Dec 11

Blank Park Zoo – Des Moines

River OtterThe Blank Park Zoo is a wonderful small town zoo.  Karen and I were able to visit this zoo over our Thanksgiving break and had a great time visiting.  We both walked away very impressed with the amount and type of exhibits that they had on display.  Even though part of the zoo was closed down because of seasonal conditions we really enjoyed what we saw and hope that eventually we can see the rest of it sometime in the future in a warmer month.  
boa constrictor

This zoo houses over 800 animals on its 22 acres of space.  The zoo feels a lot bigger than it actually it is.  Whoever is designing the exhibits has done a wonderful job with the set up and display of the animals.  While this zoo is not a major destination in itself like some of the more famous zoos in the United States it is a wonderful stop if you are in the Des Moines area.  Karen and I spent the afternoon here after we spent a few hours at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge just down the highway from Des Moines.  The Blank Park Zoo is just small enough that we were able to see everything in an afternoon, but not so small that you leave feeling sorry for the animals. 
Sea Lion Exhibit

The Blank Park Zoo has several exhibits of note.  There is the Discovery Center which houses a variety of animals from several different habitats.  It also has a new Australia exhibit with its emus and wallabies.  An African boardwalk where visitors will have the chance to hand feed their giraffes.  A great cats area that has lions, tigers, and snow leopards.  The Blank Park Zoo has also a brand new sea lion and penguin area that they just added to the zoo in 2011.  For the kids they have an area they call the Kids’ Kingdom which has a playground, a fish and duck feeding area, and farm animals.  This zoo just the right mix of animals and activities to make all visitors enjoy their time there.     
Kids Zone
Karen in an Egg

Only after leaving the zoo did Karen and I find out about the troubled past of the Blank Park Zoo, and by the way that it stands now we would of never imagined that it came close to closing in the early 80’s.  All we heard about before we were going was their newly added exhibits of sea lions, penguins, and an Australian exhibit, which all three they did a fantastic job on.  Those three exhibits have not been all they have added over the last couple decades.  In the 90’s they added a wonderful Discovery Center that has a small rainforest, coral reef, and several tanks with many different types of amphibians.  Also in the 90s they added a great cat’s area that houses lions and a tiger.  They have also purchased more land that plan to use in adding new exhibits and updating current ones.  It all sounds like the Blank Park Zoo is moving in the right direction and Karen and I are excited about seeing what they will be doing in the future.          
Fruit Bat

Karen and I were just impressed with everything that was here and sometimes a little shocked.  Probably the most unique thing at the Blank Park Zoo was the walk through Australia Adventure Exhibit that lets you get as close as you want to emus and wallabies because you get to walk through their enclosure.  Other areas that were impressive were the Japanese macaque area it was probably the largest small single primate exhibit that we have ever seen.  Usually, we have found most zoos seem to put their small primates in small areas.  So it was nice to see them have so much room.  Karen’s favorite was the Discovery Center the coral reef and Amazon pool area were top-notch.  I also liked how the Discovery Center took you on a journey from the coast through the rainforest to inside a cave habitat.  Whoever designed that building did a wonderful job. 
Discovery Cente Rain Forest

Another thing that I enjoyed about visiting this zoo is that when they designed it they knew that they did not have enough space for some of the larger animals like elephants so instead of trying to cram them into a small space they went another way and created wonderful exhibits for the other animals.  The only thing that was a little disappointing, not the zoos fault, but Karen and I visited when the African Boardwalk was closed for winter.  From what we could see it also looks like the zoo did a good job with the design of that exhibit.  Hopefully someday Karen and I will be back to see it and anything else the Blank Park Zoo has planned for its future.
Penguin Exhibit

Overall, Karen and I would recommend going to this zoo if you are in the area.  I would not travel to Des Moines just to see this zoo, but there are lots of things in the Des Moines area to see and I would put this zoo at the top of the list.  Karen and I are glad that we made time in our afternoon to visit and if we are ever back in the Des Moines area it will be on our list of things to see.         
Clown Fish

Blank Park Zoo
Located at 7401 S.W. Ninth St., Des Moines
Hours of Operation- November to March 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April through October 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost as of 2011- Children 3 to 12 $5.95 Adults 13 to 64 $10.95 Seniors 65 and over $8.95
For more information visit their website at http://www.blankparkzoo.com/
Lion Exhibit

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