ActiveDad Review: Southwick Zoo, Mendon MA

Last week, Liss and I decided to pack up the car and head out west to the Southwick Zoo in Mendon. Normally, we take the kids north to the York’s Wild Kingdom in Maine (which is only 25 minutes from our house), but we decided to try something new this year. Southwick, which bills itself as the largest zoo in New England, has stepped up their advertising and many friends have recommended it, so we decided to take a shot.

Mendon is located out in Central Massachusetts, right off Route 495. From Amesbury, it took us approximately 90 minutes. Though we seemed to make good time on the highway, be prepared for a slow drive through secondary roads through Hopedale and Mendon. There’s a number of lights, stop signs and intersections between the highway and the zoo.

The Bearded Pig

Parking was easy. We parked right near the entrance, which was great. However, admission into the park was very pricey. We paid $66 for admission, with no rides (Adults $19.50, Kids 3+ $13.50). To compare we would pay $38.50 for the York Zoo ($14.75 for adults. $9 per children 4+ – we have 3 year old). Roger Williams Zoo, another one of our favorite spots is also much cheaper at $40 (Adults $12, 3+ $8). For that price, our expectations for the park were high.

Southwick's Giant Tortoise

The park boasts 330 acres of animals and attractions. The kids were impressed with the wide variety of animals, right from the start. We also enjoyed how spread out the park was, which made it easy to move around with a stroller. From the kangaroos to the giant tortoises, the bearded pig to the rhinos, we were impressed with the variety of animals as we bounced around the exhibits.

New Giraffe Exhibit Lets You Get Up Close!

However, some of the biggest draws for kids, including the lion, tigers, alligator and leopards were set back far from the crowds behind chain linked fencing, which was a bit frustrating for the boys. Surprisingly, there were no elephants or bear at this zoo. Southwick’s biggest strength is their large variety of monkey exhibits including chimpanzees, gibbons, and mandrills.

Tough to get pictures of the lions. Far away and behind chain link.

Southwick has a solid petting zoo, probably one of the “cleaner” ones I’ve seen. The new giraffe exhibit was a big hit and the bird sanctuary draws a big crowd. Although our kids were too young, the Skyfari Ski Ride looked like fun, where you could take a 15 minute chairlift ride above the park for an additional $5. One funny side note, the park makes you ride the lift barefoot if you’re wearing sandals, so we saw a lot of bare feet swinging overhead. The Woodland Express, a tire train ride also costs additional money.

Lastly, the zoo has a pretty weak selection of antiquated kiddie rides that looked like hand-me-downs from some bygone era. Each ride cost an additional $2 on top of admission. They were nothing special and only reminded us of all the wide variety of rides available in Maine. We took advantage of the zoo’s playground, which was decent.

All told, we were happy to add Southwick to our list of adventures and were impressed with the wide animal selection – but given the distance, price, and mediocre kiddie entertainment, we’re not sure we’ll be back to Mendon any time soon.

2 Responses to “ActiveDad Review: Southwick Zoo, Mendon MA”
  1. Kerry D Smith says:

    Thanks for the cometary Chris… Irena and I thought of going but think we will visit the York Zoo instead…

    Kerry and Irena Smith

  2. Henry Clough says:

    This is a decent observation of southwicks but it does not tell the full story. I live 10 minutes from this zoo and have grown up with it. The picture you have of the new giraffe habitat is not accurate. The price is higher than Roger Williams because this is a family owned zoo and gets no funding from the government unlike Roger Williams. That means they have to pay all of the expenses of feeding the animals from what comes in during the open season. When they close they have no income and they have to run off what they made during the open season. the kiddie rides are old but they are the original rides that were there from the 70’s. In terms of the fencing being in the way of the lions, of course there is fencing they are lions would you rather go in and pet them. Also with the rides if you plan on riding you should pay and extra $6 and then get free unlimited rides. This zoo has come a long way and they are constantly expanding. Folks who read this and are turned off should really reconsider and make a trip I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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