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Let’s Go: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Experience up-close animal encounters at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs.

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At America’s only mountainside zoo, families have access to 70-plus developed acres stocked with more than 750 animals spanning a whopping 170 species. Seven distinct zones are designed to mirror natural habitats from around the globe, from Asian Highlands—with architecture reminiscent of a Himalayan monastery—to our own Rocky Mountain Wild, connecting viewers to their regional heritage.

“During every visit, we strive to provide (visitors) with the opportunity to do or see something remarkable, rare, beautiful or interesting. Whether they are feeding a giraffe, giving an elephant a snack, riding an antique carousel, watching animal husbandry training or exploring ways to partner with us to protect the natural world—we hope every visit is unique and memorable,” says public relations manager Erica Meyer.

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One of the latest memorable experiences is the chance to hand-feed colorful budgies (Australian parakeets) in a new budgie building, in the recently installed Australia exhibit. Guests are also invited to “walkabout” with wallabies before exploring an authentic emu habitat and meeting Bexley, the only tree kangaroo in Colorado.

Next, step into a savanna dwelling where African lions lurk near meerkats and the black rhinoceros. At Encounter Africa, children learn how lions hunt and enjoy playing in a restored bush plane. With generous seating and panoramic views, the safari tent is an idyllic spot for a picnic lunch, says Meyer.

Walk across the Sky Bridge for access to the Elephant Barn, where you”ll spy elephants showering under a 20-foot waterfall between scheduled demonstrations led by zookeepers. “We”re the only zoo where you can give the elephants a snack,” adds Meyer. (Snack times are at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily.) Various animal shows are held throughout the day, giving guests ample opportunity to watch special demonstrations and feedings. Shows change with the seasons, and schedules are available online.

My Big Backyard is a touch-and-see area located at the center of the zoo. Mingle with rabbits, turkeys, chickens, a pot bellied pig and a tarantula in the petting zoo, then go wild on a nature-themed playground featuring big ants, a crawl-through snake and giant climbable mushrooms. Meander over to The Loft, another hands-on area where young guests explore various animal-related careers as they help feed Oz, a tiger salamander, train the resident raven, Poe, and assist in weighing Tonya, the red-footed tortoise. Across from The Loft is a baby goat play yard, which opened in May. Children adore the 20-horse, 2-chariot restored historic carousel, located near Monkey Pavilion.

This zoo is renowned for its events. The monthly Moonlight Safaris give families a peek into nighttime sights and sounds, and on Wild Nights, children spend the night on-site. On select nights in October, the Zoo closes early for Boo at the Zoo. Kids can wear their costumes and enjoy a spooktacular night of trick-or-treating and Halloween festivities including a haunted fun house, ghoulish graveyard, lighted pumpkin patch and a boo carousel.

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Elevated 6,714 feet above sea level, this one-of-a-kind zoo gets hot and dry. “Remember to bring water, sunscreen, and good walking shoes,” Meyer adds.

Check it Out: 4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, Colorado Springs, cmzoo.org

Need to Know: Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last admission at 4 p.m.

Admission: Entrance fees vary by season: peak, regular, or value. On regular season days, admission is $19.75 for teens and adults, $14.75 for children ages 3 to 11, and 75 cents for age 2 and under.

Best Kept Secret: Departing from Mountain Outfitters Plaza, the Mountaineer Sky Ride is a 15-minute round-trip chairlift adventure showing breathtaking views of the zoo, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado Springs and the eastern plains. Families can disembark at the mountaintop overview complete with a playground and climbing wall built for youngsters.

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