Andrew P Watson

Web Developer

Franklin Park Zoo – Review from a first time visitor

Mon, 08/16/2010 - 20:21

This past weekend my wife, daughter and I met up with some friends (Analise, Derrek and Tristan) and decided to do something “family’ish” for the afternoon. I’ve been so busy with band stuff, home projects and freelance work lately, that a day out of the house sounded great. To this end, we piled into the car and drove down to the Franklin Park Zoo. I wanted to spend the day with everyone, but would probably have picked a different venue…

It’s only fair to start this post off by making it abundantly clear that I don’t like Zoos (in general). I just don’t get wandering cement walkways past overpriced trinket stands, or shuffling through cramped exhibit hallways for a chance to glimpse at some poor critter who is forced into the spotlight so Mr. Fat American can wobble by, while his kids bang on the glass – it just doesn’t seem right to me.

I realize this makes me sound like a “Tree Hugger”, and believe me I’m not. I just find it difficult to see past the obvious. Putting a wide-area roaming creature, like say a tiger or a zebra, into an acre-sized (or less) field surrounded by electrical fence – or – taking a beautiful large bird such as a Condor or Vulture and forcing it to live in a cage or with clipped wings so it can’t fly is depressing to me. These animals need to be able to run or fly freely. If you want to see or experience them, go to where they are. You have that choice… they don’t.

Now, before you get all righteous on me, I also realize that some of these animals are “rescued” from the wild. If I’m honest, I don’t really get that either. These animals have been just fine for millions of years. It’s the humans that started mucking the whole system up.

All that said, I actually had a great time. I was fairly impressed with the displays, variety of animals, and general look and feel of the Zoo. After all, it’s located in the most improbable location – Dorchester Ma, just outside of Boston. If you’ve never been to the Franklin Park Zoo, and find it hard to believe this sort of family park could exist in Dorchester, you’re not alone. I sat in the backseat on the way down, as we drove through some pretty rough neighborhoods, thinking “are you kidding?” Then from out of nowhere, the landscape dramatically changed, the Franklin Park Zoo sign appeared, and there was even a big groomed golf course across the street. It was sort of surreal, like stepping through a portal. It’s not often one can buy drugs, play 18 holes, get shot, and feed a baboon… all within a mile or so. This area was surprisingly nice.

I’m not a big fan of cities either, but I’ll spare you that rant ;)

I grabbed a bunch of pictures I wanted to share:

As you walk in, you are presented with this big metal statue of a bear. Apparently it was made from an old Sam Adams brewery container. I found this very entertaining. Just the thought that someone at Sam Adams looked at an old beer container and thought… “you know, we could make a kick-ass metal bear out of that..”

Metal Bear at the entrance to the Zoo

One of the first things we came to, this thing was super-cool. It’s way bigger than the picture makes it look.

Porcupine type animal

Prairie Dogs – Apparently these little critters are not much for jumping. The wall that surrounds them is like three feet tall. There is no fence, and they are just out in the open – right in the middle of the walkway.

Prairie Dogs hanging out

This is the “Turtle getting it on with the snake” exhibit. ‘Nuff said.

Turtle doing it with a snake

I was a little surprised at the sheer size of these ostriches. I mean, they are literally huge creatures. They also constantly have a look of complete confusion on their faces, like they just woke up, or smoked some tea or something.

Bird poop on my arm

I had to add this. Not more than ten minutes after entering the park – a frigging bird flew over and crapped on my arm. Two things: 1, it just accentuates the perpetual challenge that is my life – 2, I saw what the ostrich left behind, and my arm could have been a lot worse.

Franklijn Zoo ostriches

These guys where pretty slick, but refused to come closer for my picture. I mean come on, can’t we drug them or something so I can get a better shot? (had to)

Franklin Zoo bison or something


Ok, I need to say that the food prices were nothing short of astounding. I just had to take a picture of what $45 will get you. I had a ham sandwich, that was soggy as if recently frozen, sparse of everything, came in a little plastic bin, and cost me $6.50. I would not have minded the price much if the food was good, which in my opinion – it was not.

