Blank Park Zoo – A Guide to Taking Young Kids


The Blank Park Zoo has become one of my kids’ favorite places to go in the Des Moines area.  And thanks to a Zoo Membership the past 2 years from Oma and Opa for Christmas, we can take them there several times each year.  My wife can meet her Mommy friends for play dates during the week at the zoo, and I can take the kids on the weekend (Mr. Mom time) to help keep me sane.

A good thing about the Blank Park Zoo is that it’s not too big.  You can basically make the rounds in 1-2 hours depending on how much time you spend at different exhibits.  This is just about long enough where the kids don’t start getting bored and losing their interest.  So, from a seasoned veteran of taking the kids (2 and 4 year old) to the zoo, here is my guide to taking your young kids around the Blank Park Zoo:

  1.  If you have to wait in line at the main entrance (which means it’s busy and a lot of people are there), skip heading into the Discovery Center first.  This is where most zoo goers head right away so avoid traffic jams and go outside first.
  2. Once you are outside hang a left and head straight to the Carousel.  Your kids will love you!  It costs $2.00 per rider for members and $3.00 for non-members (no charge if you ride along with your child).  It’s a good way to get the kids off on the right foot.
  3. Once done with the ride, take a right back towards the main entrance, but continue on down the hill.  Check out the Sea Otters and then hit the Australia Exhibit.
  4. When exiting the Australia Exhibit, you will see the train to your left, make a beeline towards it and hear the cheers from the kids again.  Cost is $2.00 per rider for members and $3.00 for non-members (On Mondays Members get a free ride).  Sit back and relax for a few minutes as the kids enjoy the ride.  Challenge:  Try and hold your breath through the tunnel
  5. Now that the train fun is done, get out your camera phone and take your kids picture with a Wallaby (not a real one).
  6. Now it’s time to feed some goats and fish.  A cup of food will put you back $1.00.  Keep in mind that you need 2 different kind of food to feed both the fish and the goats.  Once all the food is gone in that same area your kids can play around on the playground equipment.
  7. When leaving the feeding area don’t forget to sanitize those hands!  This is also a chance to hit the restroom if needed.
  8. Next up are the cats.  Check out the Lions, Tigers and the Snow Leopards.  When finished you can walk straight over and check out the Sea Lions.  I recommend going in the lower level and seeing them swim under the water.  Ramps are available for strollers to get to upper level and lower level of Sea Lion exhibit.
  9. You are now coming down the home stretch.  Do you hear a weird sound?  Oh, that’s just the Gibbons (Bob and Bobby) talking to each other.  If you are lucky will find them swinging around.  Past the Gibbons area is a concession stand.  Your normal concession stand fare is available and more restrooms are located here as well.
  10. Giraffes are next on the agenda.  To get a fun up close view climb the stairs and check them out from the observatory deck.
  11. Hang a right on the way out of the Giraffe exhibit and check out the monkeys to your left and the new Rhino exhibit on your right.  If you venture inside the Rhino building be prepared for a stinky smell. J
  12. Following the path after finishing your Rhino experience you will be confronted again with the Carousal.  Now if you really want to keep the kids happy you will let them do it again.  I usually base it on their behavior at the zoo so far.
  13. Heading towards the main entrance again they have small little viewing area where you can sometimes pet animals.  Check it out to see what’s going on that day.  This past weekend they had a black bunny my kids got to pet and they loved it.
  14. You are at end.  If you haven’t check out the inside Discovery Center yet, now’s the time (Unless you have a child meltdown going on).  If you’ve already been there you can check out the gift shop on the way out.  Good luck with that!  Somehow I end up getting my kids a lollipop most times.

So your zoo trip is over.  Hopefully, it’s been a good one.  Now the only question that remains, is what do you do next?


Thomas Brogan

Thomas Brogan, a native of Des Moines, was the original founder of Des Moines Parent and is a father to an 8 & 10-year-old. In his free time, he likes to explore nature, try new local restaurants and enjoy life as best as he can. Check out more of Thomas at www.broganlist.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.