Did you know the largest walkable zoo in the world is located right here in North Carolina? The North Carolina Zoo
in Asheboro, NC is just over an hour southwest of Chapel Hill, Durham, or Raleigh by car. At more than 2,000 acres, the NC Zoo is well worth the trip. A “natural habitat” zoo, attempts to re-create its animals’ natural habitats as much as possible. It’s also a fun and convenient way to spend a day (or two) visiting with and learning about wildlife.
Planning for the zoo began in 1967, and the first animals to arrive were a pair of Galapagos tortoises in 1974. The zoo officially opened in 1976 and has continued growing in size and renown ever since. It was even home to Ham, the first chimpanzee launched into space, from 1978 until 1983. Today, the zoo has more than 1,600 animals from more than 250 species, including elephants, polar bears, lions, and gorillas. The aviary alone boasts dozens of beautiful tropical birds.
Composed of two separate campuses, Africa and North America, visitors to the NC Zoo can enjoy getting up close and personal with a range of species from both continents. These areas are connected by more than five miles of walking trails. To help you get around a little more quickly, the zoo provides a free tram that runs throughout the day.
To maximize your visit and see as much as possible, the zoo recommends parking in the North American lot around 9 am, hopping onto the tram to the Africa habitat, and working your way back on foot. You can bring your own picnic to the zoo, or enjoy lunch at one of several cafes onsite. Be sure to keep an eye on posted signs to learn more about animal feeding times and special exhibits that may be happening during your visit.
The NC Zoo is also unique in that it is one of only two state-owned zoos in the United States (the other one is the Minnesota Zoo).