Guess who got to go to the zoo today? I got to go to the zoo today! I brought back some tips for your trip. I went as a perk for volunteers as the zoo prepares to invite back non-volunteer guests tomorrow.
Things are very different with the re-opening. Capacity is reducing to about 4,000 guests/day in 25 time slots. Be on time for your slot! You can look at the file about the re-opening here. Highlights include:
- Masks required for everyone over the age of three
- No maps, use the app
- One-way traffic flow
- Indoor buildings will be off-limit minus the restroom and restaurants
- Cashless systems including needing online tickets ahead of time
- Big demos will not happen
- Carousel, train, and kids’ play area at Northern Shores are closed
However as a volunteer and parent walking around this new zoo I spied all kinds of stuff I would want to know if I brought my kids here or came with a larger crowd.
1 Bring your own hand sanitizer. There are hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer everywhere but at this point I hope you are bringing your own stuff as you go out. Many “high touch” areas are marked but some are not and I know my kids would be touching everything.
2 Be prepared for heat and not having the possibility to escape indoors to some cooler temps. Have a moisture-wicking mask OR bring multiple masks if yours get too sweaty and uncomfortable. Bring a wide-brimmed hat to provide your own sun protections. Have a bandana on hand to get wet and tie around your neck to bring down your core temp while you are in the sun. Have your water bottle handy because the refill stations are working. With the reduction of pollution in the Front Range since mid-March the sun is burning hotter on our skin so be prepared.
3 Be patient with the walking traffic patterns. They will not be intuitive at the roundabouts. There will be staff at the roundabouts to help direct you. This is new for everyone, be graceful. Once inside you will have the option of the longer loop (2 hours) or shorter loop (one hour). Taking the longer loop will give you the option to end early if it is too much. We are all working with how to adapt for a crowd while keeping everyone as safe as possible. Follow the signs and do not sneak past barriers.
5 Be prepared to not have refillable cups refilled. I could not get a solid answer on what this means for those soda and beer cups that get you a refill discount. They will not be refilled for safety sake. There are no current plans to offer the discount at this time.
6 How are you supposed to eat or drink anything? There will be outdoor seating to eat zoo-bought food or food you bring in yourself. However what about walking around with your snack? I could not get a definitive answer on this while I was there with my ice cream and wearing a mask. I asked if I should sit at a designated eating area or walk and uncover my mask for each taste. It was awkward but I walked with my cone, took a taste when no one was nearby, and kind of regretted my decision because I gave myself brain freeze on a couple of mouthfuls.
7 Look at the murals! There were all kinds of barriers to help with the walking paths that were covered with paintings. Some have artist handles on them. This is new and beautiful.
8 Good luck getting those cooler temp hours with timed entries. Animals are more active in the cooler hours of the summer and have spaces inside to take refuge. I can see being disappointed if they are all asleep or hiding while you are walking around. That is where I suggest enjoying the murals, horticulture, or even making up a scavenger hunt during your time there.
9 Enjoy the changes. The new animal hospital is looking very rad. The Bird World animals are being moved about. And the Stingray Cove will be opened SOON! I got to pet so many stingrays today. I was told it would be open to the public in July as they refine the handwashing protocols before and after the experience. It will cost around five dollars to take part of. They will allow GoPros if you are kind to the stingrays and respect their space with them.
10 Do not have set expectations. Be flexible. Prepare your kids to be flexible. This is new territory for everyone. Some animals are going to be so excited to see everyone like the sea lions. Some have enjoyed the solitude like the Stellars Sea Eagle. Some areas are different with humans not around like Toyota Elephant Passage that was very loud with birds today in the absence of people. Some may not be excited by our masks – the giraffes are not fans of costumes, and some big hats, and some sunglasses, and may not dig the masks. Be patient. For the baby lovers you will see a new gerenuk right off the bat, then the orangutan sisters, then a baby mandrill, young flamingoes, baby rhino at TEP, baby zebra, and young lion cubs. They are all worth it.
11 What is COVID and what is seasonal allergies? Be prepared for a lot of cottonwood right now. As I walked through Harmony Hill it looked like heavy snowflakes falling from the sky. For me when it is really bad I start wheezing. This year I have doubled down on my liver health and am taking Boiron Histaminum which has made my May and June so much easier than dealing with reactions. Be prepared however you do it for season allergies if cottonwood gets you.