Soon the Monkeys will be Pan-handling on the Corner or Zoo Part 1

We went to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in Indiana yesterday. It’s about a two hour drive from our home in West Michigan, and well worth it. The Fort Wayne zoo is much bigger than the ones closer to home. I grew up in Northern, IN and visited there many times as a kid. A lot of things are still the same, like the giant statue of Mother Goose in the pond and the drinking fountain that looks like a lion with his mouth open. You stick your head in the lion’s mouth to get a drink.

Things have changed a lot too. Not just at this zoo, but all the ones we’ve been to lately. See it used to be when you went, you just paid the gate admission and laughed at frolicking monkeys and wondered if that little man-made ravine was really enough distance between you and the grizzly bear. You might need a quarter or two if you wanted to feed the goats in the petting zoo.

But now, there’s a hundred other things to do at the zoo besides walk through the aviary and hope you don’t get pooped on. Apparently not entertaining enough for the Wii generation, zoos have added all kinds of other activities to their rosters. And none of them are included in the price of admission. There are trains, pony rides, carousels, water rides and sky rides to occupy you when you get tired of watching sea lions dancing for fish. It also costs a whole dollar to feed the goats these days. I thought a gallon of gas was expensive. A dollar for a tablespoon of goat feed? At least posing for a photo on the turtle statue was free.

Oh, we had lots of fun. My son loved the canoe ride and the train. I’m not sure he even spent a minute looking at each animal exhibit, because he was too busy looking for the next thrill ride. By the time we left, we’d spent more on the extras than our gate admission cost.

I know zoos are non-profits, and like everyone else these days, they’re just trying to come up with ways to bring in more money to fund rising costs. But they could be a little more upfront. Perhaps a disclaimer at the gate warning you that the seemingly inexpensive price of admission is really just a way to get you in the door, then they will really sink their teeth into your wallet. Or what about an all-inclusive ticket so you can just pay for it once a not have to keep sticking dollar bills into those annoying token dispensers?

So if you’re headed to the zoo, brace yourself for the add-ons and bring lots of ones. Oh, and watch out for those penguins trying to make a buck washing car windows as you leave the parking lot.

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