A New ZooVenture!On May 28, 2020 by Calgary's Child
by Trista Arney
The Calgary Zoo has reopened to visitors with some restrictions! Our family went last weekend and wanted to share our experience with all of you so you know what to expect!
Before you go
The Calgary Zoo has made a handy video to explain all of their new procedures. You can find it here!
Tickets to the zoo are only available online, with no exceptions – even if you’re a member! There are no walk-ins allowed right now to prevent overcrowding.
If you have a membership or qualify for one of the fee-assistance programs, there are instructions for logging into your account so you can book your time on their website. You must have a timed ticket for entry into the zoo (except for kids under 3).
There are no wagon or stroller rentals currently available, so if you think you might need one, bring one! Power cart and wheelchair rentals are first come, first served.
Plan your visit ahead. There is a downloadable map available from the zoo website which shows you all the one-way routes available for your visit.
- The playgrounds are closed! Make sure you prepare your family ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
- Most buildings are closed, but you can view animals from adapted and outdoor viewing areas. This means spaces like The Enmax Conservatory are not accessible (no butterflies).
- You cannot see the Giant Pandas, as they are already in quarantine for their journey back to China.
- The Zoo Stores are closed.
- There are limited food areas open to purchased snacks/meals.
- You can only enter the zoo via the North Entrance.
- Masks are not required, but are recommended for visitors over the age of 2.
- When parking, visitors are asked to leave one empty space between vehicles.
At the Zoo
When you arrive at the zoo, you are able to pay for parking via the kiosks or for a touchless experience use the myParking by ParkPlus app.
Follow the marked pathways and give other households space, only one household per bright pink paw print. When you get inside the entrance area staff will direct you. You will present your e-ticket or print out to a staff member who is behind a plexi-glass shield and it will be scanned. Then you can continue following the paw prints into the zoo.
We found the Penguin habitat (first through the doors) to be very crowded and did not visit for very long. You cannot enter the penguin plunge, just the outdoor viewing area. The Humboldt penguins are nesting so you might be able to catch a glimpse. The bathrooms that are available are very clearly marked, and they have signage that lets you know how far it will be until the next washroom is available.
Social distancing markers have been placed along the routes to help your family. Some of the spots are peeling up because of the weather. Be aware of where you are standing and walking and of the people around you.
We followed the route into the Canadian Wilds area to visit the mountain goats, caribou, buffalo, otters, wolves, whooping cranes and bears.
Cequel Lodge, where the otters are located is one of the only buildings which is accessible. The aviary is currently closed, but you might be able to spot one of the owls or hawks while walking along the outer pathway.
The limits on guests make it much quieter inside the zoo than usual, which means it is much easier to spot many of the animals and get a close-up view. The pathway through the Canadian Wilds takes you past the new Bug-themed play area as well as the established play structure near the wolf habitat. The playgrounds are very cleared marked off limits. We had spoken to our child about it ahead of time so didn’t have any disappointment but some of the younger children were definitely struggling with not being able to go where they would like to in the zoo. Remember to give other families their space and to be kind to those with younger children who may take a little longer on the pathways.
We found that the signage and distancing
indicators were very clear and easy to follow.
Most families in the zoo were aware of them and following the
guidelines. There are many chances to wash your hands or apply the supplied
hand sanitizer. We found that the
signage was clear while still allowing us to enjoy our outing.
After the Canadian Wilds we walked over the bridge and toured Destination Africa. This area is one of my favourites and I found it much less crowded than it normally would be. We did have to wait our turn for viewing circles, but when we had our chance, we had some of the clearest views of the animals I’ve ever had at the zoo.
The staff we encountered were friendly and inviting. At the outdoor viewing space for Land of Lemurs there was a staff member who chatted with visitors, letting you know where you could see which animals.
After our walk through the Land of Lemurs we headed over to the Gorilla viewing area. If you’ve visited the zoo many times, you’ll know the outdoor viewing area has stairs leading into a mini amphitheatre where programming often occurs. Because of the one-way nature of ZooVenture, the Gorilla viewing area is not accessible by wheelchair or stroller as you must use the stairs to enter the area. Once in the area you have the chance to view the Gorillas, and there was a staff member on hand to talk about the various members of the troop that were visible. We encountered one of the zoo staff cleaning high touch surfaces like benches and she kindly let me take her photo.
By this point of our visit, we were getting a bit tired from the walk and decided to head over to the Tusk N’ Grill. We ordered a snack and were impressed at the no-touch ordering process. Plexi-glass barriers have been installed and distancing spots help to maintain the line.
We ate outside where tables have been spaced out to allow distancing and are routinely disinfected by staff. There is limited indoor seating available at the Kitamba Café for another dining option.
When visiting, make sure to bring your own water or be prepared that you may have to purchase some. The water re-fill fountains have been disabled for the time being. We brought our own water as well as hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes for our visit.
After our snack we opted to skip the Eurasia area where the Tigers, Red Pandas, and Snow Leopard habitats are located. We headed across the bridge to make our exit through the Prehistoric Park. There are two clearly marked path options when entering the Prehistoric Park, with time estimates on both. If your children really want to be able to see all the Dinosaurs opt for the longer walk, as the short loop only has a couple visible.
Tips & Tricks
Our adventure was around two and a half hours long but could easily have been made longer or shorter. Most areas of the zoo were quiet and maintaining distancing was easy, although there were some spots where we needed to wait and were more crowded. Our family felt safe visiting the zoo. It was clear that cleaning was being undertaken regularly and there was almost no need to touch anything, except when using the bathroom or eating and it was easy to find spaces to clean your hands.
We opted to wear non-medical face masks, even though they are not required to enter the zoo. One of the reasons was to see how masks would work for our family. As more public spaces open there will be places where face masks are required. Our 7-year-old was mostly able to wear a mask without touching it, although he needed reminders and we did change masks when we stopped for our snack.
For a successful trip I recommend planning ahead and knowing your family and their needs. If your children are accustomed to running ahead of your family, it may be more difficult for you to visit the zoo and follow the safety guidelines which are in place. If your child tires easily it is best to bring a wagon or stroller for them (which also makes it easier for them not to touch surfaces). Planning ahead also lets you avoid disappointment. Review the map before going so that you know which animals will not be accessible and be sure to let your children know that the playgrounds are not available.
Enjoy the time out with your family if you chose to visit the zoo! Remember to be aware of other families as well. Show kindness and respect by sharing the space. Many families will want to visit the zoo safely, and we need to make sure to give each other space. Everyone likes to travel at their own pace, but make sure that if you need to pass another household to do so while respecting distancing. Try to make yourself aware of the precautions in place and be kind to the staff. They are doing their best to create a fun and safe environment.
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