What To Do in Denver: The Denver Zoo

For as long as I can remember, my parents have had a membership to the Denver Zoo, and I think I’ve gone just about every single summer. It’s something I always look forward to, and it’s even more fun now that we have Jack to go with us.

The Denver Zoo

The Denver Zoo is definitely a must-see attraction when visiting Colorado. I honestly haven’t been to very many other zoos, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to, but I think it’s pretty awesome. There is so much to see, fun exhibits, and you definitely won’t get bored here. In fact, most times we go, we can’t even see the whole zoo because there’s just so much to see and do!

My parents still have a membership, and with that membership, all their grandchildren get in free? The zoo may be wanting to retract that rule every time my family comes in with the ever-expanding amount of grandchildren my parents have, but it’s an awesome deal. Last week, when my sister Cindy was in town with her two little girls, we all loaded up and headed to the zoo.

It turned out to be a pretty cold day (more on that later) but we were able to see lots of animals and really enjoy ourselves. We took Jack last year when he was about five months old, and needless to say, he enjoyed it a lot more this year. He quietly made some of the animal noises for animals he recognized (namely, a leopard and a monkey) and had fun playing with his cousins. Here are a few pictures from the day:

Having been to the Denver Zoo quite a few times, I feel like I have a good grasp on how to have a good time. Here are some of my “expert” tips for visiting. Feel free to add any!

1) Free Days

So, I have a love-hate relationship with free days at the zoo (or anywhere, for that matter.) The plus-side is, you get in free! And the downside? Everyone and their mom (and grandma) are there. And even though it’s a huge zoo, it feels small when you have to fight your way through the crowds to see an animal. So if you can’t afford to go to the zoo, then definitely take advantage of the Denver Zoo free days, but be prepared to be patient. Otherwise? Go another day.

2) Take Advantage of Promotions

The cost for an adult to go to the zoo is $15. A lot, I know. Luckily, there are often coupons or promotions going on to help lower that cost slightly. As of right now (summer 2013) you can pick up discount ticket coupons at Wendy’s restaurants. I don’t know if all of them are participating, but the Wendys off of Wadsworth in Littleton is. The coupon took $4 off the admission prize. There seems to be a coupon like this available every summer.I know there are random promotions as well that will give you cheaper, or even free, admission. Earlier this year, if you texted a certain number during the 7th inning of the Rockies’ baseball game, you would get a free adult admission to the zoo. I don’t know how often things like this happen, but just keep your eyes and ears open, and who knows — you might get lucky! If you are planning a trip to the zoo, I encourage frequenting the Denver Zoo’s website, they

There are also promotions, like Yesterday’s Zoo. This is a cool program that gives each child enrolled a book and zoo voucher each month, which can be used at participating . A monthly membership is 7.95, and if you think you might frequent the zoo, this could be worth it.

2) Check the Weather

Take it from someone who has gone to the zoo one too many times when it has been scalding hot. Don’t do it. There’s just something extra miserable about it being hot, and being at the zoo, at the same time. For one thing, a lot of the animals don’t come out when it’s hot. For another thing, it makes the experience a whole lot less fun, especially if you are with children. Just prepare for a lot of complaining!

Still, be aware that cooler weather isn’t necessarily the best either…at least, if you forget a jacket. When we went to the zoo, we checked the weather report two days before, and it was supposed to be 70 degrees with a little bit of cloud cover — the perfect weather for the zoo. However, we didn’t check the weather day of, which is a major mistake when living in Colorado, and it was so cold and windy! Had we been dressed for those conditions, it would have been the perfect day to be at the zoo…but all of us were in shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops. We had to come up with makeshift ways to stay warm, like this:

3) Ride the Train and Carousel

When we come to the zoo, about half way through our trip, we make our way to the center of the zoo. There, you’ll find a bunch of picnic tables, food, and best of all, a train ride and carousel. They both cost two dollars each, but I think they are worth it. The train takes you on a short ride, but it’s a nice way to relax your feet, and see a few parts of the zoo. The carousel is beautiful and huge, and decorated with the most intricately created animals. The kids always love riding on it, and there’s something for everyone — there’s a carriage to sit on if you are older, or have a small child you want to sit with, and then there’s lots of animals for everyone else to sit on.

Throughout the zoo, you’ll also find some random, interactive stations, such as being able to see how tall you are compared to a penguin, or you can see how far you can jump compared to different animals. Take your time when walking through – you never know what you’ll find!

4) Bring your own food and water

Like just about every other tourist attraction, the Denver Zoo has grossly over-priced food and drinks. Luckily, they let you bring in your own food and drinks. With the already expensive admission fee, this is probably a good idea. There are water fountains that you can fill up water bottles with, and plenty of picnic tables and grass to sit on. Be careful eating though — there are lots of ducks around that will come right up to you and grab any food you may have dropped! There are also peacocks that roam the zoo free, but they’ll leave you alone.

However, if money is not an issue, they have a lot of different little restaurants and food stands set up throughout the park. We always end up getting an ice cream cone or bag of popcorn at some point on our trip, and even though it costs an arm and a leg, it’s fun to do.

5) Grab a map

As I already mentioned, this zoo is huge. And chances are, you won’t be able to see everything. Especially if you have whiny kids (or, if you are with me, whiny adults.) So as soon as you enter the zoo, grab one of the complimentary maps and plan your route. The maps are very detailed and can help you navigate through the zoo and find your favorite exhibits.

6) Check out the schedule

There are lots of fun events that go on throughout the day at the zoo — from formal shows, to feedings. Before you head to the zoo, check out this page, which lists feeding schedules and daily events. It also lists the free zoo dates.

Even if you forget to check the schedule before you go, don’t fret. There are signs throughout the zoo that list special events, and I’m sure one of the helpful zoo employees would be more than happy to find whatever information you are looking for.

7) Bring a Stroller or Carrier (or rent a wagon!)

If you have a baby or a small child, this probably can go without saying. But I’ll say it anyways. Bring some form of transportation for your child that doesn’t involve you carrying them the entire time. Believe me, this can get tiring. And if you are like us, bring both a stroller and a baby carrier! Jack was content in his stroller, until I took him out for a second…then he refused to go back in. Luckily, I had one of my baby carriers with me, and he was content in that for the most part.

In all honesty, I preferred having him in the carrier because he could more easily see all the animals. Plus, it was so cold…it was nice to have some extra insulation.

The zoo rents out wagons, which is a fun option if you have more than one kid. I’m not sure how much the rentals are — they could be complimentary for all I know!

7) Go By the Nursery

One of my very favorite parts about going to the zoo is seeing baby animals! It’s really hit or miss if there will be any, but I’ve found there’s usually at least one somewhere in the zoo. There is a nursery in the zoo, but the only time there is an animal here is if it’s mother has abandoned it, or it has some kind of health problem. However, there is a guide outside the nursery that tells you which exhibits currently have baby animals, which I think is so neat. We found out there was a cute little baby orangutan from this map that we probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise, because, if you didn’t look close enough, you wouldn’t see the little baby hanging on to its mom.

In Conclusion . . .

The Denver Zoo is open year-round. From March 1 to October 31, the hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from November 1 through February 28, it is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. I highly recommend going to Zoo Lights during the winter. The whole zoo is decked out in Christmas lights and awesome displays.

The prices also change according to which season it is. For the summer months, ages 12-64 are $15, 65+ is $12, ages 3-11 are $12, and 2 and under are free. During the winter, 12-64 are $12, 65+ is $10, ages 3-11 are $8, and 2 and under are free. Even more reason to go during the winter!

What is your favorite zoo? Have you ever been to the Denver Zoo before?

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