PLEASE NOTE: This post was written in 2013, and while it should still give you a good overview of the experience, it is also possible that it may contain some outdated information. Please check their website for the most current information, especially about things like hours and pricing.
Today my post takes us over the border for a visit to the Zoo in Forest Park located in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Like the name implies, the zoo is located inside Forest Park which, according to Wikipedia, is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States.
The park is huge, over 700 acres, and has everything you could imagine: a swimming pool, spray pad, picnic areas, baseball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, ponds, lakes, gardens, playgrounds and yes, a zoo.
It is easy to find. We took Exit 2 off of 91, made a few quick turns and saw the park entrance on our right.
To enter via car, you must first pay an entry fee (actually called a “vehicle storage fee“).
I was caught a little off guard by the entry fee the first time I went to Forest Park. I had checked out a pass for the zoo from the West Hartford Library and assumed my visit would be free of charge. I knew the pass allowed for zoo entry, but I didn’t realize that there would also be a charge for entrance to the park itself ($3 in state and $5 out-of-state). Luckily I had some cash on me that day (I rarely carry cash).
After entering the park, we followed signs for the zoo.
We did pass a parking area immediately on the left, but decided to continue all the way around to the front of the zoo to check that parking area first. It doesn’t have a ton of spaces, but with three young kids in tow, it was definitely my first choice.
Fortunately, we found a spot right up front. If parking had not been available there, we could have just circled back around to the main parking lot and then taken the short walk over to the zoo.
Right in front of the zoo entrance, was a great playground for the kids. We spent a little time there before heading inside.
Also near the entrance was a building with public restrooms (the same building where Santa hangs out during the holiday Bright Nights event). This is important to note because once inside the zoo, the only restrooms available are a porta potty.
Once we were ready to head into the zoo, I presented my pass from my library and we went right in. The pass allowed entry for two adults and two children (Sweetheart was FREE because she is under 1 years old).
Once inside, we began to look around. Right away my kids were drawn to the rabbits and monkeys located near the entrance.
The zoo itself is very easy to navigate. It is basically one big circle and is filled with plenty of signage to help keep you moving in the right direction.
Though the zoo is small, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of animals located there. Below is a quick sampling of what we found, but you can also get more details here.
After our visit with the rabbits and monkeys, we made our way over to the habitat of the zoo’s newest celebrity, a lion cub named Samson.
This African lion is actually on loan to the zoo while his permanent habitat is being built. Its final home has not yet been determined and Forest Park is trying to have the cub stay with them. Unfortunately, though, lions are expensive animals to raise and the zoo will need to do a significant amount of fundraising if they want him to stay.
Until then, visitors can meet little Samson by visiting his temporary home located down the main pathway on the right.
Right around the corner from the lion cub was the animal barn. Inside we found all our favorite barn-yard animals including goats, sheep and pigs.
Outside of the barn there were also miniature horses and even camels.
Located right near the barn was also the zoo’s gift shop. Inside there were a variety of snacks for both humans and animals available for sale (you can purchase treats for the barn animals).
As we continued through the zoo, we passed alligators, owls, a black bear and a spotted leopard.
We stopped for a little photo shoot.
We even found time for some exciting ramp running sessions.
Look at my munchkins testing out their wingspan. Unfortunately, I think they have a little ways to go before they can start in the NBA/WNBA.
Our last stop inside the zoo was at the sandbox located right behind the animal barn. I think my kids could have spent hours here.
After our loop around the zoo, our visit with the lion cub and the kids’ playtime in the sand, it was time for lunch.
Eating is not allowed inside the zoo, but there were plenty of places within the park where we could eat. I had brought lunch for my kids, so we just parked ourselves on the playground and let them eat and play for a bit. (Oh and, yes, that is my son stuffing a giant wad of food into his mouth. Anyone that knows him, knows this is a common occurrence. You would think he didn’t get fed at home by the way he eats like he is starving!)
While my husband supervised lunchtime at the playground, I grabbed my camera and headed over near the main parking lot to see if the snack bar was open. Fortunately, it was and they were serving a variety of food and beverage options. This would be a good food option if I didn’t have time to pack a lunch.
Before we left the park, we did a quick spin around the place. There was so much to see and do that I wanted to stay and spend the whole afternoon there. I will have to go back soon and experience what else the park has to offer so that I can give readers all the details in a future post. But I will mention one activity I noticed while driving around. Somewhat near the main entrance, I saw a spray pad area.
Just wanted to mention it in case a reader might want to extend their outing a bit. On a hot day, it could be fun to visit the zoo and then cool off with some playtime at the spray pad. I might suggest throwing a bathing suit in the car just in case. I know I will be doing that for future visits.
302 Sumner Ave | Springfield | MA | 01138 |
Phone Number: 413-733-2251
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Get directions here:
- The Zoo
- Open daily (weather permitting)
- Weekdays 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Weekdays 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Forest Park
- Open dawn to dusk
- Zoo Admission
- Adult Admission: $9
- Senior Admission: $7
- Child (Ages 5-12): $6
- Child (Ages 1-4): $3.75
- Child (Under 1): FREE
- Train Rides
- There is a train ride available near the zoo entrance (not available on Mondays or Tuesdays).
- Member Train Ticket: $3.00
- Non-Member Train Ticket: $3.25
- Park Admission
- Vehicle Storage Fees (Basically entrance fees for the park): $3 in state license plate, $5 out-of-state license plate.
- Season passes are also available. See more details here.
Tips & Things to Bring:
- If spots are available, I suggest parking in the area right in front of the zoo entrance.
- Bring cash for the entry fee to the park ($3 in state, $5 out-of-state)
- Credit cards are accepted for zoo entrance (Visa, Mastercard or Discover)
- Look for zoo passes through your library’s museum pass program.
- Bring a lunch and enjoy it on the park grounds (no outside food allowed inside the zoo) or purchase a snack or food at the zoo gift shop or at the grill located near the main parking area.
- A playground is located right near the zoo entrance. This is a fun stop for the kids either before or after their zoo visit (or both!)
- The zoo is located outside, so come prepared with hats, sunscreen, bug spray, etc.
- Strollers are allowed in the zoo.
- Inside the zoo, the only restroom facility is a port a potty. Right outside the zoo entrance, though, are public restroom facilities.. Neither location has a baby changing area, so be aware.
- Make a day of it and enjoy some of the other activities offered at Forest Park. For a hot day, bring the kids bathing suits and stop by the spray pad.
- Just so you know, the holiday light event, Bright Nights, is also held in Forest Park.
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