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Road Trip Diary: Blank Park Zoo, Des Moines, Iowa


Lions, tigers and bears--oh, my! Dan gets in touch with his inner child at the Blank Park Zoo.

Hosted by Dan Kaercher, Iowa's Simple Pleasures is a new series produced by Iowa Public Television that highlights fun things for Iowans to do, see, and taste, right here at home. Below are excerpts from Dan's journal of his travels in the state.


Road Trip Diary: Blank Park Zoo, Des Moines, Iowa

… Usually, when I've visited this zoo, it’s been with my children or grandchildren. But today, I'm the kid! Even better, it's a relatively quiet weekday afternoon, so I have lots of opportunities to get up close and personal with the almost 1,500 animals that reside here (representing more than 100 different species).…

… This constantly expanding, 23-acre facility in a 49-acre park on the south side of Des Moines is easy to navigate, especially with my well-informed host, Anne Shimerdla, the director of operations and education here. I see lots of kids here, accompanied by parents and especially grandparents. This terrific family attraction (Iowa's only nationally accredited zoo) has grown steadily in the 30-plus years I’ve been coming here, thanks largely to the work of many dedicated volunteers and donors…..

… Well, as I said, I’m the kid today, even squeezing myself into the miniature train ride around the zoo to orient myself. Also in the "transportation" department, I get my first dizzying camel ride! Then I feed a frenzied school of Japanese carp, but that's nothing compared to offering some crackers to a young, 15-foot-tall giraffe who's initially rather shy but quickly gets the idea, sticking out her long, black tongue for more, and more again!...

... One of Anne's associates introduces me to a 45-year-old, 250 pound tortoise, who really goes for raw sweet potatoes. These slow pokes grow almost 5 feet long and can weigh 500 pounds. I’m cautioned to keep my toes out from under the heavyweight, just in case it decides to plop down. No problem...We also see trainers working with lions (the land-based kind) and sea lions....

... Flamingoes, penguins, apes of all types, cranes, zebras and lots of other critters round out this afternoon that totally satisfies the animal-loving kid in me...


Tags: animals Des Moines families Iowa IowasSimplePleasures parks Polk County tourism travel zoos

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