Prescott: Zoo tales

I remember enjoying a lovely afternoon at the Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary with my oldest daughter Jennifer several years ago. My imitations of one particular monkey still bring a giggle when performed for my youngest daughter Lizabeth.

It’s a much smaller affair than our own Phoenix Zoo, regarded as one of the best in the country, but has its own charms like the ability see see deer, and even a big cat, at closer than usual range. I expected something similar when visiting the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary in Prescott last weekend.

I spent part of Sunday in Prescott with Lizabeth and two of her friends from high school — one a future marine biologist, another a future music librarian. We headed to the Zoo eager to see certain animals we’d read about online, including their big cats — but found just this one.

Apparently several of the animals weren’t on exhibit when we arrived, a little over an hour before closing on Sunday afternoon. To see them, we were told, we’d need to come earlier in the day — something easier said than done for those of us driving up from the Valley.

I’d have been happier with a waived ticket price ($8 adults, $6 students–less for seniors and young kids–but none of us qualified), or a site a bit closer to Prescott proper. Paying to see empty bear and wolf habitats isn’t my idea of a good time.

I was especially peevish once we got into Prescott and learned that the Zoo detour cost us precious time we might have spent in antique stores and art galleries, but Lizabeth and her friends were good sports who settled for other adventures I’ll share in a future post.

Many animals were in their habitats and Lizabeth was excited about seeing them. A coati. Ring-tailed lemurs. An owl and several other birds it’s nice to see up close. Plus two pot-bellied pigs pictured below with a shared soccer ball.

I was thrilled to find a wallaby habitat not noted online because it’s one of Jennifer’s favorite animals — but miffed I couldn’t get close enough to photograph it for her because the ‘walkabout’ portion of the exhibit was padlocked at the time.

Still, there were several things we enjoyed during our visit. A cheerful and helpful staff member in the zoo’s gift shop. Signs at exhibits noting animal names and basic details. The chance to see animals like lemurs outside of a movie theater.

If you don’t have your hopes set on seeing particular animals, the Prescott zoo makes for a charming stroll on days other pursuits aren’t pressing. It’s got lots of child-friendly features, including a large play structure with swings and a small play area filled with sand.

Even fun art like animal murals on the sides of buildings and a giant bug sculpture — which reminds me of the “Big Bug” exhibit coming soon to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. The coolest exhibit space, pictured below, belongs to the tarantula.

My favorite was a giant red shoe, where I snapped a photos Lizabeth and her friends. In time, it won’t matter that some of the animals weren’t available for us to see that day. It’ll be enough that they had the time together before heading off to separate lives in an entirely different sort of zoo some call being a grown-up.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary at www.heritageparkzoo.org. Visit www.cityofprescott.net/visitors for information on current and upcoming events in Prescott.

Coming up: Curious critters

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2 responses to “Prescott: Zoo tales

  1. I’ve visited the Heritage Park Zoo several times and never had a bad experience. Maybe it’s because my visits have occurred mostly in the morning when the animals are more active. It’s always good to visit around feeding times for the bears and mountain lions.

    For children, the attractions you have mentioned are favorites in my family. There’s also a splash play area and climbable spider web near the big shoe. On my most recent visit, however, we discovered a completely new children’s area hidden toward the back of the zoo. It has a sand play area and a petting zoo. I’m not sure why it’s hidden without signs leading to it, but it’s definitely worth searching for on your next visit.

  2. Hi again. Great news. I agree it is very child-friendly with the sand area, petting zoo and such. It’s hard for those of us who are GPS-challenged to get there in the morning without leaving at midnight, but I suppose that just gives me an excuse to go for a weekend. Thanks for sharing your experiences with our readers — always appreciated! — Lynn

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