On our recent visit to Atlanta, we headed out of the city to Visit the Atlanta Zoo. This is not one of the country’s most well-known Zoos and really we didn’t know what to expect from such an understated and quite small facility. The Zoo was included on our Atlanta CityPASS, and as such we were excited to check it out, but always fear smaller, less well-funded Zoos can lean towards the horrible Road-Side Zoos you can find in the States.
However what we found in Atlanta was a really nice well-run facility with decent-sized and vert natural enclosures, with very low animal densities. Set in a very nice Georgian woodland park this petite Zoo packed quite a punch. Featuring some really impressive specimens, and some animals you really find anywhere else, it was a really surprisingly excellent attraction. So we put together our Zoo Atlanta Review to help you know what to expect if you visit this lesser know Zoo and let you know if the Zoo Atlanta is worth it.
- Attraction: Zoo Atlanta
- Location: Grant Park, Atlanta, Georgia
- Cost: General Admission: $27 – $37.94 including fees
- Time to Visit: 2-3 Hours
- Size: 40 acres (16 ha)
- No of Animals: 1000+
- No of Species: 220+
Transport links out to the Zoo are pretty poor. There are no direct MARTA links and bus coverage is pretty spotty. Really the best option is driving but if that is not an option we really think you would be best using Uber or an old school Taxi. It’s not the cheapest option, but the transport links are just so poor.
Check out the possible route options here
You could potentially walk it, but it’s approx 3 miles from downtown Atlanta. This does make it perfect rage for a Bike share and Atlanta is covered by HOPR
Zoo Atlanta is hidden away deep in the Atlanta Suburbs and the journey out there feels pretty odd. With only a few hundred meters left on the Sat Nav, it really didn’t feel like we were about to stumble upon a Zoo. White Picket Fences, porches, and narrow leafy suburban lanes, then out of nowhere you hit Grant Park and the Zoo.
Parking is not included in the admission, which is a little annoying but this is because the Zoo does not own the parking lots and they are run by Grant Park and the City. It is $3 per hour up to a max of $12 for the day, we only needed two hours, but three is recommended if you really want to take in everything at the Zoo.
Exploring Zoo Atlanta
Before we head off on our tour we should point out how perfectly compact the Zoo is. Honestly, that sounds a little like realtor speak and dousing the Zoo with Faint praise when what we really mean to say is SMALL!
But we do not mean small, it’s just really well laid out so that the area you have to cover to visit the zoo is small but the enclosures and space for the animals it pretty large. This is achieved but keeping the paths around the center of the Zoo with the enclosure on the outside.
It’s a neat little trick and it makes us wonder why other zoos do not do the same, thoughts go back to endless treks around huge enclosures and being hopelessly lost at other Zoos around the country. A zoo day is usually a long and exhausting experience, but at Zoo Atlanta it was anything but, and as you will see we don’t really feel we missed out on much.
After passing through the entry gates we head off to the left for a clockwise tour. You can go right if that suits you better but we felt the left is the more sensical route and just kind of felt right.
This takes you straight into the African Savana part of the Zoo and as you expect here is where the BIG animals are. Straight out the gate and we hit the Rhinos. These are southern White Rhinos and are actually not too threatened in the wild which is good news, unlike the Northern White Rhinos that are down to maybe two individuals…both female.
Next up we headed to the Elephant Enclosure, this is an all-new space for the three elephants and offer much more space and interactive elements to keep the animals engaged.
Next door to the Elephants are the Giraffes, Zebras, and Ostrich enclosures. We then hunted to the Warthog and said hi to Pumba before finishing off at the Lion Enclosure. It was just after 10 am but in July it was still really hot and very sticky and the Zoo’s lions were fast asleep and gave the impression they would be like that for the day, very much reminiscent of our own little lions sleeping habits on hot (and not so hot) days!
It is here where you really realize the compactness of the zoo as you have packed in some of the planet’s best Mega Fauna and you are hardly through the door!
