Plan the Purrfect Visit to the Zoo

The weather has been ideal lately, with sunny skies and a cool breeze. Hampton Roads is busier than ever with a higher influx of visitors who are out of school and in the area for summer vacation. Whether you’re visiting from out of town or just looking for something to do on your day off, a trip to the Zoo is always a must. Here’s how to make the most of your visit this summer.


The Zoo is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm and although we have ample parking spaces, it fills up quickly! Arrive just before the Zoo opens to get the best parking spot, get in line and get the earliest access to the Zoo. Remember, Zoo members can enter the Zoo at 9 am on weekends through Labor Day.


To reduce our carbon footprint and save trees, we’ve ditched paper maps and recommend downloading our free Virginia Zoo App on your Apple or Android devices for access to a map of the Zoo and all the information on our animals and gardens. Subscribe to push notifications to receive daily info plus occasional discounts to Zoo events!


Once you’re in the park, check the app or sign in the plaza for the day’s scheduled happenings including ZooLive! stage presentations featuring animal ambassadors, and Keeper Chats where you can talk one-on-one with a Zoo Keeper.


The Zoo’s newest exhibit, the World of Reptiles and Friends, has some visitors crawling with excitement over turtles and frogs, while others cringe at the thought of seeing snakes, insects and lizards. Even if our cold-blooded creatures aren’t your thing, this indoor, climate-controlled exhibit is a must-see on hot Hampton Roads days. Our critically endangered crocodile habitat is an exhilarating sight and big things are happening with the tiniest of hatchlings in our Frog Lab and Reptile Nursery. Sloths and monkeys are also a breath of fresh air in the Conservatory, so do not miss out!


Our Nigerian dwarf goats are awaiting your affection in their yard in the ZooFarm. Open daily from 10 am to 12 pm and 1 to 4 pm, you can actually enter the yard to brush the goat mommas and their kids. The Australia Walkabout is another exhibit you can enter. Walk along the pathway and encounter wallabies and emus. These animals from down under aren’t as friendly as the goats, so it’s best to just admire them from a distance.

Be sure to follow the rules from Keepers while in each yard!


Have a question, comment or concern? Find our volunteers in green shirts or our Conservation Youth Teens in teal blue shirts. These seasoned stewards of the Zoo are here to assist you with anything you need. Animal facts are their forte, so be sure to take advantage of their knowledge on our species and conservation.


If you’ve worked up an appetite, stop by one of our food locations for a quick snack, cold beverage or hearty meal. The African Village Cafe offers indoor and outdoor seating with food options such as hamburgers, chicken tenders, salads and more. The Beastro has hot dogs, quick snacks and specializes in handmade pizzas among other delicious treats. Both locations offer gluten free and vegetarian options, and don’t forget to purchase your refillable souvenir cup at either location.

Looking to cool off? Dippin’ Dots is available at the Gift Shop, Snack Shack in the plaza and standalone booth near Africa.


Show off your trip to the Zoo with a plethora of pictures! Outside the front entrance, stop by our famous elephant statue, the new hand-painted giraffe sculpture, or the one-and-only Norfolk “tiger mermaid” – all of which make great family photo opps. Inside of the Zoo, check out the fun cut-outs of the orangutans and otters and grab your best pals for funky photos at these spots in Asia – Trail of the Tiger. Snavely, the 63-foot-long Rhino viper sculpture, is located just outside the World of Reptiles and needs you to put on your best snake face for a picture with him. In our Flora Point area of the Zoo, you can step back in time at our historical chimp cage, a perfect place for Homo sapiens to get their picture taken. Remember to tag your photos with #virginiazoo and you might just see yourself on the Zoo’s social feed!


No trip to the Zoo would be complete without a ride on our Norfolk Southern Express. For just $2 per rider, you can enjoy seeing the Zoo from a new perspective and hear our Train Engineer talk about the animals, gardens and exhibits. The ride also ventures behind the scenes to give you a closer look at even more of the Zoo. To help the train run at full steam ahead, consider donating to our campaign!


New at the Zoo is our Run Wild! Nature Discovery Zone. This nature play area is unstructured and informal play that incorporates the natural and surrounding landscape and vegetation to bring nature to children’s daily outdoor play and learning environments. Kids can take advantage of play structures like the stump jump, willow tunnel, boulders, bamboo maze, dig boxes, sensory tables, balance beams and learn about species and how to save them at the Conservation Cabin.


After getting down and dirty at the nature play area, children can cool off in our plaza fountains. Don’t forget to pack the kid’s bathing suits when you visit the Zoo so everyone can enjoy the fun. Seating is provided for those who want to relax and watch their excited children frolic in the water. The pavement may be slippery when wet, so we suggest wearing proper shoes when splashing around.


Commemorate your Zoo experience with a purchase from the Gift Shop. Grab a plush of your favorite animal, get your hands on a t-shirt or hat or find something more unique like a flip-flop animal or handmade bag to take home. Don’t forget to round up your purchase to support our Zoo Train Fund for a limited time!


Just like humans want to be inside when it is too hot or when the weather isn’t optimal, our animals may not always be in view from the public. If you don’t see your favorite animal on your visit, try again another day! We often get asked when the best time to see the animals is and while there’s no definitive answer, the animals do tend to be out and active first thing in the morning, although it depends on many factors, especially weather.

Please come visit us soon and remember these key tips on making your next trip to the Zoo the best it can be!