about 75 miles west of Raleigh in Asheboro, the North Carolina Zoo
is nationally recognized as one of the nation’s finest zoos. It
was the first American zoo designed from its inception around the
“natural habitat” philosophy--presenting animals and plants in exhibits
that closely resemble the habitats in which they would be found
in the wild.
the most popular exhibits are those that display polar bears, sea
lions, river otters, alligators, elephants, gorillas, baboons, rhinoceros,
giraffes, and zebras. The 37-acre African Plains exhibit alone is
as large a many entire zoos. The 11-acre Prairie exhibit in the
North American region showcases the zoo’s collection of bison and
The zoo’s newest attraction
is the Australia Walkabout, which opened in May 2004. This 1.5-acre
exhibit showcases Australian animals and shows their relationships
to their habitats and their links to aboriginal Australian cultures.
The Walkabout features red kangaroos, wallabies and emus as well
as other exotic Australian bird and reptile species.
North Carolina Zoo was the nation’s first state-supported zoo and
remains the nation’s largest walk-through natural-habitat zoo. Its
African and North American exhibit regions span more than 500 acres
with more than five miles of walkways. Another 900 acres are available
for future development on this scenic site in the Uwharrie Mountains,
considered by geologists to be one of the world’s oldest mountain
ranges. These beautiful hills are still called “mountains,” but
the tallest point on zoo grounds is Purgatory Mountain at 937 feet
above sea level.
of the zoo’s primary missions is to make visitors aware of the connections
between humans and the world’s animals, plants and natural resources.
Interpretive galleries and individual signs provide a wealth of
information to make visits more enjoyable and educational.
special events are held at the zoo to add another dimension to the
visitor experience. These include: an African Festival held each
weekend from April 14 through May 23; an “Earth Day Celebration”
on April 16; “Migratory Bird Day” on May 13; “A Heritage Festival”
on September 16-17; and “Boo at the Zoo” on October 28-29. “Street
Rod Safari,” a show of classic and collector automobiles that’s
also a zoo tradition, is set this year for May 19.
best way to see the zoo is on foot, so you can explore the exhibits
and trails. An internal tram is available to transport visitors
between exhibit areas, but most animals are not visible from the
trams. You can enter or exit by either the North American or African
gates, where a shuttle bus can transport you to the area where you’re
parked. Zoo officials recommend taking a minimum of five hours to
explore all that the park offers at a comfortable pace.
nearby attractions include more than 100 potters in the Seagrove
community south of the zoo, as well as the Richard Petty Museum
devoted to the “King” of stock car racing in Level Cross and the
Peddycord Aircraft Museum at the Asheboro Municipal Airport. Of
course, there is also the beautiful scenery and recreational opportunities
of the Uwharrie Mountains region.
North Carolina Zoo is open year round. Hours are 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
from April through October and 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. November through
March. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children 2-12 and
$8 for senior citizens and college students. For additional information,
visit the zoo’s Web site at www.nczoo.org
or call 1-800-488-0444.