Me, I'm not a fan of the crowd. My Mother reports that I came home from my first day of Kindergarten, and when asked how it was, I answered, "It was crowded."
My sister Elaine, on the other hand, missed her life calling of a three ring circus master. My sister Amy (aka, The Beloved Aunt Amy) once pointed out that Elaine is like the Marines: She gets more done by 8am than the rest of us do all day.
So, there we were Sunday night at Mom and Dad's, binging on cheese and crackers and discussing our plans for the following 'no school' day. Elaine said they were planning on the zoo and her boys had asked if we could go as well. I said yes, but I wasn't really looking forward to it.
Now, I enjoy the zoo. We have had a membership to the St Louis Zoo for about five years. It's America's #1 Zoo, according to Parenting Magazine.
Admission is free. There are charges for other things though, like the Children's Zoo, the Zoo Train, and the Carousel. Also, if you don't get there early enough to park nearby on the streets of Forest Park (free), it costs to park in the zoo parking lots. However, for the first hour of business the Children's Zoo and Carousel are free.
So, what happens is hoards of frugal-minded people converge on the zoo when it opens (not unlike Black Friday, really) hoping to get a close parking space. They zoom on in and beat a path to the Carousel and go a couple of rounds before trotting off to the Children's Zoo to gain entry before 10am. This is a great idea - a fantastically economic way to enjoy some very fun things at our zoo. By adding a picnic lunch to the stroller, most can get by with only paying for the train (because, really, who's going to skip the round-the-zoo train ride?). Who wouldn't want to see the zoo that way??
Having had the luxury of a zoo membership for five years, I've found that I'm spoiled with NOT having to 'beat the system' to enjoy the day at the zoo. My membership allows us to park in a lot adjoining the zoo. We get 'anywhere' passes that cover the Children's Zoo, the Zoo Train, the Sea Lion Show and for some membership levels, the Carousel. We get a discount in the restaurants, and a discount in the gift shops (with extra discounts before Christmas). The majority of the membership fees are a tax deductible donation.
Although, I can go to the zoo on (less busy)weekdays, anytime we go we can AVOID the children's zoo until well after 10am. It's much quieter, and really, less of a ZOO. There are limits with my membership level, as to the number of times I can park for free, and the number of 'anywhere' passes, but I've never been able to use all of them in a year. (/membership diatribe)
Getting back to Monday...Three adults, and seven (7) children in our group - three of those children in strollers. We made our own zoo train - HA! Many people had the same idea as us, and while I got to use my parking pass, we were still there right at 9am playing beat the clock (Elaine and Mom aren't spoiled by zoo membership like I am) and trying to stay together as we wound our way through the crowds. We went from one end of the zoo to the other, hither and yon, to and fro, until our asses were sufficiently kicked. There was whining for food and snacks ALL DAY - even if we'd just eaten something.
Half way through our adventure two of the non-strollered were begging for rides and/or complaining about the walking. E2 would hop into whatever stroller was vacant; forget the animals - let those other fools look at the animals, she was snagging a seat with the hope that the littler kids would somehow want to walk for a while. We capped the visit with a Zoo Train ride, after which E3 climbed into the stroller and immediately passed out until we got to the van.
We left and rewarded ourselves for still being alive and, more importantly, AWAY FROM THE CROWD, by hitting a drive-thru for shakes.
The E's declared it a GREAT day though, so ass-kicking and crowds aside, it was worth it.