The Calgary Zoo is open from 9-5 every day except 2 days a year (Christmas and Zoogala) and is a surprisingly nice place to go in the winter. It’s way less crowded and there’s still a lot to see. It also has quite of lot of indoor exhibits so you don’t have to stay out in the cold the whole time.
The Zoo is broken up into 3 main areas. The Prehistoric Park and Canadian Wilds are on the North Side of the river and the rest of the animals are located on the zoo island.
The Penguin Plunge
Also on the North side of the River is the penguin plunge, one of the newest zoo exhibits. The penguins really are something to see. My kids both put them in their top two favorite animals to see on this trip. The penguins are much more active than you might expect. Seeing the jump out of the water is amazing.
The Prehistoric Park
The Prehistoric Park is completely outside – I usually skip this area in the winter.
The Canadian Wilds is primarily outside but there is an indoor space (with river otters!) as well. The animals are a little less adverse to the cold than many of the animals you find on the island. It’s a larger area than it looks though, and I would probably recommend giving yourself at least a couple hours to look around.
This is where most of the indoor areas are including the African Savannah building which houses the hippos and giraffes.
But there is a lot to see outside during the winter too, around the corner from the African Savannah building (left at the exit) we saw the lions and zebras. Sometimes the lions are indoors where you can’t see them though.
Even though Nicky found many of the animals intimidating this trip, she loved the lions. Most of the time when I’ve seen the lions in the summer they’ are just sleeping in the hot sun. On this trip we got to see two male lions walking back and forth along the fence.
As you go across the island to the west you can stop in at a number of indoor areas to view animals.
Although not the most exciting, the conservatory is also a nice stop. The butterflies aren’t there over the winter but it’s nice and warm and the foliage is beautiful.
The elephants have now left the Calgary Zoo. In their place you’ll find the home of the Rhinoceros and the Komodo Dragon.
After the Eurasian Gateway building there isn’t a lot to see in the winter. If you are short on time, and no one is your party is desperate to see the tigers (which are at the furthest point west on the island) I’d skip it.
The zoo also has two playgrounds The Co-op Kids Zone is located on the southern path in the Eurasia section, it has a toddler playground, and a zoo themed carousel. The carousel opens at noon. The carousel requires tickets in addition to your zoo admission ($3.00 or unlimited rides for $8 ). Ride tickets are available at Tiger’s Den Gift Shop.
The other playground is just past the Transalta Rainforest. There are three play structures with animals and dinosaur themes, one for under 2, one for 3-5 and one for 6-12.
During the winter months there’s only two options for food services. The Kitamba Cafe/Kitamba Java and the Penguin Plunge Cafe. You can also bring in your own food to eat.
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