My mom got us tickets to York's Wild Kingdom this past Christmas (she also gifted us with tickets for our little family to go to Story Land, our vacation destination later this month). Note to friends and family of people with toddlers: these kinds of gifts never go out of style! We were so psyched to have inclusive tickets already paid for as we packed up the car with Uncle Harper and made our way south on the highway. It meant that this full-day excursion only cost us the price of gasoline and (surprisingly reasonably priced) amusement park food and souvenirs. I think the whole shebang was less than $40 out of our wallet, and Natalie had a blast (almost the entire time....).
If you're going to be traveling through Southern Maine anytime soon, I totally recommend stopping by York's Wild Kingdom. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but the place was frickin' great. It's part zoo, part amusement park, and our tickets were passes for the whole thing (rides, paddle boating, animals, everything). The paths were shady and safe for little running feet, and there were tons of interactive things to keep Natalie engaged throughout our time there. We fed goats & ducks & deer, marvelled as butterflies landed on us (!) and admired the bigger animals like lions&tigers&bears. It was great fun. Here are a few pictures of our afternoon:
Little miss insisted on lugging her purse & stuffed Gruffalo all around the park, and preferred to walk on her own rather than be pushed in her stroller. Typical.
Natalie's favorite part of the visit, hands-down, was getting to feed the ducks. There were TONS of ducks eager to be pet and fed, and they would eat out of your hand before waddling off to find another friendly person with food. One duck did bite Natalie's finger (she just couldn't quite get the hang of holding her palm open flat), which resulted more in surprise than any real issue. In fact, to hear her tell it now, she seems quite proud of surviving this duck bite.
My only regret of the day was putting Natalie on a kiddie roller coaster a little too soon. I think if we had built up to this ride (first Merry Go Round, then maybe train, then perhaps the roller coaster...), we would have had more success... instead, we jumped at the chance to get her on the ride and she HATED it. She cried the whole time and was completely shaken and scared by the time it was over. It really wasn't a scary or fast ride, but it was very noisy and was her first of this type of ride. From there on, our afternoon was a little on the edge... she was always just a moment away from having a meltdown. We opted to skip out on any other rides and just do some more walking around to look at the animals before heading home. We were planning on staying later so that we could catch up with some friends for dinner, but a cranky toddler never seems like a good idea in a restaurant so we decided for a rain check and a regular routine at home instead.
Not included in the cost of admission were a couple of extras--pony rides and camel rides. We hooked Uncle Harper up with a go-round the ring on a camel, and hoped to get Natalie on horseback for a ride, but, alas, she refused. She was happy to pet the horse and admire it safely through the fence, but she was absolutely not going to get on it, thankyouverymuch. The park staff were so great, though, I have to say--the girl in charge of the pony rides offered to bring the smallest horse over for a meet&greet, and told us to make sure we got reimbursed for the $5 pony ride fee since Natalie didn't end up riding. She was very sweet with Natalie, as were all the attendants at the exhibits and rides. I was especially impressed with the people running the kiddie roller coaster, who were probably even more enthusiastic than most of the kids getting on the ride--lots of high fives and excitement. So sweet.
Overall, it was such a fun day and I can't wait to go back again when Natalie's a little older and can enjoy more that the park has to offer. There are seriously so many things to do--lots of animals to see, shows happening every couple of hours, a batting cage, arcade games, a ferris wheel, and more. It was the highlight of our 4th of July week with Uncle Harper, and Natalie has been talking about it nonstop ever since.