Vibe: Wildly educational
Drive time: Located in downtown Denver, on the outskirts of City Park
TIP: The 30-minute encounter ranges in price from $150 to $200 per group (not including zoo admission). While most encounters are open to adults and kids age six and up, participants must be at least 12 to meet a camel.
Spring has sprung just in time for the relaunch of Denver Zoo’s “Animal Encounters” experience, an immersive meet-and-greet with the site’s most social boarders.
Feed the Giraffes
My family’s behind-the-scenes animal encounter started below a large feeding platform, with educational facts about the world’s tallest living land animal—giraffes. We learned how giraffe feedings work, then a trainer led us up a staircase while three giraffes sauntered toward their feeding platform. Dobby, Kipele, and Heshimu seemed almost as excited as my boys, and after snapping way too many photos, even I couldn’t resist the opportunity to feed Dobby a few carrots.
Get Close Up with Your Favorite Animal
There are plenty of additional animals to engage with, including reptiles, camel, llamas, porcupine, sloths, birds of prey, parrots, and okapi (a striped mammal commonly known as the “zebra giraffe”). Adventurous families can even meet a few of the zoo’s more social carnivores: spotted hyena, African wild dogs, and lions. No, you can’t feed the predators, but you’ll get to watch a training demonstration. There are eleven encounters to choose from, listed on the Zoo’s website.
If you can’t decide which animals you’d like to meet, you can let Denver Zoo’s facilitators choose your adventure. During this indoor experience, families get three encounters for the price of one when they meet a bird, reptile, and mammal. Facilitators determine, day of, which of their Animal Ambassadors are feeling most social.
Pandemic-Proof Operation Plan
During the pandemic, Denver Zoo requires guests to “buy out” their encounter, meaning you’ll pay for all six of the available spots in a session. Then up to six people in your family or “quaranteam” can participate. Don’t forget to wear a mask and give the zookeepers space for social distancing.