Things to Do and See at the Denver Zoo

Nestled in the heart of Denver, Colorado, the Denver Zoo stands as a sanctuary for over 3,000 animals representing 450 species, including rare and endangered ones. It’s a place where visitors can marvel at the wonders of wildlife and learn about the importance of conservation. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, a family or a solo adventurer, the Denver Zoo offers a plethora of activities and sights. Here’s your guide to making the most of your visit.

Explore the Exhibits

Predator Ridge

Predator Ridge at the Denver Zoo is an immersive exhibit that has been carefully designed to replicate the African savanna, providing a naturalistic environment for its inhabitants, which include lions, hyenas, and African wild dogs. This 4.7-acre exhibit has received accolades for its innovative approach to animal care and exhibit design, including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Top Honors Exhibit Award.

The exhibit is divided into three habitats, and the animals are actively managed to rotate among these spaces. This rotation system not only enriches the animals’ lives by offering them a variety of environments to explore but also simulates the movement they would experience in the wild, which can lead to healthier and more engaged animals.

Visitors to Predator Ridge are greeted by a panorama of the simulated savanna upon entering the zoo, complete with thematic elements that evoke the Samburu region of East Africa. The design includes sustainable materials and daylighting strategies to enhance the experience for both the animals and the guests.

The exhibit features two ΒΌ acre habitats where visitors can view a pride of lions, cape hunting dogs, and hyenas. A 3,000 square foot interpretive center allows for close-up viewing of these magnificent predators while providing educational information about their biology and conservation.

In addition to the public viewing areas, Predator Ridge includes an 8,000 square foot lion and predator holding building. This facility is equipped with generous holding areas, keeper workspaces, training and management zones, and an isolation and birthing suite. The behind-the-scenes termite mound experience under the habitat offers a unique perspective on the animals and allows keepers to interact with them, demonstrating best care and management practices.

The exhibit’s design and management practices have not only made it a favorite among visitors but have also earned it recognition as one of the top zoo exhibits by USA Today in 2018. The Predator Ridge exhibit at the Denver Zoo stands as a testament to the zoo’s commitment to providing high-quality, enriching environments for its animals while educating the public about the importance of wildlife conservation.

Toyota Elephant Passage

Toyota Elephant Passage is one of the largest and most complex elephant habitats in North America, located at Denver Zoo. This $50 million USD project focuses on Asian elephants and their relationship with the people they live beside, and it is LEED Platinum Campus certified, representing the most aggressive green building project ever implemented at a zoological institution.

The exhibit is designed to encourage natural behavior and allows visitors to observe these majestic creatures up close. It is divided into three zones: wildlife preserve, rural agricultural village, and village center. Elephants, rhinoceros, and tapirs rotate through the six habitats over bridges and paths that cross the public’s walkways. Significant water features encourage swimming and wallowing, providing a dynamic and engaging experience for both the animals and the visitors.

The Toyota Elephant Passage is a 10-acre project that includes five flex/rotation pachyderm habitats, bridge and at-grade crossings, five pools, a demonstration area, and themed visitor amenities. It is designed to immerse visitors in a dynamic Asian tropic ecosystem and serves as a model for environmental stewardship and high-performance building design, having received LEED Platinum certification.

The exhibit is home to Asian elephants, Indian rhinoceros, Malayan tapir, and various small mammals and birds, providing a diverse and engaging experience for visitors. The site consists of five animal habitats linked to allow the animal staff flexibility in managing and exhibiting the animals, with a demonstration area for visitors to observe animal staff interacting with the animals in a protected contact environment.

The Toyota Elephant Passage was designed to support the needs of male elephants in human care, as male elephants spend time away from the bachelor group during musth, an annual hormonal cycle marked by high levels of testosterone and increased aggression. Denver Zoo was the first AZA-accredited institution to house and socialize multiple Asian bull elephants, and its elephant care team studies the intricate social dynamics of bulls every day to help inform conservation of the species in its native ranges.

In summary, Toyota Elephant Passage is a state-of-the-art, LEED Platinum-certified exhibit that provides a dynamic and engaging experience for both the animals and the visitors. It is designed to encourage natural behavior, support the needs of male elephants in human care, and serve as a model for environmental stewardship and high-performance building design.

Tropical Discovery

Tropical Discovery is a fascinating exhibit at Denver Zoo that allows visitors to immerse themselves in a rainforest environment and encounter exotic fish, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. The exhibit is home to more than 2,000 animals, including furry, scaly, swimmy, slithery, and slimy creatures.

