If you’re looking for Travis and Katie Grover on a nice Saturday, you’ll probably find them with their 2-year-old daughter, Lillian, at the Sedgwick County Zoo.
“Our daughter loves the elephants,” Travis said. “Her room is plastered with animals, but she absolutely loves the elephants. The zoo is a great place.”
Apparently, travelers from afar agree, according to TripAdvisor, a travel website based in Newton, Mass. This week, it ranked Sedgwick County Zoo among the top 10 zoos in the country.
The selection is based on reviews posted on the company’s website. A rating is derived from the quantity and quality of the reviews and how recently they were posted, TripAdvisor spokeswoman Julie Cassetina said.
Sedgwick County Zoo’s score put it at No. 7 in the country, mixed in with well-known zoos in St. Louis (No. 2) and San Diego (No. 6). Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium took the top spot.
“We think we have one of the best zoos in the country for the cost-and-benefit ratio,” Sedgwick County Zoo Director Mark Reed said. “Most communities our size have a zoo half our size.”
The Sedgwick County Zoo ranks 14th in the total number of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians with 3,165. It has the 17th highest number of specimens of those four categories with 419, Reed said.
The zoo is a public-private partnership with about 48 percent of its $10.6 million budget coming from county tax dollars.
Average yearly attendance is 550,000. That includes Jade Blackbird, who takes her three daughters – ages 4, 6 and 8 – to the zoo at least once a month.
“The girls love it,” Blackbird said. “They like to ride the train. They love the new babies, especially the baby orangutan.”
The girls also like to take their lunch and eat at the zoo, although they prefer to do it indoors. “They’re not a fan of the geese coming up when they’re eating,” Blackbird said.
Travis Grover teaches physical education at Heartspring, a center that helps children with special needs. He often takes children from the center to the zoo.
Add it all up and he figures he’ll be at the zoo 10 to 15 Saturdays this summer.
One of the things he likes most about Sedgwick County’s zoo is that it’s easy to get around.
“This past weekend we went to the St. Louis Zoo,” Grover said. “It’s awesome. But it’s so big. It would take a week to see everything.”
Actually, Sedgwick County’s Zoo covers much more space – 247 acres to make it the seventh-largest zoo in the country. St. Louis has 93 acres.
But Reed said the layout for the Sedgwick County Zoo makes it easier to navigate.
“When you come in, if you stay to the right, you can walk four miles and see everything,” he said. “In St. Louis, there’s a lot of backtracking.”
Reviews of the Sedgwick County Zoo posted on TripAdvisor’s website include:
“Very child-friendly zoo.”
“Stroller friendly and easy to navigate.”
“This is one of the best zoos in the Midwest.”
“I love this zoo. I recommend it to anyone who wants to have fun.”
To see more reviews, go to TripAdvisor’s website, tripadvisor.com, and put “Sedgwick County Zoo” in the search box.