Address: 1300 Zoo Road NE
Day Pass Cost Low Season: Adult (16-59 years) $23, Child (3-15 years) $15, Infant (2 & under) – free.
Annual Passes: 3 levels of membership are available
Child Membership (3-15 years) $29.95
Gate Connect – Adult $60, Child (3-15) $29.95, Guest $70
Engage – Adult $80, Child (3-15) $29.95, Guest $90 – includes parking
Inspire – Adult $138, Child (3-15) $87, Guest $149 – includes parking
Break Even Point for an Engage Annual Pass: Adults -about 3 visits when you factor in parking. 2 visits for kids.
Parking: $10 per day. Included with Engage and Inspire level memberships.
Food Services: Over the winter only the Kitamba Cafe/Kitamba Java and Penguin Cafe are open, you can also pack a picnic lunch and eat it inside. During the high season there are additional concessions throughout the park. During the high season you can also visit Grazers sit down restaurant.
Age Range: All ages.
Stay Length: Expect to spend at least 2 hours, you could easily spend all day.
The Calgary Zoo is one of Calgary’s top tourist attractions. The primary activities are walking the grounds and observing the animals in their various habitat enclosures. They Calgary Zoo also offers free daily programs and special events. On your visit you can see animals including penquins, giraffes, lions, rhinos, zebras, hippos, tigers, monkeys, bears, wolves, bison and many many more.
The Zoo is arranged in a few different areas. To visit the entire Zoo you would likely have to devote an entire day. If you only have half a day I would recommend picking either the zoo island or the Canadian Wilds on your visit.
Tips for Visiting the Zoo with Kids
- Wear good walking shoes
- Consider a stroller/wagon/carrier – The Zoo covers a large area so you may want to consider a stroller or wagon or carrier even if your child normally wouldn’t use one. You can also rent wagons if you need one.
- Consider packing a lunch. Although you can buy food at the Zoo, the cost can add up quickly. There are lots of picnic spots throughout the zoo where you can eat a packed lunch when it’s warm and you can also eat inside the cafeterias.
- Dress for the weather. Much of the Zoo is outside so don’t forget cold weather gear if it’s cold and sunscreen and hats if it is hot. Layers can also be helpful as some buildings such as the Transalta Rainforest are quite warm and humid even in the Winter.
- Check the times of the free daily programs so you can plan your route if there is one you want to see
- Apply your admission to a annual membership – If you are not sure you want to buy an annual membership, you can visit first and apply the admission cost to an annual membership when you leave. The passes pay off quickly and makes it easier to not worry about seeing everything in one day.
- Consider skipping the big playground if you are pressed for time. The playground at the Zoo is pretty cool, but can eat up a lot of time if you are short on time or only going to visit once.
- If you are planning a visit on a busy day, try going early in the morning. Visiting the penguins when you first get to the Zoo is usually a good idea and if you want to see the tigers go there as your first stop on the island and work your way back to the bridge to cut down on crowds.
The Zoo in the Winter
The Zoo might not be the first place you think of going in the Winter but it can actually be a lot of fun. The animals tend to be more active, many of the exhibits are indoors and it is way less crowded. The Zoo is also a great place for splashing in puddles so if it has recently rained throw on some rainboots and splash pants for a great time.
Read more about visiting the Calgary Zoo in the Winter
The Penguin Plunge
The Penguin Plunge is one of the newest additions to the Zoo. It’s located near the main entrance on the North side. You can walk inside the building and see mulitple kinds of penguins walking and swimming around and sometimes you can even see some of them outside. Many days you can even see the King penguins go for a walk around the zoo.
The Canadian Wilds
In the Canadian Wilds you can get a close up look at the wild animals of Canada. Have a child who confuses a deer with a kangaroo? This area is for you. The area is larger than you might expect and is largely outdoors so be prepared for the weather.
Read more about the Canadian Wilds and the Penguin Plunge
Dinosaurs Alive will not be returning this Spring in the Prehistoric Park but the original statue-like dinosaurs will still be viewable. Younger dinosaur fans still seem to enjoy this area but it does involve a lot of walking an no live animals.
To see the rest of the Zoo, you cross the bridge over to the Zoo Island. Here you’ll find Destination Africa, the Eurasia section, the Conservatory and the playgrounds and carousel.
In the African Savannah building you can see animals including giraffes and hippos. Take a walk behind the building and you will also find lions and zebras.
To the West you’ll find the TransAlta Rainforest building which is always steamy and warm. The highlight of this area are the gorillas but there are also many other animals to see too.
The Conservatory and Gardens
Stop inside the conservatory and you’ll not only get to see beautiful flowers and vegetation, from Spring to Fall you can also see butterflies fly all around you.
In the former Elephant building you can now find the rhino and komodo dragons. Further to the west you can find animals like Snow Leopards and Tigers.
Read more about the Zoo Island here
Playgrounds and Rides
The Zoo has a Zoo themed carousel with a nearby toddler playground. You can buy individual tickets or an unlimited day pass.
There is also a large playground with sections for kids of different ages.
Read more about the Zoo’s Playgrounds and Rides here.
The Zoo hosts a number of different special events each year.
Each Winter beginning in November the Zoo hosts Zoolights after hours. You can’t see the animals at this time but the light displays are amazing. In addition to a huge number of lights shaped like animals, they also have fire pits, activity zones and Santa.
See more about Zoo Lights and other Christmas Light Displays in Calgary here.
[Note the Zoo has stated that Illuminasia will not return in 2017] New in 2015, Illuminasia is a fall lantern festival held after hours at the zoo. You can see huge Chinese lanterns shaped like animals as well as Chinese, Japanese and Indian entertainment and programs.
Read more about Illuminasia
Have you been to the Calgary Zoo? What did you think?