Asheboro, NC is home to America’s largest walk-through habitat zoo. Located in the heart of North Carolina, it is about 3 hours from Wilmington making it a great destination for a family get-a-way.
Determined to take our children on an affordable, fun trip over Spring Break my best friend and I decided to travel to Asheboro. Our children, ages 3 and 10 were both excited to get the news that we were going to the zoo.
Upon arrival in Asheboro, we headed for the NC Zoo. The zoo currently consists of a North America region and an African region which span an area of more than 500 acres and includes more than 5 miles of walkways. The long-term goal of the zoo is to develop the additional 900 acres of land surrounding the existing park to include species of animals from other continents. With so much to explore, we decided to check out the North America section first.
North America, which is the newer of the two regions of the zoo, showcases a wide variety of animal and plant life ranging from the Arctic Circle to the Sonora Desert of Mexico. Our first stop was the Cypress Swamp which is a combination of open habitats and a building which houses smaller species. Inhabitants of this area included cougars, alligators, turtles, amphibians and many species of waterfowl.
The Rocky Coast was the next stop on our tour. The harbor seals were quite entertaining to watch swim around and I really enjoyed seeing the puffins. Unfortunately, the polar bear exhibit was closed for renovation so we missed seeing them. They are expected to return to the zoo in late 2013.
The Streamside Exhibit, which includes two buildings with adjacent outdoor exhibits, includes many species of plant and animal life from NC. For older children, it is a great opportunity to learn about NC’s native species including river otters, bobcats, barred owls, snakes, frogs, turtles, salamanders and fish.
A short trip along the path took us from the smaller animals of NC to some of the largest. The black bear habitat houses four black bears, the only bear species native to NC. There is also a grizzly bear exhibit nearby that features two bears that were rescued by the zoo. They had been labeled nuisance bears in Montana and would have been destroyed if an appropriate home hadn’t been found.
The largest of the North American habitats, occupying 11 acres, is called The Prairie and it is home to elk and American bison. There are several areas from which to view these amazing animals.
The red wolf exhibit was one of my favorites and offered an excellent opportunity to have a discussion about endangered species. The red wolves are the most endangered canid species in North America. The species was brought to the brink of extinction in the early part of the 20th century as a result of intensive predator control programs. The NC Zoo is doing its part to increase the population of red wolves by running an off-exhibit breeding facility that is part of a program to reintroduce the wolves into the wild.
Another interesting stop, The Sonora Desert, is an indoor habitat which house species of the desert in the Southwestern region of the United States including ocelots, roadrunners, reptiles, tarantulas and more. Comparing the real roadrunner to the cartoon that kids are familiar with is a fun way to sneak in some critical thinking!
The Honey Bee Garden concludes the North American region. It includes a giant replica of a beehive and also a transparent working hive in which you can watch the bees come and go. My daughter, who is very frightened of bees, was fascinated by this exhibit and enjoyed being able to observe these insects in their natural environment.
To finish off our first day at the zoo, we decided to explore a special visiting exhibit called “Dinosaurs”. There is an additional charge of $4 per person to enter this exhibit. Upon entering, you follow a designated path to view 15 different animatronic creatures representing more than a dozen dinosaur species. We were all unaware that the dinosaurs were going to move and make noises, which made the experience seem very real. Some of these sly creatures even sprayed water which was a thrill for the kids! Archeological dig sites were also available to enhance this experience.
After a full day at the zoo, we took a short drive to downtown Asheboro for dinner. The downtown area is quaint and beautifully decorated with several murals. There is an attractive green space in the center of town for events and also several antique shops and restaurants. We dined in a fun, local haunt called The Flying Pig. The menu consisted of appetizers, sandwiches, salads and pizzas. We munched on fried pickles for an appetizer followed by some delicious sandwiches. The kids were happy with their generous sized corndog kid’s meals. The food and service were outstanding.
Our first day in Asheboro was a great success and we were ready to rest up for another fun-filled day.
Please check back next week to read about our African experience and other fun things to do while in Asheboro!