A Review of the Fort Worth Zoo

Sometimes the best attractions are right in your own backyard. That’s certainly true in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex, which has Six Flags, multiple water parks, and Texas Rangers baseball (which is actually fairly good this year). But one great local destination that is often overlooked: the nationally acclaimed Fort Worth Zoo.

I know some reading this will say “a zoo is a zoo, they’re all the same.” Not true at all. While a large number of zoos around the country have upgraded and renovated their facilities to make the experience a pleasant one for both man and beast, the Fort Worth Zoo has really gone the extra mile. Long gone are the days of concrete enclosures with steel bars (think of the zoo in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. Each exhibit is constructed to mirror the particular animal’s natural habitat as closely as possible.

The animals are also grouped by the geographical region in which you would find them in the wild. This makes the educational aspect, especially for kids, much easier to follow. The main exhibit areas are:

The World of Primates. This 2.5-acre area has, well, primates. It features both indoor and outdoor exhibits (the indoor part is air-conditioned, which is nice in the Texas summer), and definitely has a rainforest feel to it, complete with tropical foliage and several waterfalls. The various sections of the exhibit feature chimpanzees, orangutans, gibbons, mandrills, and a group of gorilla’s, including a very impressive silverback male.

Asian Falls. This exhibit was carved out of an existing hillside, and is home to six elephants (including the first ever born at the zoo, 9 year old Bluebonnet. Moving away from the elephants on a winding boardwalk, you will see rhinos and various birds before coming to my personal favorite exhibit, the white tigers and Indochinese tigers. The two groups are separated by a ravine and 40-foot waterfall that adds to the beauty of the exhibit while preventing tiger-on-tiger violence.

Penguins. This exhibit is new this year, and is home to over 15 African black-footed penguins. The exhibit includes a beach area for the penguins and underwater viewing where you can step up to the tank and watch the penguins glide through the water. In the future, rockhopper penguins will be added to the group. This area is also air-conditioned, and it will fill up during the heat of the day.

African Savannah. This area contains many of the animals people typically think of when you mention the zoo: black rhinos, white rhinos, giraffes and cheetahs. All can be viewed from a raised boardwalk that is, like most of the zoo, amply shaded by trees and other vegetation to make your experience more comfortable.

Australian Outback/Great Barrier Reef. Great Barrier Reef is one of the Fort Worth Zoo’s newest exhibits, with three huge saltwater tanks filled with 500 fish species (including clownfish, angelfish, and moray eels), coral and black-tip reef sharks. Australian Outback features red kangaroos and wallabies).

Texas Wild! This is a feature you won’t see at any other zoo. Texas is home to more animal species than any other state, and this section of the zoo is devoted not only to those animals but also to things like conservation education and displays dealing with Texas’ often-unpredictable weather. Some of the animals featured include swift foxes, black-footed ferrets, prairie dogs, river otters, black bears, and bobcats. There is also an indoor exhibit of snakes, insects and bats, and this area is air-conditioned as well. I keep mentioning these air-conditioned stops for a reason; when I went with my kids the other day, it was 98 degrees.

In addition to the animal exhibits there is a steam locomotive that travels between the zoo entrance and Texas Wild, and it’s a great way to get off your feet for a while. An all-day pass gives you unlimited trips for $3.00. At Texas Wild there is a petting corral and play barn for the kids, and the play barn is air-conditioned as well. And in the Australian Outback area there is a 25-foot climbing wall.

The zoo is open year-round, and the summer operating hours are 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday thru Friday and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $10.50 for adults and $8.00 for children ages 3-12, children 2 and under get in free. Admission is half-price on Wednesdays, but I advise avoiding Wednesdays because it’s a madhouse. Parking is $5 per car and is cash only.