Your Guide to the Dallas Zoo
It's a rare treat to see a Bongo, Nile Hippopotamus or Oryx outside of Africa, let alone to see all three on the same day. Fortunately, you'll get to admire these magnificent creatures and 2,000 more at the Dallas Zoo. The 100-plus-year-old zoo has everything an animal lover could wish for on 106 acres of immaculately landscaped grounds. All manner of animals—from majestic tigers to a snapping death adder—call the Dallas Zoo home.
With such a vast landscape to explore, it's easy to feel overwhelmed at first, but with handy zoo maps and plenty of friendly staff to help if needed, you won't get lost. If you're all about planning your trip before you arrive, download and print out a zoo map to help you navigate the park.
Planning Your Trip to the Dallas Zoo: Sights to See
One of the zoo's most popular attractions is the award-winning Giants of the Savanna habitat. Since 2012, the interactive experience has been thrilling visitors with a variety of creatures that live on the savanna in the wild. Ostriches, lions, warthogs, giraffes, cheetahs and more all coexist peacefully here, and it's a wondrous experience to see them in all their proud glory. For a more in-depth learning experience, check out the Simmons Safari Base Camp, where you'll learn all about the animals' habits and interesting quirks.
The Cheetah Encounter in ZooNorth is an especially well-liked exhibit. It features Winspear, Dallas Zoo's majestic cheetah, and Amani, his Labrador retriever best friend, along with other animals like a trumpeter hornbill and other African guineafowl. The Cheetah Encounter serves to demonstrate how animals use their incredible speed to survive in the wilds of Africa.
Take a quick rest in the shade to watch Wonders of the Wild, an interactive show featuring animals and birds from all over the world. You'll duck as African crowned cranes, eagles, hawks, and other birds of prey soar over your head, but take care not to miss the theatrics of penguins performing water acrobatics on stage.
You'll even get the opportunity to feed a giraffe at the Diane and Hal Brierley Giraffe Ridge. Up on the tall ridge, you'll be up close and personal with these gentle creatures— and they're especially friendly when you offer them their favorite snack of romaine lettuce.
Dallas Zoo for the Kids (and Kids at Heart)
The Lacarte Family Children's Zoo offers a variety of activities perfect for younger visitors. If getting up close and personal with cheery birds sounds appealing, check out Travis & Zach's Birds Landing. It's an interactive garden landscaped with attractive trees and plants and dotted with birdbaths carved into boulders. Step inside and two dozen chirping bird species will instantly surround you after you offer them a seed stick or cup of mealworms (which can be purchased for $1).
One of the more popular warm weather exhibits in the Children's Zoo is The Stream, a man-made "creek" bubbling through boulders. It's the perfect antidote to the sweltering Texas sun. Kids can cool down in the shallow water or run off some energy exploring the bouncy spider web, giant hollow tortoise shells, and hollow tree equipped with a tall slide while parents watch from the sheltered sidelines.
Kids of all ages will be enamored with the zoo's Nature Place Space. Filled with natural elements conducive to building hideaways and forts (e.g., logs and boulders), children can spend hours here cultivating an appreciation for Mother Earth. It's perfect for creating natural art or even cooking up a mud pie.
Don't miss the Keeper Encounters & Training Demonstrations, where trained zoo staff discuss the animals they care for every day in great detail during half-hour daily demonstrations. Each session features a special view of a specific animal or type of animal, like predators of Africa or winged wonders.
For an additional fee you can try the Backstage Safari, a 90-minute guided tour of the Dallas Zoo given by zookeepers. You'll get a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to care for the animals living at the zoo, an opportunity to snap a photo with an endangered penguin, and a chance to feed apples to an African elephant. You'll also get to experience a special Wild Encounters show featuring exquisite animals like a tamandua (a small anteater).
Sensory Friendly Family Nights
Dallas Zoo offers Sensory Friendly Family Nights, which offer an all-new sensory-friendly experience at the Dallas Zoo! Sensory Friendly Family Night is specially designed for individuals on the autism spectrum or those who have sensory sensitivities to enjoy a fun evening at the Zoo with their families and caregivers. There are sound modifications and a sensory haven available as you tour ZooNorth on an evening adventure. Activities are stationed along the path to help you navigate your way as the zoo animals prepare for the night. Make a firefly pattern, get a closer look at birds, identify frog calls, and take a silent walk with primates as you become a zoo night explorer. For more information, visit the official Dallas Zoo event page.
Getting Around the Dallas Zoo
With over 100 acres, exploring the entire zoo on foot can be a tall order. Luckily, the Wilds of Africa on Adventure Safari monorail allows you get a relaxing aerial view of five African habitats. Over its 20-minute duration, it chugs along at a serene four miles per hour, allowing you take in exhibits not accessible by foot, like the zoo's reproductions of the Tanzanian Serengeti, the Great Rift Valley, and mountains of Ethiopia.
It also offers a unique birds-eye view of the Chimpanzee Forest, Penguin Cove, and Simmons Hippo Outpost. You'll get to admire unique species from all across the African continent, like the nyala (spiral-horned antelope), lesser kudu (forest antelope), gerenuk (gazelle giraffe), and more. Every exhibit is accompanied by a narration given by interpretive specialists who explain everything about the animals, their habitats, and the Dallas Zoo's efforts towards conservation.
Buying Tickets & Passes to the Dallas Zoo
Purchasing Dallas Zoo tickets is easy and can be done online or in person at the zoo. General admission tickets are $15 for adults ages 12-64 and $12 for children ages 3-11 and seniors (age 65+). Tots age two and under are free. Dallas CityPASS includes admission to the Dallas Zoo, as well as three other top Dallas attractions that are sure to evoke fond memories long after your trip is over.
The Dallas Zoo serves as a reminder of the miraculous natural world, which is all too often forgotten as we go about our daily lives. Take a few hours to appreciate its splendor, and you won't regret it.