Presented by Travel Alberta
Who doesn’t love a long weekend! For me, long weekends give me the chance to think about going to places that I haven’t gotten to explore before. They don’t have to be far away, but the extra day seems like an extra life’s worth of time when I’m thinking about what to see and when to see it.
This past weekend, we used the extra day to visit the Discovery Wildlife Park. It’s small zoo a few blocks from downtown Innisfail, which is about an hour north of Calgary. I noticed the a sign for Discovery Wildlife Park last year and checked out their website. Well, it has all the pertinent information I needed, like reading that all the animals were rescues or orphans, given that I hadn’t heard about this place before, I wasn’t expecting it to really wow me. Boy was I wrong and I knew it from the second I drove up.
I can’t tell you how much I loved every single thing about this place. First things first, it’s really beautiful. The zoo is located on 90 acres, which is actually the same size as the Calgary Zoo. But with far fewer animals and no pesky river to worry about, the animals have lots of room to roam (and so do the kids.)
The second thing that amazed me was the sheer amount of amazing animals and how close you get be to experience them. There were bears, jaguars, monkeys, ostriches, tigers cheetahs, wolves and some animals we’re a little more familiar with like raccoons, reindeer and porcupines.
The zoo is a family run operation, which The Bos family becoming sort of accidental zoo keepers years ago and thanks to their amazing reputation as a first-class facility, they’ve become great partners with zoos from around North America. During last year’s flood, they housed some of Calgary’s animals and other zoos will reach out to them when they need more space for animals, that’s how they ended up with the tigers. When some of the most respected zoos around work and trust you, then you know you’re a great facility.
I was also really impressed with all the educational opportunities available to everyone exploring the zoo. We learned so much about the animals and the amount of effort it takes to take care of them. By law, none of these animals can be released back into the wild, so they are there until their final days, which means the family works incredibly hard to give them a comfortable and safe environment. Around every corner, I was impressed with how clean and well-maintained the facility is.
The stars of the Discovery Wildlife Park are actually stars themselves. If you’ve seen a T.V show, movie or commercial that featured a real life bear, chances are they’re hanging out at the park. This is where many of Hollywood’s most famous bears spend their time in between shoot. They all belong to Ruth LaBarge, who’s been an animal trainer for more than 40 years. Here at the zoo, you’ll find five of her bears: Barney, Betty, Whopper, Ursula and Bonkers.
Each of the bears do their own special tricks and have been featured in countless Super Bowl commercials and movies like Anchorman, and Dr. Dolittle 2 and shows like Hell on Wheels. Twice a day, the zoo offers a free Behind the Scenes opportunity where you get to watch Ruth work with the bears and then afterwards, you get to get a photo with one of them. The photos are $20, but I think they’re well worth it!
The zoo also offers trainer experiences with the jaguars and tigers.
Too often I drive by signs of things that interest me and never follow up and I’m really glad I did this time. I’ve already been sharing photos with my friends with promises that we’ll go back at least once this summer. Since it’s only an hour a drive from Calgary, I can’t imagine that I’m the only one that will be blown away by this fantastic experience.
Admission for the zoo is $16 (adults), $14 (youth) and $10 (children). If you went every week, I’m sure it would add up, but for the education and experience alone, I think it’s well worth the money. The zoo is open from 10am to 7pm daily from May 1 to Oct 13, 2014.