Central Florida Zoological Park
3755 NW Highway 17-92, Sanford 32747
Admission: Adults $9, children (3 to 12) $5, seniors (60+) $7, half price for all Thursdays 9 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.; free parking
Hours: Daily 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed
Thanksgiving and Christmas
Location: From I-4 Exit 104 drive south on US 17-92 and follow signs, less than a mile.
The Central Florida Zoo can’t hold a candle to its bigger cousins in the Bronx and San Diego, but it does wonders with what it has. The collection is small, with an understandable strength in local species, many of which will be found in the excellent herpetarium (snake house). Among the more “exotic” species are kangaroos, two elephants, a clouded leopard, and cheetahs in a lovely habitat viewed through one-way glass. Other impressive specimens include a rare and endangered Amur leopard and some delightfully colorful Hyacinth macaws.
What makes this zoo special is its design and layout. Lovely boardwalks carry you between exhibits arrayed under a sheltering canopy of oaks. Especially nice is the Florida Nature Walk that snakes through a wooded and swampy area of the zoo grounds. Signs along the way do an excellent job of explicating Central Florida fauna and explaining the way in which minor differences in altitude produce major differences in plant life. The Butterfly Sensory Garden has been planted with flowers and herbs that attract these colorful insects for your delight.
On weekends and holidays there are animal demonstrations involving the elephants, along with primate and feline feeding programs. Volunteer “docents” also roam the park with one of some 40 species used for educational purposes. You may get a chance to touch a boa or pet a possum. The zoo has a bare-bones snack bar, serving inexpensive hot dog and burger fare, with a lovely outdoor seating area nearby. Across from the entrance, there are sheltered picnic tables and barbecue pits, as well as a small carousel ($2) and an eight-minute, three-quarter-mile miniature train ride (adults $3, children $2).
Nearby: C.A.R.E., Kelly Park, King’s Landing Canoe Rental, Rock Springs Run State Reserve, Wekiwa Springs State Park.
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