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Go Wild! - Planning Your Visit to The Maryland Zoo

Visiting The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

"The zoo is an amazing place to be." 

My son looked up with a big smile on his face and said those words during our visit to The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.  There is always something special about visiting a zoo.  I don't care if it's your first visit or your hundredth - new animals, a new angle, a special feeding - each visit can feel unique.  My family and I headed to The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore in the beginning of July.  It wasn't our first visit, but it was a great experience all around.  Let's take a look inside the zoo and see how some things may be different during your visit in 2020 thanks to coronavirus precautions.

What to Pack for Your Visit to The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore



If you're like me, I always pack a backpack for my kiddos whenever we ever travel regardless of how short or how long the day might be.  At the Maryland Zoo you are welcome to bring in your own food and drinks so we take advantage of that convenience to pack water and a snack.  I don't like to pack a big lunch and have to carry a cooler around so if we're visiting over a meal, I typically plan to grab food there though.  Don't forget to pack LOTS of water in the summer.  It gets hot out there as you're walking around all day.  We also bring sunscreen to reapply during our visit.  Lastly, you may want to consider bringing a stroller, even if your child doesn't alway use one anymore.  My youngest is 5 and can handle hikes and such without it, but The Maryland Zoo features a good bit of walking and some decent sized hills.  On a hot day, and particularly on this visit where he had a broken collarbone, the stroller was a lifesaver.


Our Favorite Animal Exhibits at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore



There's a lot to see and love at The Maryland Zoo, but below are our top 5 animal exhibits that you won't want to miss.  We spent roughly 3 hours at the zoo and had a chance to pretty much see everything that was open right now.  
  • Giraffes - The viewing for them is almost 360 as you walk the path on the African Journey so don't worry if they're not in a great spot for you when you first approach their area.  I bet you'll get a good look as you walk around!

  • Penguins - These were our FAVORITES!  They are so cute waddling around and there always seems to be zoo staff hanging around to answer questions so we got to know a lot about them.  They also do feedings twice a day where you can hear a more formal presentation from zoo staff.  Don't forget to go inside their exhibit where you can get some pretty cool underwater viewing!
  • Polar Bear - I think we were so happy to watch him playing because it was such a hot day and we were jealous of his swim time in his polar bear pool!  He looked so chill and like he was having such a great time.

  • Chimpanzee Forest - I've always enjoyed monkey exhibits at zoos, but this particular visit was even more special as their were two babies in the exhibit.  Watching them play was totally adorable.  And I really felt like I related to the parents who looked exhausted and like they were just trying to take a rest but the little ones kept pulling on their hands, arms, and feet.  Mom life, am I right???
  • Elephants - There is nothing quite as majestic as an elephant!  These guys are huge and they have a huge area to roam at the zoo meaning you have a number of places to view them.  One of our favorite things is to grab an ICEE at the Oasis and watch the elephants below!

Health and Safety at The Maryland Zoo during Coronavirus


Our summer fun plans look very different this summer due to coronavirus and many travel destinations are working hard to adjust their protocols to safely reopen.  As we are making choices about where to go and what to do, outside venues are really important to us which makes the zoo a perfect place to visit.  Here's a quick summary of some of the safety protocols in place at The Maryland Zoo.  For the most up-to-date information, please visit their website at http://www.marylandzoo.org



Staying in a hotel this summer? Check out what it's like to stay in a hotel during coronavirus.


  • Timed Entry - All guests, whether members or not, need to reserve a timed entry to the zoo.  Plan to arrive at your assigned time.  If you're early, they have a place outside of the main gates where you can wait while social distancing.  This system worked well.  Our entry time was 1:00 and we arrived at 12:59 so we were able to go right in.  It did what it was designed to do as there was no wait at the ticket booth to enter and crowds were light for a summer day.  All tickets also need to be either printed at home or displayed on your smartphone for easy, no contact scanning.
  • Masks - Masks are not required everywhere in the zoo.  When you are exploring outdoors and social distancing can be maintained, you don't have to wear a mask.  "Mask Zones" are clearly marked and include tight spaces, indoor areas, bathrooms, and places that a line form.  In those zones, all guests 9 and over are required to wear masks.  We opted to wear ours even at some of the outdoor exhibits that didn't require them if their were other families nearby and, even though it wasn't required, we opted to bring them for both of our children as did most families we saw.  To help with social distancing, the zoo has instituted a one-way traffic flow.  There were employees helping to point guests in the right direction and answer questions along the way.
  • Increased Cleaning / Sanitation - You'll be happy to know that zoo staff is EVERYWHERE cleaning.  I was really impressed by the friendliness and hard work of the whole staff during our visit.  High touch surfaces in particular were wiped down frequently.  There is also hand sanitizer throughout the entire zoo with easy-to-locate signs.  

