Kansas City Zoo: Exotic Animal Fun for the Whole Family

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red panda at the Kansas City Zoo.
Red Panda. Photo credit: Kansas City Zoo

You probably don’t think of Missouri as a tropical paradise where you might spy Bornean orangutans, black rhinoceros and hippos, but the Kansas City Zoo is home to all those and more. From alligators to zebras, you can find almost any animal imaginable here – not to mention some fun rides and great dining options. It’s easy to make the zoo into an exciting and entertaining full day trip for yourself, a group of friends or family fun.

Kansas City Zoo Location

The zoo is conveniently located at 6800 Zoo Drive in Swope Park, Kansas City, Missouri. It’s just five minutes off both I-435 and State Highway 71, and only a few minutes away from even more fun downtown. The zoo’s phone number is (816) 595-1234.

if you’re a huge zoo fan, the St. Louis Zoo is about 250 miles east. The KC Zoo’s bigger; you can decide which one’s better after visiting both!

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you’re looking for a place to stay in the area, check out hotels in Country Club Plaza. There are tons of great options right near the zoo and everything else you’d want to see.

Top Attractions at the Kansas City Zoo

The zoo is well-known for several of its expansive and beautiful exhibits. Here are some of our top picks that you won’t want to miss when you make the trip.

Helzberg Penguin Plaza

The Helzberg Penguin Plaza is home to several different species of everyone’s favorite flightless, snow-loving birds. If you have some flexibility in your trip date, see if you can make it to the zoo to see the Penguin March on select weekends. You’ll also be right across from the sea lion exhibit, where you can see the Sea Lion Splash show daily.

Polar Bear Passage

Polar bear fans won’t want to miss Berlin and Nuniq, who live in the lap of luxury in their enclosure with a 140,000-gallon pool kept at a comfortable (for polar bears) 65 degrees. Visitors can see them splashing around, having fun and getting pampered with their pick of fish for lunch every day.

Family petting stingrays at Stingray Bay at the Kansas City Zoo.
You can even touch the stingrays at Stingray Bay. Photo credit: Kansas City Zoo

Stingray Bay

If you’re a sea animal lover, Stingray Bay is the place for you. Visitors can actually “pet” cownose rays, southern stingrays and even the bamboo shark. While stingrays might sound dangerous, they are friendly, and this fun experience is definitely one you’ll want to check out. Plus, their smooth skin has a unique feeling unlike any other animal.

Flamingoes in sun at the Kansas City Zoo.
Flamingos enjoying the sunshine. Photo credit: Kansas City Zoo


The Asian section of the zoo is home to orangutans, red pandas, all sorts of monkeys and waterfowl, and even a Sumatran tiger named Thomas. Stop by and you might even catch him in the middle of his favorite activity – going for a swim!


In the land down under, visitors are in for a treat with all kinds of animals. See the wallaby, red kangaroo and even the endangered tree kangaroo. This area also houses camels, emu, dingoes and, for the bravest visitors, a whole pavilion of exotic snakes of various sizes from around the world.

Hippo at the Kansas City Zoo.
Say hi to the hippos in the African Plains. Photo credit: Kansas City Zoo

African Plains

The African Plains exhibit transports zoo patrons to an authentic scene on the African savannah. Viewers can see four different species of African antelope – oryx, kudu, addax and eland – as well as ostriches, zebras, giraffes and even the black rhinoceros. For the best view, check out the Sky Safari ride, which takes passengers on a 40-foot-high cruise across the plains.

The exhibit is also surrounded by all kinds of other African-dwelling species, including lions, cheetahs, hippos, crocodiles, red-ruffed lemurs and a world-famous chimpanzee exhibit. There’s lots to see at the African section of the zoo, and none that you’ll want to skip.

Gibbons at the Kansas City Zoo.
Gibbons. Photo credit: Kansas City Zoo

Tropics Exhibits

At the tropics exhibit, you’ll find the acrobatic (and loud!) white-cheeked gibbons. Their impressive swinging and climbing abilities are sure to impress – as long as you don’t mind their shrieks! The tropics exhibit is also home to all sorts of monkey species, like the cotton-topped tamarin and the blue monkey. Kids are sure to love this area, where the monkeys’ funny antics and tons of personality are always on display.

The All-New Aquarium (Late 2023)

Scheduled to open Labor Day weekend, the new $75 million aquarium is poised to be the crown jewel of the KC Zoo experience. With 650,000 gallons of new tanks, the exhibits inside will be home to twice the number of animals the zoo already has. That means starting in September, the zoo will have three times as many creatures for visitors to come see and learn about in a state-of-the-art new facility.

