Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo
5305 Bank St
Ottawa, ON K1X 1H2
Toll Free: 877-522-8440
As any parent of young children knows, you are always on the lookout for something to do with your children on the weekend, over breaks from school or throughout the summer months. Some of us get started fairly quickly when our children are mere newborns, carting them around to all the local museums or amusement centres, which I find quite funny to observe since the child isn’t really getting anything out of the activity at that young age and the parents are overly emotive when pointing things out to their baby while looking slightly frazzled at the same time.
My children are now 5 and 8 years old and we have done the Ottawa circuit a time or two (or three!). There is plenty to see and do with the many different museums in our Nation’s Capital and I have enjoyed exploring them all with my children over the years. But, with my children home this week on March break asking me to take them once again to the Children’s Museum, I knew I had to find something different. I just couldn’t bring myself to go sit in that bus from India or ride the camel in Egypt one more time but what counter offer could I bring to the table? Facebook gave me the answer. An advertisement promoting Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo seemed like it might do the trick. I thought to myself “We’ve never been there before, it’s fairly close to home, it looks fairly small from the outside so it shouldn’t take too long and it probably doesn’t have a million trinkets or sweets inside that will tempt my children and lead to some kind of meltdown”.
So we headed off to see what Little Ray’s had to offer. When we first arrived, I got slightly sweaty. Let me explain. First of all, the parking lot was full, cars were everywhere, and I worried what that would mean once we got inside. Then, when we did enter, it was hot! Ok, so I was slightly worried about my choice of destination when my youngest almost immediately started using her whiny voice “Mommy, I’m hot, it’s too sweaty in here”. I spotted the coat check to the right and we took off our jackets. Ok, much better now.
So we started wandering around, looking at the various snake, lizard and crocodile exhibits in the zoo but it was a bit cramped. It isn’t a big place, as I predicted, and there were quite a few people in there. I was thinking that this wasn’t going to take long at all but within minutes of arriving, Little Ray himself called out and said that there would be a feeding taking place shortly. People started heading towards the hands-on room which was equipped with auditorium-style seating and all the kids were anxiously awaiting the show. Little Ray did a great job of capturing everyone’s attention, promoting the animals and the zoo, as well as conveying his message about animal conservation and the need to be more aware about what animals and plants are endangered in Ontario and Canada let alone in the rest of the world. And he wasn’t so hard on the eyes either. Bonus! Then he fed a rat to a snake. The kids loved it.
Then we were off once again to explore the zoo. We saw massive pythons, crocodiles, geckos, tortoises and tarantulas. I’m not an expert in any of this so it was all new to me. I didn’t know what my daughters would think of everything they would see but they were genuinely excited going from one exhibit to the next when once again we were beckoned to the hands-on room. This time we had front-row seats and the children got to see and hold a tarantula, a blue tongue skink (I’m pretty sure the guide accidentally called it a skank at one point!), a huge tortoise, a caiman (part of the crocodilian family) as well as a reticulated python which is the world’s longest snake. This snake was huge and as I fished for the camera in my pocket to take a picture of it, I heard the guide ask for a volunteer. Before I knew what was happening, my 5-year old was introducing herself to the crowd and getting a 30-ft python wrapped around her body (it might have only been 20-ft, I don’t actually remember because I was shocked at what was happening and 30-ft sounds even more impressive). My 8-yr old glanced over at me with a mixed look that was both envious of her sister for not being shy in front of all these people and slightly worried for her safety.
I am happy to report that the python did not squeeze the life out of my baby girl and I was pretty proud of her for being so brave. In any case, we were off to explore the outdoor animals although there wasn’t much to see with all the snow in the cages. By this point, we had been there for close to 2 hours and we were getting pretty hungry so we decided to leave but we could have stayed even longer. As I was leaving the building, I heard Little Ray once again calling people to the auditorium for a tortoise feeding. We’ll save that for the next time we visit.
I had a great time exploring the zoo and the hands-on shows were the best part of the day. This place can keep children entertained for a long time and is definitely worth the entrance fee. I might even “Like” Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo on Facebook. Apparently, Little Ray sends out messages every month or so telling people of a meeting area around the city where parents and children can go for free and observe animals in their natural habitat. Last month Little Ray and the gang were out observing an owl in the wild. Could be fun, I guess? I’ll let you know.