The first really rainy day we had this summer made it clear that too many items on the Summer of Awesome list relied on nice weather. It’s summer! We want to be outside! But sadly, not every day can be an outdoor fun day.
We used a rainy afternoon full of thunderstorms to check out Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, a small shelter here in Ottawa for reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids of all sizes and shapes. They also have several birds of prey at the zoo that they’ve saved from various bad situations, and a couple of mammals have snuck in, too. It’s mostly small animals in small spaces, but as a result, you can get up close and personal with many of the creatures. IF YOU DARE.
The best thing about Ray’s is that it is a very hands-on kind of place. At least once an hour (but usually more often than that), they’ll do a little show right in the middle of the zoo. They’ll get out three or four animals, one at a time, tell you all about them and then let eager and brave kids in the audience hold them or pet them. Cool.
They also do feeding shows quite often, where they’ll bring out a lizard or a chameleon or giant tree frog or something and feed it some worms, which trust me, KILLS with the six-year-old boy crowd. They’ll also try to feed a snake a dead rat, which can lead to some circle-of-life style questions if your kids are very young and haven’t been to Ray’s before. It’s not very graphic and super neat to watch, but be prepared for a few inquiries.
Here’s a terrible blurry shot of the alligator feedings, which also happen several times a day. They make sure the alligators get some exercise by making them jump out of the water for their food. It’s pretty spectacular. And not as blurry in real life.
If it’s not too rainy out, you might also catch one of their birds of prey shows. They’ll bring out a hawk or owl and have them retrieve food from various locations around the woodsy area out back, and it’s way cool. Trust me.
Ray’s isn’t a huge place, but that’s great if you have small kids. Not a lot of walking and pretty big bang for your buck. It’s not really enough for a full day, but perfect for a rainy afternoon or maybe filling up the rest of the day after swimming lessons. We had a year-long pass last year, and we went at least six or seven times, and the kids never got tired of it. It’s the shows that really sell the place – it’s so much more interactive than other zoos.
And as a bonus, their marmosets – kind of a tiny monkey – just had a baby two weeks ago. And baby marmosets getting piggy back rides from their mommies are ADORABLE.
Some tips for visiting Ray’s:
- It’s pretty far down Bank Street – it’s about a half hour drive from pretty much everywhere. Make sure you check Google maps beforehand and leave plenty of time to get there.
- Speaking of getting there, Ray’s has like, the SMALLEST parking lot ever. You can park along Bank Street but it’s a very busy road with fast cars and not an entirely comfortable solution for families with small kids. So carpool if at all possible.
- The cost is $38 for a family of four, so the annual pass at $105 is a good deal if you think you’ll go at least three times. Plus, the pass gets you a discount on their famous birthday parties, which are really well done and are a great solution if you planned an outdoor party and then it decides to unexpectedly rain all weekend, I’m JUST SAYING.
- There’s no snack bar or snack area at Ray’s, so plan your trip between meals if at all possible. There is a birthday party room you can use to grab a quick bite and a juice box if you packed a bit of a picnic.
Since we’ve been to Ray’s about a hundred times, I’m going to give them a Summer Of Awesome Should Do. But if you have curious preschoolers, I do highly recommend it.
Lynn is mom to three tombliboos and blogs over at Turtlehead.