If you’d like to take the kids to the zoo without making it an all-day ordeal, head to Phillips Park Zoo in Aurora to get close to about 100 North American animals. With free admission and parking, the zoo is a manageable excursion with young kids in tow.
Zoo Manager Randy Johnson says he often hears parents remark that the zoo is a quick trip. "We probably get more visits from people with really young kids because it’s small," he says.
In spite of its small size, the zoo features some big animals, including wolves, mountain lions and a herd of elk. The reptile building houses tortoises, alligators and snakes and has proven to be one of the more popular attractions, Johnson says.
Once you’re done with the animals, head over to the Visitor Center, which houses mastodon bones and skulls found in the area of the park that is now a lake. A free tram ride leaves from the center about every 30 minutes and winds its way around the lake, zoo and sunken gardens while the narration provides riders some interesting historical tidbits about the 110-year-old park. The tram operates from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily and is a nice respite for tired feet.
Be sure to pack a lunch, drinks and snacks when visiting the park. While a restroom and some vending machines are available in the Visitor Center, there’s no restaurant or concession area. Picnic tables and pavilions are interspersed throughout the park’s large oak trees, providing a shady area to eat, and there’s a large playground nearby if kids need to burn off some energy.
The park’s annual fall festival is scheduled for 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 27 and will feature pony rides, a petting zoo, entertainment and arts and crafts. The festival and the activities are free.
The park is located at 1000 Ray Moses Drive, Aurora, and is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. For information, call (630) 978-4774 or visit the Web site at www.phillipsparkaurora.com.