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Lifestyle Top 50 Zoos and Their Weirdest Animals Zoos

The “50 Best Zoos”

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  • September 24, 2018
Philadelphia Zoo RAVE Reviews

Where To Go To See The Weirdest Animals By RAVE Reviews: 

Philadelphia Zoo made the List

The “50 Best Zoos” are educational (and fun for all ages) and they foster a greater appreciation for all animals and the staff who care for them. Whether you’re a toddler or a senior citizen, you’ll learn key facts about a species and why we need to do our part to preserve natural habitats for all species that roam our earth. 

What criteria contributed to the ranking?

Text Courtesy of RAVE Reviews

Edited by Joan Mead-Matsui, Publisher

EUGENE, Ore., Sept. 24, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — RAVE Reviews, the innovative site that publishes entertaining rankings based on advanced data-driven analysis, has published its ranking of the “Best Zoos” available at

Planning family adventures can be difficult at times. Trying to find the right amount of fun while maintaining your parental sanity is also a challenge. Going to the Zoo has been a staple family activity for a long time, and for good reason. Bears, Giraffes, Dragons (not fire-breathing, unfortunately), and all other kinds of weirdly fascinating creatures keep children entertained while they learn. If you are looking for a family road trip adventure or an afternoon out of the house, check out our detailed ranking of the Best Zoos and their weirdest animals!  

The methodology for this ranking is a combination of multiple factors including animal scarcity, special abilities, and an overall rating.

Hillary Miller, managing editor of RAVE Reviews, states, “This ranking is a lot of fun because it focuses on the exhibits that make each zoo unique. Who knew there were so many animals that most of us have never heard of? (Or that something called a Matschie’s Tree-kangaroo would be so cute?) We hope the article will encourage readers to visit their local zoos and to be a bit more curious about the animals that they see.”

The Best Zoos ranking has no winners, just a list of 50 awesome zoos and their weird inhabitants.

The full list of winners includes:

San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA

Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

Columbus Zoo, Columbus, OH

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Cincinnati, OH

Saint Louis Zoological Park, Saint Louis, MO

Fort Worth Zoological Park, Fort Worth, TX

Toledo Zoo, Toledo, OH

Bronx Zoo, New York, NY

Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, IL

Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee, WI

North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, NC

Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Memphis Zoo, Memphis, TN

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Cleveland, OH

Detroit Zoo, Detroit, MI

Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, FL

Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington DC

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Cheyenne, WY

Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, Oklahoma City, OK

Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley, MN

Dallas Zoo, Dallas, TX

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Pittsburgh, PA

Riverbanks Zoo, Columbia, SC

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Fort Wayne, IN

Audubon Zoo, New Orleans, LA

Los Angeles Zoo, Los Angeles, CA

Indianapolis Zoo, Indianapolis, IN

San Francisco Zoo, San Francisco, CA

Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL

Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara, CA

Denver Zoo, Denver, CO

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Palm Desert, CA

Kansas City Zoological Park, Kansas City

Zoo Miami, Miami, FL

Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, PA

Oakland Zoo, Oakland,CA

Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, WA

Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, GA

Oregon Zoo, Portland, OR

San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX

Santa Ana Zoo, Santa Ana, CA

Sacramento Zoo, Sacramento, CA

Louisville Zoo, Louisville, CA

Houston Zoo, Houston, TX

Nashville Zoo, Nashville, TN

Phoenix Zoo, Phoenix, AZ

Riverside Park Zoo, Independence, KS

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville, FL

Buffalo Zoo, Buffalo, NY

Orange County Zoo, Orange County, CA

Feel free to share your experiences at any of these zoos. Use the contact form below.
RAVE Reviews offer is an authoritative guide for consumer goods, entertainment, and travel.  

Visit to read my review the United States’ oldest zoo.

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America’s Oldest Zoo Up Close

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  • July 8, 2018
Philadelphia Zoo exhibits

An Afternoon at The Philadelphia Zoo

Celebrate Animals, Watch, Listen, and Learn 

America’s oldest zoo has always been one of my favorite “go-to” places as a child, adult, and parent. I’m referring to The Philadelphia Zoo, an urban animal paradise that opened on July 1, 1874, in the city’s Centennial District on the west bank of the Schuylkill River.

Philadelphia Zoo Primates
I’m convinced large primates love to put on a show for their guests. The primate habitat is always one of my first stops. Photos by Joan Mead-Matsui

A visit to The Philadelphia Zoo is sheer pleasure. Even if you are not a fan of zoos, it’s a destination you and your child should experience together. After all, many children might never have an opportunity to catch a glimpse of and observe animals from around the world in a safe setting. The zoo houses at last count almost 1,300 animals and many are rare and endangered species. More than 1.2 million visitors come through the gates every year to watch, learn, and be entertained. One of the zoo’s primary goals is to educate children and adults about animal and environmental conservation. The world’s premier animal travel and exploration trail system, Zoo360, provides animals with ample space to roam and is one of the most thoughtfully-designed zoo attractions I’ve seen. If you go, small primates swinging from treetop to treetop, large primates eager to entertain and keep an eye on the crowds below, and the lions, tigers, jaguars, pumas, and other big cats are among the species you’ll discover. Need a break from the sun, you can seek refuge indoors in “The Reptile and Amphibian House,” opened in 1875 and regarded as the United States oldest zoo building.

