Kansas City Zoo

Kansas City Zoo

At A Glance

Hours: Daily 9:30am until 4pm

Price: $19 to $22


In 1907, a vision was born when city leaders proposed the creation of the largest zoological garden in the United States. The idea was to make something truly unique and unparalleled in the world, and Swope Park was identified as the ideal location for this ambitious project. The land for the park had been donated by Thomas Swope, a well-known real estate speculator, in 1896. Businessman Barron Fradenburg, a prominent member of the Chamber of Commerce, argued that a zoological garden was essential for Kansas City to become a true metropolis. Thus, a Zoological Society was formed.

The Kansas City Zoological Gardens officially opened its doors in December 1909, showcasing a diverse collection of animals including lions, monkeys, a wolf, a fox, a coyote, a badger, a lynx, an eagle, and other birds. The zoo quickly became self-sufficient, growing most of the food for the animals from gardens within the park.

In 1948, after almost four decades of operation, the zoo unveiled a new addition, a children’s zoo called Touchtown. The new exhibit featured a petting zoo with domestic animals, as well as imaginative structures like Noah’s Ark, the Old Woman’s Shoe, and a hollow fabricated lion that children could enter and stick their heads out the open mouth. In 1961, the Hallmark Company donated the “Birthday Pavilion” and in 1964, a puppet theater opened in Touchtown which was later remodeled into an education building.

In 2002, Friends of the Zoo, Inc., a private non-profit organization, took over the management of the zoo with a commitment to improving and supporting the zoo’s facilities, animals, and education programs. Under the leadership of Randy Wisthoff, the zoo’s executive director and CEO, the zoo began a $30 million bond package that set the stage for future development.

Over the past decade, the zoo has invested over $85 million in capital projects, including the Discovery Barn, the Zoo Learning Center, river otters, trumpeter swans, an Endangered Species Carousel, Polar Bear Passage, the African Sky Safari, Tiger Terrace, Orangutan Canopy, Tuxedo Grill, and Helzberg Penguin Plaza. The original zoo building was also transformed into Tropics, which provides visitors with up-close views of primates, otters, birds, and lush tropical plants.

The Kansas City Zoo was recognized as one of the top 60 zoos in the United States in “America’s Best Zoos 2008” and was ranked No. 1 in the nation for “African Animals and Exhibits.” It also ranked in the top 10 in the nation for “Australian Animals and Exhibits” and for “Pachyderms: Elephants, Rhinos, Hippos.” Jane Goodall, a renowned expert on apes, also praised the Kansas City Zoo for having “one of the finest chimpanzee exhibits in North America.”

The zoo also offers a variety of experiences for visitors including a Sea Lion Show, Keeper Chats, elephant painting demonstrations, and many other opportunities for animal encounters. The education department offers campouts, on-site and off-site classes, and guided tours. Visitors can take a safari boat ride across the lake in the Zoo’s African Plains area where they can see a variety of hoofstock, including zebra, giraffe, and more.

The Kansas City Zoo has grown into a 202-acre nature sanctuary and is a vital resource for the region, providing urban and suburban families with the opportunity to connect with the diverse habitats, cultures, and animals of the natural world. A visit to the zoo is a journey around the world, an interactive experience that uses all the senses to entertain, educate, and engage visitors of all ages. For many in the community, the zoo serves as the only connection to animals and habitats that remain wild on our planet. It opens hearts and minds to the importance of preserving the natural world for future generations.

Whether you are a local resident or a tourist, a visit to the Kansas City Zoo is an unforgettable experience. It is a place where visitors of all ages can learn about different animals and habitats, and appreciate the beauty and diversity of nature. The zoo’s commitment to conservation and education ensures that the next generation will be able to continue to learn from and enjoy the natural world.

What to Expect at The Kansas City Zoo

A visit to the Kansas City Zoo promises to be an exciting and educational experience for visitors of all ages. With over 200 acres of land, the zoo is home to a diverse range of animals from around the world, including lions, monkeys, wolves, foxes, coyotes, badgers, lynx, eagles, and many more. The zoo also features a variety of exhibits, including an African Plains area where visitors can take a safari boat ride and see hoofstock such as zebras and giraffes, and a children’s zoo, named Touchtown, which features a petting zoo with domestic animals, and imaginative structures like Noah’s Ark and a hollow fabricated lion that children can enter.

One of the highlights of the zoo is the Sea Lion Show, where visitors can watch sea lions perform a variety of tricks and stunts. The zoo also offers Keeper Chats, where visitors can ask questions and learn more about the animals from the zookeepers who care for them. Additionally, the zoo’s education department offers campouts, on-site and off-site classes, and guided tours to help visitors learn more about the animals and the zoo’s conservation efforts.

Visitors can also expect to find a variety of dining options, from casual eateries to sit-down restaurants, as well as gift shops where they can purchase souvenirs to remember their visit. The zoo also has ample picnic areas, so visitors can bring their own food and enjoy a meal while taking in the beautiful surroundings.

Overall, a visit to the Kansas City Zoo is an opportunity to explore and learn about the natural world in an interactive and engaging way. The zoo’s commitment to conservation and education ensures that visitors will leave with a greater appreciation for the animals and their habitats, and the importance of preserving them for future generations.


What are the hours of operation for the Kansas City Zoo?

The Kansas City Zoo is open year-round, but hours may vary depending on the season. The zoo typically opens at 9:30 AM and closes at 4:00 PM, but visitors should check the zoo’s website or call ahead for specific hours on the day they plan to visit.

Are there any discounts available for visiting the zoo?

Yes, there are several discounts available for visiting the Kansas City Zoo. These include discounts for children, seniors, military personnel, and groups. Visitors should check the zoo’s website or ask at the ticket booth for more information on discounts.

Are there any special exhibits or events happening at the zoo?

Yes, the Kansas City Zoo often hosts special exhibits and events throughout the year. These can include temporary exhibits featuring specific animals or themes, animal encounters, and educational programs. Visitors should check the zoo’s website or ask at the information booth for more information on any special exhibits or events happening during their visit.

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