Head out to this family-favorite zoo with a fun playground too!
We know we’re not the only ones that like to shake up the summer routine a bit and throw in some fun “field trips” for our families… so let’s share 10 things to know about one of Central Illinois’ best kept secrets. Scovill Zoo offers more than you might expect from a zoo found outside of a big city.
Note: Due to COVID-19, some public attractions may be closed or operating under restrictions. Please check the website or social media for the Scovill Zoo before planning your trip, and be aware of any safety protocols or travel restrictions currently in effect.
10 Things to Know About Scovill Zoo in Decatur
- The zoo is closed during the winter months, opening up in April for the season and closing sometime in October, with the exception of some special events. (Check here for hours)
- Thursdays are FREE during the summer… yes, FREE! Typically, beginning in June and running through early October, you and your children can all enter the zoo for FREE! No catch! If you want to ride the train or the carousel, you’ll still need to buy those tokens. Which brings us to…
- Pick up tokens in the gift shop on your way into the zoo if you plan to do the train or the carousel (or both). The gift shop is a short walk from the animals, but if you’re traveling with littles, you know that a short way can feel like a LONG way. So just know what you’re going to do before you arrive and decide to get them purchased on your way in.
- Pack a cooler! You can totally bring food into Scovill Zoo, making it a great long-ish outing if you take a good snack or lunch break. They also have a concession area and everything is priced reasonably. It is only open in the height of summer though so visits on weekdays in the front and back ends of the season may not have concession stand access. We are at a zoo, however, so make sure you also…
- Pack some hand sanitizer! You will find more goats to pet here then many of the petting zoos you’ve visited before, and since we’re talking about snack breaks, you’ll want a convenient way to get cleaned up if your child gets hungry. The zoo also brings out critters that kids can touch certain days (like snakes and juvenile alligators), so be ready for that experience, too!
- There is an awesome playground right outside the zoo! We recommend you visit the playground on the way out as your kids will probably get tired on the way into the zoo if they play here for awhile. But of course, that’s your call. Watch out for the giant rock climbing structure in the back. Younger children may be able to climb up easily, but it is not uncommon to hear someone yelling “MOM!!!!” from that corner when you’re visiting.
- Wear yucky shoes. You’re going to want to enter the goat area, and you’re going to be around goat poop. It’s not just goats in there, but your chance to see the farm animals like the baby chicks up close. So just roll with the whole “in it for the experience” deal, and leave your good shoes (and good clothes, while you’re at it) at home for this visit.
- Take a few extra minutes on your way in or out and walk through the Scovill Oriental Garden and Sculpture Park. It’s beautiful and serene, and a nice (short) addition to your outing for the day. We like to eat over near this area, if we’re leaving the zoo after our lunch. Just stash your cooler in your car and you can get it from the parking lot and camp out here to eat before hitting the road back to C-U.
- Want to make a longer day of it? Visit the Children’s Museum of Illinois in Decatur before or after the zoo. It is located right next to the zoo, so you won’t have to navigate somewhere else in town t0 continue the fun. It’s a great children’s museum, and our kids love playing “weather man” and having their video projected on the screen the most!
- Consider membership! There are a number of different options, including one that has unlimited train and carousel rides or one that combines zoo membership with children’s museum membership. Visiting just a handful of times during the summer pays for a membership, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has a reciprocity program you may be able to utilize in visiting other zoos around the country, too.
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