While visiting North Carolina, few may think to plan a day at the zoo with so many other activities vying for attention. But did you know that the North Carolina Zoo ranks high on several lists and is a must-visit in the region?
The North Carolina Zoo, located in Asheboro, has been in operation since 1974 and has grown in size over the years and attracts nearly a million visitors annually. The zoo, home to animals found across Africa and North America, is a part of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
It’s easy to reach the North Carolina Zoo in Randolph County from a Landmark vacation rental home. Plan to spend a day at one of the best zoos in the country.
A variety of factors are used to determine the list of largest zoos, whether the amount of land, the various species housed there or the total number of animals roaming the property. The overview of the top zoos, such as in Top 21 Largest Zoos in the World by Area | 2022, the North Carolina Zoo is consistently included based on size.
The North Carolina Zoo is ranked as the world’s largest natural habitat zoo encompassing 2,600 acres and home to 1,800 animals. The property, located in Asheboro, N.C., is approximately two hours east of Asheville in the middle of the state.
The North Carolina Zoo, accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, is a noted conservation program for the endangered American Red Wolf.
North Carolina is home to 11 zoos located across the state. Many zoos in North Carolina make great day trips while visiting on vacation. The largest zoo is the North Carolina Zoo located in Asheboro. The zoo is one of the two state-supported facilities.
The sheer size of the North Carolina Zoo makes it a full-day tour of the various exhibits featuring 250 species found in Africa and throughout North America. As an accredited zoo, the facility has also earned recognition for the aviary, including received grants from National Geographic. In 2021, they were awarded the “Environmental Sustainability Award” from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Zoos in North Carolina include:
Western North Carolina Nature Centre – Asheville
Lynnwood Park Zoo – Jacksonville
Aloha Safari Zoo – Cameron
In addition, the state is also home to several of aquariums of notable reputation including the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island located in Manteo in the Outer Banks region and Sea Life Aquarium Charlotte-Concord, which has sister aquariums in other parts of the country.
Visiting a zoo may be a different experience depending on the exhibits and other factors like interaction and location. There are always things to compare between different zoos. Here in North Carolina, answering the question of which zoo is better between Riverbanks or Asheboro.
The list of differences between the two zoos starts with location. The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro is situated in the middle of the state and can be reached in a few hours from most of the state. A few hours south of the North Carolina border is the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden near Columbia, South Carolina. And while only 170-acres, the property features a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden.
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is home to over 350 species of various nations including Africa, Australia, Asia and sectors of North America. In answering the question of which zoo is better, it’s where the visitor wants to spend the day and the animals they want to see up close.
In many ways, animals are like humans in how they behave sometimes. So as the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm, well the early zoo visitor often gets to see the animals moving about in the early part of the day. Then as the day wears on, like many humans, the animals are focused on other tasks, may want to shy away from the people looking in at them or just want to grab a power nap.
The first thing in the morning when the zoo opens is perhaps the best time of day to visit. It’s often not as busy so visitors will get to spend quality time in an exhibit and the animals may be willing to be visible longer. Then in the late afternoon, when things may have slowed down and temperatures are a bit cooler is also an excellent time to visit the zoo.
A trip to the zoo means wearing comfortable attire, especially footwear since most of the exhibits are open-air and visitors will have to do a lot of walking. The zoo is definitely a place to log the miles on a Fitbit, Apple Watch or other tracking devices to reach a daily step goal.
In fact, of the 2,600-acres at the North Carolina Zoo, only 500-acres are developed as habitats for animals. So this means humans have about 5-miles of walking throughout the zoo’s exhibits. The advice is to target about five hours to navigate the zoo.
The timeline may look slightly different for each visitor depending on the amount of time spent in each exhibit.
Currently, the zoo requires visitors to wear a mask to access indoor areas and enclosed vehicles. A good tip is to check the zoo’s Visitors Page or FAQ Page (frequently asked questions) before arrival to obtain the latest updates regarding masks and other guidelines related to the COVID-19 virus.
The question is on the zoo’s FAQ page and outlines:
Health-related cautions are in place throughout the zoo for the safety of humans and the zoo population. The Aviary exhibit is closed to the public until further notice due to cases of Avian flu in North Carolina. The North Carolina Zoo is home to more than 100 exotic birds including the Chilean Flamingo and Victoria Crowned Pigeon.
The animal population at the North Carolina Zoo tops 1,800 representing 250 species found in Africa and across North America. The habitats of the zoo feature a variety of environments from the Watani Grasslands to the Rocky Coast with plenty of room to roam.
Animals from Africa include:
North American Animals:
The Desert habitat of the zoo features a collection of animals including the Gilla Monster, Vampire Bat, Beaded Lizard, Laughing Kookaburra, Cape Porcupine. While the Aviary also features Crested Coua found in Madagascar, Nicobar Pigeon, and the White-faced Whistling Duck to name a few.
As a general practice, the feeding of animals throughout the zoo is not permitted. However, one of the zoo’s attractions experiences allows for an up-close encounter with animals. Visitors to the Acacia Station Giraffe Deck are allowed to feed the animals under the supervision of zoo staff.
The deck area puts giraffes eye-to-eye with visitors to enjoy snacks of lettuce at various times during the day. Feeding the hungry animals at the North Carolina Zoo takes much coordination on a daily basis. Most of those meals include fresh vegetables and fruit along with grain supplements.
The North Carolina Zoo is home to about 250 different species accounting for over 1,800 animals. The animals are primarily from throughout North America and Africa.
In conjunction with a number of researchers, the North Carolina Zoo is working on a wide variety of conservation efforts with various species including the American Red Wolves, gorillas, Southern White Rhinos, and the African grey headed kingfisher and several other birds found in the aviary.
There is a lot to experience while visiting North Carolina. It’s easy to plan a day trip from one of the vacation rental properties in Western North Carolina to reach other parts of the state. The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro is a few hours away and will be a great excursion. Contact Landmark Vacation Rentals today at (877) 926-1780 or browse the portfolio to select which property fits your needs for exploring the state.