Looking for an easy getaway this summer that doesn’t require a ton of planning, packing or expense? We pulled together a day at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro with three sons under the age of 3 simply by asking some old family friends in Durham to join us there. Voila! Instant fun.
I threw some snacks, extra diapers and outfits in a bag the night before, and we fed the kids cheerios and yogurt pouches in the car to make the 90-minute drive without having to rush like crazy out the door. We stopped once for a potty break and still met this couple and their two sons there about 10 a.m.
We arrived in plenty of time to strap the boys into a couple of strollers and head on our way. We took our double BOB for our 20-month old twins and single BOB for our 3-year-old because my husband knew there would be a lot of walking from previous visits, and we wanted everybody comfortable and happy.
The North Carolina Zoo is billed as the world’s biggest zoo for a reason; they’re talking about acreage (2,000 acres to be exact.) Most of the animals live in spacious natural habitat enclosures, rather than confined caged areas. The downside is there aren’t as many animal exhibits per step you take as you’d see in say Atlanta, San Diego, or even Columbia, S.C., but it’s not all bad to get some vigorous walking in while spending quality time with the family. And the zoo seemed really accommodating for those of us with multiple big strollers. It was easy to get around and in and out of exhibits.
Columbia and Asheboro are similar distances from Charlotte, and I’ve enjoyed zoo trips to both. I think what the North Carolina Zoo has over the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia is more natural shade, which is important when you’re taking young children out for an extended activity on a summer day. We happened to go to Asheboro on an overcast morning in mid-May, and it was downright pleasant.
A tram makes it easier to get from one end of the zoo to the other and strategize for what you really want to see if you’re like us and need to maximize pre-nap time with young kids. We parked in the North America lot and walked to see the “Rocky Coast” exhibit which featured polar bears swimming around in this huge tank – our boys loved it. Then we hopped a tram to Junction Plaza where we could easily access the animals we most wanted to see – the African animals like the giraffes (or ‘raffes” as our Johnny said) elephants and zebras. The tram drivers were really helpful with getting our strollers on and off of a rack that attached to the front of the bus too.
The trams also made it to where we could make a quick getaway as we approached nap time. We got to see all the animals our boys wanted to see, eat lunch and still get back to our car by about 1:30 p.m., which meant the twins weren’t so overtired they couldn’t sleep for much of the ride home. One of them did anyway (Ah, twin life.) And while we left the zoo shortly after lunch, our friends and their older boys stayed, saw a few more animal exhibits and did the ropes course, which looks really cool. Between that and the paddle boats, we’ve got plenty of reason to take our boys back over the years.
For now, a morning visit was the perfect way to introduce our twins to the zoo, and a great way to take our 3-year-old back for a visit where he could really grasp and communicate about what he was seeing. The Walton favorites were the swimming polar bears, gorillas our boys could toddle right up to a glass window and see up close, owls – because we are into owls – and the bucolic vistas where the giraffes, zebras and elephants roam, which mama could appreciate. I highly recommend!