'Stir crazy' families celebrate reopening of Milwaukee County Zoo

NOW: ’Stir crazy’ families celebrate reopening of Milwaukee County Zoo

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Families around Milwaukee County celebrated the chance to spend some time outdoors for the reopening of the Milwaukee County Zoo Saturday.

Guests will find the typical lions and tigers and bears, but there are some new zoo staples as well: masks and signs and reservations.

From the moment guests walk in the zoo, they'll see hand sanitizer and signs reminding them to keep their distance from other guests.

For many families who visited the zoo on Saturday, June 13, the wide spaces and playful animals were a nice change of scenery.

"We decided to get out... and enjoy a little bit of sunshine for the day and see what the animals have been up to since we haven't been able to see them for so long," Stephanie McNamee said.

McNamee brought her sons, Owen and Ian, to see their favorites.

"I would say mine is the lion," said Ian. "There's only one lion in a pride, which is like 50 girls and one male."

"The penguins swim, and it's really cool," said Owen.

Zoo Director Chuck Wikenhauser said staff spent weeks working on a reopening plan.

"At this time, only the grounds and outdoor exhibits are open. None of the buildings are open. We do have restrooms though available for people," Wikenhauser said.

Guests have to wear masks and buy tickets online. The online reservations have specific time entries to manage the number of people inside. The zoo's capacity would normally be 6,000 people, but right now, they're only allowing 1,500 in at a time.

Zoo staff members are trying to create some much needed fun for families while managing safety concerns.

"One lady said, 'This is just as good as Disney World right now,'" Wikenhauser said.

The zoo's hours would usually be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but during the first phase of reopening, the zoo is only open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to allow staff members to clean. The last entry time to get in each day will be 1:30 p.m.

Visitors said these extra precautions are worth it.

"We can stay far enough away from each other to be safe. (Before this) we were like stir crazy locked up the whole time," said Jill Ingram.

Ingram's friend Aggie Holguin is visiting her from San Antonio and they were very excited to see the zoo reopening after weeks of waiting.

"It's nice to see (the animals) interacting with guests. It brings a really good joy," Holguin said.

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