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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NorCal Travel Series (kid & budget friendly) * San Francisco Zoo review and GIVEWAY!

Sometimes I'm amazed at the places I can be within a couple of hours of our house. I'm also amazed at the fact that there are SO MANY things I haven't done yet! I feel like a big failure at times since there are so many things I haven't taken the little dude to.

Since he had Veteran's Day off I decided to take the day off and take the kiddo on a new adventure. We are extremely blessed here in Northern California that there is so much beauty so close by. Whether you want to be in the mountains, an apple orchard, the beach or the dessert you can get there within a couple of hours (depending on traffic of course). I've been able to break out of my routine and find some amazing (and wallet friendly) adventures to take the little guy on lately and of course I want to share our adventures and finds with you guys!

I was able to work with my friends at the San Francisco Zoo to get a couple of tickets for myself and the little dude in exchange for this blog post. All opinions in this post are my own. My new zoo friends were also kind enough to allow me the opportunity to share four (4) tickets for some of my awesome readers! (keep reading for info on that)

Now for the good stuff.....

I should've known that it was going to be an amazing day when we hit the Bay Bridge toll plaza and I was the third car in line! I've never EVER had that happen so I was stoked. We had a couple of errands to run but still made it to the zoo parking lot at 9:15am. The zoo doesn't open until 10am so we sat in the car and told silly stories for a while and got our snacks ready for the day.

We decided to go look around since we still had a few minutes before we could go in. From the time you step out of the parking lot you're relaxed. From the roomy gift shop (which also had surprisingly reasonable prices) to the amazing and helpful staff in the Membership Office I was immediately at ease. We shopped around and picked out what we thought we might buy at the end of the day picked up our tickets and parking pass and then looked at the lush greenery as we made our way up the path to the entrance.

Once we entered the actual zoo grounds I was awe struck for a moment. Having never been there I was overcome with the excitement that my own kiddo was feeling! He wanted to see it all (and so did I!). We broke out our map and immediately planned our route! From insects to rhinos, this zoo has so much to see and learn about!

One thing that really struck me about this zoo (compared to others I've been to) is that for every habitat there are various viewing areas so you're never stuck in a crowd of people. Many areas allow you to get a ground level view and a higher view as well.

There are signs posted throughout the zoo asking for people to respect the animals in various ways, no loud noises, flash photography, etc. There are also many informative and educational plaques all through the habitats/exhibits. For example we saw the polar bear and at first we were sad that it was alone. Then we read the information and we learned that they are solitary creatures by nature. My son is very sensitive and empathetic so once he read that he knew that they were happy to be where they were.

Another common theme I noticed was that many of the animals would be in different habitats at different times. It just makes it very apparent that the zookeepers and people who work there really strive to make the animals quality of life exceptional. On a somber note, I know the zoo has taken some flack the past few days over the death of the young gorilla last week. However, I saw the love and caring nature these employees show toward the animals and the enthusiasm they have in their careers. It was really heart warming. The animals didn't appear sad, like I've seen at other zoos!

Another thing that was quite notable throughout all of the zoo grounds was the cleanliness. There were no dirty restrooms, no trash on the ground and no overflowing trash cans. Just another example of people taking pride in where they work, and that was refreshing.

The zoo is a big place and there is a lot of ground to cover but my son covered it all without a complaint. He walked along with the type of enthusiasm I've only seen out of him when we were in LEGOLAND!

The zoo is so serene and peaceful with it's lush foliage along all of the pathways. The fresh beachfront air just adds to the charm this zoo offers. Whether its your first trip or your 30th trip, there is something for everyone. You can snap photos of your favorite animals (just keep those flashes off) or catch a feeding or informational moment in one of the habitats (schedules are up daily)

If you live the SF Bay area, northern California or you're planning fun things to do while you're visiting the area on vacation you really should add this to your list of things to do! I'll be covering more things nearby in the coming days but I really thought the zoo needed it's own private section of the blogosphere!

Don't forget, right now you can stop by and see some amazingly crafted Lego pieces that are inspired by nature and are quite remarkable. My son was hoping he would be able to take some of the bricks but that didn't work out quite like he planned. I'm a super mean mom and told him not to even think about it!

Something fun coming soon.......
Are you looking for something amazing to do around the holidays? Bring the kids out to Zoo Lights and meet some REAL reindeer and the jolly old elf himself, that's right, SANTA! Rumor also has it that there will be snow?!? I've seen photos from friends who have been to similar events in other areas and I can't wait to take the little dude back for this magical event that combines two of our favorite things.....Christmas and the SF Zoo! Check out the SF Zoo website, facebook page or twitter and follow along to find out what events are coming up!

Now let's get down and dirty and do the wallet impact recap: Zoo Tickets for SF Bay area folks are cheaper but even if you're from a couple of hours away they are still very reasonable. (Between $11 and $17 depending on age). Parking is $8 to $10 depending on the weekdays vs weekends and parking passes need to be purchased in the membership office prior to leaving the entry area. Sure the food/drink prices are a little high in the restaurants/cafes but you're free to bring picnic lunches, snacks etc. You can get a hand stamp for re-entry later so you could leave your picnic in the car until your crew is ready to eat. Overall for an entire day of fun, adventures and education in disguise I'd say it's more than worth the price of admission! If you're local or plan on visiting the area often you may want to invest in a membership. There are varying levels of membership and they get you some sweet perks. You can find out more about the membership levels here. Don't forget to check your local deal sites and maybe you can find some special pricing.

If you'd like to check out the zoo for free please check out the rafflecopter giveaway below! The winner will be chosen at random on November 29th (after you've recovered from your black Friday battles)! The winner will be notified and you will be asked for your mailing address so that the zoo can send you your passes. No information gathered will be used for any other purposes. Any information gathered is just for this contest. I don't want people using my info for any weird stuff and I sure wouldn't do that to you!

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