Throughout the zoo’s 42-acre campus, you’ll find a variety of animal exhibits and each one is designed with a personalized experience in mind.  Many of the exhibits allow you and your children to stand within several inches – close enough to watch the residents interact with their peers. Children giggling at the primates’ shenanigans, lions basking in the sun, and the busy giraffe foraging for food are recurring scenes. 

What’s the best time to visit the zoo?

If you have young children, from birth to pre-school, schedule your visit for late spring, early summer, and fall mornings. You probably won’t find the large crowds you might encounter during peak summer hours and you’ll avoid long ticket lines at the gate.  If you don’t so you can watch the animals feed but if the kids have the zoo at the top of their priority list, you’re guaranteed a top-notch learning environment throughout most of the year. From mid-day until mid-afternoon, you could find some or maybe most of the animals napping so you’ll need to plan your day with your own goals in mind.

Philadelphia Zoo Current Exhibits
Obey rules and policies established to protect you and the animals you’ll discover at The Philadelphia Zoo. Be prepared to meet the resident geese who aren’t shy about begging for food.

Two New Exhibits You Won’t Want to Miss

The Philadelphia Zoo has added, “Penguin Point” and “Water is Life” to its list of incredible new exhibits since my last visit. Giant otters, Humboldt penguins, and red pandas are among the characters you’ll meet in a natural setting.

“Monkey Junction,” “PECO Primate Reserve,” and the “Reptile and Amphibian House” are three existing exhibits I never miss during my visits to the zoo. A snake sighting sends chills up my spine but yet, I can’t keep my eyes off them. Watching them make their way from water to land is an opportunity to study their lifestyle.


There is typically an on-site dining area within close proximity in case you want to break for a meal or snack while the animals are feeding or napping. Watching them graze or gobble down their meals might trigger your hunger pangs and zoo cuisine has evolved to include a wide variety of choices for young and old alike.

The name, “Mane Fare,” encompasses the selection of eateries located throughout the grounds. Tiger Terrace, Eagles Roost, World Tacos are three of your food and beverage choices that offer palette-pleasing meals from pizza, burgers, chicken,  and tacos, and other staples most picky eaters will try.  Visitors who have not experienced the famous Philadelphia pretzel sold by street vendors throughout the city, you can find a slightly modified version in the pretzel bites sold at the “Philly Pretzel Factory.” You and your family should not leave the City of Brotherly Love before you experience a pretzel and cheesesteak.

Eating your meals with a clear view of an exhibit is part of the fun associated with a day at The Philadelphia Zoo.  Hours and availability vary seasonally so be sure to check the zoo’s website for more information.  Among other perks, zoo members receive a 10 percent discount on food and beverage throughout the park.

Let’s Talk Conservation

Zoos have gotten a bad rap over the years from organizations that believe animals should be allowed to roam free in their indigenous habitats but when conservation and preservation of species are the main focus, species that might otherwise be extinct due to illegal hunting and poaching are protected, a zoo offers a solution.  The Philadelphia Zoo has a conservation program in place that offers many of our world’s most endangered species a program that allows them to thrive, procreate, and also educate visitors. You can learn more about conservation and protection plans in place at or visit the “Rare Animal Conservation Center.” 

Not surprisingly, my sons who are now teenagers, enjoy a trip to the zoo and partly because we made a zoo visit part of many family vacations we’ve taken since they were infants. My oldest son accompanied me to The Philadelphia Zoo during my a recent assignment. I hope you’ll plant a seed of love and respect for animals and all mankind.


My admission to The Philadelphia Zoo was comped but my opinions are my own.


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Neil Patel – Travel Story

Neil Patel Travel Podcast Show Notes

Neil Patel Accolades

Chances are if you listen to marketing podcasts, “Marketing School” with Neil Patel and Eric Siu is at the top of your list. It’s my number one favorite show. Beyond his role as a podcasting icon, Neil is co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics and he also helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP, and Viacom grow their business.

The Wall Street Journal refers to Neil as a top influencer on the web and Forbes says he’s one of the top 10 online marketers. The accolades don’t stop there. Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 MOST BRILLIANT companies in the world.

Recognition and Awards

Neil was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 35 by the United Nations. He was also awarded Congressional Recognition from the United States House of Representatives.

And, yes, Neil Patel is a busy man with a family and full schedule that requires him to travel for business. I interviewed him bright and early one morning a few weeks ago via Zoom. He resides in California with his wife and daughter.

Welcome to Neil Patel, my first guest in the Everything, Everywhere, Travel Guest series.

The Perfect Getaway

As you know, our podcast is about travel. But first, how’s life in California today?

California is great. It’s sunny and it doesn’t get too hot or too cold. It’s a nice place to be.

Let’s talk about travel, Neil. In one of your marketing school episodes you and your co-host, Eric Siu, talked about your work schedules. I’m wondering if you allow time from your hectic schedule to get away and relax. Or is work always a part of your life?

