Kansas City Zoo

The Kansas City Zoological Gardens opened in 1909 with a small collection of animals: three monkeys, four lions, a fox, coyote, wolf, lynx, badger, and an eagle among other birds. Touchtown, a children's zoo, was added in 1948 with of a petting zoo that featured sheep, goats, tortoises, and rabbits. In addition to the petting zoo, freestanding structures were added, such as a hollow fabricated lion that children could enter from the bottom and stick their heads out of the open mouth, Noah's Ark, The Great Blue Whale, and The Old Woman's Shoe.

The Kansas City Zoo now features numerous more animals and other activities thanks to an investment of more than $85 million in projects since 2007. The zoo now includes the Orangutan Canopy, Helzberg Penguin Plaza, Discovery Barn, Tiger Terrace, Polar Bear Passage, Endangered Species Carousel, African Sky Safari, trumpeter swans, river otters, Tuxedo Grill, and the Zoo Learning Center.

A new building called Tropics, which offers visitors up close views of birds, primates, otters, and tropical plants, was created by transforming the original zoo building. According to Jane Goodall, the Kansas City Zoo has "one of the finest chimpanzee exhibits in North America." The zoo also provides a variety of other activities for guests, including Keeper Chats, elephant painting demonstrations, a Sea Lion show. The education department of the Kansas City Zoo puts on campouts, guided tours, and both on-site and off-site classes. Photo: Kansas City Zoo

»Orangutan Canopy

Orangutan Canopy

Guests can visit the Orangutan Canopy, home to six orange apes, to gain a better understanding of how enrichment is important in the orangutans' daily life, as well as how the zookeepers train the orangutans to behave a certain way for medical exams. Guests can also learn about the Kansas City Zoo's involvement with the Orangutan Species Survival Plan. The Keeper Chats will also explain the effects of palm oil on wild orangutans and how visitors can be free of palm oil. The exhibit also gives families a chance to see orangutan painting demonstrations and to learn more about Kalijon, the youngest ape.

The Orangutan Canopy's Outdoor Forest, roughly 3,400 square feet in size, was created to emphasize different characteristics of intelligent orangutans. The outdoor habitat exhibit contains many aspects designed to test the orangutan's intelligence and dexterity. Precise measurements and careful attention to detail was used to make sure the habitat would let the orangutans' social, physical, and intellectual abilities run "wild." The habitat includes physical features, such as a grove of flexible artificial trees, vines, and poles that provide exploring, climbing, and resting areas above the naturally planted and contoured forest floor. Visitors can observe the orangutans from an array of vantage points, including an open-air, canopy level shelter with a 40 feet viewing window.

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The Kansas City Zoo also has an "Orangutan University." This indoor, renovated room now has skylights, brightly painted walls, and colorful climbing structures that are all designed to be a fitness studio for the orangutans, as well as a learning lab for both the apes and visitors. Interactions between the apes and guests occur through computer monitors. They make comparisons and provide information about the physical and close cognitive traits humans share with the orangutans.

The zoo's Orangutan Agility Course offers visitors an opportunity to test their abilities against that of the orangutans. The course trail is situated on a hillside, located between the "Orangutan University" and the canopy. The course consists of orangutan exercises, climbing structures, and conservation messages. Activities include "sliding" to the forest floor, "stretching" for fruits, a "swaying" exercise for guests to test their balance, and testing visitors's speed while "swinging" across "ape" bars.

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»Helzberg Penguin Plaza

Helzberg Penguin Plaza

Visitors can delight in watching the antics of the zoo's Humboldt Penguins both below and above the water through a large viewing window at the Helzberg Penguin Plaza. The penguin exhibit features tunnels, pop-up holes for the penguins to launch themselves out of, and an ice bridge. Three inches of snow falls into the habitat daily from ice flake machines atop a catwalk above the viewing window, providing the penguins plenty of snow to play in and entertain guests.

The Penguin Coast is designed to imitate the native Humboldt Penguin habitats in Chile and Peru. The habitat area provides the penguins with abundant space and over 25,000 gallons of cool salt water to swim and waddle about. The exhibit is made with a folding window wall, opening the exhibit to the outdoor during warmer months, with two underwater doors for penguins to swim in and out of the indoor part of the exhibit. The penguin habitat also contains eight partially concealed nesting boxes built into the rocks to offer the penguins a cozy sanctuary to nest and raise young.

