This trip was great with the exception of the dolphin show. The "dolphin disappointment" was really all my fault. Nora has wanted to see the dolphin show for ages. I told her how great it was going to be. The animals would jump through hoops and bounce balls off their noses, and more. She was expecting a spectacle, but what we got was closer to a TV show narrating the life of a zoo animal. Sure there was music and there were dolphins. But I thought it was boring, Emily wanted to jump into the tank, and Nora was sorely disappointed. While I understand that the zoo is trying to move away from a circus/exploit the animals model towards an educational/provide for the animals stance, I felt they should not have called it the dolphin "show". It was a dolphin educational lecture. Nora was so disappointed when we left that she sat down on a bench and started crying. Total bummer. I promised I'd take her to Sea World someday. At least there she can pet the dolphins.
I realized I'd have to do some quick maneuvering to help Nora recover her day, so off we went to the playground. Nora hadn't been on any playground equipment since breaking her arm, and her demeanor quickly turned around after a few turns on the slide. She and Emily and every other child was gleeful to be out in the sun. Fifty degrees in February is a rare thing to be enjoyed, and we all did. We played for a quite a while; so long in fact that I was afraid we'd not see any other animals at all if we didn't get going, so off we went.
We did see a lot, too much to document in complete detail. But we did pet a goat and a baby chick and a horse; visited our favorite friends in the monkey house, and had many of the exhibits to ourselves including the bird and reptile house. Because we were the only ones there, the girls could move at their own pace; could explore without their Momma hovering, something completely new and loved by Emily. Nora was over the moon to see the zookeepers feeding the penguins, her new favorite animal, and we spent a lot of time watching them eat and swim. We didn't leave until the other birds in the exhibit began dive bombing the crowd and scaring the kids (and half of the adults as well). My favorite exhibit was, surprisingly, the newly opened swamp exhibit. I really thought I was going to like the new Bear Wilderness better, but the Swamp had a lot of interactive displays for the kids and a "boat" we rested in for a while. There were lovely birds and critters to see, and I fell in love with the cutest little Illinois otter. I had no idea there were otters in this state!
The funniest episode happened during our second trip to the playground. Surrounding the equipment are picnic tables, and roaming amongst the chipmunks and squirrels are several large peacocks. One peacock, a beautiful male, jumped on the table and extended his plumes. He was truly magnificent, and much larger than I ever imagined. I got the girls off the monkey bars so they could get a better look. Nora said, "MOM!!!! Quick, get the phone and call the zoo manager! The animals are getting out!!!!" She was so serious, it took every last drop of effort to not roll on the ground laughing. I assured her all was well, and it was. We had a wonderful day I'm not likely to forget for a while.