The Toronto Zoo is one of the best places in Toronto for families to spend a day.
The Toronto Zoo is a great place for families with kids of any age to spend a few hours or an entire day. The zoo, which is considered one of the world’s finest, is open year-round although hours vary depending on the time of the year. Some animals are also not on display during the winter and some of the snack bars and other attractions are closed as well. We prefer to visit in the spring or fall when the weather is pleasant – not too hot and not too cold for walking around.
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Conservation and education are central mandates for the zoo as many of the 5000 animals that it houses are threatened or endangered and the zoo has a number of conservation projects that the public can become involved in. The zoo also has a wide range of educational programs including school programming, summer camps and family experiences such as the Serengeti Bush Camp sleepover.
The Zoo is organized geographically and was actually the first zoo in North America to group plants and animals this way. The animals are grouped into the following 7 regions: Africa; the Americas; Australasia; Canadian Domain; Eurasia; Indo-Malaya; and Tundra Trek.
The Zoo covers 287 hectares (710 acres), making it one of the largest zoos in the world, and has over 10km (6 miles) of walking trails so it may be difficult to cover the entire grounds in one day. I would recommend selecting the animals that you most want to see (polar bears, giraffes and orangutans are always absolute musts for us) and visit those areas first. It’s best to quit when everyone starts to get tired as it’s no longer fun walking around the zoo if the kids are cranky. We never make it to the Canadian Domain because it always ends up being our lowest priority as we rationalize that we have seen most of those animals in the wild. Someday we will have the stamina to make it to that area of the zoo.
We have a number of favourite animals that we have to see every time that we visit the zoo.
The Zoo also has the following activities that appeal to families.
- The Zellers Discovery Zone – a unique children’s area that includes the Kids Zoo where children can interact with friendly domestic animals or explore the playground structures, the Splash Island water play area, and the Waterside Theatre which presents family-friendly animal shows. (open seasonally)
- The Zoomobile – a pass for this popular train that circles the zoo property allows riders to board or depart from any of five stations located around the zoo and is valid for the entire day. A pass costs $7 for each person over the age of 4 and a pack of 4 passes may be purchased for $24. (open seasonally)
- The Conservation Carousel – a unique carousel featuring endangered species is open from 12:00-4:30 on the weekends weather permitting. The cost is $3 per ride or 4 rides for $10.
- Camel rides and Pony rides are available seasonally and weather permitting. A pony ride costs $5 and a camel ride costs $6. Weight restrictions apply.
There’s always something new at the zoo and we are looking forward to our next visit so that we can meet the polar bear cub which was born last fall. Sadly, the mother rejected her newborn cubs and zoo staff had to intervene. Only one cub survived and has been hand-raised by zoo staff for the last several months. The cub has thrived and is now ready to meet the public but he hasn’t been named yet. The zoo is currently holding a Name-the-Cub contest to choose his name. Names can be suggested on the website or on the zoo’s Facebook page until March 16th, 2012. The top 5 names will be selected and the public can then vote for a favourite. The winner will be announced on March 31st.
The other big news this month was that the Toronto Zoo will be getting a pair of breeding pandas from China in spring 2013 as the result of an agreement between the President of China and the Prime Minister of Canada. Two giant pandas will be loaned to Canadian zoos as part of a long-term conservation partnership between Canada and China. The pandas will spend five years in Toronto before moving to the Calgary Zoo sometime in 2018 for a five year period. We saw giant pandas for the first time in San Diego last year and are looking forward to seeing these amazing animals again. Emma would really like to see them in China, however, she might have to wait a little bit longer for that.
What you Need to Know
- The Toronto Zoo is located in the Rouge Valley on Meadowvale Road in Toronto north of Highway 401 and can be accessed by both car and public transit. The TTC has bus routes that stop at the zoo and the Rouge Hill GO train station is also nearby.
- The zoo is open 364 days a year – Christmas is the only day that it is closed. The hours vary depending on the time of year.
- Single strollers, double strollers, wagons and lockers may be rented at the main entrance. Wheelchairs are available free of charge.
- There are a number of snack bars and restaurants located around the zoo. Visitors may also bring a picnic lunch – picnic tables are available.
- 2012 Prices: General Admission (ages 13-64) $23; Seniors (ages 65+) $17; Children (ages 4-12) $13; Children 3 and under are free. Tickets may be purchased online.
- Parking: There is a $10 charge for parking (2012 pricing).
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