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North Carolina Travel Guide
The NC Zoo


The Nation’s Largest Walk-Through, Natural Habitat Zoo

Chimpanzee at the North Carolina ZooLocated about 75 miles west of Raleigh in Asheboro, the North Carolina Zoo is nationally recognized as one of the nation’s finest zoos. It was the first American zoo designed from its inception around the “natural habitat” philosophy--presenting animals and plants in exhibits that closely resemble the habitats in which they would be found in the wild.

        Among the most popular exhibits are those that display polar bears, sea lions, river otters, alligators, elephants, gorillas, baboons, rhinoceros, giraffes, and zebras. The 37-acre African Plains exhibit alone is as large a many entire zoos. The 11-acre Prairie exhibit in the North American region showcases the zoo’s collection of bison and elk.

The zoo’s newest attraction is the Australia Walkabout, which opened in May 2004. This 1.5-acre exhibit showcases Australian animals and shows their relationships to their habitats and their links to aboriginal Australian cultures. The Walkabout features red kangaroos, wallabies and emus as well as other exotic Australian bird and reptile species.

Elephants at the North Carolina ZooThe North Carolina Zoo was the nation’s first state-supported zoo and remains the nation’s largest walk-through natural-habitat zoo. Its African and North American exhibit regions span more than 500 acres with more than five miles of walkways. Another 900 acres are available for future development on this scenic site in the Uwharrie Mountains, considered by geologists to be one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges. These beautiful hills are still called “mountains,” but the tallest point on zoo grounds is Purgatory Mountain at 937 feet above sea level.

        One of the zoo’s primary missions is to make visitors aware of the connections between humans and the world’s animals, plants and natural resources. Interpretive galleries and individual signs provide a wealth of information to make visits more enjoyable and educational.

Polar bear at the North Carolina ZooNumerous special events are held at the zoo to add another dimension to the visitor experience. These include: an African Festival held each weekend from April 14 through May 23; an “Earth Day Celebration” on April 16; “Migratory Bird Day” on May 13;  “A Heritage Festival” on September 16-17; and “Boo at the Zoo” on October 28-29. “Street Rod Safari,” a show of classic and collector automobiles that’s also a zoo tradition, is set this year for May 19.

The best way to see the zoo is on foot, so you can explore the exhibits and trails. An internal tram is available to transport visitors between exhibit areas, but most animals are not visible from the trams. You can enter or exit by either the North American or African gates, where a shuttle bus can transport you to the area where you’re parked. Zoo officials recommend taking a minimum of five hours to explore all that the park offers at a comfortable pace.

        Other nearby attractions include more than 100 potters in the Seagrove community south of the zoo, as well as the Richard Petty Museum devoted to the “King” of stock car racing in Level Cross and the Peddycord Aircraft Museum at the Asheboro Municipal Airport. Of course, there is also the beautiful scenery and recreational opportunities of the Uwharrie Mountains region.

        The North Carolina Zoo is open year round. Hours are 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. from April through October and 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. November through March. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children 2-12 and $8 for senior citizens and college students. For additional information, visit the zoo’s Web site at  or call 1-800-488-0444.

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