Featured photo courtesy of the Erie Zoo

With the weather slowly, but surely warming up in Erie, it’s time we shed our winter coats and venture outside to soak up the sun. What better way to appreciate nature than by visiting the Erie Zoo! The Erie Zoo opened March 1, is located on 423 W 38th Street and the typical operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The zoo features a variety of animals, including red pandas, giraffes, kangaroos, porcupines and tigers. It recently introduced the mysterious Amur leopards and tigers. In addition to exotic animals, the zoo also has a collection of botanical gardens showcasing beautiful native and foreign plants.

One unique feature to the Erie Zoo is a Children’s Zoo. This mini-garden is structured to help children understand the importance of nature. The children can learn about different types of plants by associating them with animals. For example, the child can see a cluster of butterflies drinking nectar from a group of particular flowers and understand that the flower is called a Butterfly Bush. The Children’s Zoo is designed to stimulate the senses by incorporating brightly colored plants that emit sweet-smelling fragrances. It features a giant xylophone that kids can play on, thus stimulating their auditory senses. The Children’s Zoo also provides animal shows, which teach children about animal behaviors. The shows are interactive and allow kids to get a hands-on approach to understanding animals.

Another special feature of the Erie Zoo is their association with the JMC Skating Arena. The JMC Skating Arena is located on zoo property and offers ice skating lessons throughout the winter. The Erie Zoo has seasonal programs, such as summer day camps and a Halloween exhibit called Zoo Boo.

Many Gannon University students visit the Erie Zoo annually to see their favorite animal. “My favorite animal at the zoo is the red panda,” said sophomore occupational therapy major Emily Toothman.

Other students go to the zoo to see more aquatic animals. “I love seeing the otters! They’re so cute and playful!” exclaimed Megan Schoming, sophomore pre-physical therapy major. Schoming said the only part of the zoo she didn’t enjoy was the African Wild Dogs. “They seem scary and violent.”

The Erie Zoo provides an entertaining experience for young and old alike. College students love the zoo because it provides a relatively cheap study break, $7 for adults and $5 for children. If and when Erie decides to warm up a bit, I highly suggest rounding up a gaggle of friends and going to the Erie Zoo for the afternoon; it really does have a little something for everyone.

Vote for the Erie Zoo now in round two of Gannon University’s Ultimate Fave.