Okay, it is probably not the best time of year to go to a zoo where you are walking around outdoors and it is freezing cold (cold being relative and anything less than 70 in these parts is considered cold)- but, it is a good time to go to the zoo if you hate crowds and want to be the only people there. With the exception of maybe 20 other people in the whole place not counting the people who work there.
Yesterday we drove up to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo- I'm assuming that the Chaffees were some of the original sponsors of the zoo. I did some online research to find out about the zoo and how to get there, and while it is a small zoo (think the Santa Barbara Zoo) it is a really nice zoo, is right off the freeway and easy to find, and has some animals and birds that I've never seen before, and despite the cold was a really pleasant way to spend a day. We will go back when the weather is a little warmer this spring for sure.
We left town about 8:30 and hadn't had breakfast yet so drove for about an hour and stopped in Tulare, which if you have to live in the central valley, looks like a really nice town to live in. Clean and surrounded by farmland and cows and not too big of a town but not too small, what we saw of it just looked like a nice place. Unlike the other little town we stopped in to get gas, Earlimart, where even the crappiest little shacks had bars on the windows. I would not want to live in a place where you have to have bars on your windows to keep people from stealing from even the poorest other people.
Anyway, breakfast at Apple Annie's, a cute little cafe near some hotels and right off the freeway with about fifty different types of omelettes and a dessert menu that featured guess what? Apples! Apple pie, apple dumplings, apple ice cream, apple sundaes, and any other kind of sweet that you could put an apple in. We didn't have dessert though, a little too early in the day for that.
Then, off to the zoo, which is in a big park and so easy to get to, get off the freeway, make a right and then the first left at the first stoplight you see. The web site had said there was a $5.00 parking fee to get into the park, but the little parking attendant shed was closed so we didn't have to pay. On around the park, passing lots of playgrounds and barbecue pits and picnic tables, and past a Storybook Village that was closed, and then across from a children's amusement park with carnival booths and carnival type rides, also closed and only open on the weekends, was the zoo. I've never in my life parked right in front of the entrance to a zoo before, but that is where we parked. Like I said, cold weather makes for uncrowded zoos.
It was only $7.00 each to get in which in my mind is an incredible bargain, and if you are a kid or a senior it's even cheaper. First stop was the restroom of course, and then on to the Australian birds aviary. The zoo has like four different aviaries, something that I always find fun, being inside a big cage with birds. The Australian aviary had some beautiful birds all up on branches and right after I said hey it would be cool if they started flying around, they did, all squawking and yelling and soaring a few inches above our heads.
I don't know what kind of birds these are but they were really gorgeous and very curious. One of them really liked Keith's shoelaces and was pecking at them, and then as we were walking along the path, was following right on his heels.
Then, elephants and a tiger.
And then another aviary, this time a rain forest with a waterfall and a stream, parrots and water birds, and these weird little birds that were on the bridge over the stream and as we got closer, started making an incredibly loud clacking type call. LOUD. But such cute birds.
At the back of this aviary was a temperature controlled building for some of the species that need the moist warmth, like the male and female sloths that were indeed being incredibly slothfull. The boy sloth did open his eyes and look at us, then yawned and went back to sleep. There was another stream in this building with some turtles and fish and two gorgeous spotted stingrays, a kind of ray that I'd never seen before, and are so peaceful to watch swim.
And, speaking of rays there was a special feed and pet the stingrays exhibit with rays borrowed from the Monterey aquarium, all swimming in a big low tank with a waterfall. This exhibit was supposed to cost $1.00 per person, but since it was a slow day they weren't charging admission and we were the only people watching the rays. There were two of them that were just huge, the rest were about the size of a turkey platter and again, so peaceful to watch swim although the water in this tank was kind of hard to see through. One of them was apparently thinking we were going to feed it because it kept launching itself right up the side of he tank and out of the water, like HEY WHERE IS MY FOOD! We were able to touch that one, they feel very strange and soft.
Then we stopped for a cup of coffee and were thinking about getting some lunch but I didn't want to sit outside in the cold and eat so we decided to wait until on the way home for lunch/early dinner.
The zoo is full of chubby and innovative squirrels, many of which we saw in the aviaries with the birds and how they managed to get inside I don't know, but they definitely know where the bird food stations are. We saw this one squirrel running along by the snack bar with a big packet in its mouth and we followed it to see what he had.
And it was a packet of Ken's Honey Mustard salad dressing. That apparently was quite delicious.
Tomorrow: Part Two of our Zoo Adventure!