Location: Buffalo, New York
Highlights: Giant Anteater, Sea Lions, Tamandua (and the entire indoor rainforest house with multiple levels!)
Children Friendly (8): Being what I would consider a medium sized zoo, little legs will be able to handle walking throughout it – especially since there are no hills to climb! There is one small jungle gym area, a dinosaur fossil digging pit, and a barn/petting zoo type section for younger ones to explore. All of these features are great but I feel during the busy season these areas will crowd quickly.
Animal Diversity (8): They have a great variety, including a couple different species I have not seen at any other zoo. They have an excellent reptile/amphibian house and showcase a number of the big ticket animals (cats, elephants, gorillas, etc). Their size is the only hindering factor in this category.
Animal Viewing (9): Being the third oldest zoo in the states, it does have that feeling of the older way of showcasing the animals. This means that many of the exhibits can be seen from a variety of angles and the animals do not have many hiding spots. A couple animals were off exhibit. Note: I did not deduct points for the lack of bears (the bear exhibits are basically the focal point of the zoo) since they posted explanations, those being that they are doing a much needed overhaul on the exhibits and therefore have not been replacing bears after loans have expired or deaths occurred (aka there are no bears to display!).
Animals Happiness (4): The factors that make viewing and photography so high come at a cost to animal happiness I feel. Thankfully the bear exhibits are being redone because they are basically concrete pits. Besides a select few exhibits, most were not very well adapted to the species they contained. I don’t recall seeing any enrichment toys or activities for the animals and it was evident in pacing and rocking observed at quite a few exhibits. Being a zoo in the middle of a city also means space is limited for many of the species.
Photography (9): Most exhibits allowed for great photography. A couple exhibits with glass were pretty badly scratched, most notably the hyena exhibit. As well, the indoor elephant house is badly planned having to shoot through glass with horrible glare and finger prints as soon as the park opens.
Layout/Map (6): There was no real theme with the layout (ex. Habitat, continent, group), which made walking through the zoo seem like a mismatch every time you turned the corner. It was also a very open zoo in the sense that there are not paths to follow that take you by every (or most) exhibits. I feel this leads to a high probability of accidentally missing animals and confusion on where you’re located and what you’ve seen. The map itself is fairly well done, showing where most animals are located.
Hours (10): Open at the same time every day year round is fantastic; as well they have generous closing times. Extended hours during the summer, especially on Fridays are great.
Price (10): Great affordable prices with discount rates for children, students, and seniors. The memberships are also a great deal which include discounts at a lot of other zoos!
Food (6): Not the greatest food – price was okay but the quality was mediocre. A decent selection, basically what you would expect (burgers, fries, wraps). During the summer it also appears that ice cream and another food cart are also offered.
Website (7): Fairly well done, provides quite a bit of information about events and the animals. Some areas are slightly confusing to navigate and I don’t feel the animal lists are particularly well done.
Gift Shop (7): A decent size, it carries a good selection of merchandise that would make great souvenirs. Most notably they have paintings done by the elephants as well as wall calendars of the zoo itself.
Quiet Areas (6): Not very many in the park – during the summer when I’m sure it can be quite busy I feel visitors would be hard pressed to find a spot to take a break; even outdoor seating at the restaurant was limited.
Safety/Cleanliness (6): Cleanliness wise I found this zoo quite clean, any area that seemed rundown or not looking quite as polished I chalk up to age. I do not necessarily feel this zoo is unsafe, it is just a zoo built a long time ago with another mindset. Many exhibits feel like they were created to thrill the visitor with how close they are and how open the area is – for the tiger and lion exhibits I actually found myself calculating how wide and tall the gap was between where I was standing and where they would have been (I’m still not convinced they couldn’t make the jump/climb if they really wanted to). I’m sure much has been taken into account in the building of the exhibits…but if I had children I’d be wary of them being too close to the railings at a number of these with the ease of which they could climb over.
Extras (7): According to their website it does seem as quite a number of events and promotions are held at the zoo with small costs involved. Throughout the zoo there key boxes which are a great idea for children.
Overall (7.4): Had some interesting animals I haven’t seen elsewhere, with great viewing at all exhibits. I was thoroughly impressed with their integration of multiple species together (ex. One exhibit had tamandua, monkeys, and toucans living in the same exhibit). Location is great to walk to from nearby neighbourhoods. I’d definitely like to visit again in a couple years once they’ve moved forward in their action plan which looks to correct a number of the issues I mentioned throughout this review!