The Maine Wildlife Park is a fun place to see everything from owls and eagles to moose and raccoons. Here are our tips for getting the most out of your visit!
Located right on Route 26A, finding the Maine Wildlife Park is super easy, and the sign isn’t hard to spot. The directions from the park’s website are clear and accurate.
If you’re using a GPS, the physical address is technically: 56 Game Farm Road, Gray, ME 04039.
As of 2018, ticket prices are $5.50 for kids 4+, $7.50 for adults, and $5.50 for seniors (60+). It’s also worth seeing if your local library might have discount passes available to use, since many libraries do. Our library had passes available, so we were able to save almost exactly half the cost of admission for our family of 4.
Keep in mind that the box office does not accept credit or debit cards. As of the writing of this post, ticket purchases must be made with cash or checks only.
There is an ATM right near the admission desk, in case you find yourself stuck without cash.
When you first arrive, there’s a sign telling about the self-guided tour that the Maine Wildlife Park offers as a free service. You access the tour by calling a number from your cell phone. It’s an easy-to-use service that helps to fill in many of the gaps in the signage throughout the park.
For example, I really enjoying learning the history of the individual animals that have ended up here. From listening to the audio recordings, I was able to learn about which animals had been raised illegally as pets, which were orphaned, and some that have been injured and rehabilitated.
If your kids are too distracted or energetic to get much out of the recordings while at the exhibits, don’t forget you can listen to them at home as well! Pulling out the park map, and going through your scrapbook of photos from your visit in the quiet of your living room can be a great way to learn more about the animals, in a quieter setting with fewer distractions.
Navigating the park
When we arrived (about 10am on a summer Monday), most of the crowd started at the front of the park and moved backward in bustling wave.
We found that a helpful maneuver was to make our way to the fishery all the way at the back of the park, and meander circuitously back to the front. This made it more possible to avoid a sea of young visitors jostling for limited frontage along each exhibit.
Since there are several paths that circle through the park, it can be a good plan to grab a map for each person in case you find yourselves wanting to split up and re-group later.
Making the most of your visit
In retrospect, I wish I’d prepared my kids a bit more to focus as much on the habitat of each creature, as the creature itself. Even as an adult, I found myself disappointed at the somewhat limited opportunities to see most of the animals very clearly or closely. It was a hot summer morning, so many creatures were seeking cool and shade in their dens.
However, one thing that doesn’t change is the habitat that each creature lives in. Do they like a cool, shady den? Do they need water nearby? How about the birds – do they need soft things to line their nests, or do they make them from sticks? Those are fun questions that can be explored at each exhibit, even if the animals prove elusive during your visit.
That said, next time I’d try visiting during a cooler month, or on a cloudy day. I’d also plan to spend the later part of the afternoon at the park instead of arriving in the morning, in hope the animals would be more active and the crowds, less so.
As a parent, I found myself adapting to what excited my kids. Mine are ages 2 and 4, so this wasn’t the animals they couldn’t see me pointing out in the shadowy recesses of an enclosure, but serendipitous creatures that were easy to see.
So what if we came to see moose and bears? We were excited about the savvy chipmunks that frequented the space beneath the feed dispensers. The frogs in the turtle display were happily singing away and were easy to spot. And this fascinating caterpillar on a milkweed leaf by the fishery, held my daughter transfixed.
Those were creatures too, if not the ones we came to see, and offered just as much opportunity for education and observation.
We did carefully check each exhibit off our list – Izzy had memorized a log of all the animals I’d told her the park housed, and she gleefully led us along the paths, thrilled with finding the “home” for each of those creatures, even if she didn’t see the animal clearly.
Meals & snacks
Particularly if the weather is warm, it’s a good plan to bring plenty of water for everyone, and I really appreciate the park’s policy of allowing visitors to bring in outside food and drinks.
The drink vending machines outside the gift shop weren’t in order during our visit, leaving just the little snack shack as a place to grab cold drinks, chips, and frozen treats. However, there are plenty of nice shady picnic tables available, so plenty of room for eating lunch right in the park if you bring your own.
Our favorite spot for taking a quiet snack break was actually on a bench near the lovely fountain along the back side of the raptor exhibit. It was nice and shady, and fairly quiet since it wasn’t right next to any popular exhibits. The sound of the trickling water was refreshing on a hot day, and the life-sized carving of an eagle gave us something fun to admire while we paused from our tour.
I’m aware that in many ways this might not feel like a particularly effusive or enthusiastic review – with my accounts of dozing critters and broken vending machines. However, I do honestly hope you’ll feel very encouraged to visit and support this wonderful park and the good work they do here.
I feel that even with small children, there are just so many lessons to be learned in a place like this. Depending on when you go, it might feel a bit low on the “WOW” factor, but it’s a wonderful place to get a hands-on perspective for the importance of preserving endangered animal populations.
Some of our favorite moments were simple ones. We watched a warden carefully filling a feeding area in the moose enclosure with very long, leafy branches. He arranged them just so – even though they were clearly heavy and unwieldy, and it was a hot day. Then he drove his truck up to the far side of the enclosure, and you could see him letting the moose in. The moose seemed to greet the warden with joy, and they spent a moment together, before the moose wandered on and made a beeline to the lunch he knew was waiting for him. There was real, evident care for the animals, and this was just one moment that illustrated it. We didn’t see much of the moose as he ate his lunch – some velvety tips of antlers and bunch of rustling leafy branches – but I left feeling we’d seen what mattered. It was on the far side of a huge enclosure, and it wasn’t about us. And that was fine.
There were also quite a few animals that we did get a good view of, including this gorgeous lynx, who was twitching his tail like a house cat, as a chipmunk taunted him just outside the enclosure. Seeing this familiar cat-like behavior in an unfamiliar creature was such a neat experience for the kids. “Oh, that silly, silly lynx wants to chaaaase that chipmunk!!” And we were ALL in awe of those enormous paws!
I do hope you check out the Maine Wildlife Park! Have you ever been there? If you have tips for new visitors, please feel free to share them below!
For more information about the Maine Wildlife Park, check out the official website HERE.