This Central Illinois Zoo boasts some unique attractions that truly set it apart and rival zoos in larger cities
Whether it’s the giraffes calling your name or some of the many other animals that call Peoria Zoo home, your children will love this family outing
This year-round zoo is full of animals and fun for your family when you’re looking to take a short day trip from Champaign-Urbana, but not quite wanting to venture to a big city for your adventure. We think the Peoria Zoo will become a favorite for your kids and you’ll have a new destination to visit while making some great memories along the way.
Note: Due to COVID-19, some public attractions may be closed or operating under restrictions. Please check the website or social media for Peoria Zoo before planning your trip, and be aware of any safety protocols or travel restrictions currently in effect.
10 Things to Know about Visiting Peoria Zoo
- The zoo is open year-round, closing only on major holidays. It’s a good idea to purchase your tickets ahead of time to ensure you can enter the zoo when you want.
- Wear your walking shoes. Don’t be deceived into thinking this is a “small town zoo.” You will do plenty of walking here! Now, we do think you could probably rush through the zoo and get it done in under two hours, but why would you want to? Stretch it out, enjoy your time in each space and be prepared for an outing that involves all those steps (for yourself and your littles).
- The entire AFRICA! exhibit is amazing! Like all caps, exclamation point amazing. Monkeys, gazelle, rhinos, giraffes, zebras and more, this is what really elevates this zoo to “next level” status. Enjoy it from multiple vantage points. You can spend a whole visit just here.
- Moo, baa, la la la. Don’t skip the barn exhibit because your kids will love seeing all the farm animals up close. Younger kids especially love farm animals, so get your “Old McDonald” singing skills ready and hang out at the barn. Don’t skip it! (This is being limited due to COVID-19.)
- The walkabout in Australia will get you up close to the animals. Want to get eye-to-eye with an emu? You can do that right here. They also have budgie feedings at the budgie aviary (extra $2 fee applies), but those may not be happening during COVID-19.
- Many concessions are available at the Zambezi River Lodge beginning on weekends in April and running through September; daily service Memorial Day through Labor Day. Typical concession fare can be found, or there may be times that concessions are just grab-and-go style.
- Feed the giraffes daily at noon and 2 p.m. (extra fee applies). This is the moment your kids will be begging you to come back and do again and again in future years! We recommend asking as soon as you get to the zoo when it is happening. (May not be happening during COVID-19.)
- Picnic at Glen Oak Park. The Peoria Zoo is operated by the Peoria Park District and sits on the same property as the Peoria Playhouse and Glen Oak Park. Glen Oak Park has playgrounds, picnic tables, a little lagoon and more. Extend your day trip with a picnic just outside the zoo, if you wish.
- Wander through the Luthy Botanical Garden before you leave. There are so many beautiful varieties of flora to enjoy and it can be a great way to start or end your zoo day. And really, throughout the entire zoo property and surrounding park areas, there are lots of places to let the littles out of the strollers and wander around in “nature play areas.” Just another reason we think you’ll want to take your time on your day trip and enjoy it to the fullest.
- You may consider a membership. Membership pays for itself in about three visits for a family of four, plus you get a reciprocal membership to other area zoos. This means you’ll get 50 percent off admission to Scovill Zoo and Miller Park Zoo, and you can save 50 percent on the popular Adventure Pass at the Saint Louis Zoo. Is it for everyone? No. But if you consider yourselves zoo junkies and are looking to do ALL the outdoor things this year, a zoo membership may be for you.
Looking to stay overnight in Peoria? Here are some options we’ve found via AirBnB. (Please note these are affiliate links. If you book, we receive a small commission. Thanks for supporting our small business.)
Riverfront Beauty in Peoria: This home’s riverfront views steal the show, and it boasts of having the best sunsets in Central Illinois. Close to city amenities. Review: “This is a hidden gem in central Illinois. If you are looking for a peaceful, calm, quiet home to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle – look no further! The wall of windows overlooking the river is worth it all…but there’s so much more to this little house on the river!” Sleeps six. Typically rents about $125/night before fees.
The Castle Apartment: Delight your family with this stay in a real castle! OK, we’re not sure that this is exactly a real castle, but it sure looks the part. This 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment is in the heart of downtown Peoria. Tons of family-friendly amenities for those with kiddos under 5, including a crib. Old beautiful wood floors, beautiful high ceilings and lots of woodwork. This is a unique stay. Typically rents for about $80/night before fees.
Looking for more about our favorite zoos and places to see animals near Champaign-Urbana?
- Zoos Within 3 Hours of Champaign-Urbana
- Best Places to Get Close to Animals in Champaign-Urbana and Beyond
- Road Trip: Visit St. Louis as a Family
- 10 Things to Know About Henry Vilas Zoo in Wisconsin
- A Champaign-Urbana Favorite: Prairie Farm
- 10 Things to Know About Indianapolis Zoo
- 10 Things to Know About Brookfield Zoo
- 10 Things to Know about Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago
- 10 Things to Know About Peoria Zoo
- 10 Things to Know About Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington-Normal
- Head North for Family Fun: What To Do On Your Chicago Trip
- Frugal Family Fun: Get Wild and Head to the Saint Louis Zoo
- 10 Things to Know About Scovill Zoo in Decatur
- The Best Area Attraction You’ve Never Visited: Wildlife Prairie State Park
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