obviously, I’m talking mostly about Emelie, but even Peter’s “Dooo?” (which is his word for just about everything at this point) comes with an excited expression and a pointed finger.

But if you are over 30 and circumstances lead you to celebrate your birthday in a zoo, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one than the San Diego Zoo. In addition to being a zoo, it is also a botanical garden, so there is a great variety of beautiful plants helping to create habitats for animals and a beautiful landscape for everyone to enjoy. But I won’t spend a lot of time sharing things that you could just as easily read on the zoo’s own website. A lot of the places we visited on our trip claimed to be “world famous” but since the San Diego Zoo actually is, then you either already know about it or could easily look it up if you’re curious.

IMG_2435Since the zoo is expansive, it’s really helpful that transportation like trams and cable cars are included in the admission ticket, as is a guided open-air bus tour. We started with the bus tour, which gave us a good overview of the zoo and helped us decide how to spend our day. We managed to get seats right in the front row and had a great view! IMG_2438Hanging out on the bus. Even in mid-October, it was a hot, sticky day in San Diego

After the bus, maps in hand, we went off exploring the zoo and seeing the animals.

IMG_2446Elephants are always such a favorite with kids! 

IMG_2483San Diego is one of only four zoos in the United States that have pandas. Apparently the Chinese government keeps a pretty strict control on this. The panda exhibit is very popular and was accordingly very crowded. 

We went to a show called “Camp Critters” where animals and their human handler friends acted out a little animal summer camp story. It was cute and Emelie loved it. It was a hot day to sit on bleachers in the sun, and as we came in most people were crowding together into what little shade was to be found in one corner of the amphitheater. But Staffan correctly assessed that as the sun angle changed, that shade would soon disappear. So we sat front and center – and almost by ourselves. Everybody was in the sun by the time the show started, but we had a better view, and I dare say we were even a little cooler because we weren’t all packed in so close together.

IMG_2450 croppedOne of the stars of Camp Critters

IMG_2463And another. They weren’t all birds, though. There were wolves, snakes, and several others, including everyone’s favorite “counselor-in-training” – the seal

The cable car was a good way to get from the far corner of the zoo back to an area closer to the entrance. Emelie loved the cable car, while I spent most of the ride trying to keep the ever-curious Peter from climbing out of it. Collapsible single strollers can even be taken on as long as they’re folded up, so it was a great way to  get around.

IMG_2473Emelie enjoying the cable car ride, looking down on the animals below

IMG_2475Can you see what a death-grip I have on Peter? He doesn’t walk yet but he’s a climber! And thank you hot, humid day for this great hair I’m sporting here.

A visit to the petting zoo is often a highlight but not so for us on this occasion. The petting zoo animals have places they can go to get away from people when they need a rest, or to get food or water or cool off in the shade. Just about all of the animals had chosen to go into these areas. Not that we blame them for being hot and tired – we were too! – but there just wasn’t anything to do there and we were all a little disappointed.

IMG_2470Speaking of hot and tired, this dirty little playground thing is intended for goats, not children. We had to drag her, literally kicking and screaming, out of there.

We arrived at the zoo just after they opened, and we stayed until it was nearly closing time. So it was a long day (have I mentioned that it was hot?!) but a good day.

I had two requests for celebrating my birthday. I wanted to eat a dinner that I did not boil myself on a propane stove, preferably followed by some kind of dessert. And I wanted a campfire after the kids were asleep.

So we found an Applebees. Maybe not the fanciest meal ever but it met the requirements, and when you need high chairs and kids menus that’s pretty much the level you’re on. I enjoyed being asked for ID when I ordered my favorite drink from the bar (amaretto sour. yum.). I wanted to ask how often they had customers under 21 come in for dinner at 5:30 with their two kids, but I decided to just take it as a compliment.

It took a little detour to find someplace to buy firewood, but I got my campfire. Staffan pulled out his ukulele and we sat by the fire and sang songs. The perfect end to a wonderful day. Happy Birthday to me.

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