I usually update my blog on the weekends, but we are going to Italy for the Labor Day holiday and I may be indisposed. Aside from that, my husband is on his way back to Germany today and I’m trying to keep busy. With that in mind, I thought I’d write a post for those looking for local places to visit animals. A few of my suggestions may be well-known or even obvious, but I hope to surprise a few people with something unexpected. I don’t have children, but I think it’s safe to say that all of these places are kid friendly.
I’m going to list these in no particular order. We visited each place at least once and you can search the blog for my reviews. Here goes…
Wilhelma Zoological and Botanical Park- Stuttgart
I might as well start with the obvious, Wilhelma Zoo, which is located in the Bad Canstatt area of Stuttgart. I went there for the second time a couple of weeks ago and had a pretty good time visiting the animals. Some people seem to think this zoo is outdated and poorly maintained. Although I know there are better zoos out there, I had a good time visiting the one in Stuttgart. It does get crowded and, at 16 euros per adult, is probably the most expensive choice on my list. But I have to include it because obviously, you’d go to a zoo to see animals, right? And this zoo includes plants, an aquarium, a petting area, and access to a public park, as well as a pretty cool insect exhibit. You can spend a few hours at the zoo and still not see it all. It does get crowded on nice days, but I think it’s worth a visit, if only to make you appreciate some of the other choices. Public transportation is a snap, since there’s a station right outside the main gate. Also, the sea lions are fun to watch!
I think s/he stole the show!
Tierpark Nymphaea– Esslingen
Germany has what they call “Tierparks” (animal parks). They’re basically like small zoos that are more kid focused. So far, we’ve visited two of them and at both parks, it was easy to pet and feed some of the animals. We visited Tierpark Nymphaea a couple of weeks ago, mainly because I’d repeatedly heard it was a nice place to take kids. Although the animals at the park were not particularly exotic, it was a lot of fun to feed and pet the donkeys and goats. And you can also feed the ducks and deer and look at all of the other animals who live at the park. Tierpark Nymphaea offers a nice, stroller friendly trail around a large, attractive lake and a number of interesting exhibits. Afterwards, your kids can play while you enjoy a beer in the Biergarten.
A very persistent goat begs for popcorn.
Der Kleine Tierpark Göppingen- Göppingen
Speaking of Tierparks, we visited one last year in the town of Göppingen, a city east of Stuttgart, kind of on the way to Ulm. To be honest, I’m not sure where I first heard about this park. I do have a German friend from Göppingen, but although she is an animal lover, she’s not a mom and she currently lives in North Carolina. This park, compared to Tierpark Nymphaea, is a bit smaller. However, there is a wider variety of animals at this park, including camels and monkeys. I’m not sure I’d necessarily advise a road trip there unless you’re already in the neighborhood, but I did enjoy meeting their friendly camels and goats, who are pros at scoring food.
What, me worry?
Of all of the animal friendly places I’m going to list today, Wildpark Pforzheim is probably my favorite. This is a huge park in the Black Forest where you only pay to park and buy some food. Then, you and your little ones can scurry around the park mingling with deer, elk, Highland cows, mini horses, owls, donkeys, and many other friendly animals looking for a handout. Seriously… this is a great park. Not only is there a huge array of animals to be visited, there’s also a ropes course and playground equipment. You could easily spend several hours here, enjoying the many exhibits and burning energy. Highly recommended!
A wild cat on the prowl! This is one of the animals you aren’t allowed to feed!
Alternativer Wolf und Bärenpark Schwarzwald- Bad Rippoldsau-Sheppach
This small park in the Black Forest hamlet of Bad Rippoldsau-Sheppach is home to bears, wolves, and lynxes. Many of the animals at this sanctuary were once circus performers or zoo animals. This isn’t really like a Tierpark or a zoo; it’s really more of a place where these animals can live out their lives in peace. In 1996, I visited Bulgaria and, in those days, many Roma people were making money with “dancing bears”. These bears had been trained to “dance” via cruel methods involving pain and heat. Since I had actually witnessed cruelty toward bears in Bulgaria, I was very glad to see that the animals at this park in Germany have such a nice home out in the forest. Although this is a small park and doesn’t take long to visit, it can be combined with a number of other activities in the area.
One of the more social wolves at the park.
If you prefer feeding monkeys, you can venture to Monkey Hill, a really cool park near Lake Constance, maybe 90 minutes or so south of Stuttgart. Those who have been to Monkey Mountain in Kintzheim, France, may already be familiar with the concept. That’s because both parks, as well as another one in France and one in Great Britain, are owned by the same people. At this park, you walk around a loop and offer popcorn to docile monkeys who gently take it from you. Although you aren’t allowed to pet the monkeys, it is fun to feed them. Some will practically mug for the camera as they take popcorn from you. This is probably my second favorite animal activity on the list.
Sweet family portrait… not of my family, mind you.
And finally, here’s a place where you can feed fish… and they can feed you. This fish farm near Pforzheim appears to be a very kid friendly activity. You or your kids can feed the fish, then have a nice lunch of fresh or smoked trout. I’ll leave it up to parents to decide if they want to tell their children what will happen to the fish they feed. Still, it’s a lot of fun and, if you like fish, you can get some very fresh trout here.
Fish waiting to be fed and harvested.
I know I’m probably leaving off some places, but these are the places I have been to and can evaluate based on personal experience. I figure this list will give people a good start for the time being. Frankly, for my money, the Wildpark Pforzheim is the best of the lot, offering the most fun for the euro. I hope you’ll visit and let me know if you agree!