NC Zoo, Asheboro
We met some of Geoff's extended family in Asheboro, NC at what is apparently the world's largest zoo. I was blown away how large this is. It is set up along a really long pathway, so the animals' habitats only meet with humans along one side, and they have very large places to roam. It's much more animal-centric than designed for human entertainment. It's quite the hike making it through, but quite shady. It would be hard to make it through with a baby wrap & shoulder bag. I definitely recommend a stroller and a backpack and really supportive shoes. Be prepared for the long haul. They DO have tram rides, but the waits are kind of long, and you have to completely unload the stroller and fold it up and hand it over; it's kind of stressful. I would park at the end, take the tram to the beginning, and walk back up to your car.
This zoo has an outstanding children's area, with a big sand and water outdoor kitchen, complete with running water at the sinks. There's a giant treehouse even adults can walk up. There is a small stream area, a puppet/costume play area, and a chalk painting area, among other features. Lots of places for adults to rest, or easy ways to get involved playing. You can get as messy or stay as neat as you like here. It's large and all outdoors. In addition to this, which is in and of itself worth the price of admission, there's a new playground, although I found it to be a bit crowded with older children and had to hover right over the baby.
This zoo was full of big WOW moments, with dramatic reveals of majestic animals in enormous habitats. But my favorite moment was the carousel - Eloise's FIRST carousel ride! She smiled the WHOLE time, so big. All the kids in the family rode at the same time. The carousel operator was so moved by little Eloise crying when the ride was over, she told our entire family we could all ride AGAIN! So we did! It was like riding on a cloud. I couldn't stop smiling.