One of the highlights of Tropical Discovery is the coral reef, where visitors can observe colorful fish and other marine life. There is also a darkened cave area where nocturnal creatures can be spotted. The exhibit offers an unforgettable opportunity for fish fans or lizard lovers to learn how the keepers care for these cool creatures.

Visitors can choose from two Up-Close Animal Encounters in Tropical Discovery: Fish or Lizards. These 30-minute meet-and-greets with the animals and their keepers allow visitors to feed residents like Rex, the rhinoceros iguana, or even serve up a meal to a school of piranhas. These encounters are typically available 60 days out and are a great way to get a closer look at the animals in the exhibit.

In addition to the animals, Tropical Discovery features a demonstration area where visitors can observe animal staff interacting with the animals in a protected contact environment. The exhibit is designed to encourage natural behavior and provide an engaging experience for both the animals and the visitors.

Tropical Discovery is also home to the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Animal Hospital, which offers two treatment rooms, critical care units, and a cutting-edge surgical suite. The hospital is supported by the most technologically advanced equipment in the field, ensuring that every animal at the zoo can receive the care they need.

Overall, Tropical Discovery is a must-see exhibit at Denver Zoo, offering a unique and immersive experience into the rainforest environment and the chance to encounter a wide variety of exotic animals.

Primate Panorama

The Primate Panorama exhibit is a 7-acre habitat at the Denver Zoo, home to a variety of monkeys, apes, and lemurs. The exhibit offers expansive outdoor habitats that allow these intelligent animals to climb, swing, and interact with their environment, providing an engaging experience for both the animals and the visitors.

The exhibit is designed to encourage natural behavior and allows visitors to observe these majestic creatures up close. The outdoor habitats are equipped with climbing structures, trees, and ropes to provide a dynamic and engaging experience for the animals. The exhibit also includes a darkened cave area where nocturnal primates can be spotted.

The Primate Panorama exhibit is home to a wide variety of primates, including orangutans, gorillas, monkeys, and lemurs. Visitors can observe the playful orangutans and the impressive troops of gorillas as they interact with their environment and each other. The exhibit provides a unique opportunity to learn about the behavior and social dynamics of these fascinating creatures.

The exhibit also offers educational opportunities for visitors to learn about conservation challenges primates are facing in the wild and discover solutions to help. The exhibit allows the Zoo to improve animal care, health and well-being of primates by providing access to enriching outdoor habitats, sunlight and fresh air.

In summary, the Primate Panorama exhibit at the Denver Zoo is a must-see for any visitor interested in primates. The exhibit offers an engaging and educational experience, allowing visitors to observe a wide variety of primates in expansive outdoor habitats and learn about the conservation challenges they face in the wild.

Engage in Interactive Experiences

Up-Close Animal Encounters

The zoo offers scheduled animal encounters that allow you to meet animals face-to-face and learn from the knowledgeable zookeepers. This is a unique opportunity to ask questions and gain insight into the lives of the animals.

Feed the Giraffes

At the Giraffe Encounter, you can step up to a platform and feed these gentle giants. It’s a fun and memorable experience for visitors of all ages, and it also helps support the zoo’s conservation efforts.

Zoo Lights

If you’re visiting during the holiday season, the Zoo Lights event is a must-see. The zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland with illuminated animal sculptures, festive decorations, and activities for the whole family.

Participate in Educational Programs

Zoo Camps

For the younger visitors, the Denver Zoo offers educational camps that are both fun and informative. These programs are designed to inspire a love for nature and teach children about wildlife, conservation, and the environment.

Conservation Talks

Join in on the conservation talks to learn about the zoo’s efforts in wildlife preservation and how you can contribute to protecting endangered species. These talks are a great way to deepen your understanding of global conservation issues.

Plan Your Visit

Best Times to Visit

The Denver Zoo is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the weekdays when the crowds are smaller. Early mornings are also ideal for seeing the animals when they are most active.

Amenities and Accessibility

The zoo is equipped with restaurants, snack bars, and picnic areas. It’s also stroller and wheelchair accessible, ensuring that everyone can enjoy their visit comfortably.

Membership and Passes

Consider purchasing a membership or a day pass that includes additional experiences. Members often receive discounts, early access to events, and other perks.


The Denver Zoo is more than just a place to see animals; it’s an institution dedicated to education, conservation, and providing unforgettable experiences for its visitors. Whether you’re watching the majestic flight of a bald eagle, learning about the delicate balance of ecosystems, or simply enjoying a sunny day among the wonders of nature, the Denver Zoo offers a rich tapestry of encounters that are sure to delight and educate. Plan your visit today and discover the wild side of Denver!