Whether you’re in town for the Calgary Stampede, or are simply looking for more things to do in Calgary – The Calgary Zoo is such an easy outing for visitors and Calgarians alike. We have a membership to the Toronto Zoo, and visit often, but I must say that the Calgary Zoo impressed me with the intimate feel of the animal exhibits, and the themed walks really gave a sense of adventure to our visit. I have no doubt we’d get a membership to the Calgary Zoo if we ever moved to Calgary.
It’s located right next to Fort Calgary (pop in to the Deane House for a fab family-friendly brunch beforehand) and just minutes from downtown. There’s a C-Train stop adjacent, but the parking is fairly reasonable as well. The fact that the Calgary Zoo is so easy to get to already makes it a great attraction in my books.
The Calgary Zoo is set up similarly to the Toronto Zoo, in the sense that the animal exhibits are arranged according to Geographical Zones – but just on a much smaller scale. Even with the number of walks you can participate in, you could easily squeeze in the Calgary Zoo into a half-day – although there’s more than enough to fill an entire day at a leisurely pace. Even though we were off to Drumheller the following day, we made the time to do the Prehistoric Walk, and I’m glad we did. Not only was all the information a nice pre-cursor to the dinosaur overload we had at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, but it’s just a very nice (albeit hot if it’s sunny out) walk.
Same goes for the Canadian Wilds trail. This walk is shadier, so it’s cool even when the sun is strong, and we were treated to some WWE Black Bear action as the two black bears wrestled around right in front of the glass. It’s nice just to let your kids and toddlers run free along the path, and it’s contained enough so you don’t necessarily feel the need to hover (says “umbrella parent” me).
But the definite highlight of our visit to the Calgary Zoo was the new Penguin Plunge exhibit. It’s busy, and there’s often a line-up, but I can confirm that it’s worth the (hopefully minimal if you get there early) wait. You are so close to the penguins that you can practically reach out and hug them. Please don’t, of course, but how often can you say that you were splashed by a penguin as it swam by? Groups are brought through in 15 minute intervals, and I can say that I was tempted to go through the exhibit again. Bub wasn’t thrilled with the fishy smell, but outside you can see the Humboldts as they are sometimes found in tropical temperatures and can deal with the heat. The indoor temperature is set at a consistent 7° Celcius for the Gentoo, Rockhopper, and King penguins.
The food selection is excellent and pretty reasonable at the Kitamba Café – and there are a few concession stands throughout the Zoo grounds. As the Calgary Zoo is wheelchair accessible, it’s very easy to get around with a stroller. All washrooms have diaper changing facilities and a nursing room is available in Kitamba Café. Emergency first aid and services for lost children are available 24 hours a day at the Security Office, which is south of the Conservatory and just off 12th Street SE.
The Calgary Zoo is open from 9am to 5pm every day, but it’s closes on December 25th and for their annual Zoogala. General admission is $21, with Seniors being $19, children 3-15 are $13, and babies 2 and under are free. You have 7 days to put your admission receipt towards a membership, which pays for itself in three visits.