As a lifelong resident of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I have found that most of the things I like are on the Fort Worth side of town. One of our favorite places is the Fort Worth Zoo with it’s vast number of exhibits and the new Museum of Living Art. We had always heard that the Dallas Zoo was inferior to the Fort Worth Zoo, but this past weekend we found out that wasn’t true.
During January and February the Dallas Zoo has ‘Penguin Day’ pricing when the days are cooler. Admission is only $5 per person age 3 and older and parking is $8 per car. (Normal admission ranges from $12-$15 depending on the season. Admission ranges from $9-$12 at the Fort Worth Zoo.) Our family of four enjoyed a beautiful Saturday at the zoo for just $23 since our youngest is 2.
We arrived at 9am to only find two cars in line in front of us and the closest parking lot still half vacant. Discount days and beautiful weather can sometimes lead to monstrous lines and mobs of people at the Fort Worth Zoo. For the first few hours of the day, the Dallas Zoo was wonderfully uncrowded.
The Dallas Zoo feels like it is sitting on a much smaller piece land than the Fort Worth Zoo. The various exhibits and attractions are all closely spaced together. There isn’t the long walk to the ‘back of the zoo’ that there is at the Fort Worth Zoo. I was impressed by the number of animals at the zoo and the quality of all the habitats and buildings.
Here are a few highlights:
- The Giants of the Savannah exhibit housing elephants, zebras and giraffes was very impressive. The animals are in a large open area made to look like native habitat. There is an area for feeding the giraffes which would probably be a good place to go early in the morning before the crowds arrive. The lions, cheetahs, and warthogs can also be found in this section of the zoo. When the giraffes aren’t on the Savannah they are in an area where visitors can walk at head level with these long-necked giants which provides some unique views.
- You might have read a previous post I wrote about the Birds of the World show that was a part of the State Fair of Texas. That show has been retired but it lives on at the Dallas Zoo! “SOAR, A Festival of Flight” is produced by the same team that did the Birds of the World show. Performances are at 11am on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and additionally at 1pm on Saturday and Sunday.
- The Lorikeet Landing is a fun place for feeding the birds. They drink ‘nectar’ out of little paper cups. Our youngest daughter loved feeding the birds and even shook off getting nipped on the finger because she was enjoying herself so much. If you’re a bearded male you might find birds landing on you to pick through your beard.
- The Koala Walkabout houses Kobi and Tekin, “the only koalas in Texas” according to the Dallas Zoo website. They are in a nice shaded habitat which I am sure is a great place to take a short break from the sun in the summer.
- All of the facilities are so new and clean. Many of the buildings and exhibits were constructed or remodeled during improvements that were made to the zoo in the last 5 years. Restrooms were very clean which is always something that impresses me in a busy facility like a zoo.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Dallas Zoo is the Children’s Zoo. This section of the zoo deserves it’s own special section of highlights:
- The Discovery House was really cool! There were lots of families enjoying the open play area in the Children’s Zoo but the Discovery House only had a handful of people in it. The kids put on zookeeper shirts and got to take care of stuffed animals (ala Doc McStuffins). There were lots of hands on exhibits in the Discovery House and animals that were being nursed back to health including an opossum that the kids got to pet and see up close.
- The Underzone really impressed me. After visiting this area my wife wanted a naked mole rat as a pet…I’m not sure why. There was a neat area where the kids could go in a short tunnel and pop up in clear domes in the middle of an animal habitat. The girls enjoyed their up close experience viewing the animals from the dome.
- We were unaware of the Nature Exchange at the zoo. Kids can bring a fossil, leaf, or other item from nature to exchange for points which can purchase another interesting item from nature at the store. It was interesting to walk around and look at all of the items that were up for trade at the Nature Exchange. There were even some free rocks which made our 6 year-old happy. Next time we’ll make sure to bring something along. (The Fort Worth Zoo also has the Texas Nature Traders program.)
Overall I was very impressed with the Dallas Zoo. It has many unique items such as the Savannah, a monorail, the SOAR show, koalas, and the Children’s Zoo. Unique items found only at the Fort Worth Zoo are the primate house which is pretty cool and the aging Texas animals exhibit that we have skipped on recent trips. We won’t be ‘switching zoos’ but we will definitely be making future trips to the Dallas Zoo. I am amazed that DFW can have two great zoos! Penguin Days end on February 28 so you have a few more days to take advantage of discount pricing. Below are some of my favorite pics from the day…