Our little family loves to explore Florida, specifically North Florida on our weekends.
We recently took a day trip to the Jacksonville Zoo and loved it! We had been once before in warmer temps and one of the things I remember was that it was SO hot, so I thought it would be nice to go in cooler weather. So we loaded up the truck and set out. When traveling to Jax from Tallahassee you pass through Live Oak which happens to have one of my favorite gas stations, The Busy Bee. I guess I am somewhat of a gas station connoisseur (is that a thing?) and this place is top notch! Trust me, stop. They have clean bathrooms, tons of snacks, a super cute gift area and gas of course!
Previously, I had downloaded a movie on my 5 year old’s tablet for this trip specifically, along with the games she plays. I love her tablet because she can watch movies and play educational games! She can also practice writing and early literacy skills. It helps break up the endless Taylor Swift playlist she insists on. I actually kind of like T Swift and there is no profanity which was an issue with a lot of music these days. I can’t be the only one who has a kid that cussed at school! Please tell me I am not. That incident report was just so embarrassing! So, if we can both jam to an artist and there aren’t any major cuss words, I am in, but several hours of it can get old, fast, so I am thankful for the tablet!
The zoo is about 2 and 1/2 hours from Tally, so very doable in a day. The Jacksonville Zoo is open from 9-5 most of the time. General admission is $17.95 for adults and $12.95 for children 3-12. However, I recommend getting the value tickets which are $29.95 for adults and $22.95 for children. This includes all the extras and the extras are well worth it. The value ticket includes: unlimited train rides, stingray bay, butterfly hollow (closed during winter), 4D theater, carousel and campground critters show.
Riding the train around the whole zoo!
The train takes you around the perimeter of the zoo and you get to see some of the animals much closer than if you were just walking it. It is also a great time to sit and relax and you can easily push your stroller on. Strollers are $8 for the day or you can take your own, of course.
You get a wristband with the value pack and can do all the extras as many times as you like. They have a stingray area where you can touch them. I did it this time! My mini was interested in looking at them, but not so much on touching. However, she talked about that part after and seemed to really enjoy it. You also get into a 4D movie which is cute and nice to get in from outside when it is hot.
Campground Critter Show
My daughter’s absolute favorite thing and part of the value ticket. They have many trained animals and put on a really cute show! When she was asked later, what her favorite part of the zoo was, she said, “the dogs.” Facepalm. It was really cool to see them do tricks. Who knew you could train a cat? They also had a few trained larger birds which were fun to see.
Tip: be on time or early
The Jax Zoo does not mess around with start times and you can’t get in if you are late. They have a few times, which was good because we missed the first time. Which actually turned out great because they had an aviary with these colorful little birds who were so cute and had tons of personality! One even landed on my head! This was my favorite part.
It was a blast walking around this zoo! It can be a little disorienting, so utilize your map. We got turned around for a little while! They have done well with viewing areas and you can get up close to the animals. I loved how you felt so close you could touch them sometimes.
We had a nice lunch that was decently priced and actually quite tasty. Get the funnel cake fries. Trust me on this one. They were some of the best I have ever had! They have a neat playground area that my daughter did not want to leave! One of her favorite things the last time we visited was the carousel. This time, she only rode it once and chose the playground for a second time instead.
One thing that we just happened to walk upon that was truly memorable, was the giraffe feeding! It was around $1 -2 to get a ticket to feed the giraffe! Vivienne absolutely loved it! It was one of those mom moments you never forget because of that smile on her face! Pure joy! You are face to face with the beautiful creature and it eats out of your hand! Awesome!
We got there around 10:30 and stayed until almost closing time. There were a ton of things to do and see! The day was full, but we didn’t feel rushed. I have thought about getting a year pass because there really are so many activities and fun things to enjoy.
I read about this interesting restaurant and just knew I had to see it. It is about 30 minutes from the zoo, but in the opposite direction, which I did not realize when I picked. I have a great travel buddy who did not mind the extra time added to our trip. If you are looking for a different experience, eat at Clark’s Fish Camp. It used to be a bait and tackle store at a boat landing and the surrounding area is on the water. You can eat overlooking the water, but this is one rare occasion that I say, eat inside. Clark’s has the largest collection of taxidermy in North Florida!
I realize this is kind of a strange place to go right after the zoo, but it is in the animal theme, right? (I do not necessarily condone hunting animals you don’t typically eat, but I am just going to pretend that someone somewhere did.) It really is just a fascinating place. The menu is expansive and you actually can try a large variety of some unique meats from gator to snake to ostrich. If you aren’t into all that or even if you are, get the Loaded Blue Fries! So yum!
We made it back home at the perfect time for bed, tired and happy with great memories to fill our dreams!