Calgary Zoo is one of the most visited attractions in Calgary. People of all ages enjoy it, and it’s easily accessible for strollers or wheelchair users. There’s so much to see that it can be overwhelming, so we’re sharing our experience of visiting with many useful tips for your next visit.
Calgary Zoo has several indoor and outdoor pavilions with lots of animals and offers several exciting events during the year.
What I love about the Calgary Zoo the most is that they think of events for kids and adults.
Kids can watch zookeepers while attending to animals and giving them special treats for their birthdays, watching them play, host Santa Claus at Christmas, have several games at Zoolights event, and even offer summer camps.
While all these events are fantastic, let’s talk about the most important thing at Calgary Zoo – the animals.
What you can expect to see at Calgary Zoo
I will tell you the most important thing at the beginning. The first time we visited the Calgary Zoo for two hours, we didn’t get to see everything.
As soon as you walk into the Zoo area, there’s the Penguin Plunge.
It’s a small indoor pool with rocks for penguins. The best thing is you get very close to the penguins and watch them splash and play around. Either under the water through the glass or above water in their playground.
You can see four different penguins – Gentoo penguins, Humboldt penguins, King penguins, and Rockhopper penguins.
King penguins are the most popular. They’re the only ones that go on a Penguin walk outside the Penguin Plunge, and you can watch them walk around the Zoo on a Penguin walk in winter (see our video here).
The most relatable habitat for Canadian visitors is the Canadian Wilds. The paved path around the Zoo takes you to see bison, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, cougars, grizzly bear and black bears.
The grizzly bear has its own enclosure, and right next to it is an enclosure for three bears – white, brown, and black. I didn’t get a chance to ask for their names, so we call them Black Sabbath, Rubio (blond in Spanish), and Cinnamon based on their colour.
Remember that bears hibernate in winter, and you won’t see them until spring.
You can see the bears even without entering the Zoo. When the Zoo was closed, I used to bike on the Bow River Pathway to see the bears every day. It was so fun to see how they climb the high trunk and rest on their tree saddle.
There’s also a big playground located at the Canadian Wilds section with slides, a tree tower, and several obstacles for children of all ages.
The big indoor pavilion at Destination Africa is hot (great to warm up in winter) to accommodate the African animals.
One part of Destination Africa is a humid, hot and steamy rainforest with African plants and animals. The other part is a huge area where hippos usually sleep on the ground or swim in the pool while giraffes are grazing behind them. There are several porcupines, monkeys, birds, and snakes.
This building has a huge sitting area, and it’s a place where we often stop for a bit to rest and have a snack while still watching the animals.
I highly recommend going to see the gorilla baby, born in May 2023, playing with her mama.
Land of Lemurs
Land of Lemurs (in Destination Africa) is Canada’s first immersive lemur experience where you can walk through an indoor and outdoor area to see 13 lemurs up close.
Exploration Asia section is an outdoor area with tigers, snow leopards, and flamingos. I think they’re outdoors year-round since we’ve seen them walking on snow.
The zookeepers told us that Amur tigers sleep 23 hours a day so if you see them, consider yourself lucky. During our visit, the tiger went out of their wooden shelter, yawned, growled, looked around and went right back in.
Gateway to Asia
You can see here a new member of Calgary Zoo, the tanuck. Gateway to Asia also features Komodo dragons and camels.
The gateway to Asia used to be the Panda Passage. Sadly, pandas are no longer at Calgary Zoo. Because of the many cancelled flights during the pandemic, it was increasingly hard to supply pandas with 40 kg of fresh bamboo daily. To provide them with an abundance of nutritious bamboo, they’ve been relocated to the Zoo in China.
Conservatory Gardens & Butterflies
The botanical area of Calgary Zoo features interesting plants, such as kiwi, banana trees, and pineapple plants. We have yet to explore this section of the Zoo.
