Start at the Top(side)
The Zoo is divided into two major sections – Africa and “Topside.” For this visit, we’ll primarily stay on the topside portion, near the main entrance. Exhibits in this area are closer together so it’s easy to see more in less time.
Start with exhibits inside the front gate, including Nuniq at Polar Bear Passage. They may be inside or out, so stopping by on both your way in and your way out gives you more chances to see one of them in action!
See Sea Lions
Veer right at the Gazebo inside the front entrance and head up the hill. At the top, you’ll see Sea Lion Splash. If it’s nearing showtime, take a seat and let our California sea lions demonstrate their skills. If it’s going to be a bit until the next show, keep going, but plan to come back for the show -- you’ll be in this general area for a bit.
Next stop: the Tropics Building, which is the original structure that the Kansas City Zoo called home when it opened in 1909. It was completely renovated for its 100th anniversary in 2009 and now it houses an assortment of animals found in tropical climates, such as Asian small-clawed otters, white-cheeked gibbons, several species of monkeys, porcupines, and more.
Peruse the Penguins
On the north side of Tuxedo Grill (a good place for a quick bite) is one of the Zoo’s premier exhibits, Helzberg Penguin Plaza. You’ll find both cold-weather and warm-weather penguins -- five species in all. Go beyond the lobby and walk down the ramp to underwater viewing where the penguins show off their speed! Moon jellies, tropical fish, and schooling fish round out the sea life found here.
A Short Stay at the Bay
Just past the penguin building is Stingray Bay, which opened in 2018. Stingray Bay is free with your Zoo admission. Don’t miss the chance to touch the stingrays and maybe even a white-spotted bamboo shark!
Lots to Discover
Discovery Barn is next and is home to animals such as ring-tailed lemurs, a two-toed sloth, macaws, amphibians, and more. The barn makes a quick and convenient restroom stop -- there are family restrooms on both floors.
Another tip: bring quarters because you’re going to want them at the next two stops! Next door to Discovery Barn, you can purchase goat food in the Three Billy Goats Gruff Yard, then you have the chance to feed a dromedary camel! These are great interactive opportunities for making memories!
Two-Thirds of Topside
By now you’ve made it two-thirds of the way through the topside of the Zoo, which should help you decide how much time to spend in the areas you have left.
If you’re a snake-lover, step inside the Snakes building near the entrance to Australia to meet Louise, the ball python, and her friends. If you have extra time, walk through Australia – the entrance is near the Snakes.
You might come nose-to-nose with a free-roaming kangaroo while you also see tree kangaroos, wallabies, and more. If you must skip the walk-through, step onto the deck of Bluey’s restaurant and you might see the mob of kangaroo resting in the field.
To the Tigers!
Follow the signs to Tiger Trail, where you’ll pass by beautiful Sumatran tigers, adorable red pandas, and several inquisitive species of monkeys. The end of Tiger Trail will bring you to Orangutan Canopy, where indoor and outdoor viewing of these orange apes provides you great views of these intelligent animals.
The Home Stretch
Follow the pathway back toward the entrance and you’ll have the chance to check on the polar bears again. Depending on the time you have left, here are a few options to round out your trip:
- Catch an African Tram at World Gate (near the front entrance) and ride it to Elephant Expedition, where you can greet the largest land mammal. Continue on the tram to Africa, get off and walk the rest of the way to Africa, or catch a return tram back to World Gate.
- Ride the African Sky Safari in Africa. This seven-minute ski lift ride takes you over the African plains for a birds-eye view of the animals who live there –- giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs and more. Stay on the ride and make the 7-minute trip right back to the African Marketplace, then catch your African Tram back to the front entrance.
- In the lobby near the front entrance, see the Amazing Animal Ambassadors show in the auditorium to get a close-up view of the animals in action.
- Grab a souvenir on your way out at the Deja Zoo gift shop, also in the lobby.
You’ve truly hit the highlights on your visit, but we expect that you’ll want to come back and enjoy all you might have missed. It’s hard to pack 202 acres of fun into one trip, so we hope to see you back at the Zoo very soon!