A weeklong Earth Day celebration and overnight stays are among the attractions at Roger Williams Park Zoo this spring.
Diane Nahabedian, director of marketing and public relations at Roger Williams Park Zoo, says the zoo is open year-round, but that families are more likely to visit when the weather warms up. She says the goal is to give visitors a fun learning experience and understand how their admission ticket helps support the zoo’s conservation efforts.
“There’s so much to do,” says Nahabedian. “We have some exotic animals that you’re not going to see anywhere else. When people think of the zoo, they don’t realize how much education work and how much conservation work is going on behind the scenes.”
One of the biggest spring events is the Party for the Planet celebration, which runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 17-21. This event, which recognizes Earth Day, coincides with spring vacation for schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. All programs are included with the price of admission.
Each day has a specific theme for environmental education. Monday focuses on local foods, including farmers and vendors from Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut. Tuesday’s programs share information on the conservation efforts of Roger Williams Park Zoo, including collaborations to restore populations of New England’s timber rattlesnake and overseas partnerships to assist animals like the red panda and snow leopard. Visitors will learn why these populations are endangered and what they can do to help.
The week continues with Wednesday’s theme of outdoor fun such as biking, camping, and hiking. Thursday features a series of art activities, and Party for the Planet closes on Friday with a day of games, activities, and music.
“The goal is to present all of this information in a fun way,” says Nahabedian. “You’re participating in all these activities, and you’re having fun at the same time.”
Keepers will be present each day with a chance for visitors to meet some of the zoo’s animal ambassadors, including hedgehogs, armadillos, a red-tailed hawk, porcupines, and a skunk. Don’t worry, its scent gland has been removed.
There are several opportunities to see the zoo outside its normal hours of operation. Rise and Shine on the Farm takes place on June 10, starting at 9 a.m. Visitors come in before the zoo opens for the day to help feed the animals at the Alex and Ani Farmyard, which include sheep, goats, and alpacas.
A program for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and their families takes place on May 20. Children attending the Scout Safari Night will enjoy activities such as touring the zoo’s veterinary hospital, attending keeper talks, learning about worm composting, and checking out the night sky with astronomers from the Ladd Observatory. The program also includes an opportunity for a “Snore and Roar” overnight stay.
Family overnight programs, open to children over the age of 6, are scheduled for July 22 and 29. The evening starts with pizza and ice cream before keepers lead a series of hands-on activities and animal encounters. Participants then explore the zoo by flashlight, enjoy popcorn and a movie, and wake up to breakfast and a morning tour.
The July 22 evening focuses on animal behavior and care. The July 29 program is on nocturnal animals.
Throughout the year, visitors can attend keeper talks at 11:30 a.m. The front entrance includes information on what kind of animal will be featured.
From Memorial Day on, public animal feedings are scheduled twice a day. For a modest fee, visitors can help feed animals such as giraffes and harbor seals.
Summer camps, open to children ages 4 to 13, take place during school vacation weeks. Each camp includes a number of activities as well as animal encounters. Roger Williams Park Zoo also schedules day camps during the summer.
New to the zoo this year is the Explore & Soar area, which includes camel rides. Visitors can see this section from the back of a train or from a zip ride, which is akin to a ski lift with a rapid descent.
Nahabedian says Roger Williams Park Zoo is also planning to introduce several new animals this year. Four alligators, a Komodo dragon, Ankole-Watusi cattle, and kunekune pigs will arrive in the spring.
“It’s a really nice way for everybody to learn something new,” Nahabedian says of the zoo’s programs. “I think that’s what makes a day—or many days—at the zoo so much fun.”
Roger Williams Park Zoo is located at 1000 Elmwood Ave. in Providence. For more information, visit rwpzoo.org.