An Inexpensive Family Outing in Davidson County, Tennessee: The Nashville Zoo

If you have children, few places in Davidson County will give you a bigger bang for your buck than The Nashville Zoo. Whatever it lacks in size and quantity it more than makes up for in quality; the design is engaging and the zoo is meticulously kept. And

If you have children, few places in Davidson County will give you a bigger bang for your buck than The Nashville Zoo. Whatever it lacks in size and quantity it more than makes up for in quality; the design is engaging and the zoo is meticulously kept. Plus, the zoo master plan is being implemented step-by-step, when it's finished it will be one of the largest zoos in the nation.

Make no mistake, if you don't plan ahead you can spend oodles of money at The Nashville Zoo. Pay full price admission at $14 per adult on down to $9 per child, eat at the the zoo's restaurant, buy a few souveniers...it adds up fast. Here's how to do the zoo, cheap:

  • Zoo family memberships begin as low as $55, and they're a huge bargain. If you attend even twice per year the membership roughly equals normal admission and you get many benefits that still make it worthwhile. But attend twice per month with just one guest and it pro rates the membership fee to $1.14 per person, per visit.
  • Your membership entitles you to discounted entry fees to reciprocal zoos, some within a half day's drive such as the zoos in Louisville, Kentucky and Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Steer away from the zoo's relatively expensive restaurant and snack bars. You are welcome to carry your own food, drinks and snacks. Plan properly and food costs should be no more than if you had stayed home.
  • Merry-go-round tokens are $2 per ride, per person. Little children just love it and the ride is strategically placed on the way to see the elephants and giraffes, so I don't have this completely figured out yet... set a firm limit on the the number of rides beforehand or your children will want to ride repeatedly. Note that if you offer a token for yourself the ride operator will accept it but if you ask you can usually ride along with your child for free.
  • Stroller rentals are $7, but if you have a child that small you'll likely need one every time you go so definitely purchase a pull wagon or stroller at Amazon.com or other retail store and you'll experience significant long term stroller savings.
  • On warmer days pack water and plenty of it, bottled water is extremely expensive inside the zoo.
  • Ditto sunscreen. Bring it with you.
  • When it's time to renew your membership do so early and you'll get a discount. The $55 membership mentioned above can be had for just $45 for an entire year of admission.
  • Parking is free. In fact, parking, then never leaving your vehicle, is a sure way to keep your zoo trip costs to an absolute minimum ; ) 

The Nashville zoo offers monkeys, tigers, birds, meerkats and many other animals in abundance, mostly presented in natural looking habitat. Alligator Cove, and the African Savannah are interesting stops. The Unseen New World building is air conditoned and features snakes, bats, a huge anaconda and more.

The overall layout of the zoo, right down to the the walkways between exhibits, complete with faux animal tracks, is thoughtfully designed and of the highest quality. Seeing the same animals over and over again each trip can get boring but few kids ever tire of the amazing play area or the petting zoo. In addition the zoo offers excellent, free live animal shows in the small amphitheatre; special low cost and no cost events at holidays; member overnight campouts (be careful not to pitch your tent in the lion's den); halloween hay rides and more, keeping the experience fresh.

New Year's Day, Christmas and Thanksgiving are the only days the zoo is closed. The zoo opens at 9:00 each morning and closes at 6:00 p.m. except mid October through mid-March when it closes at 4:00 p.m.

Smoking and pets are both prohibited anywhere on the zoo grounds. For additional information contact the zoo directly at 615-833-1534 or visit http://www.nashvillezoo.org/contact.asp

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Cindy Adams Watson
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Posted on Feb 14, 2011