Deep in northwest Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park sits The Maryland Zoo. The 135-acre zoo opened in 1876, making it the third oldest zoo in the US. It is home to over 1,500 animals
We missed seeing the elephants because we made a B-line for the Giraffe feeding station. The ability to come face-to-face with these majestic creatures is amazing. Four gentle giraffes were present and two were willing to stick out their long, black tongues for some plants. The feeding station is open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (weather permitting), but get there on the early side as the giraffes don’t always want to eat. A hand-washing station is available, but remember not to touch these wild long-necked mammals.
We tried to catch a glimpse of a new pair of cheetahs that were sleeping alongside one another and gazed in awe at how close we could see a trio of lions through the looking glass. It was like watching The Lion King, except these were not cartoon creatures. We watched the lions yawn, scratch their claws on fallen trees and frolic with each other. It was amazing.
A dose of reality hit us when we encountered the chimpanzees. Two of the chimps were recent additions having been used in the circus industry. These chimps were using sign language with visitors and I was able to read when he signed “all done.” With that, the chimpanzee started to jump up and down and then sprung onto the thick glass window. It frightened the few visitors that were there, but the zoo staff member was very calm. She simply stated that he was a male chimpanzee who wanted everyone to know that he is the dominant one. I thanked the zoo for housing these chimps because they are now in a better place.
My daughter went not once, but twice to see the penguin exhibit. Penguin Coast features both an outdoor exhibit and indoor education center. The birds spent most of their time outside during our visit, but we did see a few inside through the viewing windows. The facility is very well maintained and definitely a crowd pleaser.
Other areas we found interesting was going inside a Tundra Buggy to view the polar bear, the football teams pair of ravens, new prairie dog puppies and the small Marsh Aviary. There are lots of activities besides looking at zoo animals. There is a playground, farmyard fitted with a barn slide, walking across a suspension bridge, skipping on lily pads and sitting in birds nests in the Marsh Aviary.
The giant tree slide looked neat, but it was closed for repairs. I was disappointed that the otters were not in their habitat, but there were plenty of other animals to admire. There are several events every month at the Zoo such as the uber popular Breakfast with the Animals, After Hours with the Animals and Zoo Snooze. Go online for ticket information and to make a reservation.
Midway through our trek, it was time to reapply sunscreen and get some lunch. My one complaint is the wait time for food. The food came out slowly, which means it is probably cooked to order. I can appreciate that, but on a hot day with the only seating being outside, we waited 20 minutes from waiting in line to receiving our food. Having said that, the quality of the food was surprisingly very good. From salads and pizza to grilled items, both the chicken tenders and hot dog received a thumbs up. Entrées run $7-$7.50 and kids meal are $6 and include beverage and apples, chips or animal cookies. While you are allowed to bring your own food, my family only packed bottled water and snacks. There are also vending machines and treat carts along the way along with the gift shop stocking cold beverages.
- Getting to the zoo is a little tricky as GPS takes you through a different entrance. The zoo is actually on Beechwood Road.
- Arrive early, particularly during the peak season. Parking is plentiful and free.
- When you enter the zoo, the first thing you see is the gift shop. It’s unavoidable and we ended up with a $19 stuffed cheetah before departing for the day. They also stock cold beverages and snacks.
- Take the shuttle. During peak season, two shuttles run every 5 minutes. It’s better than walking the ¼ mile to the main zoo entrance.
- Activities such as the carousel, train, camel rides and face painting incur an additional fee.
During the months of January and February, the zoo is open Friday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In March to December they are open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m; Friday through Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. Try not to scoff at ticket prices as The Maryland Zoo is a must-do. Tickets are $18/adult; $13/child; zoo members and children under age 2 are free.
Do not compare The Maryland Zoo with the National Zoo. Each zoo has pros and cons in its own right. If you rely on the map, you will miss some exhibits of interest. Talk a walk on the wild side at The Maryland Zoo.
Photos by Kathleen Molloy.