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Riverbanks Zoo

People, especially kids, love to watch penguin: The cold-weather birds that appear to be dressed in tuxedos and waddle upright on their webbed back feet look surprisingly like humans. Penguins connected with humans on the silver screen.

Did you connect with penguins on the silver screen? Go see the real thing – gentoo penguins – at Columbia's zoo.

Riverbanks is an urban zoo: There are no wide-open spaces between exhibits, a plus when you're traveling with kids or seniors who can get tuckered out or can't handle iffy winter weather.

The park has seven gentoo penguins, the type featured in the blockbuster nature film “March of the Penguins.” Gentoos, with a bright orange bill and a white stripe across the tops of their heads, are the third-largest variety in the world of penguins, weighing as much as 19 pounds each. They're natives of the Antarctic Peninsula and the Falkland Islands off the coast of southern South America. Gentoo families are quite close-knit. In the water, they're extremely agile and fast swimmers.

Zoo/gardens hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Regular admission: $11.75; $9.25 for ages 3-12; 2 and younger, free.

Check the website (www.riverbanks.org) for info on the after-dark “Lights Before Christmas” illumination and for details on special kid-friendly daytime programs. One of their 45-minute Discovery Day programs for ages 2-5 ties directly to the chilly season: “Arctic Experience” (Dec. 18 and 21) is about polar bears, wolves, seals and other animals that live in the far north.

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