There are few things better than a day trip to the zoo with all the family. From insects to elephants, everyone gets to see their favorite animals and learn all about their habitats, too.

If you’re planning a trip to North Carolina Zoo, you’re in for a treat. It’s a fantastic day of entertainment whether you’re going for a first date or to spend the day with extended family.

Make sure you get the most out of your trip by following these hot tips for a visit to the zoo!

Must-See Attractions at North Carolina Zoo

There’s more to the zoo than watching lions roar, you know! From themed areas to virtual reality exhibits and even an aerial ropes course, there is plenty to fill your day.

Don’t miss out on the best exhibits – make sure you include these attractions in your visit itinerary!

Kaleidoscope Butterfly Garden

Brand new for 2019, this walkable butterfly habitat is a peaceful and colorful sanctuary to enjoy.

The immersive experience is a great way to get up close and personal with butterfly species from all over the world. This attraction is weather-dependent, so if it’s on your essential must-see list, remember to check that it’s open before you start your journey.

Expedition Africa Virtual Reality Tour

The exciting Virtual Reality Safari opens in Summer 2019 and is an experience like no other.

The free-roam nature of NC Zoo means you could spend all day searching the zoo plains from viewing platforms and hiking trails to spot your favorite animals – and still not see them.

This virtual reality experience makes sure you see every animal you want: it recreates the natural habitat for you to wander in a virtual world. From elk to elephants, learn more about the animals all while staying in one place!

Air Hike: An Aerial Rope Adventure

Older kids got some energy to expend? The Air Hike rope adventure course is a perfect experience!

A safe obstacle course suspended in the treetops provides an exhilarating challenge for anyone brave enough to try. There are weight and height limits, and it’s weather dependent, so check the details out before your visit to avoid disappointment.

Gorilla Playscape

If the Air Hike sounds a little scary, head for the Gorilla Playscape. It’s a unique landscaped play zone designed to help them play just like their gorilla cousins!

In the Forest Glade habitat, this play area lets children jump, climb, and even swing like their favorite primates. The play area is open year-round and doesn’t require an extra ticket.

The Zoofari

Cruise the 40-acre Watana Grasslands in style with a Zoofari tour. An open-sided tour bus will lead you around the landscape as your knowledgeable guide tells you about the animals and habitat around you.

Tickets cost an additional $25 per person and can only be purchased on the day at the zoo, so make sure you get there early. There are three tours a day, and it’s weather dependent.

Top Tips for a Perfect Visit

Planning your trip ahead of time is the best way to maximize enjoyment. Get the very best out of your trip to NC Zoo by following these tips.

1. Plan Your Route Before You Arrive

Look at the zoo map online and plan your route. There is a suggested itinerary on the website too, which is helpful for those who can’t make their mind up about where to visit first!

Try to plan a route around the park that reduces back-and-forth travel between exhibits. The trails and zones are huge, so an efficient route makes sure you won’t get too tired.

2. Get There Early

From buying Zoofari tickets to seeing the animals at breakfast, an early arrival is always a good idea when it comes to the zoo.

The zoo opens at 9 a.m. so aim to arrive just before to allow time to park up and walk to the entrance. There are two parking lots, with additional overflow lots opened in the summer, so you’ll have no trouble finding a space.

3. Bring Plenty of Water

Bring a refillable water bottle for each member of your party. There are plenty of water fountains around the park to refill your bottle when you run out!

Small snacks are also allowed, so pack some trail mix or cereal bars to keep yourselves going between refreshment stops.

If you’re planning on bringing a picnic, non-members must eat at the designated picnic areas outside of the zoo. You’ll be allowed back into the park afterward if you show your ticket on re-entry.

Zoo members can bring picnics into the park – but can only consume them at the designated member picnic areas. Large coolers aren’t allowed, however, and no grilling is permitted anywhere on site.

4. Always Factor in the Gift Shop

A souvenir from the zoo is a traditional part of any visit. You don’t have to spend a lot to find a keepsake you’ll remember forever, either.

Souvenirs from the gift shop are mementos you’ll keep for life – but they can also be quite bulky. Consider saving the shop towards the end of your trip so that you don’t have to carry around a huge stuffed giraffe while you’re looking at the real thing!

5. Prepare for Seasonal Weather

The zoo in North Carolina is open every day of the year except Christmas Day and Thanksgiving. Most of it is outside, too!

Make sure you bring sunscreen, sun hats, and sunglasses in the summer, or a waterproof jacket and closed-toe shoes in wetter months. In winter, wear plenty of layers and snow boots to reduce your risk of slipping over.

6. Bring a Portable Power Bank

Whether you’re using a camera or your phone to take photos of the animals and your family, you’re going to use a lot of battery power throughout the day!

There’s nothing worse than seeing the perfect shot but realizing your camera is out of battery. Make sure you don’t run out of juice: bring a portable power bank to lend a little extra power to your device to last for a full day of photography! 

7. Wear Comfortable Shoes

There are over 5 miles of walking trails throughout the zoo! Comfortable shoes will make sure you’re thinking more about the animals than the blisters on your feet.

Bring trainers or walking shoes that you’ve already worn in. Make sure your children are wearing shoes that are the right size for them and won’t hurt after lots of walking around, too.

8. Leave Your Dog at Home

Pets aren’t allowed anywhere in the zoo. Leave Rex to chill at home for the day while you enjoy all of the exotic animals in the zoo.

Don’t plan to leave your dog in the car, either. Dogs aren’t allowed to be left in the parking lot – and it’s also really dangerous to leave them in hot cars for any length of time!

Check Out More Travel and Vacation Ideas

The North Carolina Zoo is a brilliant way to spend the day out while you’re on vacation – but there are so many attractions across the United States that you can visit something new every week.

Check out our Travel and Entertainment section to plan a summer full of exciting activities the kids (and you) will love!

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