A Visit To The Indoor Zoo: Grande Galerie de L’Évolution
When it’s cold outside, sitting on the playground sidelines while my little wildling does her thing gets a bit old. When it comes to chilly temps this is totally normal for all you Scandinavians and you might think me a bit wimpy. Mais si il ne fait pas beau…I basically don’t want to leave my house.
Last week while Paris suffered a few schizophrenic weather days (rain, semi-cold, then a few hours of les éclaircies all within the span of a few hours), we ran through practically every game and toy at home—twice or three times. When cabin fever set in, I researched any place I could take my daughter to get her yas-yas out. Finally I shouted, “Let’s go to the zoo and see the animals!” which was received with jumping, screaming, and running in lab rat like circles.
We hopped on the bus over to the Jardin des Plantes and headed straight for the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution—the indoor zoo. I did a speedy walk right past the outdoor menagerie— hey, I never said anything about the animals being live!
There are four reasons I love this place. With 7000 specimens spread across three floors you can spend hours in this joint—dinosaurs, underwater creatures, extinct and endangered animals, lions, tigers, and bears. Our favorite is the second floor and what I think is the pièce de résistance of the museum: a stretch of sub-Saharan African animals. Some of the animals are roaring or growling, some cooing, either a pleasant surprise for the kids or a horror for the ones easily spooked.
Naturally they want to touch the animals, but they are not allowed (not in the live zoo either), but there are heaps of touch screen games, videos, and interactive activities. This is the second reason I love the Grande Galerie. They know that kids love jabbing a screen, assembling puzzles, and opening little doors. These educational stops also make me connect with my little one during the visit. I actually have to be present, not tapping away on the iPhone.
The third reason the Grande Galerie has become one of my rainy day activities is ironically because of the rain forest. I haven’t quite figured out the timing but about every 15 to 30 minutes the lights dim and it becomes “night time” inside the museum with crickets chirping and owls howling. Then a loud thunderstorm starts, followed by a rainbow. Finally the room gets brighter again like the sun has come out. This whole experience makes you really feel the visit as opposed to dragging through a museum and pointing at taxidermy creatures and dino bones.
The Galerie des Enfants on the third floor is a special french-english bi-lingual friendly area (meaning additional fee) on the third floor for children aged 6-12. (They offer a booklet in spanish if you ask.) Here interactive and multi-media toolsteach kids about biodiversity and environmental issues. My toddler doesn’t make the cut yet, but the fact we have something to look forward to and endless reasons to return is why this is the fourth reason j’adore the Grande Galerie for rainy and cold days. And if you visit when the weather is nice, then you get to run around the Jardin des Plantes after.
Images by Ajiri Aki
Grande Galerie de L’Évolution
Address: 36, rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 75011
Getting there: Metro, RER- Gare d’Austerlitz (line 5), Censier Daubenton (line 7), Jussieu or Gare d’Austerlitz (line 10) , Gare d’Austerlitz (RER C); Bus- lines 24, 57, 61, 63,67,89,91
Hours: Open every day except Tuesdays, 10am-6pm (closed January 1, May 1, and December 25), last admission 45 minutes before closing
Cost: 9 € for adults; 7€ for visitors 4-25 yrs old, with une carte famille nombreuse SNCF, Pass Éducation, adult groups of 10 or more; free for children under 4 years old, those with disabilities and their caregiver, journalists, members of l’ICOM, and members of Friends of the Museum.
La Galerie des Enfants
Hours: same hours as the Grand Galerie, except you must choose your time of entry when you purchase your ticket. Entries are every 15 minutes and you should allow approximately an hour and half to enjoy all the activities.
Cost: 11€ for adults; 9 € for visitors 4-25 yrs old, with une carte famille nombreuse SNCF, Pass Éducation, adult groups of 10 or more, those with disabilities and their caregiver, journalists, members of l’ICOM, and members of Friends of the Museum.