A reader was recently asking me about low impact gifts and what I would recommend for kids for Christmas. Well I certainly have my list of green gifts and all that jazz but probably my favorite gift idea is to get season passes for your local zoo. We have done this for years and it is a gift that gives throughout the entire year, not just for the month or two after Christmas… until their new toys lose their luster. It is a tradition of sorts in this house.
My kids have been very fortunate to live in two major cities that are typically honored with having the best zoos in the country. In Phoenix we had The Phoenix Zoo which usually rates 3rd in the country. We also had the World Wildlife Zoo and Out of Africa. In Columbus, we have The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium which is rated #1 in the country most years.
Seeing these guys at our local zoo is always a treat for my oldest boy, who is often homesick for his beloved Arizona. These little fellas (Gila Monsters) were not hard to find near our home and Daddy used to catch and play with them… exactly what every grown man should teach his kids to do when they find poisonous creatures.
But I digress…
For less than $100 you can get season passes and visit all year long with free parking to boot. We have been twice this week… once we pulled the kids out of school early to spend some time there and then the next day we went back at night to see the Zoo Lights. For an extra $20 we added two guests to our package so that the kids can take friends or we can take the grandparents. We have already been enough times to pay for our membership so it feels like ‘free fun’ all year long.
It amounts to a low cost or free activity when funds are low. It is a great way to get exercise for the whole family. Heck, instead of buying a gym membership so you can walk on their track, you can do laps around the pond at the zoo instead. It is a great learning opportunity as you can really spend time getting to know all about the animals and studying them. I know they have really encouraged my little guy to talk and make the animals sounds… something that books and Animal Planet never made him want to do. Most zoos have special seasonal events that are fun as well. We love Boo at the Zoo and Zoo Lights. The Columbus Zoo just spent 2 years replacing all their lights with LED lights so that they could be greener. The lights are ten times prettier in my opinion and their impact is way less. Seriously for anyone in the area, Zoo Lights at the Columbus Zoo is on par with Disney World for festivity and beauty and I have spent many a Christmas with the mouse. They even have a chorus singing Christmas carols.
And of course it doesn’t have to be a zoo either. You could get a season pass to the local art museum, botanical center, kids play museum, or science museum. We also have the latter and find it is a great place to spend time in the winter. Seeing an IMAX movie about the coral reefs or the Grand Canyon at the Science Center is better than letting them veg out at home in front of iCarly. There are interactive exhibits and fun things to do all year long. This month ours has a day for kids to play dozens of different board games and a day for them to pretend play, using their minds to create the fun. We were totally jazzed to find out that the Titanic exhibit is coming back to our science center this spring. We have seen it once before and the kids have wanted to travel to go see it again and now it is coming to us.
Its a gift that lasts and its a gift that has many rewards and that is why season passes to some natural, educational museum or zoo would be my top gift choice for families. Buying season passes also supports what they are trying to do… preserve nature, instill a love of science, or otherwise engage our kids in meaningful ways.