Neil Patel: Work is always a part of my life and even when I’m relaxing, I still work because if I don’t work I’m not able to relax. I need to get a bare minimum of work done each day. I do set aside time to spend with my family and travel but not really much with vacations. A lot of times I’ll have to go to countries like Indonesia and random places like that or places in Europe like Germany, London, or Paris. A lot of times, depending on where I’m going, I’ll consider taking my family as well and we’ll try to do some family activities as well as doing my work-related stuff.

Your answer brings me to my next question. What is your idea of the perfect getaway or vacation?

Neil Patel: My idea of the perfect getaway is to stay at home, watch TV, and relax with the family. You’re probably wondering, WAIT! That’s not a getaway but I’ve been on the road so much, and I’ve been to so many different countries that sometimes being at home is really relaxing. There were times when I was on the road for literally 40-plus weeks out of the year.

I imagine you get tired of it (travel).

Neil Patel: Definitely, it’s exhausting. It takes a lot out of you. That’s why staying at home is quite nice.

I read you were born in London and your parents moved to Orange County, California when you were about two-years-old. Was traveling a part of your life as a child and young adult?

Neil Patel: When I was younger, we didn’t really travel much. My parents didn’t have a ton of money so travel really wasn’t a part of my life as a child or even when I was a teenager.

Overall, how would you say travel has affected your life?

Neil Patel: Travel has affected my life in a good way, which has opened me up to new cultures and experiences. I’ve learned a lot just from traveling about in the world and how different things work.

Where are some of your favorite places you’ve visited?

Neil Patel: I like New York City although that’s just in the United States. I like going back to India. I’m of Indian descent so that helps. I love going back to the U.K. France is amazing. If I had to pick one, I’d probably say Oslo or Italy. Those would be my top two choices.

This brings me to my main question. Is there a particular trip or adventure you’ve recently taken that has changed or altered your life?

Not recently but there was one in the past years going back four or five years ago. I went to Brazil and it really opened my eyes. I really was in awe. There are so many people all over the world and there’s so much opportunity. Going to Brazil didn’t make me think I could only do this in Brazil but it opened up my eyes to business. I don’t know why it was so much more on that trip. It could be because there are different people from parts of the world but it made me realize I need to start doing more overseas. I’ve been to all these countries, so why not start working with a lot of the companies there. There are so many talented people and so much to learn from being in different countries.

Was that trip for business or pleasure?

Neil Patel: It was business but I tried to make some fun out of it. Business and some sightseeing and some tours but it was literally almost all work.

What were some of the sites you visited while you were there and what would you say about that country overall?

Neil Patel: In Brazil, there are a few things I ended up seeing. First off, there’s this place called Ouro Preto. There’s also this city with a lot of artwork. It was an art scene but also a big farming town and they have a lot of museums. The farming town was pretty close to Belo. Those are the two main things I saw on my first trip.

Neil Patel family spending time together
Neil referred to his idea of the perfect getaway as spending time with his family. Photo courtesy of Neil Patel.

Outside of work, what are some of your other interests? Outside of digital marketing?

Neil Patel: Hanging out with friends and family. I love watching basketball games. I love walking and talking with my wife. Catching up with her…And going to the library quite often with my daughter. It’s fun as well for me.

Neil Patel and his daughter spend time together during the holidays
Spending time with his family is at the top of his to-do list. Photo courtesy of Neil Patel

Is there anything else you’d like to say about your Brazil trip or any other one you’ve taken that have affected your life.

Neil Patel: If you’re going to travel, I’d say be open-minded and try to experience the country as the locals would. I think a lot of people are very close-minded and they’re stuck in their ways when traveling. You can understand the culture and the community if you’re open-minded.

What is your favorite culture you’ve visited? You mentioned Italy.

Neil Patel: For Italy, the culture is amazing but my favorite part about it was walking around.

What is one travel tip or advice you give my readers?

Neil Patel: If you’re going to travel, experience things as a local. If you do, you’ll have a better understanding of the culture versus doing the touristy type of stuff.

End of Interview

Heartfelt thanks to Neil for his time and interest in the Everything, Everywhere, Travel Guest series. Excerpts from his podcast will be available next week.

Visit Neil’s website to learn more about the digital marketing services he offers.

Did you enjoy the interview? Leave a comment here.

Learn how to interview with a course I’ve created that’s loaded with essential interviewing skills and tips.

Recommend someone for an upcoming travel story.

Are you looking for the perfect destination getaway? Click here for airline promotions and travel information from Qatar Airways.

If this interview with Neil Patel makes you want to start your own blog and online store, look at SiteGround’s hosting plans. I couldn’t be happier with their service and plans.

Please note some of the links in this post are affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you make a purchase but at no additional cost to you.
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Reptiland: 7 Reasons To Visit Today

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  • September 12, 2019
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Reptiland Komodo Dragon

A Must-See Pennsylvania Zoo

Animals bring smiles, warm our hearts, and teach us why we need to learn as much as possible about their natural habitats. Reptiland offers interactive exhibits.


Reptiland: 7 Reasons to Visit introduces you to slithering snakes, alligators, two Komodo Dragons, frogs, giant tortoises, parakeets, and an emu. They’re the seven reasons you should plan to spend a morning or afternoon at the Reptiland.

Turtles, lizards, snakes, frogs, and crocodilians from around the world flourish in naturalistic habitats with an educational element that spans 6,500 square feet. Reptiland exhibits and gallery houses are open year-round.

