When the weather gets cold in New England, one of my family’s favorite places to visit is the zoo.The usual response I get to this is, “I didn’t know that zoos are open in the winter?” They certainly are! While some attractions do shut down until spring, many of the exhibits remain open and the animals are happy to entertain human guests during the winter months. In fact, some critters are more active when the weather gets chilly versus during hot, summer months when they lazily nap away the day under the shade of a tree.Winter road trips to the zoo are a favorite of ours for a number of reasons. First, we get a chance to do something outdoors.  Cabin fever is epidemic in our household during the winter, so we don hats, scarves, gloves, and parkas and grab a dose of Vitamin D sunshine, fresh air, and exercise while visiting the animals. Second, visiting the zoo always provides an opportunity to learn something new. With less crowds we can spend some extra time reading the information boards and learn more about the animals and conservation efforts being sponsored around the world. Third, we can take advantage of the special activities offered around the holidays. Kids can watch demonstrations, listen to storytellers, or do arts and crafts projects.Maybe the best thing about the zoo is that it’s a great place to visit if you’re on a budget.  My family takes advantage of annual memberships at two of our favorite zoos. One is with the Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, an accredited member of AZA (American Zoo and Aquarium Assocation.) Not only do we get free admission at our zoo year-round, but we get coupons for discounts, guess passes, and a reciprocal arrangement with a number of other AZA zoos and aquariums across the country. Our other membership is through the Bronx Zoo. We get twelve months of visits and free parking passes. We can also visit several other New York area zoos, including Central Park, and the New York Aquarium.Family zoo memberships make a lot of sense. They’re affordable, help a great cause, and are tax deductible. If you’re looking for an affordable family vacation that’s close to home — and a chance to get outdoors for some fun this winter — check out your local zoo.TravelingWithSanityMom