by Andie Vasquez

After being stuck inside for the last couple months and staying mostly close to home due to the pandemic, my children were eager to get out and about. Some places remain closed, but a few have reopened. This was our first trip into the world with all of the changes and precautions outside of my grocery shopping. 

First I will describe what this place was like before COVID-19. It is an invertebrate zoo, so mostly a house of bugs. It was open to be freely wandered around observing all the various bugs and invertebrate creatures. After all the exhibits, there is a large indoor play area with a big tree house and a play camping area. My kids love this space and often spent lots of time playing there. Outside the building is a spacious garden area with walking trails. 

They also have beehives, one of which is sealed with transparent plastic inside the building allowing the visitors to see the inner workings of the hive. Outside in the gardens you can observe the honey bees gathering nectar, and in the gift shop you can buy honey made in these hives. 

Now, since the pandemic and their reopening, a few things have changed. But overall, I have to commend them for their efforts to operate safely.

First, you aren’t able to show up and buy tickets, all tickets have to be reserved ahead of time and there are limited quantities available. You reserve a time slot for your group and an employee will meet you at your designated time. You are then guided through the exhibits by the employee and given 20 minutes in each area. Masks are required for each person over the age of 3 unless a medical condition prevents this. However they were gracious with the younger kids who had trouble keeping their masks on and were gentle to remind them or parents of the guideline. After each tour went through, surfaces were sanitized before the next group came in. 

They also did a small butterfly release during each tour instead of their usual large release event, which the children enjoyed. I do wish the time in each room was extended, even to 30 minutes, because my son insisted on singing isty bitsy spider to every, single, spider we saw. Despite the restrictions, we still had a nice time and I felt safe with how they were handling their opening. 

Of course the play area was completely closed off, which I expected. Unfortunately that is also where the ladybugs are, but sacrifices must be made. The outside gardens however were of course open. Being early summer, many of the flowers were still in bloom and we did get to observe some bees coming and going. Birds were also everywhere in the gardens and ducks playing in the pond.

With everything happening and people questioning the safety of going out again, I think this place did well transitioning into this new world we are living in right now. If you are wondering what to look for as far as safety measures look for a couple things. 

  1. Reserved time slots and the number of people allowed in during each time frame.
  2. Mask requirements and how strictly this is enforced. 
  3. Sanitization routines

I’m seeing museums and places like that are able to do timed tours easily settling into a safe routine much like the one we did at this invertebrate zoo. I also see places like our city zoo that is mostly outdoors finding a safe way to reopen as well. Indoor play spaces are having more trouble in the reopening city as they would have a much harder time keeping things cleaned. Those places remain closed. If you are still not comfortable taking your kids out even with the new guidelines, then I’d stay on the safe side. I’m thankful to be out, but I’m still being cautious. Stay safe out there!