Some Places to Explore if your Kids (Or YOU!) are Obsessed with Animals…

One of my hopes this year with the theme of explore was that I would discover things I’d been missing in my own (relative) backyard. I am looking forward to talking about traveling new places later in the year, but I am thrilled with the little places in the metro Phoenix area where we’ve been exploring the past month, so I wanted to share a few today.
My kids are both obsessed with animals. They love pretending to be them, making noises like them, watching movies about them, and especially seeing them. This is why one of our favorite Christmas gifts the past few years has been our membership to the Phoenix Zoo. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been since my son was born, but I do know that if the weather is below 90 then there’s a good chance we’ll head to the zoo sometime that week.
How did we explore in somewhere we’ve been so many times? Well, we tend to go the same route over and over again when we’re there. Part of this is because my son’s favorite animals for a long time were the orangutans and monkeys so we would just go on a big loop that included both of those. It wasn’t until some friends introduced us to the back area of the zoo that I discovered there was a whole section I’d been missing that my son really loved- with a petting zoo area! And a fake cow to milk! And all sorts of play areas! So that broke us out of our original routine, but pretty soon we’d just replaced it… we replaced the monkeys with seeing the alligators and the petting zoo and our loop had really just shifted a little.

So last week when we had a zoo visit, I decided to break out of our usual route and go explore the neglected area to the left that I always walk right past when entering the zoo. We were meeting friends so my son could have a playdate with one of his besties and they had no idea what I was talking about at first because they walk right past that area too. We realized as we explored this new-to-us part of the zoo that we HAD been there before, but only ever during Zoolights when none of the animals are on display, and the people at the zoo but know that no one really comes to see many of those animals because that’s the area where they put up light displays of mythical creatures. If I was going back just based on my

It’s hard to tell in this picture, but this bird’s eyes are straight up blood red… and it was almost uncomfortably close to my baby in her stroller… but that’s part of the adventure?!

Zoolights memories I would have thought we were there to see dragons and unicorns.

While the daytime exhibits do not include dragons and unicorns, there were some pretty delightful animals and the kids had a blast looking at them. There were bald eagles and wolves and a whole hall full of creepy crawly animals! It was a delight to see a new section and it was a double win because it was much less crowded than our usual stops of tigers and giraffes. And since the theme of the day was exploring, I took our friends to another lesser visited area of the zoo which includes peacocks and crazy looking birds walking around right next to you. It was a fantastic zoo time and made me feel newly excited about our memberships. It also made me want to take more time to see other animals we usually walk right past on the way to the standbys and favorites.

Last weekend we also had the opportunity to celebrate a sweet baby buddy’s first birthday- a little girl born less than a month after my daughter. The gorgeous party was at Tolmachoff farms which is in the West Valley. I had heard of this place before, especially in relation to their pumpkin patch, but I had never been before and I was blown away by how lovely it was and how many activities they had for the kids.


My son was amazed as he watched the people there pull up vegetables for the animals to eat straight from the ground (“Mom, that carrot is SOOO BIG! Our carrots are small!” yeah… carrots don’t grow the best in our backyard… maybe I should ask the folks at Tolmochoff for some tips!) and then pile them up for the kids to take and feed to the various horses and goats and geese they had around the farm. He was amazed and  nervous and giddy all at once as a horse ate right from his hand. He was less thrilled with the goats who he just threw food to and yelled “there you go!” My daughter loved the new sights and sounds and textures all around her. She also loved getting in one of the wagons and playing on the giant “spiderweb” with her brother. It definitely made me want to come back when it’s pumpkin season.


Finally, we are on the lookout for Groupons or special deals to either the Aquarium or the Butterfly Wonderland so if any of my readers have a good lead on that, please contact me or leave a comment!
I hope if you have a “usual spot” you like to spend some recreational time that maybe there’s a new area you an explore or a new way to look at the same place to break you out of some of your routine!


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