Zoo Atlanta

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One of the oldest zoos in the United States, Zoo Atlanta went through a multi-million dollar renovation beginning in the 1980s to make it one of the premier zoological attractions in the nation. Offering more than 1,500 animals including rare Giant Pandas, when visiting this city Zoo Atlanta is a destination that has a lot to offer.

About the Zoo

Back in 1889, local business man George V. Gress purchased the remains of a struggling travelling circus show and donated the animals he acquired to the city of Atlanta. City officials immediately decided that the centrally-located Grant Park would make a great home for those animals, and Zoo Atlanta was effectively born. Throughout the 20th century the zoo was able to grow and thrive with the addition of more animals and physical expansions that lasted through the 1970s.

However, by the time the 1980s rolled around the Zoo had fallen into disrepair, so much so the Parade magazine named one of the worst zoos in the country in 1984. As Zoo Atlanta approached its centennial, the fall out of this designation stung even worse. As such, civic leaders in Atlanta felt a need to immediately address the issues that had led to the formation of a private non-profit, the Atlanta-Fulton County Zoo, Inc. to manage the park into the future. The next 20 years saw continuous improvement of the zoo’s facilities as well as a steady accumulation of more animals and attractions to elevate Zoo Atlanta to a position akin to the nation and world’s best zoological parks. These additions included the construction of the Ford African Rain Forrest in the early 1990s and the addition of two Giant Pandas right before the millennium.

Today, Zoo Atlanta is located in the same place in Grant Park as it was more than 120 years ago. It is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited park that spans some 39 acres and houses more than 1,500 animals from over 220 species. The main attractions of Zoo Atlanta have always centered on its extensive collection of gorillas and orangutans, which is the largest in the world. However, it was the addition of two Giant Pandas, Lun Lun and Yang Yang, in 1999 really put Zoo Atlanta on the map of world class zoological parks. Today these anchor exhibits are able to support a large zoological park which also acts and an educational and conservation center dedicated to the animals of the state Georgia and the world as well as focusing on the animals that call the park home. Among the most popular of the park’s research efforts are their work with the Giant Pandas and several primate research projects that focus on their extensive gorilla population.

Main Attraction

Zoo Atlanta takes up more than 39 acres of property close to the city’s downtown area in the Victorian-style Grant Park neighborhood. The zoo is divided into eight main attraction areas including the Ford African Rain Forrest, home to the zoo’s gorillas, the Giant Panda Exhibit, and the Children’s Zoo. There are a handful of daily shows offered throughout the park which include feeding opportunities and encounters with the animals. In addition, there are rides, a playground, and petting zoo for the smallest members of each party.

Zoo Atlanta is open seven days a week and is only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas days. Children under age 2 are admitted free of charge while there are separate admissions rates for adults, seniors (65+), children (3-11), military members, and college students. Zoo rides are an additional cost and can be purchased individually or as part of a combo pass option. There are also memberships for sale which include year-long admission for 2-3 adults and up to 4 children.

Because it is an active research institution, Zoo Atlanta also offers a variety of educational resources for children as well as classroom teachers. This includes teacher workshops as well as an online community of resources that children can use before, during, and after their trip to learn more about Zoo Atlanta’s animals.

Why It’s a Must-See

Offering a full day of activity as well as a host of entertainment and educational options, Zoo Atlanta is a fantastic attraction. Plus, with activities available for everyone from toddlers to seniors, it is a great place to spend a beautiful Atlanta day.