*** I received lodging and admission to the park for the subject matter contained in this post, all opinions are 100% my own***
Do you have a tween in your family? If you do you may experience the ups and downs of tween life. You know what I mean, some days they are all op for everything, and others, well they don’t like this they don’t like that.. My daughter seems to be going through the times of the terrible tweens. She seems to dislike so many things but there has to be something picky tweens like my daughter likes? Something fun we can do as a family? Something??
Well I found one of those somethings. ZooAmerica in Hershey Park. Hershey Park is all rides and chocolate, right? Not so fast. Did you know that located in Hershey Park is an actual zoo? And not just any zoo, but a zoo that features that can be found on our continent, hence the name ZooAmerica. You won’t find elephants, lions, or gorilla’s here, but you will find bobcats, alligator’s, and other animals that are indigenous to North America.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to spend a few days (tours are held on Wednesdays and Saturday only) in Hershey you’ll be able to head over to ZooAmerica after closing to take part of their After-Hours Tour. This tour can accommodate up to 10 people per tour and it roughly lasts 2 hours. We were lucky enough to take this tour recently and even luckier is that my family was the only family signed up for the tour that night! We had two guides (Tal and Dave) all to ourselves. Their wealth of knowledge and banter with each other made the night so much fun and is an experience we still talk about.
The tour takes you all over the zoo, we got to see the area where routine check-up’s are done on the animals, we learned that if the job is too big for the zoo the handle they have a working relationship with the Vet’s at Hershey medical and they often lend a hand on the larger jobs. We got to see the zoo’s kitchen….my husband still shudders at the thought of a freezer bag full of mice. The animals are well taken care of and get to eat a lot of the food that we would eat (except the mice.)
ZooAmerica has a working relationship with the restaurants of the Hershey Hotel and Lodge, food that used to be thrown away is trucked over to the zoo and used to feed the animals. Don’t think they’re getting spoiled food, they’re not. What they’ll get is food parts that aren’t used in recipes and that were normally thrown away, now that refuse is turned into nourishment for the animals and is cutting back the waste from the restaurants and improving the quality of food for the animals. It really is a win-win situation.
From the kitchen we made our way over to the otter’s and were able to feed them. This is where I was first amazed…my husband actually picked up fish and tossed it to the otter’s! His a city boy through and through. He’s never been fishing, camping, hunting or anything outdoors, he’s a city dweller who isn’t fond of the great outdoors, but he did it along with my daughter who couldn’t get enough of the fish tossing. My daughter was like a little kid, giggling and smiling at the otters, it was so nice.
The way the otter’s would catch the fish was amazing, they’re so quick and nimble, they’re like a hiccup! From here we made our way to the Southern Swamps habitat, and this exhibit is where you’ll find snakes, and alligators, and turtles that call the southern swamp lands home.
We saw a variety of animals like the alligator snapping turtle, Goodyear (named after the tire because the fisherman who caught him were catching nothing but tires that day), he was just chilling out in his pool and was just relaxing. He really does resemble an alligator, they share a very similar look on their backs and both have impressively powerful jaws.
We then went to the Great Southwest habitat, this warm habitat is where you’ll find desert (add an extra S –desSert- and you’ll have everyone else wandering the park) dwelling creatures such as: turtle’s, along with snakes, owls, Gila monsters, ocelots, thick-billed parrots and spiders.
We then headed over to the room where the ZooAmerica naturalist’s do a little hands on teaching usually to children, this is where you can get up close and personal with an alligator, we met two one baby and one slightly older.
She really left her comfort zone on this night. This is where we learned about how ZooAmerica gets some of its inhabitants and this is where we learned who ZooAmerica just went with North American animals, it was due to size issues. You know how much room and elephant needs?!
We learned so much about the animals and their habitats and how some of the animals at ZooAmerica are actually rescue animals. People who think it might be fun to have a pet gator and then quickly realize an alligator isn’t exactly a house cat, and will get to be an average length of 11 feet! People will often ask the zoo to take in the animal and give it a proper home or help it to get to another zoo that can properly take care of it. Some animals like the bears we met were pets as well, and never had the opportunity to live life as a bear.
It’s sad that these beautiful creatures never got the chance to be themselves, but if they weren’t rescued and left to live life where they were illegally owned or just set free in the woods these poor things wouldn’t have been able to survive. They’re thriving at ZooAmerica and we had the opportunity to feed them. This is shocking moment number 3, my daughter (and my husband, I was just as shocked about that) fed the bear grapes.
My husband, the cat lover, who is actually afraid of just about any animal who doesn’t purr, fed a bear and still is talking about how much fun that was. My daughter who I knew would love it did, she was taking in everything and enjoyed seeing the animals and learning about them and feeding them. It was the reaction of my husband that surprised me.
I knew he would go along because we wanted to do it, he is honestly afraid of most animals, and the fact that he really went away from his comfort zone amazed me. Will he be the next Jack Hannah? No. But I’m glad he enjoyed it as much as we did.
If you plan on visiting Hershey and are looking for something cool and out of the ordinary call ZooAmerica and schedule this tour, it’s 49.00 per person ages 3+ and it is totally worth every penny. If you have a child in those in-between years, this tour is much more than a classic stroll around the zoo, this was much more exciting, and a must for all ages.
The After-Hours Tour are held Wednesday and Saturday nights year round. Starting times vary with the zoo closing times. This 2 hour behind-the-scenes adventure is perfect for families with children ages 3 and up!
Join ZooAmerica naturalists for a personal tour through the Zoo, including an insider’s look at the Animal Health Center and a flashlight tour through the animal buildings. Feed the otters, touch a reptile, or hold a bird of prey. Plus, all participants will receive a flashlight, and items to complete your adventure through the Zoo!
The After-Hours Tour costs $49 per person (ages 3+). ZooAmerica can accommodate up to 10 people per tour and up to 2 tours per night. Participants must pre-register and pre-pay 72 hours in advance. Call 717-534-3900 to register or for more information.
ZooAmerica is open year-round except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Check out the ZooAmerica site for hours.
Be sure to stay social with ZooAmerica and visit the website
Disclosure: The reviews and or opinions on this blog are my own opinions . No monitory compensation was received. I was not required to write a positive review. Your experience may differ. The opinions I have expressed are my own I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsement and Testimonials in Advertising .
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