The Scaly Slimy Spectacular
The peculiarly named Scaly Slimy Spectacular offers pretty much what it says on the skin, this is the Zoo reptile house and features all the Zoo snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles, insects, and spiders. Anything that crawls slithers or gives you the creeps is to be found here. And naturally, this is one of our favorite parts of the Zoo!
There is a large open enclosure in the center that houses the African slender-snouted crocodile which is really cool to see. There is also a couple of Aligator Snapping Turtle Exhibits and these massive prehistoric monster are really cool.
There is a huge array of snakes, a Green anaconda, a Green tree python, Rattle Snakes, Vipers, and Cobra, it is an impressive collection. Along with a large collection of Poison Frogs. The Zoo also has some really great breeding successes including the ultra Rare Bog Turtle and the poisonous Guatemalan beaded lizard
There is also the Georgio Extremes Exhibit that showcases some of the region’s best reptiles, lots of turtles, and some bad-ass snakes such as King Snakes, Rat Snakes, and Copperheads.
One thing we were really disappointed with was the almost complete lack of insects and spiders. We know this is considered a reptile house, but these usually go hand in hand.
The Highlight of the African Rainforest is the huge Gorilla enclosure. This is one of the Zoo’s most prized exhibits and features over 20 gorillas many of which have been bred through the Zoo’s successful breeding program.
As ever getting up close and personal to one of our closest relatives is pretty incredible, and the inhabitants here seem pretty content foraging and playing in their really authentic and varied habitat.
On top of the Gorillas, there is a monkey, Lemar, and a tropical bird aviary.
The Asian Rainforest is another fantastic part of the park and here reside some of our favorite exhibits. Komodo Dragons are really fascinating and you can see these huge dinosaur relatives, warming themselves under the heat lamps.
The Tigers were very inactive for us as, like the lions, and cats in general, when it’s hot it’s nap time! But they are still majestic as they nestle down to snooze.
The Ginat Pandas are really great to see and something we really did not expect from such a small zoo. We were gutted when the Pandas left San Diego Zoo and didn’t realize they were still on exhibit here!
There are also Orgautans, Sun Bears, Otters, and the amazing Clouded leopard all on display.
As we headed back towards the entrance we passed through the aviary section, here there is a huge selection of Birds on display, including Bald Eagles, Vultures, Owls and Hornbills, and exotic Bird collections.
It’s not the largest part of the Zoo but has a nice feel and a lot to see.
Behind the Avairies is the Kids Zone portion of the Zoo, which has all the less impressive but kid-friendly animals. Tortoises, Alpacas, sloths, and a Shee and Goat petting area. There are a couple of small rides too, the Carousel and the Zoo train.
Really as we did not have any kids in tow we avoided this area, but it’s great for little ones to get really up close to some “friendlier” animals.
There is also the Pavillion area where you can get something to eat in a nice open park setting. The food here is ok, but it’s not the best. As our visit was short we avoided the dining options and ate elsewhere. Expect the basics such as Cheeseburgers, Hotdogs, Chicken Tenders, and Pizza. Full menu here.
Hints And Tips
The Zoo opens at 9 am
The Zoo works best if you visit early and this is for a number of reasons, the later you leave it the less enjoyable your experience may be. For a start, the cooler temps, especially in the morning, make the animals more active. They are usually enjoying their morning feed and are far more likely to be out and about. As the day wears on the temps rise and the animals get sleepy.
This also applies to you, during the hot muggy summers it’s best to get attractions like this ticked off in the fresher morning air than the scorching midday sun!
Especially in the summer months, the mornings are also drier and less likely to experience heavy downpours. late afternoon and early evening are risky times! Also around an hour before the Zoo closes, the animals start being taken off display, so leaving it late may mean you are disappointed.
We visited the zoo using the Atlanta CityPASS and saved quite a bit of cash. The Pass gets you into 5 of Atlanta’s best attractions including the incredible Georgia Aquarium, Zoo Atlanta, The World of Coca-Cola, and more. It’s a great way to see more of the City and Pay Less.
Have Your Say
Have you visited Atlanta Zoo? How did you find your visit? Did you enjoy the zoo or did you find any negatives about your experience? Whatever your viewpoint just let us know in the comments below and if you have any questions just fire away.