Thursday had the best weather forecast so we went to the zoo, saving the indoor stuff for the days it was supposed to rain. We took public transit during our stay in the city...it was a two hour trip to the zoo via bus, subway, then bus...it's a interesting way to see the parts of the city people live in.
Observations from the journey....Toronto has to be the most multicultural place I've ever been...also the cleanest...almost all the houses are made of brick...most of the city smells, faintly and pleasantly, of ethnic food...the bus drivers, as in most big cities, are the friendliest ambassadors.
I highly recommend sightseeing in the off-season. Going to the zoo in the middle of the week, in October, when it was slightly chilly, meant we almost had the place to ourselves...the down side of that meant that the majority of the gift shops and food courts were closed, as was the camel ride, the little train, etc...but it was worth the trade-off.
Daisy was excited to see the pandas, so we started there...walking right past the lengthy, empty, sections of fences designed to queue a waiting crowd....
I wasn't impressed...I had expected the panda's habitat to be, I don't know...green, I guess.
All in all I was disappointed. The zoo feels antiquated, the animals were dirty and bored. The enclosures seem either too big or too small, and in the opposite way than you'd expect...the polar bears seem to use one corner of a massive five acre habitat, while the big cats (except the lions) paced in laps around small pens. It was depressing.
The layout is poorly designed, with a lot of backtracking, dead-ends and wrong turns....the signage is vague. The zoo is spread out, too spread out, over 710 acres. Some pathways doubled as service drives, so we kept having to move out of the way of trucks...but some service drives didn't double as pathways and it was hard to tell the difference sometimes. The pavilions (indoor displays) are hot, poorly ventilated, stinky mazes...there is no single path through them that leads from an entrance to an exit.
The section of zoo labeled Canadian Domain is posted with two warnings at the top of the trail, one because it's such a steep grade (strollers and wheelchairs not recommended) and the other that it's an hour trek...we walked down to the end...saw moose, bison, a grizzly bear, a putrid smelling lynx, a couple of racoons, and a filthy waterfowl pond...then hiked, and I mean HIKED, back up...no benches or water fountains along the way....I do crossfit and I thought it was excessive.
Some areas have a lot of places to stop and rest, other areas have none. The toilets are dark, wet and dirty....we were mobbed by a muster of raggedy peacocks at the restaurant and lost some of our mediocre pizza to them grabbing it off the table then squabbling violently over it.
We got there when the zoo opened in the morning; it took all day to walk through it. Around 3:00 or so all the animals retreated to the back corner of their enclosures waiting to be fed, while some, the gorillas for example, were removed from public display for feeding.
My recommendation? If you go to Toronto, skip the (really expensive) zoo. If you want to visit a really nice (and free!) zoo go to St. Louis, Missouri.
We stopped downtown on the way back fom the zoo, to give the CN Tower another try. It was even foggier than the day before, we couldn't even see the top of the tower from the ground. None of us were terribly excited about visiting the tower, we were going because it was included in the city passes we bought...so we went up anyway. It was kind of neat standing among the clouds.
After we got a few souveniers in the gift shop we had dinner at a great Greek restaurant then turned in early, moaning about our tired feet.