dallas zoon
Image courtesy of the dallas zoo website

The Dallas Zoo is a popular day trip destination for families in the summer. But like any activity in the thick of Texas heat, you need some survival tips!

So before you get ready to marvel at the lions or feed the giraffes (yep, you can do that!), here’s what you should know before you visit.

The Basics

  1. It’s currently mandatory to reserve tickets online here to allow for social distancing. However, at this point in time, visitors are not required to wear masks. 
  1. The Dallas Zoo operates under flex pricing, meaning that throughout the year, ticket costs range anywhere from $8 to $21. Tickets are currently $18 for adults (12 and up) and $15 for children. They are most expensive in summer, and least expensive in winter. The first Tuesday of every month is “Tiger Tuesday,” and tickets are only $8. But don’t be fooled — the name does not indicate any special programming with the tigers. 
  1. The Dallas Zoo is located at 650 South R.L. Thornton Freeway (I-35E), Dallas, TX 75203, three miles south of downtown Dallas. You can get there by taking the DART Red Line to the Dallas Zoo Station and avoid the $10 parking fee. On Mondays and Tuesdays, you can show your same-day DART Pass at the ticket office to enjoy a $2 discount on regular admission prices.
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Map of the Dallas Zoo | Courtesy of the Dallas Zoo website

Tips to Make the Most of Your Time

  • The monorail (on the map, it’s the yellow circle encompassing the Wilds of Africa exhibits) permanently closed in March of 2020. The monorail was extremely popular because it helped minimize the distance visitors had to walk to see each exhibit. If you are still looking to reduce your time in the heat, I recommend limiting your stay in the Wilds of Africa by seeing the Nile crocodile, Gorilla Research Station and penguins after making your way through the Giants of the Savanna.
Penguins at the Dallas Zoo | Video by Vaibhavi Hemasundar
  • The Dallas Zoo allows visitors to bring food, so pack lunch and save money!
  • You’ll be lucky if you see the tigers. Because tigers are solitary creatures, the zoo only keeps one out at a time. Their habitat is quite expansive, so even if you do view them, it will likely be from afar.
  • Snack on Dippin’ Dots! One of the best things about the Dallas Zoo is that no matter where you are, you’re probably within walking distance from a Dippin’ Dots vendor. Keep in mind that they only have regular and large sizes, as opposed to the sundaes and jumbo sizes that are usually available at other locations.
  • If you parked at the Elephant or Hippo parking lots (marked on the map), the trek back feels quite long if you’re already tired from a day of walking. Keep that in mind when deciding when to leave.
  • The lions often sit close to the glass because this is the most shaded area, which makes for optimal viewing.
bahati the african lion cooling off at the dallas zoo. | photo by vaibhavi hemasundar
Bahati the African Lion cooling off at the Dallas Zoo. | Photo by Vaibhavi Hemasundar
  • The Children’s Zoo has a free splash pad! Don’t forget to bring towels and a change of clothes.
  • You can pay $6 per person, or $10 for two people, to feed the giraffes.
you can feed giraffes at the dallas zoo! | photo by vaibhavi hemasundar
You can feed giraffes at the Dallas Zoo! | Photo by Vaibhavi Hemasundar
  • Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, water bottles, bug spray, masks (some features, such as the children’s petting zoo, still require masks) and hand sanitizer.

Additional Programming for Children and Families

Backstage Safari

On Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., families can participate in a 90-minute guided tour from a zoologist describing how they care for the animals. Guests can feed apples to an African elephant, engage in a training session with the hippos and watch a private Wild Encounters show at Camp Okapi.

There’s also a complimentary giraffe feeding following the Backstage Safari. Only for ages 6 and up. No more than 2 children per adult. 100% of proceeds benefit zoo conservation efforts.

$140 for adults ($125 for members), $130 for youth ($115 for members)

Wild Adventures Camps

Students from Kindergarten through fifth grade can participate in either Spring Saturdays in April and May or weeklong summer camps, which will be held throughout Aug. 13, 2021. Summer camps include tours, games and close-up animal encounters. There are three themes, which you can find out more about here.

Campers will be grouped by grade level. All staff members and campers are required to wear masks. Campers must be potty trained. Before camp care and after camp care are not available. Refunds will not be provided for cancellations. 

Spring Saturdays: $55 per child, $50 for Dallas Zoo Members

Summer Camps: $278-300 per child, $250-270 for Dallas Zoo Members

Wild Earth Preschool

Wild Earth Preschool is a licensed child care center at the Dallas Zoo for children ages 3-5. It’s a full-day program that operates five days a week, year-round for a weekly rate of $285. The zoo provides morning and afternoon snacks, but the children have to bring their own lunch and water. All staff members and campers are required to wear masks.

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The wild earth preschool schedule | courtesy of the dallas zoo website

Keep up to date on more special events and exhibits happening at the Dallas Zoo by regularly checking their online calendar, or by signing up for their newsletter.

Membership might be worth it!

If you think the Dallas Zoo will be a regular attraction for you and your family, you might want to consider taking the dive and getting a membership. Members at the Dallas Zoo get perks like free admission, free parking, invitations to member-only special events, and discounts off the gift shop!

Membership discounts don’t stop there: this extends to discounted rife and attraction tickets, discounted guest tickets, discounted special exhibit admission, and discounts at 150+ zoos and aquariums nationwide.

All in all, it’s a pretty sweet deal for a $149 Family Membership! It also makes a great gift to give to the animal-lover in your life.

More info on membership packages to the Dallas Zoo can be found here.

Don’t feel like braving the zoo for your kiddos? Check out some of these local parks to bring your kids to instead!

Here are more tips on surviving summer while having a good time with your kids!

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Vaibhavi Hemasundar

Vaibhavi Hemasundar is an undergraduate at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She loves singing, film photography, and devouring book after book.