Tips for visiting the Calgary Zoo
- FREE under 3 years old
- 24.95 CAD children 3-15 years
- 34.95 CAD general admission 16-59 years
- 32.95 CAD seniors
- 13 CAD daily parking
As you can see, the daily admission for a family with kids can be pretty steep; that’s why we recommend the next option.
Calgary Zoo membership
Calgary Zoo offers three different tiers for membership with various perks: Connect, Engage, and Inspire.
They all have unlimited admission and free parking. The last two have discounts for the gift shop, camp discounts, Zoolights discount, and guest admission discount.
We bought the Connect membership for 69.95 CAD/year for adults, and our son is under three years old, so he goes for free. It’s a cost-effective solution because the membership pays for itself in just under two visits.
Parking at Calgary Zoo
The main North parking lot is open year-round, located at 210 St. George’s Drive NE (between Zoo’s entrance & Telus Spark Science Center). The West Parking Lot (closed in winter) is located at the west end of St. George’s Island, off Zoo Road NE.
The daily parking fee is 13 CAD; there’s no option for hourly parking. Parking is free with a Calgary Zoo membership.
Winter hours are 9 am – 4:30 pm because of the Zoolights afterwards.
When Zoolights end in January, the opening hours change to 9 am – 5 pm (with the last entry at 4 pm). Spring & summer hours are 9 am to 6 pm.
Check out their website for the current schedule.
Amenities at Calgary Zoo
- Calgary Zoo has several small outdoor buffets and indoor restaurants
- You can also bring your own lunch or snacks
- You can rent a pull wagon for kids, located just before the Penguin Plunge
- Calgary Zoo has two outdoor playgrounds suitable for kids of all ages
- There are outhouses located at the big playground in the Canadian Wilds
- There’s no free Wi-Fi at Calgary Zoo
Special events at Calgary Zoo
For adults, the first event that comes to my mind is Zoolights in wintertime with colourful light displays and festive drinks, and an adult-only evening In the Heart of the Night on Valentine’s Day.
Another fantastic event is called Focused, where photographers get special access to the Canadian animals and take photos you won’t be able to take during a regular visit.
Calgary Zoo also offers a Sunday Brunch, which you can pair with the Penguin Walk in winter. The Sunday Brunch tickets include the Zoo admission (with the Penguin Walk) and the brunch. You can enjoy a chocolate fountain with fruits, omelettes, waffles, and more.
- Dates: Sundays from January 15, 2023 – November 12, 2023
- Location: Safari Lodge
- Seating times: 9:00 am – 10:30 am, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm, 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to walk through Calgary Zoo?
For adults, I recommend at least 2 hours to walk through the Zoo. However, if you visit with children, I recommend at least 3 hours or even a whole day. It’s a day well spent with restaurants, playgrounds, and so many areas with animals.
How do I get to the Calgary Zoo?
Take the Memorial Drive, set your GPS to 210 St. George’s Drive NE (close to downtown Calgary) if you’re driving, and it will lead you to a big parking lot.
You can get to the Zoo by bike or foot by following the Bow River Pathway as well.
If you prefer transit, take the Blue line (route 202) C-train to the Zoo station. The station is located directly above the Zoo, and signs will lead you to the main entrance.
Have a great time visiting the Calgary Zoo!
More family-friendly activities in Calgary
- Granary Road: Active Learning Park & Petting Zoo
- 10 Best indoor playgrounds in Calgary
- Cobb’s adventure park & petting zoo
- 33 best family trip movies you’ll love
- Creative Kids Museum at Telus Spark Science Centre
- 15 Best Playgrounds in Calgary
- Sikome Lake
- Early Learning Centres in Calgary Public Libraries
Are you planning to visit the Calgary Zoo? Let us know about your experience in the comments.
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Thank you Maya for the helpful article. I will go back to the Zoo today if it’s open on Thanksgiving and enjoy the experience even more. I will bring a sketch pad and do some sketches of these precious animals I see.
Táhirih May Milne
Thanks for reading Tahirih, hope you had a great visit to Calgary Zoo!