The Helzberg Penguin Plaza also showcases Moon Jellies in a 1,300 gallon water exhibit. The primitive Moon Jellyfish are displayed in all their magical grace and beauty as they float on simulated ocean currents.

Koala Flats

Koala Flats, having just opened in 2016, features two koalas on loan from the San Diego: Burra and Coedie. The koala exhibit consists of two "flats." Each one is 225 square feet, and decorated with Australian background and trees. Even though there's one "flat" for each koala, they will have access to both. Outside the koala exhibit is a bird aviary showcasing birds such as corellas, cockatoos, and a peacock. Visitors can also stop for a photo with the nearby Sumatran Tiger statue, weighing at nearly 500 pounds and almost life-size. Guests can also stop and participate in zookeeper chats about the koalas.

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»Zoo Animals

Zoo Animals

The Kansas City Zoo is divided mostly into five distinct areas: the entrance area, Africa, Kid Zone, Australia, and Tiger Trail. Near the zoo's entrance, guests will find flamingos, a bobcat, gibbon, and elephants. In the Africa section, visitors can observe baboons, rhinoceros, bat-eared foxes, lions, red ruffed lemurs, dulker, Bateleur eagles, warthogs, kudu, elands, East African Crowned Cranes, Saddle Billed Storks, Cheetahs, Bongo, Leopards, Red River Hogs, Gorillas, and Mangabey. There is also the African Aviary. The Kid Zone features otters, swans, polar bears, sea lions, penguins, llamas, koalas, meerkats, a lorikeet encounter, and goat and koi feeding. The Australia area showcases kangaroos, wallaby, tree kangaroos, camels, singing dogs, snakes, sheep feeding, and an Australian Aviary. The last section, Tiger Trail, includes tigers, a red panda, rhinoceros hornbills, macaque, and orangutans.

Animal Shows

The zoo puts on several animal shows and demonstrations throughout each day. Sea Lion Splash, an interactive and educational show, features six sea lions whose playful antics will entertain visitors. Wings of Wonder, or WOW bird show, demonstrates the spectacular capabilities of a variety of birds. The fascinating world of flight is unfurled right in front of guests' eyes and above them. Each show features several birds, and the birds showcased changes with each show. There are many other shows, like Animal Adventures at Safari Landing, that provide education about various animals and up close encounters. Visitors can view the zoo's creepy crawlies, learn about conservation, and hear some of the education staff's favorite animal stories. The show can be found between the hippopotamus and painted dog exhibits in the Africa section of the zoo. Guests can also learn more about the zoo's animals during the many Zoo Keeper Chats throughout the day.

Zoo Rides

There are several rides for visitors to enjoy at the Kansas City Zoo. Guests can take the Zebra Tram from the front entrance to the African Market, delighting in views of flamingos and elephants along the way. The Endangered Species Carousel is sure to be fun for children, or relax on a boat ride across the lake while taking in the beautiful sights of the African Plains. Guests can also take a train ride through Australia or catch the train near the front entrance. Animals, such as kangaroos and camels, can be seen close to the train tracks during the journey. The African Sky Safari gives visitors a different viewing perspective of the African animals at the zoo. Traveling at 35 feet above the ground, this 1,500 feet journey lets guests travel through the sky with their feet dangling above the likes of giraffes, cheetahs, rhinos, and lions. The seven minute ride ends at one of the world's best chimpanzee exhibits.

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In addition to the animal exhibits, shows, and Keeper Chats, the Kansas City Zoo also offers an array of educational programs. On such program is day camps, including Zoofari Adventures, Junior Zoologists, and Act Like an Animal camps. The Keeper for a Day program gives children and teenagers an opportunity to be a zookeeper for a day. There are also several overnight programs that help visitors enjoy and understand more about koala, penguins, polar bears, and other animals. Several other educational programs exist for girl scouts, boy scouts, homeschool groups, and preschools. Visitors of all ages can take part in one of the zoo's guided tours, such as the African Golf Cart Safari and the Wild Safari Walking Tour.

Back to: Best Things to Do in Kansas City and Romantic Getaways from Kansas City, Missouri Address: 6800 Zoo Dr, Kansas City, Missouri 64132, Phone: 816-595-1234 Photo: Kansas City Zoo

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Things to Do in Missouri: Kansas City Zoo