Jim Abbott on Florida Travel
Postcards from Florida
February 5, 2011
"You won't look ridiculous."
Always nice to hear, in this case from the woman selling me a ticket for the train ride at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne.
When I saw the "train" pull into the station, however, I began to suspect that she was just being kind. For some reason, I envisioned riding the rails on one of those magnificent antique locomotives that circle Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
Iron horse? This was more aluminum Shetland pony.
Nevertheless, the ride was delightful, a 20-minute open-air excursion that offered glimpses of giraffes, ostriches, camels and antelope. Delightful also would describe the zoo, which is absolutely worth the day-trip from Orlando, especially as we come into the fine spring weather.
To be honest, zoos always used to depress me, with all the cages and those animals that look either interminably bored or, even worse, as if they are plotting to bust through those bars and exact some law-of-the-jungle revenge.
That's not the vibe at the Brevard Zoo (brevardzoo.com), off Wickham Road at Interstate 95, with its wooden boardwalks that lead through lushly landscaped observation areas designed to make the animals look as if they're at home.
The zoo is divided into five "loops" — Expedition Africa, La Selva (modeled after the rain forests of South America), Austral-Asia, Wild Florida and the children's area, Paws on Play.
Being a Sunshine State homer, I started in Wild Florida. There was an intimidating pile of alligators, of course, sunning themselves next to a shallow pond. More interesting was the chance to go eye-to-eye with a Florida bobcat, hanging out in his cage (yes, they still have cages) with his own stuffed animal for company.
My list of fave animals hasn't changed much since I was a kid: kangaroos, cheetahs and, of course, the giraffes. The latter is featured in one of the zoos popular interactive programs.
A "Young Explorer's Package" includes zoo admission and tickets to feed the giraffes, the lorikeets and take that train ride. (Regular zoo admission is $13.75 adults, $10.25 ages 2-12.)
Spring the extra few bucks to ride the rail. You won't look ridiculous.
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