The special moments of childhood do not last long. Parents should create family memories while children are young. The Blank Park Zoo is an excellent venue for a family outing. The little ones will be delighted by the carousel and a trip aboard the train. Older children will be thrilled by the ferocious cats, long neck giraffes or wallaby joeys. Parents will enjoy strolling along the beautiful pathways at the zoo. Directions, schedule and admission pricing are available on the Blank Park Zoo website.
History: In 1961, the United States Government donated land to the city of Des Moines. The current mayor agreed with the government that the land would be utilized for recreational purposes. The Mayor discussed options for the land with A.H. and Myron Blank and decided on a children's zoo. Excitement built for the zoo as civic leaders and citizens began to raise funds in combination with a large donation from A.H. Blank. The zoo opened on May 8, 1966. The zoo closed from 1983 to 1985 for renovations and reopened on May 17, 1986. The renovations included landscapes with natural animal habitats. A discover center and a big cats exhibit were added in the late 1990’s. A new sea lion pool was built and a dinosaur exhibit opened in 2011.
Can't Miss Exhibits: Be sure to visit all the new zoo animal babies, including a Bactrian camel, a baby kudu and wallaby joeys. The Bactrian camel has two humps compared to the dromedary camels that have one hump. Follow the zoo’s giant caterpillar to the butterfly exhibit. The zoo staff teaches about natural pollinators. The Discovery Center houses boa constrictors, Chilean flamingos, emperor scorpions, scarlet macaws and other exotic animals. The Northwest Pacific Aquarium is home to coral fish, kelp greenlings, sea anemone and starfish. The big cat exhibit is filled with an African lion, snow leopard, and a Siberian tiger. The young at heart enjoy watching the antics of the primates, including gibbons, lemurs and squirrel monkeys. Giraffes, ostriches and rhinos are housed in the African section. Wallabies, emus and peafowl may be viewed in the Australian habitat.
Special Events: The zoo hosts summer camp days for children from age 5 to 13 with half-day camps for children 3 to 6. Zoo Tots, Zoo Tots Cooking and Zoo Tunes are all events for the youngest guests at the zoo beginning in the fall. At Zoo Tots, little ones meet the acquaintance of various animals, try his/her talents at crafts, read books and eat snacks. Parents and toddlers will partner up for cooking lessons at Zoo Tots Cooking. Toddlers and parents enjoy dancing, playing instruments and singing at Zoo Tunes. The zoo offers free beer and wine sampling with paid admission ticket for guests 21 years of age and over during Zoo Brew each Wednesday in June, July and August. Arts and crafts along with live entertainment are presented at the zoo for guests at the annual adventure days in July. Visitors are invited to camp out at the zoo on prescheduled weekends during the summer months. Brides looking for a different sort of wedding might be interested in attending Bridal Sneak Peek to consider the Blank Park Zoo as a possible venue.
*Photo courtesy of Blank Park Zoo Adventure Days by Paul Adams at Flickr’s Creative Commons.