Santa Fe Zoo & the Good Ole’ FMNH

Since I know the upcoming week is going to simply FLY by, I decided that the kids and I would take off today and do one last day trip to Gainesville.  We LOVE Gainesville: bike lanes, museums, zoo, baklava, what’s not to like?  Anyway,  this coming week will find me busy busy busy putting our junk-o-la into piles:  Fast Track Korea,  Slow Boat Korea, Suitcase for the next 2 months, and See
You in 3 Years Storage.  So, I need a day off before even getting started.  (Plus, this is the last day of sun in the foreseeable future).

After a 2 hour drive straight south on I-75 we took FL exit 390 to the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo.  This adorable place has all kinds of animals – birds, lizards, snakes, lotsa turtles, gators, monkeys, and even some bigger ostriches, bobcats, and an awesome ocelot.   We started the walk around by visiting the reptile house – which the kids love.  I find these to be a bit, meh, but they simply love trying to find the creature hidden in the leaves.  Avi also loves to make the SSSSSSnnake sound.  After that he stared at the big tortoise for about 10 minutes; I even changed his diapy standing up and he didn’t notice.  One highlight was the crazy puffed out peacock strutting his stuff in the playground.  We love the little playground at the zoo, but this peacock made it even more fun.  Of course Zoe was enthralled and wanted pictures…and to pluck, which I disallowed. Avi didn’t seem to even notice the peacock until it squawked and then he was a little tentative.  He would rather slide on the playground.  A walk around the path found many animals up and about!  This surprised me because it was just before noon.  We were especially excited about a giant frog on a log, watching the otters play, and seeing a little monkey show us his food.   One of the coolest things, though, was seeing a baby tree kangaroo out of it’s mommy’s pouch.  It flopped around a bit and then hopped back into mom.  The other spot that I had to drag (literally) Avi from was the Ocelot.  It sleeps in a big crate that is half inside his enclosure and then half out.  There is a big glass window that separates you from it, so it’s almost like you can pet the thing.  Avi thought this was incredible and couldn’t stop yelling, “Keee, keee” (kitty) even as we moved on.  In the end we spent about an hour and a half at the zoo.  It’s a great place!

One final trip to Falafel King found the kids and I perched at the half-table that faces the window.  I should learn not to let Zoe select our seats.  It actually worked out great though because they love to watch people and the parking lot construction vehicles outside.  Avi loves gyro and will eat it straight from the pita – sauce and all.  Zoe is a bit pickier and wants it separate.  Between the 3 of us we devoured one gyro, a side of hummus, pita, and 2 baklava.  Delicious.  It’s been tough finding good Mediterranean food around Valdosta.

With full bellies we headed over to our local favorite: The Florida Museum of Natural History.  We have visited many times since living in Valdosta. It is well worth the trip down to Gainesville.  There is a great little Kids Discovery Area that has been created, and even expanded, since we first visited a couple years ago.  There are lots of puzzles, activities, touch items, and more for the kids to mess with.  The favorite, it seems, is the wind tunnel.  It’s simply a fan pointed at the ceiling with a tube directing the flow.  The kids love to put things in and watch it go up…Avi spent a long time sending strawberry crates up in the air.  Our last couple visits to the museum I have saved the Discovery area for last.  We, instead, start over near the butterflies.  They have a huge butterfly atrium (which I’ve never actually gone into – it costs extra).  There are also tons of hanging butterfly cocoons and lab areas where they raise the butterflies and moths.  It is too neat.  Today there was a humongous moth the size of Zoe’s head hanging out by the glass.  After that we took a quick gawk at the Energy Efficient House where the kids like to open and close all the cabinets to see what’s inside.

The highlight of the museum for Avi was the skeleton area….it’s a big display of Florida Fossils.  These are all those weird animals that came after the Dino’s – giant sloths, tiny deer, saber tooth cats, and more. Though there are no dino’s Avi couldn’t help yelling, “DIIIINOOOO … sore”  as we walked along.  Zoe knows these animals now and corrects him. “No, Avi, that is a paleo shark”  It’s too funny.  Another exhibit features the Estuary environment and how the native Calusa peoples used to live.  It’s a fun spot with dugout canoes, and lots of cool info about fish.  You even get to ‘shrink’ once through a hallway with huge fish that gives the feeling of being in the water.  Zoe quite enjoys going inside the chief Calusa house – she has memorized the story.  A visitor has come to visit the chief, there is his wife, they are touching hands to say hello with respect, it is thunder storming outside.  She likes it so much in this big reproduction thatched house that we have to set aside time for her to pretend to visit and take a nap.  Avi is nervous about the darkness and (I think) painted faces, or maybe just the diorama people who don’t actually move.

One final display that my kiddo’s love is the Florida Environments area.  We get the chance to walk through beaches, estuaries, inland forests, and even a cave.  Zoe always has fun at a Velcro wall placing the animals in their correct environment.  Avi seems to find the diorama’s much more interesting – especially when he can push buttons and hear bird sounds.  The cave, however, is the favorite by far.  It is super realistic and has lots to see and and do: once your eyes adjust.  There are fossils to find, animals to hunt, and even a tiny cave for kids to explore.  It’s great.  As we exit the cave into the upland woods there are more animals to find and even a log with bugs inside!  We LOVE the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Of course, after this both my kids are exhausted.  We take a trip through McD for some of there not-really ice cream, but cheap and delicious, ice cream and hit the road.  Back north into Georgia for us….but only for two more weeks.  I’m excited to get home and start packing for Korea.  10 minutes up I-75 and both kids are sleeping.   Perfect.

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