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Family Fun in Illinois: Henson Robinson Zoo

Three years ago during Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I took our daughter to Springfield, Illinois. Our first stop of the rainy afternoon was the Illinois State Museum. We had planned to take her to the Henson Robinson Zoo, but the weather was just too icky when we arrived in the city. Fortunately, when we left the museum, the rain had stopped and the weather had cleared up a bit. Discovering that the zoo was open until the early evening, we decided to make a second stop that Saturday. And boy were we glad that we decided to check out the Henson Robinson Zoo too.

Henson C. Robinson Children's Zoo Plaque in the Henson C. Robinson Children's Zoo

The Henson Robinson Zoo is home to over 90 species of native and exotic animals native to Australia, Africa, Asia, and North and South America. As a children’s zoo, Henson Robinson Zoo houses its animals in naturalistic exhibits that are highly accessible to even the smallest child. I particularly liked the use of space at the zoo. In the areas between the cages, other animals made their homes in more open enclosures. Although fairly small in size, the zoo is home to a lot of animals because of the clever use of space. Plus, with all the enclosures right next to the walkways, my daughter could see all the animals clearly and easily.

With our Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) membership that we purchased some weeks ago for the Miller Park Zoo, we got into the Henson Robinson Zoo for free. To show our support, I did donate a few dollars. We also made a purchase in the gift shop. My daughter got a cute little shirt with Henson Robinson Zoo written on the front.

Peacock at the Henson Robinson Zoo 1 Peacock at the Henson Robinson Zoo 2

Magpie Goose at the Henson Robinson Zoo Owls at the Henson Robinson Zoo

Wallabies at the Henson Robinson Zoo Wallaby at the Henson Robinson Zoo

Big Cat at the Henson Robinson Zoo Muntjac at the Henson Robinson Zoo

As we walked around the zoo, a few of the animals really caught our attention. First, the Henson Robinson Zoo is home to quite a lot of owls. I particularly loved seeing the owls up close and personal. My daughter was fascinated by the peacocks that roamed free around the zoo. She even got to see one from just a few feet away and another that had his tail feathers open for show. Peacocks are so beautiful!

My daughter also really loved checking out the farm animals. One of the two Shetland ponies was as interested in her as she was interested in him. He tried his best to get to her through his fence! She also really loved the goats. She laughed and smiled as the goats stuck their heads through the fence to eat the grass off her shoes. She also really loved helping me feed the goats some of the goat food that I bought. A few months ago my daughter had been afraid of the goats at the Miller Park Zoo. This time, however, she even petted some of the goats on the head from her stroller!

Asiatic Black Bear at the Henson Robinson Zoo 1 Asiatic Black Bear at the Henson Robinson Zoo 2

Cows at the Henson Robinson Zoo Horse at the Henson Robinson Zoo

Barn Owl at the Henson Robinson Zoo Chickens at the Henson Robinson Zoo

Red Wolf at the Henson Robinson Zoo Geese at the Henson Robinson Zoo

Other animals that I really liked included the African painted dogs, the cougars, and the bobcats. The two African painted dogs were so beautiful. Both also kept following a zookeeper around in the hopes of some food. Although wild animals, the African painted dogs were definitely dogs. Both acted just like my two dogs when begging for food. The cougars were also amazing to see. I could also definitely see that my cat is related to the huge big cats. When we approached the enclosure, one of the cougars hissed at us just like our cat, Princess, does when angered. The bobcats, too, resembled our cat amazingly. My daughter loved watching the bobcats chase each other around the cage and into the tree in the middle of the enclosure. I could have watched the bobcats all day!

Cougar at the Henson Robinson Zoo 1 Cougar at the Henson Robinson Zoo 2

Cougar at the Henson Robinson Zoo 3 Cougar at the Henson Robinson Zoo 4

Cougar at the Henson Robinson Zoo 5 Bobcat at the Henson Robinson Zoo

River Otter at the Henson Robinson Zoo 1 River Otter at the Henson Robinson Zoo 2

Finally, our last stop at the zoo was the river otter. My daughter is absolutely wild about river otters. And I must say that the river otter at the Henson Robinson Zoo was quite a ham. As soon as he saw us approach, he began showing off. He dove into his pool and swam around. Then he would come up and look at us through the glass on the sides of his home. Then he would swim around again. If we stopped watching, he would come back up to the glass to get our attention. The river otter was quite the show off and made a perfect ending to a great afternoon at the zoo! If you are ever in the Springfield area of Illinois, I highly recommend spending a few hours at the Henson Robinson Zoo.

River Otter at the Henson Robinson Zoo 3 River Otter at the Henson Robinson Zoo 3

River Otter at the Henson Robinson Zoo 4 River Otter at the Henson Robinson Zoo 5

White Geese at the Henson Robinson Zoo African Wild Dogs at the Henson Robinson Zoo 1

African Wild Dog at the Henson Robinson Zoo African Wild Dogs at the Henson Robinson Zoo 2

For more information, visit the Henson Robinson Zoo website.

Image Credits

Henson C. Robinson Children’s Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Plaque in the Henson C. Robinson Children’s Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Peacock at the Henson Robinson Zoo 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Peacock at the Henson Robinson Zoo 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Magpie Goose at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Owls at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Wallabies at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Wallaby at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Big Cat at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Muntjac at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Asiatic Black Bear at the Henson Robinson Zoo 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Asiatic Black Bear at the Henson Robinson Zoo 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Cows at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Horse at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Barn Owl at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Chickens at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Red Wolf at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Geese at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Cougar at the Henson Robinson Zoo 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Cougar at the Henson Robinson Zoo 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Cougar at the Henson Robinson Zoo 3 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Cougar at the Henson Robinson Zoo 4 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Cougar at the Henson Robinson Zoo 5 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Bobcat at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
River Otter at the Henson Robinson Zoo 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
River Otter at the Henson Robinson Zoo 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
River Otter at the Henson Robinson Zoo 3 © 2013 Heather Johnson
River Otter at the Henson Robinson Zoo 4 © 2013 Heather Johnson
River Otter at the Henson Robinson Zoo 5 © 2013 Heather Johnson
White Geese at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
Crested Porcupine at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
African Wild Dogs at the Henson Robinson Zoo 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
African Wild Dog at the Henson Robinson Zoo © 2013 Heather Johnson
African Wild Dogs at the Henson Robinson Zoo 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson

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