Should you need more coaxing, Reptiland: 7 Reasons to Visit, is the best of both worlds: entertainment and education. Adults and children can count on learning a thing or two about each of the animals who call Reptiland home. Displays and exhibits offer visitors a chance to observe and learn.


Very often, we look to zoos for entertainment but, they can provide so much more and ignite curiosity and nurture a sense of respect and wonderment for children and adults of all ages.

Take a moment to browse the photo gallery and then scroll down and continue reading about Clyde Peeling, Reptiland founder and owner and the astonishing animals in his life. At the bottom of the page, click on the links to watch my candid video interviews with Peeling, an astute and captivating speaker with years of expertise.

Reptiland Photo Gallery

Celebrating Success: One Step at a Time

Peeling’s dream began as a roadside zoo and has evolved for more than 50 years as a result of his perseverance and genuine concern for the welfare of the animals. Opening a zoo was a lifelong goal and that dream came to fruition on July 11, 1964, when he opened the Reptiland doors to visitors. Creating “a zoo along the road,” rather a roadside zoo, according to Peeling, has been his focus since he bought the tract of land, formerly a vacant strip of Pennsylvania farmland in Allenwood, PA.


Reptiland wasn’t an instant success and the zoo has grown as a result of Peeling’s diligence, periodic expansions, and renovations, and most of all, his dedication to the animal preservation, responsible propagation of a variety of endangered species, and conservation. Peeling is recognized and respected for his efforts throughout the zoo community and it’s not a mystery why. Once you’ve been inside Reptiland you’ll understand.


Here’s your chance to watch my series of interviews with Clyde Peeling. You’ll learn more about his aspirations and current happenings at Reptiland.

My series of video interviews with Clyde Peeling reveal how the man behind Reptiland overcame obstacles along the way. In this interview, he explains how traveling exhibitions have become an important part of Reptiland’s business.


My sons and I spent a memorable afternoon at Reptiland. Teaching children to respect all creatures is as much a matter of providing mobile classrooms at zoos near you. .


Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube travel channel and share this article and videos with your friends and family.

Reptiland: 7 Reasons to Visit

Do you have comments or a photograph about Reptiland you’d like to share? Post them at Learn more about my travel and content writing services here.

Visit for visitor information, current show schedules, and other important details.


Many thanks to Clyde Peeling and his staff for the opportunity for my sons and me to visit Reptiland. I hope you’ve enjoyed Reptiland: 7 Reasons to Visit. My visit was comped but my opinions are my own and based on my experience.

Be sure to check out my related zoo coverage. As a newly married couple and for years while we raised our children, we made a point to regularly visit zoos as a reminder of how we, as humans, can peacefully and respectfully co-exist with the animal kingdom.

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Central Pennsylvania Arts and Entertainment Countryside Exhibits Family Destinations Family Travel kids and adult activities Lifestyle outdoor fun Outdoor Recreation Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Outdoor Activities Safari Tours Things to do near Harrisburg Hershey PA Travel and Leisure Travel News trip planning Uncategorized wildlife programs Zoo Exhibits

Lake Tobias Wildlife Park

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  • October 12, 2018
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Lake Tobias Safari Cruiser Tour Bus


Laugh and Learn With Your Family

Visit Lake Tobias Wildlife Park
Lake Tobias Wildlife Park residents take every opportunity to entertain visitors. Photos by Joan Mead-Matsui unless otherwise noted.

Prepare to fall in love with the animals at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park. You’ll never see the same scene if you visit the wildlife park one or 50 times. Expect a personalized performance and warm greeting from the staff and residents, but the educational programs for all ages are equally as important. The park also offers a picnic area and a concession area adjacent to Lake Tobias.

Lake Tobias Wildlife Park Safari
Board the Lake Tobias Wildlife Park Safari Tour to meet the animals who roam on 165 acres.

If you’re a parent, you already know children grow up in a heartbeat. Savor those moments with your kids and reserve a day to visit Lake Tobias Wildlife Park, Halifax, Pennsylvania. If your children are grown and you miss those carefree afternoons at the zoo, you too should plan a visit. The wildlife park  is reminiscent of an old-fashioned zoo I came to know in Northeastern Pennsylvania as a child growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. Although the former Nay Aug Park Zoo operated on a much smaller scale, weekly visits to the petting zoo and main park building cultivated a love and respect for animals that has grown stronger over the years.

I’m so pleased the Tobias family chose to carry on the tradition of Lake Tobias Wildlife Park with affordable family engagement and hands-on learning. You can thank J.R. Tobias for his vision and diligence that has spanned more than 50 years. Although this wildlife park dates back to 1965 on a tract of land where J.R. Tobias was born and raised, numerous expansion and renovations have enabled the Tobias family to continue their father’s dream by enhancing the park’s offerings and highlighting a variety of wild and exotic animals. The most notable improvements have occurred in the last 15 years with several new additions: custom-designed, expanded habitats for the tigers and black bears, African lion and baboon facility,  custom-designed Reptile and Exotics’ facility, food service areas, relocated and expanded Safari Station, J.R. Tobias Museum and Education Center, and the opening of a giraffe exhibit. Plans for additional exhibits are also in the works.

