We ventured down to Zoo Atlanta last weekend with our family, and had an incredible time! Here are 23 reasons why we loved it, and why you will too.
I made sure to pack a small-insulated lunch bag full of snacks and juice boxes. We each took a full bottle of water as well. I also packed a backpack with towels, bathing suits, flip flops, diapers, wipes, bug spray and sunscreen. We were in for the long haul! We arrived around 9:30 am, right when the zoo opened. Our day held new discoveries and more fun than we could imagine!
Early is definitely best for parking (and for cooler temps in the hot GA summers!). We arrived at 9:30 am, when the zoo opens, and were able to park in the Cherokee Lot, located off Cherokee Avenue. This is the most convenient lot, especially for little walking legs and strollers.
It fills up fast though, so aim to arrive by at least 10:00-10:30 am. We were able to get to the main entrance quickly, but it was especially nice when we left. Everyone’s legs and feet will be worn out, so the less time walking to the car, the better.
No animal screams summer more than the flock of pink flamingos that greet you as you walk in the front gates. We had to pry our boys away to see the rest of the animals, and they begged to see them again on our way out.
Another upside to arriving early is that the larger animals will generally be more active. The heat of the day hasn’t set in yet, so they’re not seeking shade or cover and are so much fun to watch!
The elephants were feeling especially spry during our visit. We were able to watch both the elephants cooling themselves with water, as well as picking up large limps and breaking them with their trunks. It was extremely entertaining to watch!
The Bird Show
The bird show was updated from our last visit, which was a nice surprise. They showcased a really beautiful owl that we were able to see up close, as well as a vulture, parrot and a small Australian bird. The keepers did a great job of throwing in plenty of jokes that were appreciated by the little ones, and giving lots of interesting facts about each bird.
Speaking of facts, one of the things I loved the most about this zoo is how informative they’ve made it. We were able to share fun facts about the animals with our boys all through the zoo. If your kids are reading age, there will be SO much for them to take in as they explore.
We all LOVED the train ride! We went ahead and bought the fun pass, which gave you 10 train rides to use indefinitely. It only cost $5 more than it would have to just buy 5 train rides for our one visit, so it was definitely a great deal! It’s essentially a savings of $1 per ride.
My two year old especially loved it and has been asking to go again since we got home! The train takes you on a ride through Critter Crossing, passing different areas of ‘town’, including a couple tunnels that all the kids thought was great. The theme was so cute and gave the ride a little something extra.
Slimy Spectacular Exhibit
The Slimy Spectacular exhibit is one of the best I’ve ever seen. My boys soaked up everything about this creepy, crawly world! We loved seeing the alligator snapping turtle SO close, comparing the sizes of the anaconda and boa constrictor, and seeing all the different colors that frogs come in.
They have an amazing variety of snakes, lizards, frogs and turtles; you never felt like you were looking at the same snake in every glass box. They even have a couple cobras!
We loved watching the kangaroos and hanging out in the petting farm. The Children’s Zoo area is perfect for little ones, we all enjoyed brushing and petting the goats and sheep.
Once several hours had passed and we ran out of snacks packed from home, it was time to find some food and air conditioning. The Wild Planet Café was the perfect spot for both! There’s lots of seating outside and inside.
The burgers and sandwiches come with fries, so my hubby and I both shared our fries with the boys. We ordered two slices of pepperoni pizza, and the slices were huge! Definitely large enough for smaller appetites to split. All the food we ordered was really good and far above most ‘theme park’ food.
We came prepared with bathing suits, flip flops and sunscreen so that the boys could really spend some time splashing around in the Splash Fountain. We did this right after lunch, so they were happy to cool off and run out any leftover energy they had.
Great Diaper Changing Area
I was so excited to find a dedicated diaper changing area located behind the Wild Planet Café. The changing station is between the men’s and women’s restrooms, and has lots of counter space for laying little ones down, as well as two sinks for hand washing afterwards. It was also clean like the restrooms and has obviously been well taken care of.
Water Refill Station
We also found a water refill station by the same restrooms and changing spot. It’s so important to stay hydrated on the humid, hot summer days, so we loved being able to all fill up our water bottles without having to spend money on purchasing more.
