Yes, it's cold outside. But with sunny skies predicted this weekend, and highs in the upper 30s and lower 40s , a trip to the Louisville Zoo  might be just what you and the kids need to start off 2013 with a jolt of energy. At least the animals I saw today thought so.
I'm a zoo member, so taking my preschooler there for just an hour was a safe bet; if it was too cold or the animal exhibits were all closed for the season, we'd just walk the loop and call it a day. No harm, no foul. No money wasted. But I was pleasantly surprised by our wintertime zoo outing and strongly recommend a trip this weekend for those families who want to let the kids run free one last time before JCPS starts on Monday.
The animals actually seemed to enjoy the brisk temperatures. The elephants were as close to the walking path as I've ever seen them, and they took turns swatting each other with their trunks, much to my three year-old's delight. The camels, zebras, lions, and maned wolf were out and about as well, puffs of winter air escaping their nostrils with each breath. They were soaking up the wintertime sun, and they weren't as sedentary as they are when the big crowds come to see them in the summer.
The highlight of our quick trip to the zoo was the Glacier Run  exhibit. (Of course, we're not the only ones who thought this showcase of cold-loving animals was great; Glacier Run won the Association of Zoos & Aquariums 2012 award for Exhibit Design.) I've seen the polar bears, sea lions, and seals at Glacier Run before, but I've never seen these animals so active and, well, so happy. Clearly, the cold air and chilly water temperatures suited these animals, as we watched the polar bear--who sometimes paces against the wall as if he’s itching to break free—repeatedly dive deep into the cold water to retrieve his ball. He played like this for ten minutes, then went on to another water game. Adults and children alike were captivated by his playtime antics. The seal and sea lion feeding program at 2:00 was a hit as usual, and the middle schoolers in attendance, who were enjoying their last days of holiday break, had a ball watching the swift swimmers. Clearly, the animals of Glacier Run love Louisville’s January temperatures much more than the July ones.
A trip to the zoo in the winter is different than one in milder temperatures, of course. Gift shops and snack bars were closed. (That's fine by me, but some zoo patrons may be upset by this. I guess.) The rhino exhibit was closed for the winter, and we didn't see any monkeys either. Some pathways were closed because the melting snow made the walkways icy and slippery. But overall, it was like visiting Disney World in the wintertime: all the fun, none of the fuss. No crowds, no rush, no sweat (literally).
Just bundle up and enjoy the sunny winter weather; the cold air gave the animals a burst of energy, and it will do the same for your kids. Dreary days are ahead; take advantage of a sunny day outdoors while you can.
Visit the Zoo's website  for more information, including how to receive a discounted admission by brining a canned good for Dare to Care.
Photos: courtesy of Anna Frye