Finding Florida brought us to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo this week. It was an overcast , drizzly day but the perfect temperature. I forget that zoos and aquariums are at the top of Logan’s favorite field trips . You can imagine he was quite excited that morning. We had actually anticipated going a previous day but were unable to due to illness. It worked out well in our favor as far as weather conditions .
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is conveniently located off 275 North . It was about 45 mins from our house to there with minimal traffic. The minimal traffic part was due to the fact that we were on I4 mid morning . I4 is a fickle creature in that you never know what traffic will be like on it. I always leave extra time to get to my destination when traveling on this highway.
Parking is free at the zoo. There are places to eat lunch outside the zoo. No food is allowed into the zoo. We didn’t find it difficult to go out to eat then return. It was easier to eat in our car than the tables due to the rain. On a prior trip with a group, we ate at the tables with no problems. Make a note to pack a cooler in your car. I like to stash a tablecloth in my SUV to throw on picnic tables at rest areas and such. Be sure to pack some clips to keep it from flying away should the wind pick up. Just a tip from me to you .
The zoo was decked out for Zoominations that night. It is a nightly illuminations celebrating the Chinese art of lantern sculptures. We did not stay for that although the sculptures are up and everywhere throughout the zoo. We enjoyed looking at them as well as reading the signs. If you are studying China at all in your homeschool then this exhibit would be right up your alley. We will be returning with friends to see it hopefully.
There are several facets to the zoo. Africa, Asia, Florida, Australia. We went to Asia first where we heard the bengal tiger “talk ” to us. Here is where you will find the primates, komodo dragons as well as several bird sanctuaries. You can walk into both bird areas, Be forewarned that in the one where you walk through the store first the birds will land on you. You can buy bird food in the store if that’s up your alley. In both , the birds are flying around as well as near you. This could be problematic for kids with sensory issues or autism. It did cause some anxiety with Logan when a bird buzzed right by his ear. We were able to exit easily to a quiet area to help him self regulate.
Africa has a safari like tour that takes you behind the scenes to see the animals. There is a tour guide in the front of the ride that gives information about each animal. It was a great way to sit down and rest while seeing animals. This is a great hands on area where you can feed the giraffes ( 3 pieces of lettuce for $6 so you can share), see the elephants up close in addition to the rhinos. There is a bird area here as well but it’s not open to the public. We spent several minutes here looking at what can only be described as the most terrifying bird I have ever seen. It was massive. The net like canopy seemed a little low to me for the birds to fly but there is probably a reason for that. I would have liked to have seen some zookeepers or employees in the areas by the animals giving information about them. As it was, we got some info off our safari tour ride as well as a podcast you can listen to on your smartphone. If you have young children or just one smartphone then the podcast isn’t going to work for you. The penguins are at the entrance to Africa and are a must see. They have a great exhibit that is up close to get a really great look at them interacting with each other. You can watch them swim around their pools. They are fed at 1:30 and 3:30.
Florida was hands down Logan’s favorite. It’s here where you can see snakes (being fed when we were there no less), an alligator snapping turtle and other native Florida species. There is a manatee viewing area where you can see them swimming around with fish and turtles. We were able to see many native Florida animals like the Florida panther and bald eagles. There is a ride in this area but it was closed down. This is where you will find the otters who will come right to you when they see you at the window. You can also pet the stingrays in the tank . For a fee you can feed them from your hand. Lots of animals to find in this area. A great place to do nature studies for Florida.
Australia will be your kids favorite area without hesitation. Here, in addition to a petting zoo and a wallaby walk through , there is a water play area that is fun for the little people. Water falls from on high, spouts shoot water from the sides and geysers burst it up from the ground. On a hot day, this will be the kids favorite spot. There were tons of benches as well as tables with chairs in the shade for parents to relax in .
This area also had a functioning quick serve restaurant. I was not able to ask if there were gluten free options. There were some gluten free brownies in the refrigerated case.
In a nutshell , it’s a nice zoo. It’s not overly crowded. The animals are easy to see and get too. There aren’t a ton of rides open. Some parts looked like a rehab would be a good thing but it was not run down or anything. Australia has been redone recently . As I said earlier, I would love to see some animal care experts out by the animals sharing their expertise. There was plenty to do for an afternoon. The kids seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. We were able to experience some fun things like feeding the giraffe. It is a fun way to spend an educational afternoon. Logan has already declared a return visit when Madison goes to Dali camp in August.
1101 W. Sligh Avenue
one mile west of I-275 (exit 48)
Open seven days a week,
9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Parking is free
(813) 935-8552 for information.
I was provided 4 free tickets to the zoo in exchange for a review. All the opinions are entirely my own.