What is a BioPark you ask? I had the same question myself after momentarily picturing some sort of Poison Ivy-like animal/plant hybrid. Though the actual BioPark is nowhere that sci-fi, it’s still a really interesting, fun place to spend a day.
The ABQ (short for Albuquerque) BioPark is a combination of three different attractions: the Tingley Aquatic Park, Rio Grande Botanical Garden and the Rio Grande Zoo. You can buy a ticket for all three, which includes river transportation between the different locations, or just one if you only have an hour or so.
The Tingley Aquatic Park doesn’t look like much from the outside, or even when you first walk in, but once you start following the self-guided tour, it becomes quite the wonderland. The aquatic park is by no means the biggest I’ve ever been to, but it’s the quality which sticks out. The eel cavern is reminiscent of Ursula’s cave in The Little Mermaid, and the stingray tank is teeming full of different species which like to come right up to to the glass and water surface, much to the squealing delight of little kids. There’s even a “petting zoo” type room where visitors are allowed to reach in a shallow tank and touch some small sharks and rays! The coolest room though (in my humble opinion) is the predator room. With a glass two stories high seperating you from the water, the predator exhibit is a huge tank teeming with sharks, rays, piranhas and more. There are seats located along the backside of the room, which, when I was there, were the parents sat as dozens of small children had their faces pressed up against the glass in awe.
The Rio Grande Botanical Garden is half outside and half inside a giant conservatory, both of which put together are about 36 acres of flora and fauna. I must admit, much to my shagrin, that I did not spend much time in the gardens, but to my defense, I have wicked bad allergies (as my family, friends and stack of allergy medications can attest to) and even though it was “Spring”, the temperature outside was in the 40s, which was not really condusive to spending a whole lot of time outside gazing at plants. The Botanical Garden really does have a wide variety of exhibits and plants, though, and the next time I’m back in Albuquerque, assuming the weather is in the 60s or above, I’ll stop by again so I can really appreciate it better.
I visited the Rio Grande Zoo the day after the failed attempt at the Botanical Garden and the weather was about 20 degrees warmer. This zoo is fantastic! The first animal you see when walking in are the flamingos, which of course remind me of famingo-ing professor’s yards in college. If you’ve never done it, you’re missing out. The rest of the zoo is organized by type of animal: raptor, cat, nocturnal, African animals, etc. Seeing exotic animals up close and personal turns me in to a total kid, and I had a blast running around looking at the polar bears, elephants, crocodiles, girafes, and so many more. Word of warning, though, if reptiles are you’re thing, you might want to wait until summer to visit the zoo because they’re kept inside until the weather warms up.