© 2024. Randolph Hub. All Rights Reserved.


Construction continues of the new Asia area at the NC Zoo.   Ray Criscoe / Randolph Hub

It's a good time to do the Zoo

Ray Criscoe

Randolph Hub

Let’s catch up with the North Carolina Zoo as the new year begins.


Winter is one of the best times to visit the zoo, believe it or not.


For starters, many of the animals are more active in the colder weather. You probably know the colder the better for the polar bears, but the bears (grizzly and black) are surprisingly active as are the Arctic foxes and bison and elk, among others.


And, of course, in the Desert exhibits, it’s warm year-round for animals and humans alike.


Winter is also a better time for quality time with the animals because the crowds are down. So there’s less struggle to find a good spot to see what the animals are up to.


As an enticement/thank you for those who do show up in colder climes, on most weekends throughout winter, the Zoo sells items such as hot chocolate and S'mores kits that you can make over a fire pit.


To best handle the colder times, dress in layers and bring gloves if you like so you can hang out longer with the animals in their natural habitat and climate.


Also, remember the zoo closes at 4 p.m. in the off-season. It begins to stay open till 5 p.m. again in April.


One new member of the Zoo family you may see this month is Haji, the new male lion.


Haji’s name means journey, and he’s made this one from New Orleans. He was born at the Audubon Zoo there and is almost three years old.


He moved into the zoo in December to begin his adjustment to a new life. Post-quarantine, the new companion for female Mekita is spending time getting to know her behind the scenes before joining her on habitat.


Meanwhile, construction on Asia is never far from anyone’s thoughts … or sight lines. Excavators and other construction equipment have been carving out niches and spaces for the Zoo’s third continent, expected to open in 2024.


The Zoo says that work will begin soon on the exotic bridge that will lead guests to a foreign landscape inhabited by Tigers, Komodo Dragons, gibbons and more. 


Asia will also operate a restaurant where Tigers and guests can eye each other from opposite sides of a viewing window. Think that place will be popular?


This construction will take time, but guests can watch as it progresses and get a first-hand view of the complexities of building to accommodate the needs of animals and people.


Asia will be located on the other side of North America. If you take the path from North America to Junction Plaza, you’ll be able to see what’s happening from the sidewalk — particularly, again, more clearly in winter before the tree growth returns. Or hop on a tram or bus and you’ll be able to see progress as you ride past.


If you’re not a Zoo member, a one-day pass between now and March 18 is $15 for general admission, $11 for children 2-12, $13 for seniors 62-older and $13 for military (with ID). For groups of 15-plus, those same prices are $13, $9, $11 and $11.


For field trip reservations, call 336-879-7700 Monday-Friday between 9 a.m.-4 p.m.


If you want to become a Zoo member, it’s:

— $59 for one year of unlimited visits for an individual or $108 for two years.

— $79 (1 year) or $148 (2 years for a Companion membership, which allows you one guest per visit or is good for two named adults in the same household.

— $84 or $158 for a Family membership for two adults in the same household and their children under 18.

— $104 or $198 for Family-Plus, which allows one admission for a guest per visit.

— $84 or $158 for a Grandparent membership, which includes two adults living in the same house and their grandchildren under 18.

— $104 or $198 for Grandparent-Plus, which also allows for admission for one guest per visit.

— $175 or $340 for a Zookeeper membership, which includes Family membership benefits plus admission for two guests per visit and an NC Zoo Society license plate.

— $300 or $590 for a Curator membership, the same as a Zookeeper membership but with up to three guests per visit.


The Zoo also offers Lifelong membership options, starting with a Family-Plus benefits package for life at $1,500 that also includes 10 guest passes per year, an engraved Life Membership card and other benefits.


Corporate memberships are also available.


For more information about any of these options, visit www.nczoo.org/become-zoo-member or call 800-488-0444.