Mom and son on the carousel at the Kansas City Zoo.
Don’t miss a ride on the carousel! Photo credit: Kansas City Zoo

Rides & Transportation

There are lots of ways to get around in the zoo. If you’re just not feeling like a walk, you can hop on the tram or train, but there are also fun and unique ways to experience all the zoo has to offer. Prices vary by mode of transportation, but each is usually only a few dollars per ride.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you’re planning on doing multiple rides, it’s probably worth purchasing an unlimited wristband. The Gold option covers the tram, train and carousel for $9 per person, while the Platinum lets you ride the Sky Safari and Kenyan Cruise as well for $12 per person.

African Tram

The tram is probably the most useful option for guests. It stops near the main entrance and goes all the way to the African Plains exhibit. There aren’t any animals along most of this route, so you’re not really missing anything by taking advantage of a quick ride on the tram – and you can still see the large flamingo and elephant exhibits from the cars!

The tram is $2 per person for a one-way trip. Kids 2 and under are free with a paying adult.

KCZoo Railroad

The railroad is a fun option for all ages that takes passengers on a loop around the main area with the tropical exhibits and Discovery Barn, as well as through the Asian and Australian sections of the zoo. Lots of the animals are visible from the train cars. If you want to get more up close and personal with the animals, you can get off at the Australia stop to explore.

Rides on the train are $3 per person for a round trip. Kids 2 and under are free with a paying adult. All aboard!

Dad and daughter enjoying the view from the Sky Safari at the Kansas City Zoo.
Viewing the African Plains from the Sky Safari. Photo credit: Kansas City Zoo

African Sky Safari

For those who want to experience the zoo and see the sights just like one of the many high-flying birds they’ll encounter, the Sky Safari is the perfect option. Similar to a ski lift, riders sit in hanging gondolas and cruise from one end of the African Plains to the other, going directly over the zebra, ostrich, giraffe and rhino exhibits until touchdown near the chimps.

The Sky Safari is a bit more expensive at $7 per person for round trip and $4 for one-way. If you’re planning to do the Sky Safari, you might want to get an unlimited wristband and save yourself some hassle. Please note that this ride could be closed if the weather isn’t ideal.

Kenyan Cruise

The boat cruise is a leisurely ride through the waters of the African section of the zoo. Boat passengers will be able to enjoy calm sailing and great views of the park and some of the Plains animals. The cruise runs seasonally and was still closed at the time of publication – check the zoo’s website for current info.

The Kenyan Cruise is $4 per person. Kids 2 and under are free with a paying adult.


Whether you’re looking for a full meal, a snack or just dessert, the zoo has something for you. If you only want to make a quick pit stop, the Beastro Café near the entrance and Safari Snacks in Africa both have small fare like pretzels, ice cream, popcorn and nachos.

If your appetite is more like a lion’s, there are options in most areas of the park. In the central section of the zoo, near the Penguin Plaza and the carousel, you’ll find the Tuxedo Grill, which has burgers, chicken sandwiches, pizza and kids’ meals – there’s something for everyone. If you’re up near the Australia section, you can grab a hot dog or loaded nachos at Bluey’s. And when visiting the African Plains, Rafiki’s Restaurant has most of the same offerings as the Tuxedo Grill, plus chicken tenders and loaded tater tots.

If you’d rather save some money, have dietary restrictions or the zoo’s food options simply don’t catch your eye, the zoo encourages visitors to bring in their own snacks and meals. You can even leave them in the car until you’re hungry, so you don’t have to lug them around all day. Just make sure to get your hand stamped at the entrance when you go to grab your snacks. Small coolers are allowed too, but the zoo asks that you don’t bring in any alcoholic beverages. Beer is served at Bluey’s in the Australia section of the zoo.

2023 Kansas City Zoo Ticket Prices

Ticket prices are reasonable at the Kansas City Zoo. Standard tickets are $22 for adults and $20 for kids ages 3-11 (kids age 2 and under are free). If you buy tickets online for a visit 3 or more days in the future, you can save $2 per adult ticket and $1 per child ticket.

Jackson & Clay County residents can get tickets for 50% off. Zip code validation is required.

Memberships are also available. If you’re planning on spending multiple days at the zoo or visiting again within one year, a membership could save you some money. If you are planning to visit with a large group, members also benefit from discounted tickets for guests (approximately 50% off).

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