Last week my generous in-laws invited us to take a trip to the Oakland Zoo with them, so we packed our binoculars, sweaters, and a picnic lunch and drove east to the foggy, overcast Bay. This is summer on the Central Coast, welcome to it. I was immediately struck by the variety of plants, flowers, and, my favorite, succulents bursting from flowerbeds that flanked the winding paths throughout the zoo. The sheer number and varieties of plants made me as happy as seeing the actual animals themselves, and I’d have gladly paid the entrance fee just for the opportunity to picnic and take photos foliage. It was my first trip to the Oakland Zoo, and though I’m pretty sure it had less overall exhibits than, say, the San Francisco Zoo, each one was larger, better, and more like a miniature habitat enclosure than simply a cage. I can’t recommend visiting enough.
Isobel was quite content watching the animals in their enclosures and looking for any sign of a ‘baby’ animal, but they had a fantastic children’s zoo area, too, with interactive learning toys and animal-themed playground equipment. I could tell Isobel was really enjoying the exhibits because at nearly every stop she’d say some variation of “Look, animals! But how are we going to get in there, Mama?”
Near the zoo entrance was a train depot and a small collection of carnival rides. We rode the train as a family, thinking it would be something only Isobel would enjoy, but it was fantastic, not only snaking through the park but also taking us right past an Australian exhibit with some emu-like birds (which Isobel kept referring to as “emos”) and several wallabies sleeping so near the train I could have reached out and petted them with my hand. The most amazing part of the ride was when the tracks curved around a hill and we saw the most gorgeous views of the Bay. It was worth it for that alone.
Isobel really surprised us in the carnival area. She’s never been on any ride before, and we decided that this trip would be her first carousel ride. She was excited to ride the carousel, but what she really wanted to do was drive the purple car. The whole trip Isobel had stuck to me like glue and I didn’t know how she was going to willingly pry herself off me for this ride. I asked her over and over again if she still wanted to drive the car if mommy couldn’t come. I was too big to be her copilot. She was hesitant at first but she insisted-INSISTED-on riding this ride. We were all nervous when the music started up and the car started moving. Here’s what happened:
SHE LOVED IT! She didn’t want the ride to end but we came to see some animals, and that’s life. Besides, I told her we could ride the rides at the fair with Kingston this year and then her mind was blown from happiness.
The carousel ride was less successful. She seemed to be loving it at first, but became preoccupied with a one-year-old boy in a pirate costume throwing a temper tantrum off to the side of the ride. Each time we whirled past the crying boy she would shout WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT PIRATE?! Eventually she wanted to get off the ride and just be held.
The next day when I asked Isobel what her favorite animal at the zoo was she replied, “the choo-choo train,” but judging by her reaction I’d say it was the otter exhibit. A zoo worker was washing the windows by the time we arrived and the otters were going nuts because they assumed they were being fed early. They danced around near the glass area of their enclosure, twisting a whirling through the water to Isobel’s delight.
Her squeals of joy were my favorite part of our zoo visit.
No zoo visit, or indeed, any outing, is complete without my favorite stop: the goats. These animals obviously hold a special place in my heart, and as Isobel’s parent I get to form her biases early on in life, so I’m doing my damned to teach her to loathe gum and adore goats. How can you not love these guys? At any given moment three of them were escaped from their enclosure and nosily spying on the people enjoying the bat exhibit.
As a special treat for the ride home, Grandpa gave her a box of animal crackers, which she fell asleep holding. What a great day.