For fathers day this year, we decided to take my dad to Catoctin Mountain Zoo and Wildlife Preserve in Thurmont Maryland for a few hours. This used to be an annual family activity when I was a child, and I don’t recall having been there since the mid-90’s during my highschool tenure. After hearing that they had Timber Wolf Puppies, I simply couldn’t resist the idea of going again and checking them out before they became adults 🙂
Catoctin Zoo is our own little local oasis here in Southern PA and Northern MD, not far from Gettysburg at all. I say this because while it may be small, it certainly caters to all your zoological needs with less people and less driving/traffic (only about 15-20 minutes from Gettysburg). Again, it’s another local business that we can support and also teach our children (well, when I have children) about nature, wildlife, and the respect needed for both. Which by the way, I found sorely lacking with some of the pre-teens at the zoo who were yelling, shouting, kicking, and being a general nuisance. A reminder to parents, what you allow your children to do and how to act now, is how they will act as adults. Discipline is the most kind and wonderful thing you can teach your children.
Anyway, the Zoo itself has grown considerably in the last 15 years or so. A new safari, larger exhibits, more wildlife (even a giraffe now!), and beautiful scenery. One of my favorite improvements is dividing several of the sections geographically/culturally, and accompanying those sections with culturally appropriate music. I’ve always been a fan of tribal and cultural/world music, so to have that added ambiance while visiting different sections such as the Latin American section, the Australian section, etc., really set me in the right mood for the experience.
A couple minor recommended updates (and some that were more of an annoyance than I think they realize):
- I love that they take credit card at the gate. However they do not take credit card at the food huts. I think they are missing out on a lot of potential income here. If you can have a portable credit card device in the front gate box, you can have one in the two safari eateries. I was more than willing to (overpay) for food, we were hungry. But you only accepted cash, so you missed out on our funds.
- One of the eateries further into the park was closed, an inconvenience, but once we got further in we got more hungry. Another missed potential.
- Water is $2 a bottle, which is an outrageous price. I expect resorts to be overpriced, but that’s a little much. I would suggest maybe some water fountains for those that might get thirsty or overheated while visiting, but I suspect that might be asking too much 🙂
- Incidentally, if you have to buy water, do it at the vending machine near the Sunbears. You don’t have to pay tax. If you bought at the eatery, you’d have to pay tax, which also bugged me. Or just save money all together and bring your own, which we will certainly do next time.
- Not enough trashcans. I think I saw 2 in the entire park, and I’m not sure they had any recycling vestibules.
- Speaking of Sunbears, please give them some water in that pool. The last time I was here there was a grizzly in this cage, and he had water to cool off in. The sunbears looked absolutely miserable in the muggy heat, and their pool was entirely empty.
Overall it was a pleasurable and recommended experience. This is our own little local treasure in rural Thurmont that we don’t have to fight city traffic or a lengthy drive to get to, and is surely a wonderful outing for your family. Here are some photos I took of our excursion 🙂