Want a definitive guide to U.S. zoos? Or want to get your kid or kids into learning about world geography without them yawning in the process?
I’m in the midst of writing up the book reviews for Perceptive Travel’s upcoming new issue (out Monday), but I also tend to get some books showing up on my doorstep that don’t quite fit that format. Here are two family travel books that really deserve a shout-out.
America’s Best Zoos, by Allen W. Nyhuis and Jon Wassner
Subtitled A travel guide for fans and families, this is an impressive and useful guide to dozens of the best zoos across the United States, as well as some “honorable mention” descriptions of smaller ones that didn’t make the cut. There are 60 profiles in all. The essential info is here of course: admission prices, hours, parking fees, driving directions, author’s tips, and more. The real value though comes in the detailed descriptions of the parks themselves, both the good and the bad. Making it all as close to timeless as possible, there’s also a section on what’s planned for future development.
The authors seem to go in with a fresh eye, noting that my hometown one in Nashville may be “one of the most beautiful zoos in the country.” They note that many of their favorite individual exhibits are in zoos that don’t get much hype, like those in Omaha, Tulsa, Kansas City, and Portland. But the well-known ones get their due too, like the St. Louis Zoo—seen by over 3 million visitors a year. (Maybe because it’s free?) Speaking of visitors, the nation’s zoos attract more visitors annually than all spectator sports combined. If you regularly vacation with kids, this is a good guide to have on your shelf. Click on the cover photo to see more on Amazon.
3-D World Atlas & Tour, by Marie Javins
My buddy Marie Javins wrote the great Bragging Rights story about Antarctica a while back in Perceptive Travel. She’s seen more than her share of the world and has lived abroad a few places in her job as a comic book editor and colorist. Her love of world geography and the amazing places she has seen around the globe show through in this fun and eye-popping guide. This is clearly not a desk job put out by a group of editors that rarely leave their home state. Some of my own favorite spots are featured here, highlights on any world tour: Chichen Itza, Banff National Park, Niagara Falls, Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, and the Colosseum of Rome for a start.
What makes this book unique though is the set of 3-D glasses in the front, to go with the 50 3-D maps and photos within. The glasses make the waterfalls seems closer, the polar bear head pop out, and the mighty Andes Mountains rise up. It’s a nice overview of the continents and their highlights, without overwhelming the tykes with a lot of dry information. It’s long enough to be educational, but short enough to go through in one sitting on a plane ride or a snowy afternoon. Click on the cover photo to see more on Amazon.