Did you know that the North Carolina Zoo is the world’s largest natural habitat zoo? Nope – I didn’t either! I also didn’t know that such a great location was a mere 3 hours away from home. I’m learning about all sorts of new places to visit!
Do you want to feed a giraffe? Feed a giraffe from up high so you are eye level? You can do it at the North Carolina Zoo! See a polar bear, gorilla or a rhino up close, and personal – the North Carolina Zoo is the place to go!
The North Carolina Zoological Park is located at the foot of the Uwharrie Mountains, just outside Asheboro, North Carolina. At over 2,000 acres, it is the largest walk-through zoo in the world, has over 1,600 animals from more than 250 species primarily representing Africa and North America, and is open 364 days a year (closed on Christmas Day). More than 700,000 visitors steps through the gates each year.
My personal opinion says that in order to see and appreciate the zoo fully, you need more than one day. You don’t want to over-exert yourself or the kids. If you do it all in one day, start early and prepare for a long day because you won’t want to miss a thing. The North Carolina Zoo consists of two main areas: “Africa” and “North America”. There are entrances and parking lots located on both ends. There are approximately five miles of walking paths. The zoo provides trams and air-conditioned buses for visitors to move from one location to another. Because of the natural habitat design, there are empty, wooded spaces along the paths between exhibits, but each exhibit is arranged so that you get a great view of the animals who live there.
When you arrive, be sure to check the animal status boards located outside the admissions windows. Here you will find information about feeding times, keeper talks and which animals might be away from their exhibits for one reason or another. At the admission booth, you will receive a free Visitor Guide that includes animals, habitats and trail names which correspond to park sign and will help you find your way around the zoo.
You won’t find any caged animals. All of the animals are given enclosures and areas as close to their natural habitats as possible which includes trees, ponds, rocks, grass and dirt.
April through October you can take a Zoofari! Run three times per day aboard a specially outfitted, open-air vehicle, this tour of the 40-acre Watani Grassland exhibit was definitely the highlight of my day! An experienced zoo educator is on board and discusses (and answers questions) all of the species encountered during the trip. Seeing the elephants splash in a pond as if they were at the local pool club was a treat! FYI: The Zoofari requires an additional fee and ticket above your admittance.
I do think this may be one of the world’s finest zoos! The animals have so much room and many natural features. Because of that – there is a lot of walking for people. There are some beautiful areas to sit and rest, as well as multiple play areas for children. Wear your most comfortable shoes.
Their 4-D Dino movie is equal to a Disney-like movie experience and definitely should not be missed!
As an adult, visiting the North Carolina Zoo was a treat and allowed me to appreciate how well the animals are taken care of. I can’t wait to go back with my granddaughter because I can only imagine how it will look through the eyes of a child.
The zoo offers great kid zones, educational programs and kids camps.
There are four restaurants at the zoo – the Iron Hen Cafe Express, Junction Springs Cafe, Crossing Pizza Cafe and the Crocodile Cafe, as well as various snack bars and kiosks such as the Settler’s Ridge, Wild Burger, The Watering Can, Connections Creamery, The Coop food truck (that changes location) and Prairie PopCorn. You are sure to find something you love.
If you are a food allergy sufferer or require a special diet for medical reasons, call ahead to ask for guidance and recommendations on where to eat for your particular allergy or restriction. The zoo does not normally permit outside food/coolers to be brought in but will allow you to bring food if you have a restricted special diet that they cannot accommodate at one of their food locations. Coolers, food or beverages used for medical purposes can be checked at either entrance, tagged and brought inside the Zoo. Park rangers patrol the Zoo and can help with medical emergencies. Lockers are located near the North America admission booth for storage. There are also public picnic areas outside the gates where you can enjoy food brought from home (be sure to have your hand stamped for re-entry). If you want to discuss your dietary needs you can call the zoo at: 1.800.488.0444 or 336.879.7000.
There are diaper changing stations located in all restrooms, both men’s and women’s. But be sure to pack necessary supplies such as enough diapers and formula since the zoo does not sell these items in any of their shops. You can rent single and double strollers. Bottle and breast feeding youngsters (and their mothers) are encouraged to feed where they feel most comfortable. Nursing mothers can use one of the zoo’s First Aid rooms if they prefer complete privacy. They can request use of the First Aid room at either entrance’s Visitor Center.
The zoo welcomes guests with disabilities that choose to bring their TRAINED service animal into the zoo. Although emotional support animals or comfort animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA and for that reason, the zoo does not allow them entry at this time. Both manual and electric wheel chairs are available to rent. If you have questions about bringing your service animal into the Zoo, you can contact the zoo by phone before visiting at 1.800.488.0444 or 336.879.7000.
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There are rules in place while visiting the zoo. The rules have been developed for not only the safety of the visitors, but the safety of the animals as well.
- The North Carolina Zoo is a Smoke-free facility. Smoking (including e-cigarettes and vapes) is restricted to outside Park gates. Visitors who wish to smoke may present their daily admission receipt for express re-entry.
- No pets are allowed inside the Zoo. We discourage visitors from bringing pets and leaving them in parked vehicles. Distressed pets will be removed from vehicles.
- Please keep the Zoo clean by placing all litter in the proper trash and recycling receptacles.
- Do not cross fences or railings. Habitats and enclosures are designed to protect visitors and animals from harm.
- Costumed characters are not allowed at the Zoo unless the person is:
- No adult costumes, adult masks or adult face painting please.
Firearms & Concealed Weapons
Food & Beverages*
Remote Control toys
Shoes with wheels
|*Backpacks used as camera bags, diaper bags or pocketbooks can be brought into the Zoo. School students should not bring backpacks. The Zoo reserves the right to check the contents of any backpack.
*Coolers, food or beverage used for medical purposes can be checked at either entrance, tagged and brought inside the Zoo. Guests are welcome to carry a bottled, non-alcoholic beverage into the Park.
I was provided an all expense paid trip through Travel Media Showcase and The Heart of NC Visitors Bureau (Asheboro). All opinions are my own.