At the end of 2023, I had the pleasure of visiting Micke Grove Zoo, a hidden gem in Lodi, California not far from my parents’ house. Accompanied by my friends Pin-pin and Rafael, both fellow Stanford alumni, along with their delightful son Leo, the day promised a mix of nostalgia, cultural exchange, and, of course, a zoo adventure.
Pin-pin and I go way back to high school, and it was heartening to see her again, this time with her husband Rafael and the talented Leo in tow. Leo is a child prodigy at seemingly everything he does, including piano, having even played at concerts with a professional symphony. His curiosity extended to ping pong, and he was eager to challenge my dad, a fellow enthusiast. Unfortunately, there was no time for that, but there was plenty of entertainment at the zoo.
Our group expanded with the addition of Cathy, a high school friend, who brought along her sister-in-law Felicia and young Bonnie. Felicia, originally from China, spoke limited English but was fluent in both Cantonese and Mandarin. Communicating with her provided me with welcome practice in Mandarin.
While Felicia and I chatted in Chinese, Leo attempted to connect with a golden-lion tamarin using an animal whistle he had bought just days before.
Interestingly, Micke Grove held a special place in the heart of the childhood violin teacher for Pin-pin and me. Mrs. Rita Wilcox, who lived into her 90s, passed away last year. Her memorial, which my parents were able to attend, was even staged at Micke Grove Park. So being here reminded us of the memories we shared with her and what an excellent teacher she was.
While Micke Grove Zoo may not rival some of the world-class ones such as Singapore’s, its $5 entry fee made it an absolute bargain. The Japanese gardens added a touch of tranquility to our visit, creating a serene atmosphere to enjoy our time together.
As we explored the zoo, we encountered a fascinating array of animals – a golden-lion tamarin, a red-fan parrot, a turtle, a lynx, a red-tailed hawk, a black and white ruffed lemur, golden mantella frogs, a panther, northern bald ibis, and a southern Chilean pudu. Leo’s attempt to communicate with the golden-lion tamarin using his recently purchased animal whistle added a playful touch to the experience.
After our zoo adventure, we headed to In-n-Out for a well-deserved feast. Following Leo’s suggestion, I ordered my “double double” burger “animal-style,” a secret menu item featuring a delectable sauce with caramelized onions and cheese. This was certainly an appropriate choice after a couple of hours of visiting with animals.
In retrospect, venturing through Micke Grove Zoo not only brought back cherished memories but also created new ones with friends old and new. I’d recommend putting it on your list to visit should you find yourself in the Lodi area.