Nashville Zoo: Visiting with Littles
When you have a little who wants to be held constantly, gets bored with toys quickly, is mobile, explores all the dangerous things and doesn't watch TV, mama has to be creative to keep him occupied. Jonas, who is 8 1/2 months old now, would be 100% happy if I just sat on the floor all day and served as his jungle gym. While that's all sweet and fun, it is physically exhausting. Enter the Nashville Zoo, which has served as my saving grace. It gets us out of the house, keeps Jonas interested and gives me the opportunity to meet other Nashville mamas! Also, it's the closest I'm going to get to Disney World in Nashville. We love it!
Jonas is too young to be obsessed with (or even notice) all the animals, but he loves being outside, moving and people watching. The Nashville Zoo is perfect for this. If he did have to choose a favorite animal, it would be a toss-up between the Flamingos and the huge turtles he gets to pet. For those of you interested, I'm going to break-down our typical visit and provide some tips.
Our typical visit:
- We usually go after Jonas' morning nap and get there around noon. The afternoons are a bit less crowded if that's something that's important to you. I've never experienced crazy crowds except during spring break weeks and some weekends.
- To maximize Jonas' energy, we go to the Jungle Gym first. They have a covered, padded play area for babies and toddlers that is THE BEST. I sit with him in there and he watches the other kids running around for the longest time then decides he's brave enough to join them. He'll crawl around and pull himself up and it's totally fine if he falls because it's padded. This is the area where I've had a chance to talk to other moms and even exchanged numbers a few times. My only caution is that sometimes older kids (3-5 year olds) get crazy in this area doing flips. Jonas has been kicked in the face once by a toddler, but he was totally fine. Just have to watch a little more closely if there are bigger kids around. The Jungle Gym also has a few baby swings that are a favorite. The awesome thing about the Jungle Gym is that it's centrally located to a snack kiosk, the cafeteria and bathrooms.
- After the Jungle Gym, we book it to the ampitheater to catch the "Wings of Change" animal show they put on daily at 1 pm. It's only 30 minutes and Jonas literally squeals with excitement at all the different animals they bring out on the stage. Towards the end of the show, there's a large bird that flies over the audience and the kids LOVE it. If you want to be close to the action, sit in the center aisle near the back or in one of the back corners as that's where the bird perches during the show.
- After the show, we just walk around to all the animal exihibits. If it's cold/windy/rainy we'll go inside to the Unseen New World, but otherwise we'll stay outside! Jonas typically falls asleep in his stroller and I just walk around getting in a decent workout until he wakes up and we leave! I typcially go with my sister who's a nanny or my mom as it's a great time to catch up with them as we're walking.
- We splurged for a membership and do not regret it! It's already paid for itself. If your kids are older, you can also add on an unlimited ride option so they can ride the train, carousel and other rides each time you go without having to pay extra.
- The zoo has tons of family bathrooms which makes going to the bathroom and diaper changes so much easier.
- There are NURSING MOTHER'S rooms at the entrance. These rooms are so clean an peaceful and a literal godsend as my guy cannot focus enough to eat if there are any distractions. The only downside is that they're far away if you're deep into one of the trails, but the zoo itself isn't that large so nothing is too far away.
- You can bring in all the drinks and snacks you want. There are no dairy/soy/gluten-free snack options in the park, so this is a must for me. The cafeteria does have a yummy looking menu with food sourced from local farms.
- Bring coffee!!! There is no good coffee on property. They brew Starbucks black coffee in the cafeteria, but I'm a coffee snob and that doesn't cut it for me.
- Bring a stroller unless you're super strong. Wearing Jonas and carrying a bag while walking so far is too much for me (granted, he is the size of a toddler already).
- Wear sunscreen and/or hats. Some of the trails are shaded, but many are not.
- Grab a map and schedule when you walk in. They only have one show at the amphitheater daily, but there are many other opportunities to learn from zoo keepers and watch feedings throughout the day.
That's it! Hope you found this helpful. Let me know if you have any specific questions and I'll do my best to answer.