North Carolina Zoo: Trip Report & Tips

My husband and I decided to take the kids to the North Carolina Zoo this weekend.  This is probably one of my favorite zoos.  All of the animals seem to get up close, so you aren’t straining to see the animals all the way in the back of their exhibit – like this polar bear swimming right up to the glass!


North Carolina Zoo Tips for Parents


ADMISSION: We got in for free since we purchased an annual membership to our local zoo.  Since our zoo is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, we were able to get in for free with their reciprocity program.  We do this also with our local children’s museum which is part of the Association of Technology and Science Centers reciprocity program as well.

PARKING: There are 2 main parking lots at the top (North America Lot) and the bottom (Africa Lot).  There was a shuttle between the 2 lots, so we parked at the North America lot first and then immediately took the shuttle to the Africa lot.  Our plan was to basically walk back through the zoo and then end up at our car.  The last time we went we didn’t do that and we had whiny kids that were ready to leave but we still had to wait for the shuttle.  Lesson learned!

ROUTE: Personally, I think starting at the Africa side and then ending at the North America side is a much better route if you have kids.  First, the kids are much more fascinated by seeing the giraffes, elephants, and rhinos first and it gets them engaged quickly while they have energy.  We spent the morning on the Africa side, at lunch at the Junction Plaza, and then continued on to the North America side afterwards.  The North America side also has a great playground near the entrance so its a great place to let the kids get out all of their energy before heading home.

Pro Tip: Make sure you save time for the playground and bring an extra set of clothes with you!  There is a cool “stream” that the kids can play in at the playground.  If you park in the North America lot, you can just leave a change of clothes in the car.  

BIRDS OF FLIGHT SHOW: We also did the Birds of Flight show, which was an extra $3 per person.  Since we got in for free, we went ahead and paid for the show.  It was really good!  The kids also got to have some of the birds eat out of their hands, so that was pretty cool!  I’d recommend it.



STROLLER TIP: The Zoo is VERY large, so definitely consider bringing as stroller if you need it.  I’m happy to report that we were able to make it through the entire zoo without a stroller!  My 5 year old walked the entire time and my 3 year old did pretty well too.  I also used it as an opportunity to “train” them into walking more.  Since we didn’t have the stroller they were forced to keep walking.  We also took a lot of breaks anyways to watch the animals, so it wasn’t too bad.

Overall, everyone had a great time and we will definitely go back!  The kids were completely exhausted, so I consider that a success!

Peggy Yee

I’m a mom of 2 kids, a wife, Etsy shop owner, and the author of RaisingTheBest. After being a real estate agent for 10+ years, Peggy decided to switch gears and make printables so busy parents can create memorable, personalized gifts in the comfort of their own home.