WHO: Mom Reporter Samantha and daughter Sadie
WHAT: Tiger Crossroads & More
WHERE: Nashville Zoo (3777 Nolensville Road, Nashville)
WHEN: Daily 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
TICKETS: Mon - Thu: $17 adults, $12 ages 2 - 12; Fri & Sun $18 adults, $13 kids; Sat $19 adults, $14 kids
INFO: 615-833-1534 | nashvillezoo.org

 

When you think of Nashville's 'wild' growth, you probably think of the jungle of houses popping up, condos soaring and restaurants sprouting up. But the REAL wild growth is happening at our own Nashville Zoo. Like our city, the Nashville Zoo is constantly expanding and evolving. Last March saw the opening of Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear.

This month brings even more excitement with the arrival of the zoo's long-awaited new exhibit, Tiger Crossroads. Now open, this newly renovated feature highlights 4-year-old Sumatran tigers. Offering an indoor viewing area for zoo visitors, spectators can catch an up-close view of the tigers and see zookeepers interacting with these majestic cats. My toddler loved the outdoor bridge viewing area, where she got to observe the tigers and be temporarily immersed in their native environment. From the moment you step into the tiger exhibit, you and your little ones enter a new and interactive world with dazzling sights and hands-on learning tools. My daughter and I visited on opening day for the the tigers, and they definitely had some first-day jitters since this was a brand new environment for them, so we were told they were a little more shy than usual. However, we did see one female lounging in the shade, and she was positively paw-fect!

2-year-old Sadie studies the giant info panel at the Nashville Zoo's new "Tiger Crossroads" exhibit.

After a roaring good time viewing the tigers, we followed the trails of the zoo paths and saw a plethora of animals across the zoo's many acres. We encountered kangaroos, spider monkeys, rhinos and Juliana pigs, the latter of which are among the newest members to the zoo's Critter Encounters.

The changes at the zoo don't stop with the new exhibits. Beginning next month, the zoo will launch an 'Animal Ambassador' program, in which zookeepers will bring animals out of their enclosures for walks among the visiting public. Every day will feature a different animal based on the animal's mood and health. Insider tip: if the animals are brought out to walk among guests, it will likely be in early morning times. Animal Ambassadors can include anything from a skunk to an aardvark named Winsol. Winsol is currently being leashed-trained as he prepares to meet his adoring public in the  near future.

Sadie looks into the tiger habitat.

As if tigers, pigs and leash-trained aardvarks aren't enough, the zoo has added another must-stop destination for guests. The newly-opened HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center is giving guests a bird's eye view of animal care at the zoo. With an observation deck that seats 200, you can now witness behind-the-scenes animal care. Docents, keepers and veterinary technicians intermix with zoo guests on the deck to answer questions and explain the procedures that are happening right in front of you. Sadie, my 2-year-old animal lover, loved watching animals "go to the doctor" just like her. On the day of our visit, we got to see 2-day-old clouded leopards. If your child is a future Doc McStuffins, I highly recommend a visit to the Veterinary Center.

What a day!  Any place that welcomes toddlers, tigers and bears is this mom's kind of place. With so much to do and see you, your little ones can go wild right in the middle of Nashville!