Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Vander Waals Go to Cincinnati {the Zoo & Build-a-Bear}

The energy exerted and the fun had at Great Wolf Lodge on Monday and Tuesday caught up with our oldest child on Wednesday morning.  Drew is our earliest riser, usually up on or before 6:30 in the morning.  Imagine our surprise when not only did he sleep in, not only was he the last to wake, but he didn’t wake up until 8:45 Wednesday morning!  Even amidst the madness that is a family of five in a smallish hotel room!  This is completely unheard of when he’s in the comfort of his own home and bed and pillow…I don’t think the kid has ever slept in that long!  It was obviously much needed.
On the agenda, at some point during our week, was a visit to the zoo.  The biggest debate was which zoo (Toledo, Columbus, Cincinnati) and what day.  Originally we had planned to go to the Columbus Zoo on our way back home at the end of the week.  Brad had seen on Good Morning America that the zoo had recently opened a new Africa exhibit, which included feeding and riding on a variety of the animals.  It sounded pretty sweet, so sure, that would be fun.  Deciding on that plan, though, meant that we had an extra day during the week with nothing planned. So, long story short — we changed the plan.  Upon further research of both the zoos (all three Ohio zoos are ranked in the top five in the nation — any of them would be great to visit) and the weather (Wednesday was looking to be the coolest of the week), we decided to stay in town, use up our unplanned extra day, and visit the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
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Be forewarned: lots of animal pictures below!  It might be a bit boring.  If you’ve seen one gorilla, you’ve seen them all, amiright???  Feel free to bypass and go straight to the bottom of this post.  As I was looking through these pictures, though, it brought vivid memories to mind of our day, and I couldn’t help but over-share.   
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We happened to be in the right place at the right time to catch the Wings of Wonder show in the early afternoon.  When it was all said and done, I voted it, by far, the best animal exhibit show I have ever seen (not that I’ve seen a ton, but I’ve been to a zoo or two!).  It was informative and entertaining and there were so many birds.
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There were perches located throughout the open-air auditorium and the zookeepers had several of the birds fly just overhead throughout the audience.  This guy came and perched right by us.
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This beautiful bald eagle flew down from that cage you can see up in the bush.  We had the perfect view to see her beautiful wings soar.
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The show was so colorful!  It was funny and interesting and perfect zoo entertainment for both us and the boys!
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ICEE break.  While the weather was the most comfortable of the week, it was still warm, especially with the bright sunshine all day.  It made the walking a bit painful at times for the boys, but I think it was worth it to them in the long run (although they may be a lot older before they realize it).  I’m fairly certain this zoo had every animal possible - I can see why it’s in the top five!
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The orangutan.  My personal favorite.  I could watch these guys all day. 
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We took a few other breaks to rest our feet and to feed Ruby.  At our last pit stop of the day, the boys took off to ride the zoo train while Ruby and I rested in the shade and air conditioning of one of the food buildings.
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We spent just a couple minutes at the end of the day in the Children’s Zoo.  They had a small play area, and the boys plopped down here.  They were pretty wiped out.
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The Vander Waal family rating of the Cincinnati Zoo: five stars!  We had a lot of less-than-five star moments, due to the heat and all the walking, but the zoo itself is really, really great.  Interactive and interesting, with tons of different exhibits and animal features.  The huge variety of animals and beautiful gardens and greenery make this place worthwhile, for sure.
At some point earlier in the summer, I had promised the boys we’d make a visit to Build-a-Bear while we were on vacation (thank you, Cincinnati, for helping me out with this one!)  The boys had been fighting over one of Drew’s stuffed animals that he had gotten there a few years ago, so like any good negotiator, I decided we’d just have to get another one (I’m learning to pick my battles).  So after dinner at Red Robin (my favorite restaurant which we don’t have up in our neck of the woods, so yeah, we were eating there while we had the chance) we headed into the shopping district near our hotel to build some bears.
Turned out we built a dog and a bunny, but whatever.
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I was happily surprised to find that Drew hadn’t outgrown Build-a-Bear; he was as interested and excited about it as the few other times we’ve gone when he was younger.  And it’s really a great souvenir option for vacation, too.
The Vander Waal family rating of Build-a-Bear: five stars!
It was another good day, friends.  Vacation is good.

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