Expensive food

I don’t know why exactly, but this picture really makes my laugh. It’s the “decoration” in the lunch restaurant. I mean, I get what they were going for… but think they really, really failed to hit it. Hanging a couple of brand-new looking hacksaws on the wall doesn’t do anything for the wildlife feel of the Zoo. Then again, if they need the saw in order to cut the steel fencing to free a stuck zebra head or something, they could always grab a tasty $6.50 ham sandwich at the same time.

Funny decorations

I may be on a bit of a tear here, but this one also makes me chuckle. As you walk up the path, there is a viewing station (complete with looking glass) in front of an awesome, big tree. In said tree is a fake, dead animal. I suspect it’s to show how the animals hunt, but still. I sat there for a second with my family thinking “oh wow, look at the big fake dead animal.”

Fake lion kill in tree

We came to the tiger cage. Aside from what looked like an absurdly cramped area, I liked these animals very much. I don’t think I’ve seen one so close, but at about ten feet away I was amazed at how big they really are. If I ever had the unfortunate experience of seeing one bearing down on me from across a field, I think I’d actually be dead before it got to me.

Franklin Zoo - white tiger

Franklin Zoo - tiger

The lion was out cold by the time we got to it. But, I did get to hear it grumbling from across the park. This is another one of those things that really took me by surprise as a wonder of nature. I always knew the lion has a mean roar, but unless you’ve actually heard it you have no idea. Even from across the park it sounded like a car driving by with a subwoofer cranking (and yes, we heard that too – *sigh). They say you can hear the lions roar from miles away, and I’m not surprised. It was crazy.

The lion sleeps tonight (well, today)

Ugly, awkward bird-type thing. Cool to look at, but nothing you’d want to snuggle up with.

Ugly bird - whoa

The camels where pretty neat, even if they looked like two hoodlums hanging around the bathroom at a sporting event. Camels are some of the strangest looking animals on earth. It’s sort of like a moose, made out of play-dough by a five year old, then dropped a few times.

Camels at the Franklin Zoo

This is apparently the “we’re getting the band back together” bird.

Rock star bird

The display that this little guy was in could not have been more than a few feet, by a few feet. Regardless, I liked him a lot. He seemed content just watching us all waddle by, and chillin’ out.

tree frog

No clue what these big suckers were, but they looked hilarious.

irony - caged wild boar

Again, what you see is nearly all this critter has to move around in. He looked super cool, and was pretty close to the glass.

Crocodile or Alligator - not sure

I hung out next to these baboons for a while, as the wife fed the baby. It took a few minutes, but he seemed to grow interested in me. I stood still by the glass and it decided to come right over. We chatted for a bit, and he eventually wandered off. I have that effect on most people I chat with.

zoo - baboons

zoo - baboons 2

The large birds were absolutely awesome. They sat patiently next to the viewing area and let people photograph them. I liked them a lot, but again it was an example of why I don’t really care for idea of the Zoo. I mean these are birds, how happy could they be without the ability to take off and soar around?

very cool huge birds

some sort of vulture right out of the dark crystal

Some sort of hippo or something, these guys were pretty neat.

Franklin Zoo hippo

At last the gorilla. I was looking forward to seeing these bad-boys. Apparently, it was all worn out from the show it put on for the previous Zoo visitors. No doubt it was charging around, banging it’s chest, saving scantly-dressed women from tall buildings, and giving everyone a thrill… but, as we got there it barely mustered up the will to crack it’s eyes. *yawn

Gorilla at the Franklin Zoo

Just a cool red bird I saw wandering around the top of one of the bigger indoor displays. Not sure why, but I really dig this critter.

Random red bird

African wild dogs. He was out cold, but like ten feet from the fence. Cool colors.