J.R. Tobias Family owners
Jan Tobias-Kieffer is one of J.R. Tobias’ seven children who have chosen to carry on the Lake Tobias Wildlife Park tradition. Jan is shown inside the J.R. Tobias Museum and Education Center. 

J.R.’s daughter, Jan Tobias-Kieffer, said the wildlife park was a hobby her father could fall back on in his retirement. J.R. Tobias died in 1996 but his wife, Pauline, still lives in the homestead and six of the couple’s seven children and a grandson own and manage the wildlife park. Immediately, upon your entry into the park, you’ll notice the special care given to all the animals. They’re highly-socialized creatures that are genuinely happy to mingle with park guests. 

“My father always had a fascination with animals.” ~Jan Tobias-Kieffer

Meet the animals in person as I did on Thurs., Sept. 27, 2018, during my tour of the park. The park was at the top of my list of Harrisburg-Hershey attractions. I brought my life-long friend, Pennye Rosenfeld-Weinstein along to share in the fun. 

After dashing from my car to pick up our tickets at the Safari Station, we bought a large bag of popcorn to take with us to feed the animals we met on the safari. We made our way to the front of the line (yes, we cut in front of other visitors) so I could photograph Lenny, the Emu, classified as the second-largest living bird by height and native to Australia.  Lenny was a mooch, to say the least. 

Exotic Animals Lake Tobias Wildlife Park
Lenny, the Emu, didn’t waste any time when he knew popcorn was awaiting him at the gate. Photo by Pennye Weinstein.
Lake Tobias Wildlife Park
Be prepared to greet the animals up close and personal at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park. Photo by Pennye Weinstein.
Lake Tobias Wildlife Park Animals
Thousands of children each year meet and greet the animals at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park. Their interaction allows them to learn more about an animal’s lifestyle and feeding habits. Lenny the Emu is an example of the pleasure children derive from a visit to the wildlife park.
Lenny, the Emu
Lenny spends his days hanging around by the Safari Station while waiting for guests to share their snacks.

(Recommendation: Don’t tempt Lenny or any other animal with food other than what is sold at the Safari Station and intended for the animals. Inquire at the Safari Station Snack Shop.)

Watch this documentary and learn the history of Lake Tobias Wildlife Park. The film was produced by Rutan Productions company and provided courtesy of Chip Rutan.


Lake Tobias Wildlife Park
The fleet of safari cruisers are ready for the crowds that visit Lake Tobias every year. Adventure-seekers can opt in for the 45-minute safari tour by purchasing tickets at the welcome center.

Our personal tour guide stopped numerous times along the Safari trail to allow visitors an opportunity to snap photos and greet and feed the animals. A fleet of “chop-top” safari cruisers are available to accommodate visitors who arrive at the park each year. You’ll find the hours of operation and directions to the park here.

Allow ample time to visit each of the exhibits at the park. The African Lion, American Alligator, American Black Bear, Asian Water Buffalo, Bengal Tiger, Burmese Python, Capybara, De Brazza, Monkey, Dromedary Camel, East African Crowned Crane, Eland, European Fallow Deer, Gemsbok, Grant’s Zebra, Green Tree Python, Marmoset, North American Bison, Ostrich, Peacock, Red Kangaroo, Rhea, Suri Alpaca, Tamarins, Two-Toed Tree Sloth, and the Watusi are among the animals you’ll find throughout the park. Each tour guide is well-trained and educated with an abundance of knowledge about the animals roaming the 150-acre countryside. Ask questions and expand your knowledge.

Lake Tobias Wildlife Safari
Ah, they were waiting to greet us as the tour guide navigated the safari bus along the straight and narrow trail.
Llamas and Alpacas Lake Tobias Wildlife Park
Don’t worry, “I won’t spit on you. I’m looking for attention.”
Lake Tobias Wildlife Park Bison Buffalo
“We’re relaxing and not inclined to get up to greet you but thanks for stopping by today.”
Lake Tobias Wildlife Park Animals
“I wait for the corn treats. They’re my favorite.”

The Reptiles and Exotics Facility

Are you skittish about reptiles? The Reptiles and Exotics Facility is where you can work on your fear. If not, move on to the lizards, tortoises, tropical birds, lemurs, tamarins, and the sloth who was particularly active during my visit. Check the schedule for an educational demonstration that will round out a perfect day at the park.


where to see a sloth?
When the sloth is active, you’ll see him make his way up and down the branches.
Two Toed Tree Sloth
“Thanks for hanging around today. It’s a pleasure to meet and entertain you.”
Giant Tortoise
The crowd had time to study the GIANT Tortoise.
American Alligator Photo Information
Professional handlers and educators run the educational demonstrations held throughout the day.

(RECOMMENDATION: Take a break and enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the tables along the lake. You can purchase food at The Hub Refreshment Stand, the Grille & Grub and the Chill Zone in the center of the park or the new Safari Station snack shop or bring your own lunch.)

As the self-sustaining, family-owned Lake Tobias Wildlife Park continues to grow and attract more than 170,000 visitors each season, my readers should also be aware that this enduring and charming entity relies strictly on park revenue to feed the animals and support its educational and building programs. I know you’ll also feel the love and respect that emanates from each exhibit. As for J.R. Tobias’ children, who’ve never known a life without their animals, Jan told me she is grateful to be a part of her father’s calling.

