Best Kansas Zoo

Elaine Sutton
• Friday, 08 January, 2021
• 7 min read

When we were kids, a trip to the zoo was a special event we never wanted to miss. These five zoos in Kansas are a fun treat for the whole family, and you won’t want to miss a single one this summer.

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We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date.

Sunset Zoo, located in Manhattan, is open for 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and you'll find that the cats here are playful as ever.

They host multiple events throughout the year, so keep checking in to see when they have something special happening. Known by some as the Emporia Zoo, this one is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is free to enter, but does accept donations.

They have a wonderful area for children to interact with animals, and they have a wide variety here to educate and entertain visitors. Not only do they have animals large and small, but they also host plenty of special events and education opportunities for those of you that want something more than a walk through the zoo.

Born and raised Kansan, Clarissa has lived in both tiny towns and cities during her time here in the Sunflower State, mostly in the south central area. Clarissa is a stay-at-home mother of one crazy kid, two cats, and two geckos, and has been writing anything and everything since she's held a pencil, though Kansas and fantasy novels take up most of her time.

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Error.... we're in for a chilly night, but Gus the Bison is fluffing their bed, so they'll be nice and toasty! Visiting your local zoo is always a great way to experience and appreciate a whole spectrum of animals, but it’s hard to feel as if you’re really interacting with those fuzzy monkeys or roaring lions or sleek dolphins when you’re (safely, of course) ensconced behind glass or a gate.

Luckily, there are plenty of zoos, aquariums, and wildlife parks that have put together fun (and, again, safe!) Plenty of people can swim with dolphins (and, yes, we’ll tell you where you can actually do that), but not everyone is willing to dive deep with sharks.

After you get out of the shark-infested waters, feel free to wander the aquarium (and show off your souvenir t-shirt, snorkel, and mask to passersby), all included in the $175 ticket price. A number of zoos offer special feeding interactive experiences, but Florida’s Lowry Park Zoo is one of the few to feature white rhino feeding options.

You can also hang out with their Nile hippo pair, Susie and Brutus (at $90 a person, it’s a bit cheaper than the Big Cat, which costs $145), assisting a zookeeper with their daily mouth check and the distribution of yummy hippo snacks (don’t eat them, okay? The San Diego Zoo offers a number of “special experiences,” including the one-and-a-half-hour-long “Backstage Pass” (it will only cost you $99 per person).

The Pass will allow you to touch, help train, and get up close and personal with plenty of the zoo’s many animals. Popular variations of the Pass include meeting a cheetah (and getting a photo of your new spotted pal), a chance to touch the rhinos, and feeding plenty of other zoo residents.

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You’ll spend the whole day with a friendly zookeeper host, doing the good (meeting giraffes, penguins, oh my! The safety of our guests, staff and animals is our highest priority, which is why we have made some changes in our operations to provide you with a safe and memorable experience.

On this page, you'll find important information needed for your upcoming Zoo visit. All guests, including Zoo members, must now reserve free, timed tickets prior to visiting.

August 16 – October 14September 4 – 6 (Labor Day Weekend) Saturday through Monday: 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Please note the Zoo's closing time on the day you wish to visit before making your reservation.

As part of its commitment to the continued well-being of guests, staff and animals, and in an ongoing effort to assist the community in preventing the spread of COVID-19, the Zoo has implemented enhanced protocols and procedures. The unique characteristics of the Zoo campus and vast outdoor experiences provide the opportunity to safely implement numerous safety measures.

Requiring masks/face coverings for everyone age 9 and up Limiting attendance to help maintain social distancing within our Zoo Implementing enhanced sanitation protocols (e.g., offering additional hand sanitizing opportunities, cleaning restrooms and table surfaces frequently, blocking off frequently touched items like map dispensers) Operating shops, restaurants and certain attractions at limited capacity and with modified service (some attractions are closed for your health and safety) There will be no cash transactions at the Zoo, only credit card or other cashless options. North and South Rentals at both entrances, and Guest Relations booth near Lakeside Café, are able to accommodate cash customers by selling them gift cards to spend at the Zoo.

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Face coverings can help minimize virus transmission from asymptomatic individuals. When guests are eating or drinking, they are to maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other parties.

Guests can remove their masks in two designated areas while maintaining a social distance of 6 feet from other groups. The Zoo has a limited amount of face shields available for sale at both entrances.

In consideration of access to the Zoo, visitors (a) agree to comply with Zoo policies and instructions, including those on signage, (b) understand and agree that the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has recently infected individuals in the St. Louis area, that it is contagious and that it can spread to persons in any number of ways, (c) agree that they assume responsibility for any injury (including personal injury, disability or death), illness, damage, loss claim, liability, or expense arising out of or related to COVID-19 experienced or contracted in connection with a Zoo visit, (d) that they waive and release all claims against the Zoo and its commissioners, officers, employees, volunteers and agents relative to the foregoing matters, and (e) that they agree that the Zoo is legally entitled to sovereign immunity regarding any such claims. The majority of our Zoo experiences are available with modified service and enhanced safety protocols.

All attractions, restaurants, shop and animal buildings are subject to closure without advance notice. This one-day pass includes admission to the Conservation Carousel and Zoo line Railroad.

Visit Lakeside Café in the center of the Zoo for a variety of breakfast options. Most food and beverage locations and gift shops are open, including Starbucks.

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All food items sold are prepackaged in closed containers or wrappers, similar to what you may see at most restaurants. Reduced menu items are streamlined for safety and efficiency to be as seamless as possible in serving a large volume of guests daily.

Guests can remove their masks in two designated areas while maintaining a social distance of 6 feet from other groups. **January 4 through February 28, 2021 Monday-Friday: The Wells Fargo Arrival Experience South Entrance (Wells Drive) including the Welcome Desk, Rentals and Safari Gift Shop and South Parking Lot will be closed.

Saturday, Sunday and holidays: The Wells Fargo Arrival Experience South Entrance will be open including the Welcome Desk. These are general guidelines and are subject to change, especially for special and private events and other weather conditions.

Learn more about our stroller, wheelchair and electronic convenience rentals, accessibility services, and Zoo rules, polices and prohibited items.

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