Editor’s Note: Many zoos in the U.S. have closed their bird exhibits, to protect animals from a recent outbreak of avian influenza, which has been killing birds across the country.
When’s the last time you exercised with a kangaroo, hung out with a Vietnamese pot-belly pig or got up close and personal with animals native to Madagascar?
Delaware’s zoos feature those experiences and more.
Each zoo offers its own unique selection of animals – there’s Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington, Barn Hill Preserve of Delaware in Frankford, and 3 Palms Zoo in Townsend.
Brandywine Zoo is the best known zoo in the state.
“Our zoo houses a number of animals that are sure to draw the interest of children and adults alike, including the popular Madagascar lemurs and a world-famous pudu,” said Shauna McVey, community relations coordinator for Delaware State Parks.
“We have several exciting zoo improvements in the works, too,” she said. “Soon, the public will be able to enjoy an attractive entry way with flamingos and a number of interactive attractions that will be built as part of the Brandywine Zoo’s Master Plan.”
Here’s the 2022 lowdown on the state’s zoos, places where you can witness some of the most precious creatures on earth up close and personal:
From common species to endangered ones, Wilmington has a colorful cast of furry, feathery and scaly characters you can see at the most popular zoo in Delaware. This includes lemurs, skinks, the Florida bobcat, capybara, bald eagle, radiated tortoises and golden lion tamarin.
Biggest attractions: Despite being the most recognized zoo in the state, Brandywine pushed the envelope of cuteness when it added red pandas nearly a decade ago, along with its new southern pudus over the pandemic. The main habitat for the pudu is Chile, and the mammal is a South American deer that’s extra adorable. In 2020, the zoo’s Madagascar Habitat exhibit opened to recreate the territory of Madagascar, which is “the largest island off the coast of Africa that is home to some of the most unusual wildlife on the planet,” per BrandywineZoo.org.
The Madagascar exhibit features radiated tortoises and three species of lemurs, which are endangered species that are endemic to Madagascar.
Amenities: The Zootique Gift Shop (10 a,m. To 4 p.m.) offers a big selection of toys, stuffed animals and other souvenirs. There’s also the snack bar (10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.) that includes soft pretzels, hot dogs, ice cream, juice and other snacks.
Accessibility info: While the zoo is wheelchair accessible, be aware that some areas slope more than others. Certified service dogs are accepted on the zoo grounds, but they must be on a six-foot, non-retractable leash, tether or harness and must be housetrained, per the zoo’s website. There are a limited number of accessible parking spots. Guests with limited mobility also are encouraged to be dropped off in front of the zoo to avoid going up a hill.
Tickets: March 19 to March 31: Adults $5, seniors $4; children $3. April 1 to 30: Adults $7, seniors $6, children $5. May 1 to Sep. 30: Adults $9, seniors $8, children $7. Oct. 1 to Nov. 30: Adults $7, seniors $6, children $5.
Zoo is free for guests Dec. 1 to March 18 since a number of animals won’t be exhibited due to cold weather.
Membership discounts or benefits: Brandywine Zoo Members receive free admission and don’t need a ticket reservation. Members also receive discounted tickets to special events, camps and other perks.
COVID restrictions: Currently there are no COVID-19 restrictions, but guests are advised to check the zoo’s website for updates prior to their visit
Hours: Open year-round, but a number of cold-sensitive species (monkeys, lemurs, toucan) are housed indoors and not visible during the winter. Hours are daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Last admission at 3:30 p.m.)
Address: 1001 N. Park Drive, Wilmington, Delaware
Brandywine Zoo to host Brew at the Zoo with local breweries
The family-friendly event on June 3 will host nine breweries, three restaurants and live music on June 3.
Jerry Habraken, Delaware News Journal
Box office phone number: (302) 571-7788
If you’re used to zoos with lots of observation glass and concrete, then Barn Hill is going to be a whole different experience for you.
This zoo tries to limit that as much as possible in an attempt to recreate a setting that’s authentic to the natural habitat of the animals living there. That means guests will find more open fields and grassland on display for its diverse rent-free residents.
Biggest attractions: Barn Hill encourages guests to get a little wild and swim with otters, do yoga with kangaroos and hang out with sloths while sipping wine. Each of those activities are priced separately.
Another major attraction are the Encounter Tours, where guests can enjoy a hands-on experience with a number of Barn Hill’s animal friends. The 90-minute tour includes an educational presentation to learn about various species throughout the world.
The Encounter Tour is like a more beefed-up version of the Animal Presentations because it allows patrons to interact with zoo inhabitants, something you can’t do if you just purchase a ticket for an Animal Presentation.
Season: Early April through Sept. 30
Accessibility Info: None
Tickets: Guests must pre-purchase tickets online to visit the zoo for any event. Animal Presentation Tickets: Adults (12+ years old), $30; Child (3-11 years old), $20; children 2 and under, free; senior/Sussex County local, $25. Encounter Tour Only: $60. Otter Swim Ticket: $300 per person (plus taxes and fees). Kangaroo Yoga Ticket: $35 per person,
Membership discounts or benefits: None
Hours: Animal Presentations and Encounter Tours are offered at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 2 and 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays until May 27. Starting May 27, the zoo is open seven days a week for those events. In general the zoo is open daily for Otter Swims (11 a.m. and 2 p.m.) and Kangaroo Yoga (7 a.m., 8:30 a.m., and at 4:30 p.m.).
Address: 34215 Peppers Corner Road, Frankford, Delaware
Box office phone number: (225) 286-3003 EXT. 2
The title of “Delaware’s Largest Zoo” is owned by Townsend’s own 3 Palms Zoo. There you’ll find a mishmash of animals such as (but certainly not limited to) the eastern coyote, alligators, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, raccoon, silver foxes, skunks, vultures and giant tortoises.
Biggest attractions: This zoo features the state’s only alligator exhibit, according to Palms’ website. Another treat at this zoo is guests can hand-feed and pet a number of animals like the llamas, alpaca, goats, ducks, sheep, geese, cows, chickens, pigs and mini pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs.
Accessibility info: Not available.
Tickets: $5 per person
COVID restrictions: None listed on website
Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Address: 1060 Vandyke Greenspring Road, Townsend, Delaware
Box office phone number: (302) 504-6500