She noted, “We always thought it (growing up in a park) was normal for us – peacocks yelling in your bedroom window, whereas our friends thought this was really cool. For us, it was an everyday thing,” Jan said.

Lake Tobias Wildlife Park is located at 760 Tobias Road, Halifax, Pa. For updated hours or other information, call 717-362-9126 Mon., to Fri., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or email

For more information about Hershey and Harrisburg attractions, visit


My trip was hosted and comped by Visit Hershey & Harrisburg but my opinions are my own and are based on my personal experiences. 

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World Photography Day—here are some tips for smartphone travel photography

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  • August 19, 2018
World Photography Day—here are some tips for smartphone travel photography

Focus on World Photography Day

Celebrate the Simplicity of Smartphone Photography

World Photography Day celebrate smartphone photography
How could I improve this smartphone photo if I were to take it again? Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui, freelance travel writer and photographer, along the Lackawanna Valley Heritage Carbondale to Simpson heritage trail.

Do you plan to take your camera out in the woods to shoot nature photos or are you packing for your next travel adventure?

As simple as smartphones are to use, there are what we commonly refer to as “hacks” or techniques that can turn a so-so photo into one you probably won’t believe was shot with your smartphone. Image quality varies from phone to phone but it’s safe to say the image quality has improved with each new model.

You’ve likely seen a photo in your own library that could be improved with a few tweaks. I certainly have and as much as photography is second nature to me after nearly 45 years with a camera in my hands, take a few minutes to learn some tips from Panchali Dey|Times Travel Editor|TRAVEL TRENDS, WORLD. 

World Photography Day—here are some tips for smartphone travel photography

A traveller by choice, Panchali from the North East India finds mountain echoes calling back again and again.

‘A picture speaks a thousand words,’ which simply means a picture is worth a thousand words. In today’s scenario, we can’t just agree more. We all are photographers to […]

Today’s social media is an example to this. The platforms enable even an amateur to grab eyeballs and enjoy some instant fame. Now, if you are not aware of white balance and shutter speed, that does not just mean that your pictures won’t be great. At times ‘fluke’ too can work wonders and take you places; the only important thing is―never stop trying.

And to give wings to your passions, your smartphone will serve your purpose, it is better than you think. This article will be focussing on two things, travel and photography. So, here comes some tips to take better travel photos with your smartphones, which will help you improve your result dramatically. And the timing cannot be more appropriate than World Photography Day, which is celebrated on August 19.

Let’s start with basics; and the first thing to note is wipe the lens. Since most of our phones don’t have a sacred case, they are casually kept in pockets or in our handbags, thereby collecting all the dust. While travelling, a fleeting moment has to be captured with great finesse, and during that moment, you just can’t stop to clean your lenses; so better be prepared.

Know the limits of your smartphone
First, understand what your smartphone is capable of doing. Stop yourself from over-expecting. While most cell phones have a single lens and wide-angle focal length, there are models with dual lens in which you get a bit more versatility with the slight zoom. Either way, know what you are zooming at. If you think your smartphone can zoom into the top of Eiffel Tower, you will face only disappointed as the resulting image will be pixelated close-up.

Then shuffle around the ‘settings’ to learn their specific functions and experiment how they will affect your photos. Check if you can shoot in ‘manual’ option, which helps in turning images from grainy to great.

Opt for natural light condition
There may be times when you capture images via a cell phone, the result is incredible, however, there is something called low-light conditions, where most of us struggle. Most smartphones are not enhanced with high-end technology to counteract a dark environment without reducing the quality of images. But, if it becomes absolutely necessary to take a photo at night, try to click with some artificial light.

Get a better camera app
Yes, one of the hacks of capturing great travel images is to download a third-party camera app instead of using the one that comes installed on a phone. The third-party apps are enhanced with high-end features enabling your smartphone to shoot a bit like a DSLR with manual settings and option to shoot RAW, which is basically an uncompressed type of file allowing you more flexibility to edit your images.

Grab some additional smartphone accessories
Your phone is called smartphone for a reason, and with appropriate accessories, you can expand the functionalities of your phone beyond expectation. Some accessories that you can consider adding to your shopping cart are flexible tripod, wide angle pro lens, Bluetooth remote control, and extra memory card.

Landscape photography
It is often considered one of the most important things of travel photography. Capturing landscape images via a smartphone can be quite easy. The most important thing to consider while trying to get a good shoot is exposure control. Exposure typically means how light or dark you image will come out overall.

Want to read more tips from Panchali? Click here to view original web page at

Leave your own smartphone photography tips and advice in the comment box below.

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Lifestyle Visit Asian Countries Visit Thailand

5 Sights You Should See in Thailand

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  • June 14, 2018
Thailand beauty

Elephant Tourism? 

Well, maybe, the elephants will put on a show for you. They’re definitely a highlight to many a Thailand visitor. In fact, according to Thailand tourism officials, 90 percent of the vacation photos taken in Thailand will feature an elephant.


Because visitors can view these majestic creatures close up in their natural habitat and/or they love elephants as I do.

