When naming the first zoos that come to mind one often says San Diego, Henry Doorly,, or the Columbus Zoo. While these large zoos attract people from far and wide and gain plenty of media attention; it is easy to forget some of the smaller zoos that not only have an impact on their local communities, but our world’s nature population. The Tulsa Zoo is one of these smaller gems that shines brightly.
I have been to several smaller Midwestern zoos since the birth of my son. At the age of three, he was diagnosed with Autism.Like most young children, my son loved all the animals and sights to see at zoos. The sensory overload was sometimes difficult to manage, but the positive stimulation was always worth a few meltdowns. We would usually go to the Henry Doorly zoo in Omaha Nebraska. Living about three hours away, and the admission costs, we started looking at other zoos. We discovered that the smaller zoos are more child friendly, especially for those with disabilities.The crowds are usually far more bearable, and people are more understanding as they are at a more casual laid back pace.
Visiting the Tulsa Zoo for the first time was a wonderful experience. We were rather surprised how well the zoo was set up, knowing it was working on a far smaller budget than larger zoos. The admission prices blew us away. We expected to pay far more to get into the zoo.
Ages 3 – 11: $4
Seniors 65+: $6
Ages 2 and under: free
After relocating to Tulsa, we have visited the zoo several more times. Each time, I have been impressed. The atmosphere is positive, and inspiring. The staff walks around with smiles on their faces, despite the heat.
Tulsa Zoo is always expanding and working on making each visit a new experience. Recently we visited and went through the Wild Life Trek which takes you through several buildings consisting of several habitats. A new addition is still in the works to house an endangered snow leopard cub.
What makes this zoo more remarkable is its consideration to the community. On days that it is expected to be extremely hot, the zoo will open earlier in the day and turn on misting areas through out the zoo for guests to cool off under. They often do promotions where admission is discounted. My son has brought home coupons from school for free admissions.
Something I rather enjoy are the birthday celebrations for the animals. One coincides with my son’s birthday. The zoos two sealions share the same birthday, and we went to see them on this day. An informative presentation is put on, as well as little token gifts such as trading cards featuring the sea lions are given out. Then guests can watch as the animals are given a treat that not only is a treat for the taste buds but a source of enrichment for them as well.
Another event put on by the zoo that we have visited is the HollowZooEen. Several nights the zoo puts on a trick or treating experience that is safe and family friendly for the community. While the animals are not available for viewing on these nights, the zoo goes all out in decorations. I was actually blown away by how many local businesses and coorporations participated in the event. One such participating company was American Airlines which have a hub here at the airport near the zoo.
While I love what the larger zoos have to offer, it is small zoos like Tulsa that hold a special place in my heart. We are not rushed to attempt to see all of the exhibits in a single day, which in the summer-time is simply exhausting. Visiting the zoo fits easily in nearly any budget. It is an education and inspiring experience for children and adults alike. There is so much to see, that a photographer like me could visit once a week all year and not run out of things to see and photograph.
However, the zoo’s website does state that any photographs taken may not be used for commercial purposes.
While there is plenty of positive things about this zoo, one must remember they are on a limited budget compared to larger zoos. Some of the enclosures could be more interesting.The admission cost is very low, the prices of concessions are moderate. I am the type who hates spending two dollars on a bottle of water, though one must remember the expenses of caring for exotic animals. Some of the animal shows are only on certain days, so we often miss them.