A Journey Through Zoo Atlanta

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Zoo Atlanta in Georgia is a unique and wonderful place to visit. It’s home to over 1,000 animals from more than 220 species around the world, including those that are endangered or threatened. From the majestic African lions to playful Red Panda cubs, visitors can enjoy seeing some of the most diverse wildlife on Earth.

Zoo Atlanta entrance.

Zoo Atlanta History

Zoo Atlanta dates back to the late 1800s – 1889 to be exact, making it one of the oldest zoos in the United States.  It began when a traveling carnival ended up going bankrupt while it was there en route to Marrietta, Georgia.

The animals, which were left in their cages to languish, were purchased by George Valentine Gress and donated to the city of Atlanta.  They were relocated to Grant Park, and the zoo opened to the public in April of that year.

Through the years, the zoo has seen some additions and changes.

  • In 1890, the zoo acquired its first elephant, Clio.
  • In 1935, the park acquired elephants, leopards, water buffalo, elk, zebra, birds, a hyena, a sea lion, and its first tiger.
  • In 1961, infant gorilla Willie B., named after Mayor William B. Hartsfield, arrived.
  • In 1994, Willie’s first of five offspring, Kudzoo, was born at the zoo.
  • In 1999, a pair of giant pandas arrived at the zoo, on loan from China.

The Zoo Today

Situated on 40 acres of land in downtown Atlanta, the zoo is divided into four different areas:  African Plains, The Ford American Rain Forest, Asian Forest, and Kid Zone.

African Plains sign.

As you enter the zoo, beautiful flamingos will be on the left near the entrance to the African Plains.

Flamingos in water.

Elephants, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, bongos, and warthogs are among the creatures there.

Warthog in the dirt.

If you continue walking counter-clockwise, you will journey into The Ford African Rain Forest.  It is here that you will see the Ford Willie B. Gorilla Conservation Center on your left.

Primate eating.

On your right, there will be monkeys, lemurs, and the Living Treehouse which has beautiful birds that fly safely within the compound.

Exotic blue birds and white birds.

One thing you are sure to notice while there is the beautiful bamboo and plants that line the pathways.

A gardenia flower.

In the Asian Forest, you will be able to see Giant Pandas.  If you are unable to get a snapshot of one while you are there – like me, you can always head over to one of the gift shops and purchase a souvenir instead.

Stuffed pandas in the gift shop.

Informative and Educational

One of the neat things about the zoo is that you can learn new facts about animals.  You might even get to see some animals that you have never heard about before, like the binturong pictured below.  I caught him taking a nap.

A binturong napping.

Dining at the Zoo

If you find yourself getting hungry or a little too hot, stop by the Wild Planet Cafe.  Have a seat inside where it is air-conditioned and grab a bite to eat.  The menu features all-natural, free-range, hormone-free chicken tenders and grilled chicken, and all-natural, nitrate-free hot dogs. They also serve pizza, burgers, and salads.

Wild Planet Cafe at Zoo Atlanta.

Rounding out the zoo is the Kid Zone.  This fun area has a carousel, a petting zoo, as well as a train that you can board to ride around the outer perimeter of the zoo.  (The train and carousel tickets are $3 each.)

Zoo Atlanta is a nice place to take a break from the big city chaos and enjoy some animal -and people-watching.  Can’t make it to the zoo today?  Take a quick break and sneak a peek at the pandas via Zoo Atlanta’s Panda Cam.

Atlanta Zoo Map

Zoo Atlanta is located at 800 Cherokee Avenue SE in Atlanta.

Zoo Hours

Zoo Atlanta is open 363 days a year; closed only on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. Opening hours are at 9:30 daily.  Be sure to check for closing hours for the day you plan on visiting.

Admission Rates

Adults (ages 12 and older)   $22.99
Children ages 3-11                 $17.99
Children 2 and younger        Free
Senior Citizens (65+)            $18.99

Discounts are available for college students and members of the military.  Click here for current information regarding hours and rates.  Memberships are available which include free admission, discounts at Zoo Atlanta, as well as discounts on admission at select AZA zoos and aquariums nationwide.

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