But if you choose Thailand for reasons that include but are not limited to elephant photography,  keep in mind the Kingdom of Thailand, formerly known as Siam, overflows with beauty and great food. The country is located at the center of the Southeast Asian Indochinese peninsula,  with many beautiful islands, holy temples, and abundant phenomenal cuisine.

Thailand beauty
Thailand – beauty surrounds.

5 things to do in Thailand besides elephants

  1. Temples (Bangkok) 


There are over 33,000 active Buddhist temples in Thailand. These temples are very prominent and an integral part of Thailand as 93.6% of all people in Thailand are Buddhists. Because these temples are seen as a holy, the structures are very impressive and immaculately ornate. My personal favorite was the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) which dates back to the 14th century. You can experience the religious culture of Thailand, but remember to cover up! There is nothing but breathtaking views from the entrance to the end. A temple is definitely worth looking at if you are ever in Thailand.


Thailand destination beauty
Breathtaking Thailand art and architecture is not to be missed.
  1.   Thai Cooking Class (Chiang Mai) 


We attended Thai Cookery School (Pra Nang) where we were guided through the process of preparing and cooking traditional-style Thai food. With a class of 2-10 people, you start out by visiting a local market to select the freshest ingredients for the dishes you will create. We created 5 dishes, which included a soup, stir-fry, curry, an appetizer, and a dessert. Vegan options are also available. The class is 4 hours and will give you insight into the food culture of Thailand. In the end, you will get a recipe book to recreate those traditional dishes and a certificate to prove your mastery.


  1.   The Jim Thompson House


The Jim Thompson House is a true hidden gem. This museum is about an American, Jim Thompson, who moved to Thailand and changed the silk industry. You get to explore the actual house of Jim Thompson and the mystery behind how he disappeared. There is a silk shop attached as well as an inside/outside restaurant with very tasty and cheap food. This museum will give you an opportunity to learn about Thai silk and all the innovation that surrounded it.


  1. Monkey Beach (Ko Phi Phi Don) 


This is for those that love animals. Monkey Beach is located on Phi Phi island which is known for its breathtaking views. Imagine going to an island full of monkeys that are happy to see and interact with humans. You are allowed to feed the monkeys and take all the pictures you want. They have boats that you can take over to the island while you take in all the sites or you can rent a kayak and head over there yourself.


  1. Chiang Mai Night Safari 


If you’re feeling adventurous, you can get up close and personal to all types of animals at Chiang Mai Night Safari. Chiang Mai Night Safari is a nocturnal zoo that will entertain you at every turn. The evening will start off with a narrated animal show that introduces you to cool animals. Next, you’ll hop on a tram and go to the Savanna Zone. The Savanna Zone is full of animals whose habitats are in the African savanna. There you will see giraffes, zebras, rhinos, and more. Afterward, you’ll head over to the Predator Zone which is full of carnivores! There you will see lions, bears, pumas, and more. This is a place you won’t forget as you have face to face interactions with various animals on this night safari.

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Benevolent Sexism, and more – Best of the Blogs #11

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  • May 26, 2018

Check out the hottest science posts for December 2013, fresh from the Scientific American blog network. Carin Bondar, the biologist with a twist, is your host.

Featured in this episode:

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Darren Naish:

Scott Kaufman:

Becky Crew:

Patrick Mustain:

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Lifestyle online learning The Best Places in North Wales to Travel with Toddlers Travel to North Wales Wales tourism

Best Places in Wales to Travel with Toddlers

  • By
  • February 26, 2018
Best beaches in Wales Llandudno


Places in Wales to travel with toddlers
Wales offers a variety of opportunities for travel with toddlers.

What can my toddler handle?


The Best Places in North Wales to Travel with Toddlers

Information provided by

A donation has been provided by the creator of this article to help with the running costs of the site.

Article prepared by Dale Clark, outreach assistant and Rowena Davis, researcher

For many parents, traveling with children can feel like a juggling act.


On the one hand, you want to create a memorable holiday that is filled with laughter and activity. Yet on the other, not all of the places you want to visit are suitable for toddlers.

So what can you do? How can you get the best out of your holiday?

The first thing you need to ask yourself is – what can my toddler handle? Is the destination age appropriate, or are the children likely to get bored? Worse, will the experience go completely over their heads?

Next – is it safe? Does the place have safety procedures and precautions in place to guarantee that their services and activities won’t injure your child?

All of these are real and genuine questions that you need to ask yourself when planning a holiday, yet they are all relevant.

Take a museum for instance. It’s educational. It’s safe. It is a space designed to capture history and pass it onto the next generation. It is everything that you could want as a parent. Yet… will a two to three-year-old really be interested in looking at objects that they can’t touch; that is hidden behind glass, and that can only be learned about from signs that they can’t yet read.

Unless you’ve got a child prodigy on your hands, then sadly a toddler probably wouldn’t enjoy it.

And this is not the only thing you’ll have to deal with…

Common Challenges When Travelling with a Toddler

Dealing with their fears


Most fears at this age are based on trying something new e.g. getting on a boat, staying in a strange, new place etc. The key is to be positive; to help them push through it (sometimes by preparing them beforehand), and to make it into a game or a new adventure.

