The Zoo at Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge Zoo is home to 65 species of birds, mammals , primates and reptiles.  Located in Natural Bridge, Virginia, the zoo is just a couple short miles off I81. It is open from late March through early December.  For just $12 (adult) and $8 (3-12), it is a very affordable family outing. For an extra $6 per person, one can ride on an African Elephant.

We spent about two hours exploring.  We may have spent longer if we attended the demonstrations, but our little guys are just not patient enough yet.


















The Good:
1) Our kids loved it!  And I have to say, I can’t remember a time (other than the VA Safari Park) when we’ve been SO CLOSE to the animals.  Safety precautions were in place, both for guests and the animals, but we were really up close to giraffes, a tiger, monkeys and the elephant (along with many other species).

2) We opted to buy feed: there is a $1 bag and a $5 bag.  Each child had their own $1 bag.  The kids could not get enough!  They ran from one animal to the next, offering out their hands and giggling when the food was licked out.

3) It was not crowded.  We had plenty of room to move and did not feel rushed at all.  We could spend as much time as we wanted with each animal.

4) There were a lot of cute photo ops set up.  Moms and dads who like to take those goofy photos have plenty of opportunities.

5) There are 2 bathrooms.  The first is in the main building and the second is in the middle of the park.




Room for Improvement:
1) There were no hand washing stations.  I have 2 kids whose hands are frequently in their mouths.  I have been to petting zoos where there are hand washing stations located throughout.  We had to head over to the bathrooms to clean hands.  So make sure you bring hand sanitizer.

2) I wish there was more greenery in some of the habitats (although the pictures do not capture this).  There were spots where the grass was worn (or eaten) thin. I will however say that it has been a very dry summer, so I could see how it would be difficult to grow grass in some spots.

Tips:
1) Pack sunscreen (hat, sunglasses).  There are a few shady spots, but you are in the sun a lot.
2) Pack hand sanitizer.
3) Pack a lunch and enjoy it in the park. There are picnic tables available for use.
4) Go early when the animals are active.  This also lets you avoid the afternoon heat during the summer months.
5) A $1 bag of food per child is plenty.  We had some left over and brought it home to feed the ducks.

Disclosure
In the interest of full disclosure, I am torn about zoos.  I mention this because I know I’m not the only one. On the one hand, I like the educational aspect and the fact that they give our kids access to animals they otherwise wouldn’t see.  Plus, it offers opportunities to breed endangered species and increase those populations.

On the other, I struggle with animals living in confined environments that are not fully reflective of their natural habitat; especially if the animals are by themselves and without companionship. I think the ideal zoo is Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Having said that, we got to witness the staff interaction with some of the big cats, and it is obvious that they love, understand and genuinely care for the animals.

Overall
This is a wonderful, educational, and fun family outing!  I definitely recommend.

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