Ok, ok, we know what you’re thinking — seriously, a family-friendly exhibit on bats?! While these winged creatures may give you the creeps, the San Francisco Zoo is set to demystify the animals with their new kid-friendly exhibit “Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats.” Located in the Pachyderm Building, the exhibit opened on October 18, 2012 and will close on January 6, 2013. The best thing by far about the exhibit is its interactive features, which caters to the young kids with a short attention span, as well as the older kids who can read. And, if you’re scared of these mysterious creatures, don’t fear because the exhibit doesn’t actually feature real bats. You can let out a sigh of relief now…

What You Can Expect:
Anyone who has visited the S.F. Zoo in recent years knows that the Pachyderm Building is anything but modern. But, if you can look past the dated interior and facade, you’ll discover a sweet exhibit all about bats. The exhibit essentially consists of two rooms that are chock full of interactive (and yes, educational) features that your kids will love. Since the exhibit boasts two rooms (about 2,500 square feet), you’ll definitely want an hour or so in there, and then aim to spend the rest of your time at the zoo exploring the grounds and other animal enclosures.

The 411 on all the Hands-On Fun:
If your kid is like a bull in a china shop when it comes to exhibits, you needn’t worry at “Masters of the Night.” There are tons of stations where kids (from the tots to the older kids) are encouraged to touch, play, and draw. Some highlights include:

—  A rubbing station set up with crayons and paper. The little kid height appropriate table includes everything you need to make your very own etchings of a bat. Or, just do some drawing if bats aren’t your kiddo’s thing.

— A light up model that displays where bats live in the world. Even if your kids can’t read yet, they’ll definitely enjoy pushing the button to make the map light up.

— An interactive model where your kids hear the sounds a mama bat makes.

— A hands-on model where you can use a joystick and laser to maneuver a bat model in search of food.

— Perhaps one of the coolest features of this travelling showcase of bats is an oversized model of bat ears. Your kids can maneuver the huge bat ears so that they can listen and actually experience how well bats can hear. We suggest helping your child hold the ears to his head, and then walking across the room to speak. He’ll be astounded how well he can hear you!

The Takeaway:
“Masters of the Night” is all about promoting bat conservation. The Zoo did a great job of making this exhibit fun and interactive with the intent of educating kids of all ages.

Don’t Forget:
After you’ve explored the bat exhibit and checked out your fave animals, be sure to make a stop at the old school playground, which is located right near what was the former entrance to the Zoo. For those who grew up going to the Zoo, the playground hasn’t changed all that much, but it’s still pretty fun. In fact, when we were there, tons of kiddos were playing on the swings with their long metal chains and metal (gasp!) slides. Our friend Peter at SFGate’s The Poop has a pretty funny take on his recent trip to the zoo’s playground with his son.

Pachyderm Building
San Francisco Zoo
1 Zoo Road
San Francisco, Ca 94132
Online: sfzoo.org
Cost: Free with Zoo admission

Let us know what your family likes to do at the San Francisco Zoo in the comment section below.

— Erin Lem (her photos too!)