With summer break in full swing and two littles visiting from India, we decided to take them to the Dallas Zoo to explore, thousands of animals to visit, and a huge variety of family activities, at 106 acres Dallas Zoo is enormously entertaining! There are lots of family friendly things to do in Dallas, visiting the Dallas Zoo is one of them. There are plenty of opportunities to learn about interesting wildlife, engage in interactive fun all the while support worldwide conservation and research to protect and preserve endangered species. Getting to the Zoo from Plano was easy, not wanting to struggle with traffic, we opted to take the DART RED LINE to the Dallas Zoo Station. The ride was about an hour from the Plano Parker station and the bright yellow train dropped us of, yards away from the Zoo entrance.
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Fun facts about this Dallas Zoo
- The Dallas Zoo was founded in 1888, making it the first zoological park in the Southwest.
- The park covers 106 developed acres! In terms of landmass, it’s the largest zoological park in Texas.
- The giant giraffe sculpture marking the Zoo’s entrance is 67½ feet tall!
- The Zoo is divided into ZooNorth and Wilds of Africa and is separated by a tunnel.
- The Zoo provides and cares for a wide variety of animals and are involved in conservation and breeding programs for numerous endangered species.
- The Dallas Zoo is widely recognized for the new Simmons Hippo Outpost, the Giants of the Savanna exhibit, the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo, the Wilds of Africa where you can experience the Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari, and the Jake L. Hamon Gorilla Conservation Research Center.
Endangered Species Carousel and T-Rex Express
Our first stop was at the Dallas Zoo’s Endangered Species Carousel is a custom-made merry-go-round featuring hand-crafted exotic animals plus a spinning bird’s nest. We loved riding the lion before going to look for the lion at the Zoo. There is also a kid-sized, all-electric trackless train T-Rex Express, that is decorated with animal graphics and equipped with a smoke machine and sound effects as it winds its way around Picnic Ridge in ZooNorth.
Adventure Safari Monorail
Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari, is a monorail you can embark on for a birds-eye view of five African habitats not accessible by foot: the mountains of Ethiopia, the woodlands of Kenya, the Great Rift Valley, the arid Saharan Desert, and the bush of the Serengeti in Tanzania. The trains ease along at 3-4 mph on a one-mile loop around the back side of zoo. You can see the Simmons Hippo Outpost, Chimpanzee Forest, crocodile pond and Penguin Cove from above, ride through a rushing waterfall, and view species from across the continent of Africa, including nyala, gerenuk, lesser kudu, ibex, oryx, eland, vultures, storks, addax, bongo, red river hogs, and more. While on safari, zoo specialists serve as your guide, describing the animals, habitats and conservation efforts being taken to preserve these remarkable species.
The colorful blue-and-gold macaw is a social bird with a high level of intelligence and ability to learn behaviors.
Marsupials at the Australian Outpost
Koalas native to Southeastern and Eastern Australia have been commonly mistaken for being part of the bear group, but they actually are marsupials. Just like the kangaroo, koalas have a pouch for keeping their young safe until they are ready for the outside world. Gummy and Tekin, both males, spend most of their time, as do koalas in the wild, dozing in a eucalyptus tree. These cute Koalas can be found at the Australian Outpost in addition to the Gray Kangaroos, emus, lorikeets and kookaburras. The kangaroo can hop on its large feet, using its powerful hind legs and large muscular tail to help it stay balanced. These features allow the kangaroo to reach speeds of up to 40 mph and leap up to 30 feet. Don’t miss the new kookaburras in front of the kangaroo, wallaby, and emu habitat. Named for the raucous laughing noise they make. Across from the koala habitat, you can visit Lorikeet Landing and feed Australasian parrots a cup of nectar.
Flamingos native to Caribbean, southern United States, Mexico, South America, and Galápagos get their pink coloring from the food they eat. The pink coloration you see comes from a protein called carotene, which can be found in the small crustaceans and other types of plankton they eat. Flamingos eat by sweeping their heads back and forth in the water. They filter out food that is in the water with their highly specialized bills. The Dallas Zoo has the Caribbean Flamingos in the ZooNorth and the Lesser Flamingos which are little pale and native to Africa, Middle East, and India in the Wilds of Africa.
Giants of the Savanna habitat
The Dallas Zoo’s Giants of the Savanna habitat, open since May 2010, provides an interactive experience for guests built around the many different species of animals that call the savanna home. You can see elephants, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, lions, warthogs, red river hogs, guinea fowl, and cheetahs here. Kids can learn more about these animals with interactive exhibits at the Simmons Safari Base Camp.
African Penguin are native to South Africa and Nambia. Unlike their cold-weather relatives, these African penguins live along the coast of Africa where the weather is mild. If you look closely, you will see that our penguins are covered in tiny feathers that help keep their skin dry and streamlined as they zip through the cool water. A dip in a pool is a great way to keep cool for tropical penguins and they have just that at the Dallas Zoo for these darling penguins! We saw more than a dozen waddling, splashing and sunbathing African penguins at the Zoo and needless to say I spent most of my time admiring and snapping pictures of them.
Over the past 100 years, the population of African penguins has declined from more than two million breeding pairs to slightly more than 20,000 breeding pairs left. This dramatic decline has resulted from many factors, unfortunately all of which are human-related. Recently, organizations in South Africa have tried to develop an artificial nest that African penguins could use to supplement the little remaining nesting habitat. The Dallas Zoo is involved in the efforts to save these remarkable birds, a portion of the ticket sales goes towards the cause.
Wonders of the Wild presented an interactive 20-minute wildlife show featuring birds and mammals from all over the world at the Wildlife Amphitheater in ZooNorth. Grab a seat in benches made out of milk jugs (and remember to recycle at the zoo and at home), and watch in awe as African crowned cranes, hawks, owls and eagles soar right over your heads. See a trumpeter hornbill nab a grape out of midair. And while those birds are incredible flying through the air, don’t miss the acrobatics of the waddling African penguins.
In addition to seeing an learning about the animals from around the world, you can see some amazing animals that live right here in Texas. You can spot Blue Jays feeding on acorns near the parks and wooded areas and also see wildcats that live in Texas at the Cat Row – ocelots, bobcats and mountain lions. We saw the Great Horned owl at the Wonders of the Wild show – Did you know this owl that can be found all over the state can turn its heard 3/4 of the way and has a wingspan of up to 5 feet!
Feeding the Giraffe at the Zoo
From packing a picnic to food stands to the three restaurants there are the a wide variety of dining options at the zoo. Our favorite was the Serengeti Grill where you can eat with the lions in the Giants of the Savanna, not literally though! You can peer into the lions’ den through the floor-to-ceiling observation window while you’re dining on burgers and fries. An outdoor seating area overlooks the elephants in the Giants of the Savanna. Yards away if the station where you can feed giraffes from a platform at the Diane and Hal Brierley Giraffe Ridge.
There was so much to see and learn at the Dallas Zoo! On the ride back on the Dart, the kids wouldn’t stop talking about the animal encounters! We were guests of the Dallas Zoo but as always, the opinions and images are our own.