A low budget escape (Part ii.2)

The Virginia Zoo is in Norfolk.  Ms. GPS took us through a residential neighborhood and a small city street before turning us into the almost hidden zoo entrance.  I was surprised to see the sign welcoming us into what must now be described as a diamond among zoos.  A little beyond the sign was a large parking lot, which was empty when we arrived 15 minutes prior to the 10 a.m. opening.

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I should mention that I LOVE zoos.  I did my documentary photojournalism project behind the scenes at the Oakland Zoo (OZ); the highlight of my 17th birthday marathon to Texas was the Fort Worth Zoo; and I can spend hours admiring the animals on exhibit.  Perhaps I am easily fascinated, but there is something very special about these unique creatures that inhabit the zoos.

We waited in a short line of parents and children and busied ourselves with photos in front of the interesting potted foilage (a glimpse of the lush plant life that was held inside).

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It cost $8 for my ticket, $6 for Chi’s and Ya was free because he’s still not two. (Did I mention that everything costs money when he hits that age? Ugggh.)  I splurged a bit and spend an extra $4 for a train trip around the perimiter of the zoo, which turned out to be Ya’s biggest lure, as he spent the entire day calling for the “Choo choo” and saying “All aboard!”

What is absolutely amazing about this particular park’s set up is the seemingly open areas for the animals to roam.  They have an abundance of space and with the exception of a few reptiles and a pair of fox-like animals that resembled Chihuahuas, nothing felt caged in.  Except Chi, who happily went ape.

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The open air dwellings during the day offered great opportunities for photographic and artistic study, and the raised walkways made enjoying the animals easy.

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We wandered around the grounds at a leisurely pace, though I know Chi was trying desperately to speed up her overzealously photographing mother.  Ya seemed not to care that I was holding up our momentum, as he stopped and oogled over whatever I happened to point my camera at. 

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And sometimes, because everyone else was doing it, my kiddos got into the act.

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Unfortunately, they were getting into the action when the scurrying prairie dogs weren’t anywhere near them.

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And then it was time for our train ride.  I handed Chi our tokens, which we kinda wanted to keep as souvenirs. 

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Ya was overjoyed about getting on the train – a scale model of a steam engine.    (Except the picture I got wasn’t of Ya, because he said cheese and ran away with a peal of laughter.)

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Don’t both kids’ faces scream excitement?  I suppose I should have timed my shots better…

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I was hoping to see the tiger, but was told by our train conductor that she – a 13-year old Bengal – is off exhibit while they build the Trail of the Tiger – a huge area that looks like it is going to be awesome for whatever gets to live within it.  This tiger that is usually at the VA Zoo, however, has cancer in her leg and will likely never see the opening of this gorgeous setup.

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