Located within Denver’s historic City Park, the Denver Zoo spans 80 acres and is often ranked as one of the most popular zoos in the country, welcoming nearly 2 million guests a year.
More than 4,000 animals representing some 600 species call the zoo home. The zoo’s origins date back to 1896, when the mayor of Denver was gifted with a black-bear cub, who was then housed in City Park. Other animals, including prairie dogs and antelope, soon roamed the park as well.
In 1918, the zoo’s Bear Mountain exhibit opened, which emulated the animals’ natural habitats, rather than relegating them to cages. This innovation, designed by Victor H. Borcherdt, established the Denver Zoo as one of the country’s premier zoos.
Today, Bear Mountain remains open, and visitors can see grizzly bears, Asiatic black bears and coatis at eye level. The zoo's other exhibits include Private Panorama, a seven-acre habitat for the zoo’s apes and monkeys, where tree-dwelling monkeys play and climb on twisting vines and gorillas and orangutans roam freely in their separate one-acre exhibits, climbing ropes and taking naps in hammocks.
Zoogoers can ogle exotic animals like komodo dragons and seahorses in the Tropical Discovery exhibit, which immerses visitors in a world of balmy jungles and coral reefs.
At the zoo’s Northern Shores exhibit, the aquatic world comes to life during shows featuring California sea lions. You’ll also spy polar bears, harbor seals, river otters and Arctic foxes—and be treated to an underwater glimpse of the polar bears and sea lions.
Touted as the Denver Zoo’s “crown jewel,” the Toyota Elephant Passage features two miles of interconnected trails and is one of the largest and most complex elephant habitats in all of North America. Asian elephants, greater one-horned rhinos and Malayan tapirs make their way across the 10 acres of varied terrain while gibbons swing directly over visitors.
And don’t miss the Denver Zoo’s newest exhibit, The Edge, which brings animal lovers closer than ever to the zoo’s Amur tigers. Yards and bridges allow the tigers to stride 12 feet above visitors’ heads and a viewing area brings guests within inches of the majestic creatures.
Feedings and Animal Encounters
Want to get up-close and personal with the Denver Zoo’s menagerie? The zoo’s feedings and encounters allow a closer look at—and, in some cases, interaction with—the animals. The daily schedule includes African Penguin Feeding, Toyota Elephant Passage Demonstration, Wild Encounters, Meet the Llamas, Africa’s Greatest Predators and the Sea Lion Show. Learn more about the animals and watch as the zookeepers feed them.
The zoo’s one-of-a-kind Up-Close Animal Encounters—available for an additional registration fee—offers encounters with hippos, penguins, great apes, rhinos, sea lions, elephants, lorikeets or giraffes. You can even live “A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper” and learn about animal care and training. Check the zoo’s website for a full list of options and seasonal availability.
During the summer (March 1-Oct. 31), the zoo’s admission gates are open daily from 9 am-5 pm. Admission is $12-$17 and children under 3 get in free. A ride on the train or the carousel—which features handcarved wooden animals representing rare and endangered species from around the world—is $3 for a single ride or $20 for a 10-ride punch card. During the winter (Nov. 1-Feb. 28), the zoo’s admission gates are open daily from 10 am-4 pm. Admission is $9-$13 and children under 3 are admitted free.