Do yoga with kangaroos, swim with otters

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.

Sherman, a 5-year-old male red panda, roams his new home at the Brandywine Zoo Wednesday afternoon. Sherman is one of two new red pandas at the Zoo.
Jerry Habraken, The News Journal

“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:  

Brandywine Zoo, Wilmington

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.

Haechan, a Southern pudu, rests at the Brandywine Zoo Thursday, May 5, 2022.
Haechan, a Southern pudu, rests at the Brandywine Zoo Thursday, May 5, 2022.
Jerry Habraken, Delaware News Journal

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.

Parking: Free

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.

A black and white ruffed lemur takes a nap in the sun at the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington on April 29, 2022.
A black and white ruffed lemur takes a nap in the sun at the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington on April 29, 2022.
Jerry Habraken, Delaware News Journal

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

Website: brandywinezoo.org

Social media channels: @BrandywineZoo for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

Barn Hill Preserve, Frankford

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.

Provided by Barn Hill Preserve

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

Parking: Free  

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

Visitors can swim with otters at Barn Hill Preserve of Delaware in Frankford. Sea otter 'Yutan' swims with a heart-shaped block of ice presented by his keeper at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise amusement park in Yokohama on February 11, 2017.
Visitors can swim with otters at Barn Hill Preserve of Delaware in Frankford. Sea otter ‘Yutan’ swims with a heart-shaped block of ice presented by his keeper at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise amusement park in Yokohama on February 11, 2017.
KAZUHIRO NOGI, AFP via Getty Images

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

Website: barnhillpreserve.com

Social media channels: @BarnHillDE on Facebook; @bhpdelaware on Instagram

3 Palms Zoo, Townsend

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.

Guests will find cute alpacas out and about at 3 Palms Zoo in Townsend. Pictured are a few grazing on a field near the village of Pickmere, Knutsford, England on Dec. 12, 2007.
Guests will find cute alpacas out and about at 3 Palms Zoo in Townsend. Pictured are a few grazing on a field near the village of Pickmere, Knutsford, England on Dec. 12, 2007.
Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

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.

Season: Year-round

Accessibility info: Not available.

Tickets: $5 per person

COVID restrictions: None listed on website

3 Palms Zoo in Townsend is the only zoo in Delaware that features an alligator exhibit. One is seen at the Gator Park in the Florida Everglades May 17, 2006 in Miami-Dade County.
3 Palms Zoo in Townsend is the only zoo in Delaware that features an alligator exhibit. One is seen at the Gator Park in the Florida Everglades May 17, 2006 in Miami-Dade County.
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Address: 1060 Vandyke Greenspring Road, Townsend, Delaware

Box office phone number: (302) 504-6500

Website: 3palmszoo.org

Social media channels: @3palmszoo on Instagram and Facebook

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