Boredom, Whining, and Tantrums


The reality is, you won’t be able to please everyone with every activity. However, with careful planning, it is possible to choose places that cater to the interests of all, including a stubborn toddler. Taking advantage of tools such as TripAdvisor can help you to plan your holiday, so each day everyone gets to enjoy something they love. It will take the edge off potential tantrums/whining as you’ll have done your research and will know exactly what to expect.



Every child is different and some you can trust to do more safely than others. However, visiting somewhere new is always a daunting experience for a parent, especially when you have got a toddler in tow. Again, with careful planning and by first checking out the places and activities reviews, website and safety policies; you can escape this fear and quickly discover whether or not your child will be safe to attend.

Tiredness and Naps


Most toddlers tend to still have a nap at this age, so when planning your day you need to consider their sleep patterns. Are you visiting a place where you can take your car/pram so they can nap? Are there things for you to do/or a place you can sit – whilst they are sleeping – so you don’t have to return to the hotel?

Freedom Is Limited


As I mentioned before, not every activity or place is suitable for their age group. From being unsafe to the activity and theme of the museum being targeted at an older audience; you need to consider what is appropriate and what is not. Similarly, given their age, it is likely you won’t be able to explore at night but will be restricted to your hotel during the evenings.

Now don’t get me wrong…


Having a toddler doesn’t have to spell the end of your holiday adventures. You’ve just got to be clever with your planning and location choices.

Do that and then the real fun can begin!

You see, whilst traveling with a toddler will naturally raise planning, safety and age concerns; it can also offer you a variety of hidden perks:

  1. People are more generous and compassionate when you’ve got a child – from offering you a seat and letting you cut to the front of the cue; children make those around you more compassionate and considerate.
  2. Children encourage you to make every moment count and see the world through a new lens – children can offer you a newfound appreciation for even the simplest of things, especially if you try to view the activity/place through their eyes.
  3. Make you slow down – instead of rushing from one activity to the next, children help us to become better observers capable of enjoying our surroundings more.
  4. Your children will develop better habits – can’t get them to eat at home? The excitement of being away will often encourage them to sit better at the table, finish their meals and use their cutlery properly.
  5. Toddlers can harness your inner child – have you ever wanted to watch an animated film, but felt too old for it? Children can give you the freedom/flexibility to get involved in childish activities and enjoy things not normally available to adults.


Where to go with toddlers in Llandudno
Llandudno, a coastal town in north Wales is known for its North Shore Beach and 19th-century Llandudno Pier. Shops and a games’ arcade. will keep kids busy for hours.

Where to go with Toddlers in North Wales


Travelling with a toddler doesn’t have to be as stressful as you imagine.

And as you can see from the examples below when traveling to North Wales, there are plenty of funs places for you to explore:

  1. Greenwood Forest Park, Y Felinheli – with an assortment of water and rollercoaster rides; a dedicated toddler play area, and a sandpit with a toy JCB; this location boasts indoor and outdoor activities that are suitable for all the family, all year long.Children can also: take advantage of the longest sledge run in Wales; jump on the Giant Jumper; explore the turrets of Treetop Towers; ride donkeys and go-karts; venture into Crocodile Maze, and the older kids can even have a go at archery.Alternatively, they can try den building and create their own shelters.
  2. Animal attractions – North Wales boasts a whole host of animal attractions. From the red panda cubs and chimpanzees at Welsh Mountain Zoo (Conwy Bay), to Dwyfor’s Ranch Rabbit Farm; you can even take a trip under the sea at Anglesey Sea Zoo and introduce your toddlers to the creatures of the deep.Other places to consider are:- Greenacres Animal Park, Mancot
    – Bodafon Farm Park, Conwy
    – Foel Farm Park, Brynsiencyn
    – Pili Palas Nature World, Anglesey
    – Puffin Island Pleasure Cruise
    – Greenfield Valley Heritage Park, Holywell
  3. Rhyl Miniature Railway – ideal for budding train enthusiasts, you can take your toddler for a train ride and visit the Teddy Bears Picnic.
  4. Gypsy Wood in Caernarfon – this another fantastic location, where toddlers can happily ride the train and explore nature at its finest.
  5. Penrhyn Castle, Bangor – rich in history, what is amazing about this particular castle is their choice of activities. They regularly host trails around the grounds, where children can spot items that will earn them prizes. They also love to offer themed outdoor activities, ranging from World War One obstacle courses; dress up, and converted rooms immersed in history.Other fantastic castles to consider:- Harlech Castle, Harlech
    – Caernarfon Castle, Caernarfon
    – Beaumaris Castle, Beaumaris
    – Conwy Castle, Conwy

Now, if you would rather keep your holiday centralised to one town – instead of traveling around – it is still possible to find lots to do in one location. Take the following examples:

  • Anglesey – Menai Suspension Bridge, Anglesey Sea Zoo, Greenwood Forest Park, and Glynllifon Park and Garden.
  • Conwy – Conwy castle, Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Great Orme Tramway, Great Orme, Bodnant Garden and Welsh Mountain Zoo.
  • Port Morien – a small fishing community, from here you can visit Cape Breton Island.
  • Llandudno – 19th-century pier and arcades, ancient tunnels, Little Orme Nature reserve, and Conwy RSPB reserve.


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