One place that my family and I really enjoy visiting is the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, RI. In fact I like it so much that I try to organize zoo trips every fall and spring with my Central Massachusetts moms group. Upon first hearing that this zoo is in another state, a lot of people are convinced that it's too far away. However, once they find out how easy it is to get to, I can usually get people to reconsider. It is very near Route 146, I-95, and I-195, and I can get there from the Worcester area in under an hour. The zoo is part of a larger complex including a carousel, swan boats, and several other activities that I have yet to try. In fact, the only problem I have getting to or from the zoo is that I usually get lost leaving the complex. The good news is that once I hit Providence streets, I never have trouble getting back to a highway.
Make no mistake, this is not the Bronx Zoo. However, it is a real zoo. I've been to some bad zoos, and this isn't one of them. I haven't been to the Southwick Zoo, so I don't know how it compares. They are constantly working to create better habitats for the animals and many of the exhibits have been rebuilt within the last several years. The zoo is very clean. It's easy to navigate, and a $59 membership covers a family of two adults and up to four kids for a year. For those looking to do a single visit, there are coupons in the Entertainment books and passes in many Massachusetts libraries.
They have a whole variety of exhibits, and two of my favorite animals to visit are the two giraffe cubs born within the last six months. They often bring one or two giraffes into an inside exhibit where visitors can get really close, although that exhibit gets pretty warm in the summer. My older son also likes the giraffes. Some of his other favorites include the cheetah, the elephants, and the seals. Oddly enough they do not have lions or bears, although a polar bear exhibit is on their roadmap.
There are a couple of cafeterias that tend to get pretty crowded during common mealtimes. I don't have much experience with them, since I usually bring a picnic lunch. My older son, however, is a huge fan of the frozen lemonade. My new secret find is the presence of completely shaded picnic tables outside one of the entrances of the Australia exhibit. You will be able to find us there when we next make the trip.