If your little one is like mine, we talk about animals A LOT. On our farm, Old MacDonald has zebras, llamas, and giraffes as well as cows, horses and pigs. This farm doesn’t discriminate between ecosystems or even continents. Even though we talk about animals all the time, it took us almost a year to check out ZooTampa at Lowry Park. When we finally got there, Holy Wow, we wished we had gone sooner. It is now my favorite local attraction. In a few short months of being a member, I have become a self-ordained VIP of ZooTampa.
ZooTampa has a rich history of education and conservation dating back to the 1930s:
ZooTampa has now grown to what now encompasses 56 acres of naturalistic animal exhibits in a lush, tropical garden setting. The Zoo offers popular educational programming, fun recreational amenities, up-close animal encounters and engaging seasonal events for which it has won accolades as one of the country’s most family-friendly zoos.
ZooTampa at Lowry Park
The zoo is comprised of several sections: Main Entrance, Florida Wildlife, African Safari, Asian Gardens, Wallaroo Station, Primate World, Carousel, and the Zoo School. Each section has some fantastic attractions with beautiful animals. The guest services representative advised me to start in Africa with the safari and work my way back toward the entrance on my first visit. This was good advice because you can see a lot of the animal “heavy hitters” on the safari like elephants, giraffes, zebras and rhinos. If you go in the morning, I recommend going to the safari first before the line gets too long.
When we go, we usually pick one interaction to do with each visit. There are a number of different animal mingles and interactions. The times and prices are subject to change so I recommend checking the schedule first. You can book behind the scenes tours with rhinos and meet the huge tortoises. We have also fed nectar to the lorikeets and were astounded by how many landed on us. This was a little overwhelming to my toddler so I advise to have an adult or older child hold the cup of nectar until the little ones are acclimated.
During another visit, we fed romaine lettuce to Randall the giraffe. This is not only my toddler’s favorite zoo memory but also my husband’s.
Seeing a giraffe saunter up in all of its majesty is stunning!
Wallaroo Station is home to the petting zoo, where you can feed and brush goats. They also have llamas and ponies in the barn. You can see koala bears and go into the “Wallaby Walkabout” where you can walk and see wallabies up close hopping in all of their glory.
The other big pull of Wallaby Station is the splash pad and the rides. This is a great spot for play dates. You can relax in the shade, grab a bite to eat, and let the kids play in the splash pad or go on the rides (included in price)! We tend to finish the day here after we’ve visited the animals in other sections.
Once a month, the zoo opens early for a members-only event hosting a story hour and an animal mingle for toddlers. For full details, check here.
Why We Love ZooTampa at Lowry Park
- Relaxed: This is the biggest selling point for me. I have never felt overwhelmed inside of the park even when the parking lot is full. The zoo is huge: a sprawling 56 acres of wide sidewalks and spread out exhibits. This means that I don’t spend the entire morning reminding my sons and nephews not to touch this or not to run there. Instead, our energy is spent in awe of all of the animals.
- Clean: The sidewalks and restrooms are immaculate and I have always felt very safe.
- Family Friendly: There is ample room for strollers (though strollers are not allowed in certain areas) and there is a breastfeeding area in Wallaroo Station. The zoo allows a limited amount of outside food as well as water bottles in addition to having concession stands and places to eat throughout. For the full list of outside food items allowed, check here.
- Rides included in price of admission.
- Photographers: There are photographers at all of the animal encounters as well as at the entrance. If you plan to go multiple times, you can buy a flash drive for a one-time fee with the day’s photos on it and then pay a small fee at the end of each visit for the newest photos. We love having pictures of us with the whole family that aren’t selfies.
- Friendly, Informed Staff: The zoo is, of course, educational and stimulating for children but I have also learned so much from the staff. The woman at the stingray encounter, for example, knew the names and behavior patterns of each of the stingrays and talked about them like friends.
- Member Perks: Members can take advantage of member parking, discounts at the gift store and restaurants, and member-only events. Members also have a preferred line at the entrance. Non-members can buy tickets ahead of time to take advantage of speedier entrance line. If you do this, you will go to the line on the left.
Fun for the Whole Family
Before you roll your eyes at the cliché, it’s true. I have taken kids ranging from under a year to 10 years old, and they have been completely entertained and engaged. We love feeding giraffes, looking for the snow leopard hiding in its den, having lorikeets land on us during a feeding, and listening to the choir of gorillas make noises when the zoo opens. During our 3 hour visit, we laugh and watch in wonder at the animals. We end up talking about the animals the whole trip back and into dinner time. Thanks to the giraffe lettuce feedings, my son happily eats lettuce “like Randall.” Now that is a day trip, I can get behind!