At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits. So far they've visited the Akron Zoo, the Toledo Zoo, and of course they've been on four trips to Madison's Henry Vilas Zoo so far. Have they gotten much out of all of it? Probably not; taking a five-month-old to the zoo was much more for my getting-out-of-the-house benefit than theirs.
Zoo exhibits aren't generally constructed with strollers in mind, so the kids saw as much fence as they did furry or feathered creatures. So when I saw a planned outing from a local play group for a trip out to Stoughton to visit Eugster's Farm Market and its petting farm, I was on board, but mostly only for the chance to get out, hang out with my cool mom friend, and eat cider donuts. The twins would enjoy some sunshine and some fences, and it would be a good day.
Well, they did enjoy the sun, and I did eat a cider doughnut. (I can live without a pumpkin spice latte, but some things are sacred during fall in the Midwest.) But we also got a lot more out of the trip than I was expecting. Animals at the zoo are far away and not particularly interesting to the ten-month-old eye, but when the animals are oh-so-reachably right on the other side of a wire fence? Another story entirely.
I'm not sure what the kids' favorite part was. There was an epic three-way fight in the play area over a ground-level tire swing with their baby friend that entertained them for a good ten minutes (which is an eternity in ten-month-old time).
There was the opportunity to pet the white, fluffy llama that strutted its way up to the fence and began mugging for our attention. There were the (toothless) baby goats nibbling at our fingers in the hopes we were going to offer them one of the bottles of milk available for visitors to buy and feed them with -- nibbling that had both babies squealing with delight. All right, maybe I am sure what the twins' favorite part was. But my favorite part was somewhere else (and no, it wasn't the cider donuts, although those were definitely in the running).
Eugster's has its very own Kitten Palace, a small shack where around a dozen kittens are roaming free to be played with, cooed over, and gently cuddled. A young Eugster's employee was on hand to keep an eye on the kittens (and to periodically fish stowaway cats out of our stroller), but otherwise we were free to pet kittens to our hearts' content, which is quite a lot of kitten-petting. My daughter managed to be impressively gentle with her new tiny friends, which is a trick she hasn't yet learned when she attempts to manhandle our poor border collie. "Kittens" plus "babies" equals "my complete amazement that I ever managed to leave."
This past weekend, Eugster's kicked off its Fall Festival, so in addition to the petting farm and U-Pick apples, there will be a haunted house, puppet shows, and a something called a "Screamy Scary Silo." I think we can probably skip that last one with the ten-month-olds when we go back again this fall (though returning is definitely something on the family to-do list.
More information about Eugster's events and activities is available on its Facebook page.