  • Temporary Closures - There are some activities at the zoo that are not currently available including the carousel, train, climbing features, playground, certain programming, and some food locations.  While my kids asked about a few of these that they remembered from our previous visits, these closures didn't dampen our fun.  Not everything is cancelled though!  We were really excited to catch the penguin feeding which happens twice a day.  One of the biggest closures to note is that the shuttle is not running from the entrance to Zoo Central.  Getting to the zoo won't be a problem, but you will have a big hill to climb to the exit.  
Overall, throughout our visit we had a great time and felt safe exploring The Maryland Zoo.  I would definitely recommend heading outside, seeing some animals, and having fun with some furry friends!  

Thank you to The Maryland Zoo for hosting my visit so I could share these updates!


AfterShokz Aeropex Running Headphones Review

Aeropex AfterShokz Headphones

Do you ever feel like you get incredibly lucky from time to time?  Well, one night back in December, I was participating in a Twitter chat and at the end of the chat found out I had won a pair of AfterShokz Aeropex headphones.  I was so excited!  For years, I've heard about the quality and wearability of these popular headphones, but I hadn't had the chance to try them.  When they arrived, I had to celebrate with an unboxing. . .

What It's Like To Stay In A Hotel During Coronavirus

This past weekend we did something we hadn't done in months. . .stayed in a hotel.  As you know, my family loves to travel and we are always on the go having new adventures.  But coronavirus has sidelined us, as well as everyone else, from our "normal." So for Father's Day we decided that we were going to load up the bikes and head on a quick road trip up to Jim Thorpe, PA in the Pocono Mountains for some trail riding.  Along with that road trip, would be our first hotel stay in the era of coronavirus.  Long story short, travel fans can rejoice that while hotel stays are different thanks to COVID, they are still doable in my opinion.

Where did we stay?


Readers of my website will know that we are a Hilton family thanks to their great loyalty program and the amount of Hilton points we accumulate.  We used our points to stay at the Hampton Inn-Lehighton for two nights.  This hotel is just a few miles outside of downtown Jim Thorpe and provides a convenient location for cyclists and families that may want to check out the Lehigh Gorge Trail, part of the much larger D&L Trail.  The hotel staff could not have more friendly!  They were accommodating even before we arrived, talking us through some questions we had about the area and bike storage in the days leading up to our visit.  The room was a nice size to accommodate our family of four and there was easy access to the highway.

Hotel Cleanliness During Coronavirus



Top on everyone's list of concerns right now is keeping this clean and sanitized wherever you go, so traveling to a hotel can feel like a big decision.  You'll be happy to know that we were really pleased with the efforts of Hilton as a brand and this Hampton Inn location in particular.  When we arrived, the check-in area was blocked with sheeting so that germs could not pass back and forth.  Even with the barrier in place, employees wore masks and guests were required to wear masks in the lobby area.  The employee who checked us in was warm and welcoming.  She explained that with concerns about transmitting germs, they have currently opted guests out of daily housekeeping - that way once you enter your cleaned and sanitized room, no one but your family will be in there until you check out.  I really liked that option.  Now, if you're someone who isn't worried about having someone enter your room and you really like a "freshen up" each day - you could opt in to housekeeping, but you need to request it and alert the front desk.  If you have an extended stay and would just like fresh towels on different days, you can also call and request them from the front desk and they will be delivered outside your door in a sealed package.



Despite all the measures that were in place, we still brought our own Clorox wipes and wiped down high touch surfaces like the vanity area, dresser, nightstand, desk, etc. before be began unpacking and settling in.  I will also say that every time we were in the lobby, we saw employees wiping surfaces and cleaning.  It's easy to see that Hilton is taking the precautions seriously and we felt good about how clean everything was being kept.

Hotel Amenities During Coronavirus


Something worth noting as you decide whether or not to travel is that some of your typical hotel amenities may not be operating or may be different than what you're used to seeing.  In our case towards the end of June, the indoor pool, fitness center, and business center were all closed.  The commons area also featured socially distanced seating which means less seats available.  We went down to the lobby to eat delivery our first night and were the only ones there and both mornings we ate breakfast in our rooms so we never felt crowded or like seating was an issue during our stay.


