Plan Your Visit: Toronto Zoo
Despite our advances in technology, it's still impossible to see the whole world in one day. It seems like no one told the Toronto Zoo that, however, because they have successfully brought the diversity of the animal kingdom straight to you with immersive exhibits divided into seven regions: Indo-Malaya, Africa, Australasia, Eurasia, Canadian Domain, Tundra Trek, and the Americas.
Open year round, the Toronto Zoo holds itself to a high standard of care for its residents. With over 5,000 animals and seven geographic regions representing 460 species, the Toronto Zoo has made it its mission to provide memorable experiences that educate, inspire, and promote conservation efforts and wildlife protection for years to come.
Our Favorite Must-Sees
It may come as no surprise that one of the best exhibits at the Toronto Zoo is Tundra Trek, featuring a 5-acre polar bear habitat complete with an underwater viewing area. Due to the climate, polar bears can often be seen swimming, "hunting," or sprawled about on a nice sunny day. Other arctic species in Tundra Trek include snowy owls, arctic wolves and reindeer.
You can’t go to the Toronto Zoo without seeing some native Canadian animals. Here, in the Canadian Domain, you can see the cougar, northern bald eagle, American moose and the sharp-eared Canada lynx. There are some pretty sizeable individuals here, too, including wood bison and wapiti (American elk), the trumpeter swan with its snow-white plumage (maybe not large but it’s the largest of wild fowl), and, of course, the great grizzly bear. Try to get there during feeding time!
Most of us might find some more familiar faces in the Americas region. Here, you’ll spot alligators, beavers, boa constrictors, and a spectacled owl. Tilt your head and say hello to the two-toed sloth, who will likely be hanging upside-down from a tree limb. These slow, furry mammals are seen in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America.
The Americas has plenty of unique birds, like the silver beak tanager and the scarlet ibis. But the region is also known for creepy crawly insects and arachnids like the vinegaroon, a giant bird-eating spider, and the Brazilian giant cockroach. You’ll find plenty of stunning reptiles and amphibians, like the dangerous blue poison dart frog or the Reticulate Gila monster. Fish, eels and the tiny but brightly-colored primate, the golden lion tamarin, also live here.
Head on over to the Americas Outdoor Exhibit, which has a rainbow of animals including the scarlet macaw, American flamingo, black-handed spider monkey, and, of course, South America’s largest cat, the jaguar.
The Other Side of the World
Ready for viewing some more exotic species?
Indomalaya is home to the Malaysian painted turtle, whose shell is marked with three broad black stripes. During mating season, the male’s head turns white and a red stripe forms between its eyes. In the Indomalaya region of the Toronto Zoo, you can also spot the Asian brown tortoise, the Burmese star tortoise, and the Spiny turtle.
But Indomalaya isn’t just a turtle and tortoise club. See the gorgeous Sumatran tiger, whose deep orange color and black stripes captivate the eye, the Greater one-horned rhinoceros, the iconic Indian peacock, and the lion-tailed macaque in the Indomalaya Outdoor Exhibit.
The Malayan Woods feature butterflies, a rare clouded leopard, Javan whistling ducks, and an ornamental tree spider. And you can’t leave Indomalaya without saying hi to the Sumatran orangutans. So human-like, their opposable thumbs grab onto tree limbs, and their long arms fling up and around in the air to make familiar and fascinating gestures.
The African Rainforest features an exotic variety of birds including the black crake, the blue-bellied roller, the golden-breasted starling, and the Egyptian goose. Red river hogs with their leaf-shaped ears and long facial hair, perky meerkats, and ring-tailed lemurs also hang out in the African Rainforest. Perhaps the star of this region is the critically endangered western lowland gorilla with its intelligent eyes.
The African Savanna is home to lions, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, and many of the exotic animals you’ve probably seen on nature shows. The spotted hyena with its raucous laugh, the southern white rhinoceros, and the beautiful sable antelope also dwell in the African Savanna.
Australia has a well-known wild side, and so does the Australasia region of the Toronto Zoo! Check out the Komodo dragon, the kookaburra, the Matschie’s tree kangaroo, the wallaby, and the thorny devil stick insect -- a sneaky sort whose textured brown exterior is easily mistaken for a twig.
The waters of Australia are just as diverse as the land Down Under, with moon jellyfish, pot-bellied seahorses, and the hypnotic patterns of the lionfish ready to lure you in. You can’t fully appreciate Australian sea life without paying a visit to the Great Barrier Reef subsection of the Toronto Zoo. Check out the live reef corals and the fish in the Australasia exhibit for a perfect explosion of color.
The Eurasia region is where you’ll find the giant pandas, but also the red panda, a smaller and more nimble relative. Eurasia is also home to Barbary sheep, chamois, yak, Bactrian camel, and endangered snow leopard. The chamois is recognized by its hook-shaped horns and is found in mountainous parts of Europe and Asia Minor, yet some of these magnificent creatures can be seen up close at the Toronto Zoo, without having to trek halfway across the globe.
The Discovery Zone
Here, kids can get close to domestic animals like alpacas and rabbits, and pose for family photos around the zoo-themed sculptures. The seasonal Waterside Theater features talented trainers and their intelligent animals, who participate in a meet-and-greet at the close of the show. Splash Island is another facet of the Discovery Zone, where kids can cool off during those hot summer days.
Tips and Tricks for a Better Visit
- Get an early start at the Toronto Zoo since it stretches across 6 miles of trails that will take some time and energy to trek.
- The Canadian Domain is more difficult to access as it sits at the bottom of a big hill. The Zoomobile Ride can transport your group throughout the zoo for an additional fee.
- If you want to see the giant pandas, arrive early or be prepared to wait. The queue to see them is longer in the afternoon, so you’ll want to get to the zoo early if you want to squeeze in some quality time with them.
- Kids will enjoy taking a trip to the Toronto Zoo during the summer months for the Waterside Theatre and Splash Island attractions. However, early fall makes for crisp and enjoyable walking weather.
- Because there’s so much space to explore, it’s important to stay hydrated. Bring plenty of water for each adventurer. The Toronto Zoo has plenty of establishments to satisfy all levels of hunger and taste, but you can bring your own food, too.
- Don’t leave without tasting the Beaver Tails! Deep fried whole wheat pastry topped with your choice of goodies. Everyone raves!
- Wagons and strollers are available for rent. Wheelchairs are always free to guests.
MagnusCards Available For Guests With Autism
Toronto Zoo is proud to support MagnusCards, a FREE downloadable app created specifically for those living with autism. MagnusCards combines structured, step-by-step guidance with game design to help teach a variety of life skills through free downloadable Cards Decks. As part of their support, Toronto Zoo has funded unique Card Decks that will help those with autism and other cognitive special needs feel welcomed and empowered when visiting the zoo.
For more detailed information on the services and resources offered by the Toronto Zoo, please visit their official website.
Toronto Zoo Discounts
With Toronto CityPASS, you can visit the top 5 Toronto attractions and places to visit at a discounted price. CityPASS booklets can be purchased online. The Toronto Zoo offers a 15% discount for groups of 20 or more people year-round.
The Toronto Zoo is open 364 days a year, closed only on December 25th. Summer hours run through October 9th, and the Toronto Zoo is open from 9:30am to 4:30pm on weekdays and from 9:30am to 6:00pm on weekends and holidays. From October 10th through December 31, the Zoo is open until 4:30pm daily. Last admission is one hour before closing, but you’ll want much more time to see everything.
The Toronto Zoo charges $12 to park for the day. For quicker entry, guests are encouraged to buy parking passes online. Make the most of the parking cost by dedicating an entire day to the Toronto Zoo experience.