Best Animal Exhibit: Kid-friendly eco-education

Valley Children's Zoo at Oakland Zoo

We know. You think “kiddie zoo,” you think “goat pen.” Or perhaps “sad-looking animals crammed into smelly cages.” Not so at the new Valley Children’s Zoo, which provides a bright, cheerful place to introduce young children to our animal friends. Not only is there plenty of room to run around and crawl on stuff, but even the critters seem to be enjoying this spacious, well-planned environment. There is a truly enormous lemur jungle gym, all the better to display their antics before delighted multitudes. There’s a bi-level river otter exhibit so you can watch them both swim and scramble about on land. Depending on the time of day, watch the surprisingly charming fruit bats swoop around within a fifty-foot-tall netted enclosure, or see them up close through glass as they hang upside down for a nap. It actually rains inside the big terrarium in the reptile house, so you can see the water-loving creatures come out to play. You also can get unbelievably close to some of the animals, like the tortoise, and, more nerve-shreddingly, the alligator. And yes, there are goats, too.

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