Every morning, I get those Internet coupons in my email (You know, the ones that offer half-off sushi and haircuts and things like that). One day earlier this month, I was surprised to get a coupon advertising half-off at a place called the Greater Vancouver Zoo.
Vancouver has a zoo? I had no idea. I chalked it up to the fact that I’m not a true born-and-raised Vancouverite. But when I asked some friends with deep Vancouver roots about it, they were just as surprised.
So I did a little homework on this hidden gem located way out in Aldergrove, about an hour’s drive east of downtown Vancouver along Highway 1. It was originally opened as the Vancouver Game Farm in 1970, on 120 acres purchased by a wealthy local businessman who had dreams of bringing in exotic species from around the world.
Over the years, the farm grew bit by bit. New enclosures were added for everything from grizzlies and wolves to camels and hippos. They opened up a miniature train, as well as a safari bus ride through the animal habitats. Then, after passing through several different owners, the facility finally changed its name to the Greater Vancouver Zoo in 1999.
So now on to the important question: What’s it like today? The zoo now features expansive themed habitats that recreate settings ranging from the African Savannah to the wilds of North America. More than 600 different animals live on site, including lions, tigers, hippos, grizzlies, spider monkeys, parrots and lemurs. They still have the narrated mini train that runs through the park, and you can opt to hop on the bus for the safari tour through the North American habitat. Just keep your fingers inside the vehicle at all times, as the bears and wolves are hungry.
If you time your visit right, you can also sit in on the 1 p.m. daily tiger feedings. Birds of prey demonstration, with falcons, hawks and owls, are also staged several times a day.
The Greater Vancouver Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through April 30. From May-September, it stays open until 7 p.m. Admission is $17.85 for adults; $16.05 for students; and $13.50 for kids and seniors.
So the mystery of the Greater Vancouver Zoo is solved at last. Is anyone a fan of the zoo? I’d love to hear about your experiences there.