Today we decided to take Willow to Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo here in Ottawa, Ontario. I had heard a lot about their venue before choosing to go but what tipped the scale for us is that I saw a Groupon offer not long ago for 2-for-1 admission. Never one to pass up on a deal, I decided to purchase the Groupon and Steve and I chose a weekend to go.
We drove out there this morning, coming from Kanata, and it took quite awhile. I would say it took us at least 40-45 minutes with traffic. Luckily, we had our iPad in the car so that amused Willow after she started getting bored. She is usually good for about twenty minutes before the boredom (read: meltdown) sets in. The zoo opens at 10am and we left the house at 10:30am but didn’t get there closer to 11:30am (we did have to make one stop first though). Needless to say, plan to leave your house early to get there early, especially if your little one gets cranky around nap time like ours does.
We arrived at Little Ray’s and went inside. In the first room is the gift shop, a display cage with a few teeny tiny monkeys (I didn’t jot down the actual species but they were SO cute!) and the cash counter. Tickets are $12.50 per person and children under 2 are admitted for free. There is also a family of four discount at $48 for the entire family.
Once you pay your admission, you are told about the special exhibits (when we went it was the Venom exhibit) and about the handling show and the feeding show. You walk to your left and enter into the zoo.
In the first room past the counter area, there are a series of glass cases with descriptions around them about what is in the cage and some details about each animal/reptile/etc. In the cases were spiders, tiny alligators, snakes, scorpions, lizards, turtles, etc. Each of the reptiles were visible and you didn’t stand in front of the case wondering where the thing was. You could see most everything that was there, which was great.
Also in the main building is a demonstration room where, when we went, they were just starting a handling demonstration. In this demo, they give the visiting children the opportunity to see and touch the reptiles. We brought Willow in here but she is the type of kid who (a) likes to be loud and (b) does not like sitting still so within minutes, we recognized that this may not be the place for Willow. She wasn’t being out of control or crazy, she was just being a toddler and yelling, “WOW!” really loudly.
To make matters worse, we actually were used as the example of the type of child that should not be present during the show. For real. The lady doing the demonstration actually said, “This little girl is what we don’t want during our show” and she went on to explain that loud noises and fast movement can scare the critters. Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally get it but at the same time, I think that people should be warned prior to coming and purchasing tickets that 2 is not the ideal age for Little Ray’s Reptiles. Needless to say, we missed that show completely as we were a bit embarrassed about being singled out in front of a room full of people.
After we left the demo room, we decided to walk through the rest of the zoo and head outside. Outside, there is a boardwalk featuring a few different pens that contained a hawk, an owl, some turtles, their big crocodiles and another kind of bird (I forget the species at the moment). The boardwalk is wheelchair accessible (and stroller-friendly!), which is a huge plus. At the bottom of the boardwalk is a play structure and a picnic area. Willow did like swinging on the swings!
I really wanted to see one of the feeding shows but the handling show was still on and we were told there was a fifteen minute break in between the two shows and we didn’t have enough to do/look at to really stick around. So, we left without seeing the feeding show. Given that we were also not able to see the handling show, we were there for 20-30 minutes max.
All in all, I think that the price of admission is way too high for what you get. We were inside for maybe thirty minutes, which is really all you need to peek into the cages. Now, if you spent time reading everything on the displays and watching the feedings and staying for the handling course, I could see how you might spend the 1.5-2 hours that the website recommends but we did not.
The zoo is, in all honesty, very underwhelming. I wouldn’t drive that far out again or pay the full price on admission as it doesn’t really offer a lot that the traveling shows do not. Instead, look for one of their traveling shows (they are often around the Ottawa Valley!) as they offer pretty much the exact same thing and the same exhibits.
I think if they added a bit more interaction and engagement, including opportunities for younger children, it would be a much more fulfilling venue that would really keep people coming back for more. At this point, I probably won’t be making a return to Little Ray’s until Willow is at least four or five years old.