Our Favorite Places: The Denver Zoo

Kids love animals. That’s nearly a universal fact of life, and although their favorite animals may not align, the joy of a good zoo is being able to please everyone in one day. As such, the Denver Zoo is one of our favorite places to spend a day, studying our favorite animals, taking pictures and sketching, and enjoying beautiful Colorado weather.

Peahen encounter!

In recent years the Denver Zoo has undergone something of a renaissance. In 2012 the Toyota Elephant passage was opened, a 10 acre, $50 million dollar exhibit showcasing a variety of Asian animals. The showcase is, as the name implies, elephants, and the exhibit features multiple yards to view them in. In addition the Elephant Passage hosts a twice-daily elephant demonstration for those who want to learn more about the giant animals and see how they’re trained and cared for.

The Toyota Elephant Passage was merely the first in a series of planned expansion and improvements of the 115-year-old zoo, and was followed this year with the opening The Edge, a state-of-the-art Amur Tiger exhibit. N was particularly excited about this development, as tigers are his favorite large animal. The morning the new exhibit opened we spent a long time at The Edge watching, sketching and photographic the magnificent beasts. We look forward to spending more time in this newest exhibit, and to whatever the Denver Zoo has planned for future improvements.

Besides these newer exhibits, the rest of the Zoo is still a joy to wander around. Our family favorites, besides the tigers and elephants, are usually monkey and great apes, penguins, bears and bald eagles, though G loves the frequent encounters with free-wandering peacocks throughout the zoo. Sadly some some of the exhibits seem a bit dated and bland, particularly some of those focusing on the African savannah, yet as I mentioned earlier the coming years and decades will likely see continued construction and renovation projects which will likely take the place of some of these older exhibits. Still, many other exhibits are quite excellent and reflect the extensive time and effort that went into their planning and construction.


While some out-of-staters seem to think of Colorado as a cold, snowy place, the fact is that the weather is usually fairly mild which makes the zoo a year-round destination for us. It’s generally less crowded than indoor museums, and houses a number of indoor exhibits that are fun for colder days. Indeed, we have a family tradition of going to the zoo, which is open 365 days a year, on Thanksgiving and Christmas days, weather permitting.

Besides traditional zoo exhibits, the Denver Zoo has and continues to host art exhibits of various sorts for added fun and exploration. In 2015 a series of large-scale animal sculptures built from LEGO bricks graced the zoo. This was followed in 2016 by Washed Ashore, an art exhibit exploring how litter affects ocean animals. This fall, DINOS! will see 21 animatronic dinosaur models scattered throughout the zoo.

Bald Eages

Of course the best part of the zoo is the unpredictability. Besides whatever new exhibit or art display might be opening, there’s always something surprising to see. Arriving to an exhibit just in time for an animal demonstration, seeing a new baby, or simply watching an animal doing something weird and goofy are all part of a typical day at the zoo. On our most recent trip, besides watching the tigers, and some of our other favorite animals, we happened upon the bald eagles just as they were splashing in their pool. M, age three, absolutely loves bald eagles and was thrilled as could be to watch them splashing and shaking water around. He’s still talking about the experience nearly two weeks later. It’s probably only a matter of time until he takes his stuffed bald eagle and tries to give it a bath in the sink.

So if you’re looking for something to do in the Denver area, the Denver Zoo gets top marks in our book. It’s a fantastic place where there’s always something new to see and plenty to learn.


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