My two sons and I attend a church camp in the area ever summer and last year (June 2010) we decided to take a trip to the zoo afterwards. We were very pleasantly surprised at the condition of the zoo and the amount of attractions. My boys (both under 10 at the time) loved the Discovery area and the playground next to it. They also loved walking through the water misters that were scattered about the park - a great idea for cooling off in the Mississippi summer heat. My only gripes with the original visit was bad neighborhood, and the lack of concessions and employees. The neighborhood looked pretty rough going in but once you get in the zoo area it isn't that bad. I oddly enough would have rather they charged me for parking and closed the gates behind me though. The central concession area was the only place open to get any types of refreshments, despite several areas that looked like small closed vendor stands. The employees were few and far between, which wasn't necessary a bad thing, but just kind of made the place look a little dead.
I was so impressed from our first visit, possibly from the low expectations going in, that I recommended it to several people and even bought tickets from an online discount site ahead of time for our visit the following year.
Our return visit this year was not nearly as pleasant. Same gripes as the year before, plus some major additional ones. The employees in general were ruder than the year before. The discovery center had a lot of "renovations" going on in the playground area. It basically looked like they gutted the place, roped it off and just left it that way. Several animals were no-shows including the elephants, which were moved (to Nashville I think), and the beavers, which were really fun to watch in their enclosure the year before. There was only one working water mister that we could find, making the temperature a lot more unbearable. The train conductor had pretty much locked himself inside his office and it was hard to even get his attention to purchase tickets. The train ride itself wasn't too bad, but it was a little sad to go around the pond that had some old run down exhibits that were no longer in use. The condition of the zoo was so bad that my boys used their allowance money and then asked for more money to put in the donation boxes at the animal exhibits so the zoo could "fix them up and not have to close".
The one good thing I had to say about this visit that was an improvement was that ONE very friendly zoo employee came up to us and asked us if we had any questions and/or needed any help. She also explained to us that they were working on a new exhibit that should be opening soon.
It's sad how far downhill it went in just one year. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it seems like the Zoo administrators are putting forth very little effort to improve the experience, with the exception of a few token renovations.
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