African wild dogs

Another ostrich-like bird. And like the other ostriches, it was uncomfortably large and looked like it just woke up.

huge flightless bird - and good thing too

Zebra, chilling in the field. Sort of boring.

Zebra picture

Ok, once again this animal threw me a bit. I couldn’t believe the scale of it. It was so big, and so tall. I mean like “holy crap, that thing is huge” sort of tall. I’ve never seen one so close. I tried to call it over, but it obliviously wanted no part of it. Snob.

giraffe was way bigger than I expected

As we left, this peacock was wandering around the walkway. I got within a few feet of it and grabbed a couple shots. The colors where astounding. Animals like this really impress me with all their details, colors and features. He seemed tame, and I wanted to take it home. But then again, it would be wrong to snag an animal from it’s home and force it live as I like…*

Peacock walking around the Franklin Zoo

(* I do have pets. I have two cats that are kept indoors. Do I think living in my house is the best thing for them? Probably not. Do I think I offer them as much freedom as I can, and not put them on display? Yes.)


Awesome pics! Hard to believe you’re in Dorchester, isn’t it?

Andrew…thanks for the tour…loved your commentary AND the bird poop on your arm! U R the best!….I actually want to go to that zoo now!

I'm sorry but not only do you know nothing about animals, but you also sound completely idiotic when 1) you don't know what a wildebeest is 2) You bash an accredited that does work on conservation(that means they are keeping gene pools alive, oh and by the way, animals such as their tigers were seized from a residential home. They have a MUCH better life) 3) You make this big stink about how zoos are bad for animals, yet you want to drug them to get a better picture. You have NO right, NO RIGHT saying ANYTHING.

Btw, in addition to my last comment, you say "website building" is "sort of your thing" this cannot be true because if your so into making a website that looks professional that people will want to visit and if your SO educated on blogging and website management than you would know before posting anything on your site, it should be researched and looked up. You should be well educated on a subject before you comment on it. You don't vote for president without thoroughly looking into the candidates! Please do not talk yourself up and open a book for god sake.
andrew's picture

<p>Kim,</p> <p><br /> I&#39;m sorry you feel differently about animals in confinement, but that&rsquo;s fine - you have that right. I&#39;ll think about it next time I see a bird&rsquo;s wings clipped so it can&#39;t get out its little cage. Maybe you&#39;re right. Maybe it&#39;s really living the good life!</p> <p><br /> That said, most of my points in the post above are complimentary towards the Zoo <em>and </em>the animals. Regardless, thanks for taking time to post. You rambled on a little so I&#39;m not 100% certain what your points are, but thanks so much for posting your passionate, poorly-argued comments.</p> <p>Hilarious, you made my day!</p> <p><br /> Cheers!</p>

completely agree with kim you clearly have no understanding of animals other then cats and dogs and im giving you the benefit of the doubt with that one. that "hippo looking thing is actually a hippo. you seemed more interested in the metal bear then any animal. this zoo as are most is a better habitat for these animals to live in seeing how most of them either didn't roam the wild freely anyway or are an endangered species being saved by having been put in captivity. all in all glad you posted this review because like kims comment did for you this whole review was hysterical to me and im sure kim as well as anybody else who has a 6th grade level of understanding animals. thank you for the laugh
andrew's picture

Hi Kevin, Like I said to the others, thanks for your feedback. Animals in captivity is a touchy subject, I think we can all agree on that. It's one of those topics which create heated debates, and lively conversation. Generally speaking, that is a good thing. In the end, while I don't always agree with the containment, I understand the animals are safe and well cared for. Most of the text in my original post had a tongue-in-cheek tone. Hopefully you took that away. But... Saying I have 'no understanding of animals,' or that I have 'a 6th grade level of understanding animals,' seems a little harsh. This is a blog post, describing a day at the Zoo, written using a mildly comical tone. Defining me as you did, based on this post, would be similar to me declaring that you have no understanding of grammar, or punctuation, based the one comment you posted.

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