Initial Visit: February 1st, 2012
Rating: 4.25/5
Price: $$

Description: Some things change and some things stay the same.

I think it’s safe to assume that everyone visits a Zoo as a kid; maybe part of a field trip or science class. Glen Oak Zoo was the place my teachers/schools took us for our trips. As a kid, it was always a treat to get out of the class and explore a fun and magical place. Zoos, parks, six flags, historical places. It was and still is a blast to visit these places.

So, color me surprised when I came back here and the zoo was renamed to the Peoria Zoo. Aside from the name change, everything else seemed the same as when I was a kid, except for the large Africa exhibit that was new-ish at the time of us visiting. As we entered the zoo after paying admission, I was giggling inside at how everything just felt the same. Not only felt but everything looked the same. Down to the placement of exhibits and what was in them. Granted, once the building is built, it’s hard to make drastic changes without a large amount of capital, which I assume Zoos just don’t have.

As Matt, Tim, and I slowly worked our way through the beginning area, I felt a joy of rediscovering the zoo and also seeing the same things I saw as a child but through the eyes of an adult. This nostalgic trip lasted until we got outside and I was taking in some of the Zoo’s improvements to the grounds. Something much easier and cheaper do. While some of the layout was the same and I think the building that housed the goats that you could feed.

Yep, if you’ve got some quarters on you, you can use them to purchase feed from a gumball-style machine. I won’t lie. This is one of my favorite things to do at a Zoo. I always try to bring money that can be used for feeding the goats and other small animals in the feeding area. I will easily get distracted by this at any Zoo or place that offers this.

Burning through the few quarters I had on me fairly quick, we headed over to the playground equipment and goofed around on that for awhile. After getting our fill on the playground equipment, we headed towards the new Africa exhibit.

When this expansion was announced, it was hyped up really high (or that’s how I remember it). It was a massive expansion to the Zoo and one that would nearly double it’s size. We wandered towards the Africa exhibit and wow. I know it was winter time when we went but the exhibit as a whole was massive. They had an event center-style building that seemed to host plays/shows or was a restaurant. It was closed for the season while we were here.

To explore the new expansion, you view most of it from this long wooden walking path/bridge that goes around the wide open grounds. This gives you a great view of the area with giraffes and other animals that I don’t know the exact name of. The bridge gives you not only many angles to view the animals but it has varied heights. It starts low at one end and the other ends is above everything.

The bottom of the bridge is the viewing area for the lions. This is the popular spot for everyone to stop and look at Simba through the thick safety glass. The giant kitties tend to be sunbathing or sleeping. At least that’s my luck at Zoos. Any who, as you make your way to the top, you transition to from the Lion’s Den to the Giraffe Overlook. This is the area where the more docile animals can lounge about without the threat of lions ruining their day. On a good day, you will get to see the giraffes out and about. Sadly, you can’t feed them. Drat.

After we explored the new Africa exhibit, we headed towards the exit. While we wandered slowly that way, we talked about how exciting the new area is and how it was nice to relive some childhood memories. But we also lamented the fact that while the nostalgic was cool, the fact that some things hadn’t been updated meant that those things really showed their age.

To exit, you left through the gift shop. Taking advantage of the fun hats and toys for sale, we turned in to little kids one more time as we goofed around with the stuff on shelves. Nothing too obnoxious, just some friends being goofy. As we headed out the door, we wandered over to Glen Oak Park as we also got to play there as kids when we visited the Zoo.

Fast forward to current times and I revisited the Zoo with another friend. I approached the place where we entered back in 2012 but was confused when there was nobody around. My friend wandered over out of nowhere and told me the entrance had moved to another spot. That was a surprise, to be sure. After we paid and headed in, I noticed some other small improvements since my last visit. It’s good to see the park district put some effort in to updating and improving the Zoo experience.

I know this blog post kind of just scratches the surface of a proper Zoo review but at over 900 words at this point, I think it’s time to wrap it up. Do yourself a favor and check out Peoria Zoo or any zoo in your area. Also, don’t forget to bring some change to feed the farm animals.

Lions, giraffes, and expansions, oh my!

2320 N Prospect Rd
Peoria, IL 61603

(309) 686-3365


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