Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was named the fourth best zoo by USAToday’s 2018 10Best Readers’ Choice Contest. It’s a well-earned award, considering the zoo is home to over 750 animals and 170 species, including one of the largest reticulated giraffe herds in the nation. Located 6,800 feet above sea level, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo sits on top of a mountain and offers a unique experience unlike any other. The zoo is open 365 days a year, and though most people wait to visit Cheyenne in the summertime, winter is actually one of the best times to visit. Here are five reasons why.
For starters, admission prices are $10 lower during the winter than they are during the peak warmer months. You’ll pay only $14.75 for adults and $10.75 for children. Your admission also includes admission to the Will Rogers Shrine to the Sun, a historic monument just 1.4 miles away from the zoo. The top of the 80-foot observation deck sits 8,136 feet above sea level, granting you unparalleled views of Cheyenne Mountain. In addition to the reduced admission, the reduction in visitors at the zoo means you’ll actually have more access to the animals and keeper talks and an easier time getting up close and personal.
There’s also no need to worry about weather. Colorado Springs has winter weather in January and February that is quite mild, with highs in the mid-40s. Days are still often sunny (averaging 10 hours of daylight in January and 11 hours in February) and rain and snow are infrequent. Because the weather remains mild, the beautiful views from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo are still easy to enjoy. On the weekends, take advantage of this and enjoy the Mountaineer Sky Ride—an open-air chairlift-style ride that gives you an aerial view of many zoo attractions as well as Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado Springs and the Eastern Plains. At the top, enjoy benches for relaxing, a kid-friendly playground and climbing wall and an authentic yurt.
Animals from cooler regions, such as the Rocky Mountain goats, Canada moose and wolves, actually enjoy the winter weather, and most animals from more temperate regions can still be viewed in their indoor enclosures, so you will still see plenty of wildlife even in the winter. Even animals famous for hibernating during winter, such as grizzly bears, will be out and about, albeit moving a bit slowly, thanks to the abundant food supply at the zoo. The bears have no need to enter true hibernation because there is no scarcity of food to trigger it, so instead they enter a state called “torpor” where they are still awake and active, but their bodies’ metabolic processes are slowed down.
If you do find yourself wanting a break from the winter air, make sure to check out the indoor exhibit The Loft. Perfect for kids, this exhibit lets you get up close and personal with animals such as “Marty McFly” the kestrel, “Poe” the raven and “Mister” the parrot. Kids can explore various animal-related careers and even help prepare the animals’ food with kid-friendly knives. Another exhibit you do not want to miss is the Australia Walkabout exhibit. Hand-feed budgies, see emus, alligators and a tree kangaroo, and the highlight: walk among free-ranging wallabies and see unobstructed views of their indoor enclosure. In the Monkey Pavilion, find another treat: sloths traveling overhead along a system of ropes, or perhaps munching on their favorite snack.
There’s no need to worry that in the winter you might be missing out on scheduled events either. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo runs the same schedule of keeper talks and animal demos in the winter as they do in the summer, and you can even get the schedule through text. Text “Zoo + day of the week” to 95577 (i.e., “Zoomonday” or “Zoosaturday”). Feed giraffes a head of lettuce straight from your hand, watch an Amur leopard or tiger show, listen to a talk about alligators, watch the orangutan training and enrichment, or see the Mexican wolves feeding.
If you have very small children, then a Stroller Safari is the perfect experience to add to your zoo visit. For ages 12 months to 4 years, children will use all five senses to connect with nature and animals. Every stroller safari has a sensory activity, a meet and greet with an animal ambassador, and an animal feeding experience. This event is sold out for January, so be sure to register for February early! Another great option for kids is WildNights: a sleepover at the zoo. Every WildNight program includes pizza and veggies for dinner, roasting s’mores, a guided evening tour, giraffe feeding, an up-close animal encounter in The Loft, zoo admission for the following day, a breakfast of yogurt and cereal and a guided morning tour. The next WildNights is scheduled for Valentine’s day weekend, so drop your children off for an overnight adventure while you enjoy a quiet Valentine’s date away from the kids. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo also offers a spring break camp, with the ability to attend just one or all five days of the camp. The 2019 camp runs from March 25-29; pre-registration is required.
If all these activities leave you hungry during your visit, then you’ll find plenty of delicious options to enjoy. The new Pizza with a View offers European-style pizza, salads, local craft beer, wine and dessert and also offers gluten-free and vegan options. At the Grizzly Grill you’ll find pasta and rice bowls, wraps, soups, salads, hamburgers, New York-style pizza, sandwiches and ice cream. There’s also the new Cozy Goat espresso bar, serving Starbucks coffee, Tazo tea and locally baked pastries. At Elson’s Place, find treats like coffee frappés, lemonade, milkshakes and pretzels, and the Rocky Mountain Barbecue Co. offers house-smoked barbecue, salads, appetizers, craft beer and wine.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is located at 4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, Colorado Springs, 719.633.9925.