One of the biggest changes worth noting is modified breakfast service.  Hotels that typically offer breakfast to guests may have some modifications in place.  Usually, Hampton Inn offers continental options and a daily hot option to guests on a buffet.  This trip, we found the experience to be different - which we expected and is completely understandable.  They had three types of cereal in individually wrapped bowls, a few types of pre-packaged muffins, one hot option individually wrapped in a warmer, and then fruit, yogurt, juices, and milk in a small refrigerator.  Coffee and hot tea were also available with coffee cups individually wrapped in plastic and stirrer / sweeteners also offered in one prepackaged set.  We anticipated that options may be limited so we took advantage of the fact that we were driving and brought some items with us - the kids' favorite cereals, protein bars, and protein shakes.  We grabbed drinks from the lobby each morning, but otherwise ate breakfast in our room.

While these experiences were in one hotel, I have a feeling that you could expect similar realities wherever you travel.  My best advice, call your specific hotel and ask questions ahead of your arrival so you know what to expect!  Happy Travels!


The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot - Recipes To Enjoy with the Book!

Hazelnut Pancakes Recipe from The Healthy Mouse


The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot is now available and trust me when I say this book is one that you'll enjoy with your kids!  

Missed my review of The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot?  Find it here!


But we all know reading is only part of the adventure.  I really enjoy doing activities with my kids that make the book come to life and create memories for both of us.  That's why I was really excited to see my friend Jessica from over at The Healthy Mouse created some Rockford T. Honeypot recipes.  Check them out!











Looking for more family fun? Click here to head to my preview of the book and download FREE coloring pages.


Which ones are you excited to try?  I think I see some Hazelnut Pancakes and Lemon Sorbet in our future!  If you give any of this recipes a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram and Twitter @dsnyrunrgrl so I can see your creations.




Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2 Coming to Disney+

Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2 - Image from Disney+

Frozen 2 swept box offices becoming the highest-grossing animated film of all time.  Not bad for a sequel that had big shoes to fill!  Now, fans of Arendelle can go behind the magic to see how the movie was made in the new Disney+ series, Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2.  Even as someone who had the chance to walk the red carpet at the Frozen 2 World Premiere in Hollywood and attend the press junket with the creative minds and stars of the film, I still can't wait to tune in!

What?!? You didn't know I walked the Frozen 2 red carpet?  Check out THAT experience here!


Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2 Episode Guide


Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2 - Image from Disney+

Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2 is comprised of six episodes that highlight the work of the team behind Frozen 2 in the year leading up to the world premiere of the movie.  I don't know about you, but I am always amazed when we have the chance to peek behind the curtain and see all of the work that goes into making a movie.  I give a big thumbs up to Disney+ for providing fans with a number of opportunities to view this kind of content!  And looking at the upcoming episodes, I personally can't wait for the second episode which talks about the creation of my favorite song from the movie. . .Lost in the Woods.

Want to learn more about the music behind Frozen 2?  


And those of you that like a good binge fest will be happy to know that unlike the behind-the-scenes look at creating The Mandalorian with Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, all six episodes of Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2 will be available to stream beginning June 26!  

Episode 1 - A Year To Premiere
Episode 2 - Back to the Drawing Board
Episode 3 - Journey to Ahtohallan
Episode 4 - Big Changes
Episode 5 - Race to the Finish
Episode 6 - The World Awaits

Want to refresh your memory on Frozen 2? Watch it on Disney+ and check out these "cool" coloring sheets and activities!

Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2 - Image from Disney+


About Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2 (From Disney+)



With the clock ticking and less than a year until the world premiere of Frozen 2, the filmmakers, artists, songwriters and cast open their doors to cameras for a six-part documentary series to reveal the hard work, heart, and collaboration it takes to create one of the most highly-anticipated films in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ near-century of moviemaking. For the first time, cameras were there to capture an eye-opening - and at times jaw-dropping - view of the challenges and the breakthroughs, the artistry, creativity and the complexity of creating the #1 animated feature of all time. 

The series follows director/writer/chief creative officer Jennifer Lee, director Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, actors Kristen Bell (“Anna”), Idina Menzel (“Elsa”), Josh Gad (“Olaf”), Jonathan Groff (“Kristoff”), Sterling K. Brown (“Lieutenant Mattias”), Evan Rachel Wood (“Iduna”) and the talented artists and technicians of Disney Animation as they race against time to finish the film, with both creative breakthroughs and frustrations along the way. Produced by Lincoln Square Productions and Walt Disney Animation Studios.