Jacksonville Zoo Day – June 2021

The first week of summer kicked off with Zach and I returning home from our couples trip to Charleston and Kye and Britt off at Georgia Bible Camp.

It was a RARE time for me to ONLY have Tess and Spear at home and it’s the only summer it will happen as next summer Tess will be at camp too!

In years past I’ve taken many trips up to Atlanta with the kids on my own to visit Zoo Atlanta and/or the GA Aquarium. Usually Casey went with me too and it was always a super epic time!

Obviously that hasn’t been able to happen the last couple of years with the shut downs and all which also happened to fall right around the age when Spear would really start enjoying such visits. The last time we went was actually in 2017 before Spear was born and it was the first time Daddy came along with us πŸ˜‰

In thinking about the week with my littles I really wanted to do something special and fun with them that THEY would love. It was the PERFECT opportunity to visit a zoo. The older two don’t really care about zoos anymore and just having Tess and Spear would allow me to fully enjoy them and not be worried about keeping the older kids “into it.”

I debated making the trek to Zoo Atlanta, as that was MY zoo growing up and it’s special to me. But with the world still not being normal yet things seem to still be pretty hardcore in Atlanta and I thought it’d be smarter to make it a day trip to Jacksonville Zoo instead! It’s only a 2 hour drive and a very, very easy drive at that. Plus no worries about trying to find a hotel room or any of that mess either (and I don’t think Spear is old enough to be enjoyable in a hotel room setting either ha!).

I invited Brittany to come along! She is part of our new church fam and has four adorable kids who my kids adore and who are the ages of Spear and Tess (and younger) so I thought it’d make for a fun day together! Unfortuantly her oldest, Jax, who is Tessie’s buddy wasn’t able to come but Hadley (who Spear is basically obsessed with) and the twins (Palmer and McKenna) came along for our super fun day!

Tess jumped RIGHT into the roll as the oldest and it was crazy how she seemed SO MUCH OLDER than she usually does. She looked older when being compared to littles instead of her older siblings. She was SO great with fulfilling the oldest kid role and loved helping with the babies and keeping Spear and Hadley in check πŸ˜‰

I also LOVED getting to pour so much time and energy directly into Spear. He talked SO MUCH and, again, I’m sure that was a reflection of the older kids not being with us. He got a chance to shine. This was the very beginning of summer and he talked about our zoo day all summer long. It left a huge impression on him which makes my heart so happy!

Tess was quite the pro at pointing out animals but I think THE coolest animal we encountered was this squrrel! He sat there and LET SPEAR PET HIM. It was CRAZY!

I think as a mom of four kids I welcome a bit of crazy. The crazy makes it fun! Two moms with 5 kids ages 6 and under? Def some craziness went down and I LOVED that Brittany handles those moments the exact same way I do. She embraces the crazy and laughs her way through it.

Henley got her head LEGIT STUCK. Like right when we got there. Being newer friends with Brittany I did NOT know how she would respond or how I should. Like if it were my kid I’d be cracking up while figuring out how to get their head out haha. She was the exact same way and I think being casual with stressful moments helps the kids not panic either, ya know? Freaking out only makes THEM freak out more too.

Spear recreated the moment πŸ˜‰

Tess also made me laugh becuase here she was this super big kid moment of being the oldest yet she still wanted me to bring the double stroller so I could push her. I swear this girl will rock a stroller for EVER. She did a really good job of letting Henley ride a good bit too and taking turns!

I love animal exhibits that allow for hands on experiences. Spear was NOT sure about the touch tank though!

I def missed Britt when we went to see the alligators. She LOVES them so much and they had some really cool ones and we got to see a handler work with a massive one too. It was neat to see the ways they train them and teach them to respond to different forms of touch.

The reptile rooms are always super cool because the kids are able to get SO close. We got to watch a snake eat a rat and again I was so impressed with all the kids. They all thought it was COOL rather than being grossed out or freaked out by it. The snake has to eat so it’s eating the rat. No big deal.

Spear really loved the manatees which are an animal close to my heart as there are tons of them in Satellite Beach, Florida where I was born and I have great memories of visiting my grandma and cousins and going to see them in the river!

He’s not Willie B but he will do πŸ˜‰

We did the ticket option that allowed the kids to do the carousel and ride the train (duh with Spear I knew we HAD to do the train ride!). I was really glad I had invited Brittany – not only b/c we had a great time and the car ride there and back was great to get to know each other better but also because I know how hard it is to have so many littles and it be tough to go and do.

It was great that I was the easier one for a change and had the opportunity to pay it forward from all the mamas who have jumped in to help ME in my chaos! I loved that I could take Henley when the twins needed their moms full attention! Henley is PRECIOUS and I’m totally on board for Spear’s marriage plans πŸ˜‰

The zoo is organized in a nice big circle and the train goes around the entire zoo in a good 20 min ride. It was a nice way to finish up the day and we lucked out that the bit of rain we had also hit during our train ride!

Tess said “I feel like a 9 year old” πŸ™‚

I haven’t been to the Jacksonville Zoo since Kye’s 3rd grade field trip (which FEELS LIKE YESTERDAY THOUGH) and a good bit has changed since then. The new tiger area though is AMAZING. They have this tiger walkway path where the tigers are able to walk literally over your head. It was SO cool and really well done!

Spear LOVED having his buddy Henley with us all day but was also super super confused why their Sunday School teacher wasn’t there too. He kept saying “Is Ms Madison coming? She gonna be here?”

The only real frustration of the day was the giraffee feeding. We kept checking in and they kept being on break. To enter the experience you also have to go up this super long ramp so it was a bit annoying going back and forth. FINALLY though we got to have our turn to feed them! It was such a neat experience and the kids loved it!

Also a tip I learned if you ever visit the Jacksonville Zoo – buy a kids drink for $1.99 and it includes a cup to keep πŸ˜‰ Perfect prize for the day!

We finished up by 4 ish and were home around dinner time! It was SUCH a fun day and the kids all had a blast together and getting to see all the animals. A great kick-off to summer for sure.

It was truly THE perfect day! I was so thankful for the time with JUST my littles and to be able to focus on them and connect with them and ENJOY them and make special memories with them! I had THE best time and they did too!

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Emily Parker

Hey Y’all, I’m Emily! I’m a stay at home mom and consider parenting to be my passion. Disney is my happiest place and I love making memories as a family together. I’m a big believer in transparency and share all of my real-life moments as a mother of four.

My work has been featured on Love What Matters, Today Parenting and Babywise.Life. I’m also honored to be a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network.

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