Zoo Atlanta has done an excellent job of strategically placing lots of areas to escape the sun, or to give your tired feet a break. There was benches throughout the sidewalks, as well as seating areas and plenty of restrooms.
The panda exhibit has been well maintained and offers a little piece of Asia in Georgia. Because Pandas don’t live in warm climates, their house is climate controlled and a welcome break from the heat. When we arrived, a zookeeper was giving a talk, sharing interesting information about the pandas and accepting questions.
The two young pandas were both perched in a tree, not far from the glass, eating bamboo. The older panda was sitting up right against the glass; the boys could put their hands on the glass right behind the bear! Zoo Atlanta is one of only four places in the U.S. that has Giant Pandas.
Feeding The Giraffes
Another highlight of our trip was feeding the giraffes! There is almost always a line, but it moves quickly and you still get to watch the giraffes while you wait. They accept cash or card, and you can buy lettuce to feed to the giraffe when you turn arrives. We try to do this every time we visit, as our boys both absolutely love it!
After the boys got their fill of Splash Fountain fun, we decided to head over to the playground and let them play for awhile and dry out before we got in the car to head home. They have a great variety of activities such as climbing nets for the more adventurous child, down to the school bus for the smallest little legs. Our boys loved the slides and spent the majority of their time climbing up, and sliding down. It gave us another solid 30 minutes of enjoyment in our day!
SkyTrail – our boys are only 5 & 2, so this wasn’t quite up their alley yet, but we LOVED sitting at the playground below and watching all the fun being had right above our heads! This new attraction is perfect for older kids who may be bored with the playground, and we watched lots of parents traversing through it too, such a great bonding opportunity!
Fans with water misting down are strategically placed throughout the zoo. Between the fan stations and all the shaded/covered areas, it’s possible to find respite even on the hottest of days. There were some located near the lion exhibit, as well as the panda exhibit. They were enjoyed by kids and parents alike!
As we entered the African Plains, we found the warthogs. Who doesn’t love Pumba?? This is another enclosure where the kids can really get up close to the animals. Our boys were enthralled watching the hogs rub their tusks across the dirt, or bend over on their knees to drink out of the little creek. The boys loved naming each one and I found myself fascinated by such ugly, yet cute, creatures. We will most definitely make time to watch these guys longer next time!
Zoo Atlanta is known for Willie B and their fantastic gorilla habitat, which still houses five of his grandchildren. The gorillas lived up to their hype on this visit for sure! We got to watch them playing down in the water, with one even splashing water on another one. There are several great spots to view the gorillas, and we got to see even more once we headed up the hill and rounded the corner.
Maps are updated each day with the itinerary of events happening in the zoo. We got one while the boys were entertained by the flamingos, and got a general idea of what we wanted to see first and what time the special events would be. The bird show was at the top of our must-see things, so we made sure to find that time first and plan around it.
We also wanted to feed the giraffes and made it a point to look at those time frames as well. The Zoo Atlanta website even has a page where you can create your itinerary online before heading to the zoo so that you can fully maximize your time inside. The signage posted was very helpful as well in case you got turned around from the map.
Affordable Membership Options
Membership options are so affordable, and considering all that the zoo has to offer, they are well worth the investment. A family membership includes two adults and four children. You can gain access to member-exclusive events, as well as discounted admission for guests or other zoo events. This would be a great gift to give too; I’ll be keeping this on my list of ideas when Christmas rolls around.
Zoo Atlanta has done a fantastic job of keeping families in mind with each attraction and exhibit. We ended up spending five hours with three boys at Zoo Atlanta, and not a peep was heard on the car ride home! My mission most days is to wear out my active, energetic boys.
With so many engaging exhibits, active kids areas, and covering lots of ground walking, this family left with full hearts and tired legs in the best way possible. The zoo was cleaner and better maintained than many amusement parks we’ve been to.
Every staff member we encountered was friendly and helpful. For those that live outside the city like us, it is most definitely worth the drive into Atlanta to take in all that the zoo has to offer. My two year old has asked me every morning since we returned “can we go see that animals and ride the train?” There were things that we didn’t even have time to get to on this trip, so another visit will be in our very near future!
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Disclosure: Thanks to Zoo Atlanta for hosting us. Opinions here are our own!