NC Zoo is far better normally than it is right now but it’s still fun

TRINITY, JERSEY, CHANNEL ISLANDS: Male Western Lowland Gorilla, Gorilla gorilla gorilla, feeding at Jersey Zoo - Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Channel Isles. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
TRINITY, JERSEY, CHANNEL ISLANDS: Male Western Lowland Gorilla, Gorilla gorilla gorilla, feeding at Jersey Zoo - Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Channel Isles. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images) /

Taking the family to the NC Zoo can be a great time but right now, there are plenty of reasons to wait.

Planning to take family to the NC Zoo for a quick day of fun looking at the animals and learning about their natural habitats? Wait a few more months.

Today, my family and I finally got out of the house, into the car, and made the drive to Ashboro, NC to visit the one of the nations largest open habitat zoos in the U.S. It was refreshing to get back outside and into the open air even if we still had to maintain social distancing and wear a mask.

The NC Zoo is open but you will need to wear a mask. You will also need to be prepared to do a lot of walking. Parking at the Africa side of the park is closed so you will need to park on the North America side.

The NC Zoo has two very large sections. The North American side and the African side. Between the two is the juncture where there are tables to eat at and a food truck. It was moderately busy today. There is also a small pizza place that was open to and plenty of stands to get water and other drinks.

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Normally, you can enter one side or the other but right now, you can only enter from the N.A. side and you must walk to the other side. It’s a long trek, just over 3 miles but once you make the other side and complete the African loop back to the junction, you can take a tram back to the N.A. side and the parking.

Reasons to go now

If you have an annual pass, are part of the reciprocity program that gives you either free acess or a substantial district, the walk alone is fun. There are plenty of stops along the way. The bears were out and enjoying the nicer weather. The Polar Bear was playing in the water while the black and grizzlie bears were clearly visible.

Crowds were not bad at all. While there were still typical clogs along the way, for the most part you had plenty of space. As is normal for any zoo, patrons tend to linger far too long against the glass instead of taking your time and then moving away for others so even with social distancing that did not change.


You can never beat a day at any theme park, zoo, or other outdoor venue when the weather is mid-70s and cloudy. No sweating like crazy and dying behind your mask. It is only going to continue to get cooler over the next few months so these are normally great days to visit.

Reasons to wait

There are a lot of renovations going on. This is good and bad. Good because when they are completed, there will be nice upgraded areas and habitats for the animals. The bad, many areas including the large Watani Grasslands enclosure is closed.

Rhinos were not on display and typically they are a big draw. They have been pulled off the Watani Grasslands due to construction. The other animals were also either pulled or moved due to that issue.

The same situation seems to have happened in the zebra, ostritch, and giraffe area. The giraffes were off display. The Lions however were still out and enjoying the great weather. The lioness was awake and taking notice of those watching her.

The gorillas were out and moving around but the chimpanzees were pretty much out of site. Typically there are plenty of elephants to see but on today’s visit we mainly saw the backsides and a couple of others in the distance.

All of the interior buildings are closed to the public due to the COVID situation. This includes the bird aviary, the baboon habitat, and many other areas that would normally be open.

Overall it was a fun trip but I have APs to the NC acquariums which gets us in for free. The family price for an AP is only $89.00 for the year. It includes free entry into all of the NC acquariums and the NC Zoo as well as other discounts around the entire country. Tickets for the zoo run $15.00 per adult or child over the age of 13, children 2-12 will cost $11.00.

The family pass to the NC Zoo can get you in now and throughout the year so it’s easy to make your money back!

If you are going please note that you must make a reservation prior to arrival. We made our reservations five days in advance and there were some time slots that were not open. You have a 30 minute window to arrive and get into the park but it was pretty easy as there are caps on the timeslots.