Memphis Zoo: Ideal Time to Go + 3,500 Amazing Animals to See

Polar Bear doused with water at Memphis Zoo and Aquarium
© Wirestock Creators/

Written by Debra Pamplin

Published: January 10, 2024

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Where’s the best place to be ‘Walking in Memphis’? The Memphis Zoo, of course! Stroll down the paved zoo streets to get clear views of over 3,500 animals—plan on racking up two miles throughout all the exhibits. Allow about three to five hours to view animal antics when visiting the Memphis Zoo.

Best Time to Visit

Komodo Dragon at the Memphis Zoo.

Visiting the Memphis Zoo means viewing the Komodo Dragons.

©Unicurse at English Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0 – Original / License

Memphis weather is seasonal-cold winters and hot summers, teamed with mild falls and springs. Likely, animals will be more active when they are comfortable, which is why fall and spring would be ideal times to visit. Summertime also provides active animals, but it is also the busiest season as summertime brings family travel numbers to the maximum.

Wintertime will bring emptier crowds, and while most animals can still be seen, many won’t be as active. Some species may not be outside, preventing guests from catching a glimpse of them.

The middle of the week is generally the least busy, regardless of the season. And it is recommended to arrive upon opening time, or late in the afternoon.

There are also special events throughout the year. For instance, a ‘bunny brunch ’ on March 30th, 2024, ‘baby day’ on May 11, 2024 (Mother’s Day), and Summer Wine Dinner in August. Get the full list of one-off activities on the zoo’s website.

Hours of Operation

Visiting the Memphis Zoo can be done on any day throughout the year, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Winter hours run until March 10, 2024, and hours are 9 am until 6 pm, with the last admission at 5 pm. Spring hours are March 11-October 8, with tours running from 9 am until 5 pm, with the last admission at 4 pm.

Tickets to Visit the Memphis Zoo

Tickets for general admission can be purchased online and are valid for a full year from the date of purchase. Purchasing tickets at the zoo on the day of your visit is also an option. General admission ticket prices are as follows:

  • 12 years and older: $24.95
  • Ages 2-11: $19.95
  • Under the age of two: free of charge

The Zoo does offer a military discount, which is two dollars off each adult and child ticket. Be sure to bring your military ID to the entrance with you.

Close Encounters

Pale Throated Sloth

Sloths can be viewed within their exhibit.


If two or three hours of animal viewing isn’t enough, consider adding one or more of these encounters to your visit. Tickets to an encounter also include the general admission cost. There are six different encounters, each lasting 45 minutes:

  • Sloth Encounter
  • Elephant Encounter
  • Lemur/Otter combo encounter
  • Tortoise Encounter
  • Rhino Encounter-
  • Penguin Encounter (currently closed for the winter season)
Sloth EncounterSunday1:00 pm$65 per person
Elephant EncounterSunday9:15 am$70 per person
Lemur/Otter EncounterFriday, Saturday, Sunday11:15 am$65 per person
Tortoise EncounterWednesday, Sat, Sunday1:00 pm$65 per person
Rhino EncounterSaturday10:00 am$70 per person
Penguin EncounterSunday (closed for the season)11:15 am$65 per person

Food and Drink

While outside food is prohibited, a small, personal cooler for drinks is allowed. The cooler must be small enough to be carried with one hand.

Fortunately, there are a few dining places. Stop in the Ancient Grounds for a signature or specialty drink. For instance, the Polar Bear is a frozen white chocolate latte. Perhaps the Zebra is more to your liking, a white & dark chocolate latte. Teas, coffee, and juice are also on the menu.

On the weekends, plan a casual lunch at Bamboo Springs. Hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and snacks such as popcorn and cotton candy are also available for purchase. Pair the sandwich with a 16 oz glass or can of beer, and don’t forget the kids’ souvenir cups or sippers.


Ready to explore the animals you can see while visiting the Memphis Zoo? The zoo is broken into several exhibits. A few examples include:

  • African Veldt
  • Animals of the Night
  • Aquarium
  • Northwest Passage
  • Cat County
  • China
  • Dragon’s Lair

There is also a tropical birdhouse and a herpetarium. The herpetarium has alligators, frogs, lizards, and snakes on display. Milk frogs, the Burmese python, the American alligator, and the Galapagos tortoise are a few examples of what is housed here.


For the large mammals, the African Veldt is the place to be. View zebra, giraffe, the African elephant, the Southern white rhino, bongo, and the scimitar-horned oryx.  Bats, bats, the African crested porcupine, and more bats can be found in this exhibit. Also on hand are the agouti, greater bushbaby, and the Southern hairy-nosed wombat.

The aquarium is home to clownfish, pufferfish, and 156 more species of marine and freshwater organisms. Likely the most popular exhibit, Cat Country is home to the African lion, amur leopard, bat-eared fox, cheetah, cougar, meerkat, red panda, and snow leopard.

For polar bears, sea lions, bald eagles, and ravens, trek to the Northwest Passage. There is a 500-seat amphitheater for sea lion shows. There are more than 500,000 gallons of fresh and saltwater for these mammals.

More Areas to Explore

A modern children’s area, the once upon a farm exhibit, guests of all ages can enjoy viewing chickens, cattle, rabbits, goats, pigs, and more. Caspian horses, Nigerian dwarf goats, West African guinea hogs, and prairie dogs are on hand.

Penguin Rock, Pelican Pool, Primate Canyon, and the Zambezi River Hippo Camp are other exhibits.

The Primate Canyon houses the black and white ruffed lemur, Asian small-clawed otters, lowland gorillas, and the orangutans, among other species. Teton Trek is where guests can see the grizzly bear, timber wolves, sandhill cranes, elk, and more.

Visiting the Memphis Zoo is a great way to spend any vacation day.

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About the Author

Debra Pamplin is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife sanctuaries and travel. Debra has been a writer and researcher for over a decade and is currently earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism. A resident of coastal Georgia, Debra enjoys time at the beach, and taking care of her three cats, dog and rabbit.

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