| ||JaxFlaGardener ||On May 29, 2007, JaxFlaGardener from Jacksonville, FL wrote:
This is the premiere location in Northeast Florida to view a large collection of plants and trees of many varieties. The national award winning gardens are themed to the native locale of the animals that are on display in each area -- a habitat integration that is probably unique for zoos in the United States.
You should plan on spending several hours if you wish to view the entire collection of plants and animals. The gardens include the linear garden of the Main Path "River of Color" featuring annuals that are replaced several times throughout the year so as to be appropriate to the season. There are also "pocket gardens" for the animal exhibits: "Savanna Blooms," featuring African plants and life-sized bronze elephant sculptures in the area of the giraffe overlook, "Range of the Jaguar," with a beautiful display of South American plants surrounding a mock up of a Mayan ruin inhabited by Jaguars, and "Wild Florida" which provides a walk through native Florida habitat while viewing alligators, Florida panthers, Black Bears, and other fauna.
"Play Park" allows children to run through a splash ground (remember to bring along swimming suits!), climb into tree houses, and swing on ropes to imitate squirrel monkeys on exhibit adjacent to the rope swings. The native habitat of "Wild Florida" is continued in this garden in order to simulate a romp in the woods. Interactive exhibits in the zoo allow visitors to feed the giraffes and lorikeets.
Additionally, two large aviaries provide plantings for bird habitats.
More gardens are planned for the near future, so there will always be something new to see at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
Personal guided tours of the gardens by horticulture staff and Master Gardeners are available by advance reservation.
Price for admission is $11 for adults. Train rides and carousel rides are available for an additional nominal charge. Two restaurants are available within the zoo and gardens with food at remarkably low prices for a theme park -- about what you would expect to pay at any fast food establishment -- or you can bring along a meal and picnic in the area provided.
Current construction on I-95 requires a route to the zoo and gardens that may be different from what online map services might provide. The best current route is probably to exit at Dunn Avenue off I-95, then go south on Main Street to Zoo Parkway.
This is a "must see" recommendation for anyone visiting or living in Jacksonville and would make a nice stopover visit for those going to or returning from Disney World or other south Florida attractions.