Where is the Vancouver Zoo anyway? One hint, it’s not in Vancouver! That’s just one of things you need to know before you go… and baboons have red bums.
Being from Vancouver Island, we unfortuantely don’t get to zoo’s all that often…okay, never.
Up to now our youngest has had to take our word for it that hippos are real and the ostrich is taller than Daddy. Sometimes my kids can be a little skeptical, BUT I don’t blame them. After all, their dad tells them the Canadian sugar pastry treat “beaver tails” are actually real tails of beavers!
The expressions on my kids’ faces were priceless when seeing all these animals up close and personal. Seeing a swollen, flaming red-bottomed baboon running at full tilt? Now that’s priceless. Apparently it was mating season for the baboons and the bigger the red bottom, the more impressive the baboon becomes to the ladies.
One thing is for sure, a visit to the zoo on any vacation is a win for the whole family.
6 Things To Know Before You Go To The Greater Vancouver Zoo
1. The Vancouver Zoo Is A Long Drive From Vancouver
Prepare for a 1 hour drive both ways from downtown Vancouver to Langley.
I know what you are thinking, “Then why is it called the Vancouver Zoo??” It could be that the owners of the zoo are visionaries and know that one day the boundaries of Vancouver will include them. But it’s more likely the zoo has welcomed the commonly used title of Greater Vancouver which extends a really long way out from Vancouver.
Unfortunately, public transit is really not a good option at all, so be sure to budget in a rental car when pricing out this excursion.
2. Lions, Tigers And Bears Oh My
We were impressed with how many different types of animals there were throughout the zoo. Our kids loved seeing something different around every corner.
Check out the Greater Vancouver Zoo map (Click on map to enlarge):
3. Setting The Right Expectations
This particular zoo is privately owned, so no tax dollar funding is available to help with maintaining and improving the zoo. You won’t find your admission ticket subsidized either unfortunately.
If you’ve had the opportunity to visit some of the best zoos the world has to offer, picture those for a moment… and now change your expectations. The Greater Vancouver Zoo is quite different.
What do I mean?
The zoo animal areas are big and spacious, but have none of the creative design elements that a zoo like the San Diego or Seattle zoo would have. So the plus is that the animals have lots of room, but the downside is some of the animals are difficult to see. In the case of the grizzly bear and cougar pens, we couldn’t see them at all because they were hidden in the forest. When you do see these animals, though, you get to see them in more of a natural setting.
Also, some of the more dangerous animals or escape artist animals are observed through chainlink fences instead of on a platform area, so photography is challenging.
4. Ride The Zoo Train
This was one of the big highlights for the kids. How can it not be? You’re on a mini train! Yes, it’s an extra $5 per person, but taking a train trip at the beginning of your day at The Greater Vancouver Zoo helps give you a lay of the land. With a zoo as big as this one, that really helps. Before the train trip tell your kids to be ready to tell you their favourite animal in the whole zoo. That always helps our kids stay engaged.
5. Interpretive Talks And Feedings
Mix up your day by adding in a few things from the daily zoo activity schedule. Choose from the giraffe or hippo snack, lion and tiger feedings, and talks on bears, cheetahs or cougars. We enjoyed the “giraffe snack” talk where they fed the giraffe directly in front of us! It seemed we could almost touch it with our own hands.
Our friends from Birds Of Prey on Vancouver Island are also on site all summer long, so be sure to take in one of their flying demonstrations.
6. Rent The Quad Bikes Or Bring Your Own
If you live in the area and own bikes then ABSOLUTELY bring your bikes! If not, then beg, borrow, or steal. Apparently this is the only zoo in North America where you can ride a bike. Thanks to the wide and flat paths, it’s safe and will increase the enjoyment in your day at the zoo immensely. We didn’t know how important bikes were here, so unfortunately we left ours at home.
The quad bikes are a little pricey at $18 an hour, but we found it well worth it. Two hours are needed to leisurely go around the zoo and take in all the animals at a slower pace.
The kids laughed and giggled the whole way around the zoo and of course argued over who would pedal with dad. Let me tell you… it’s harder than it looks to peddle a quad bike with small kids. But since the paths are long and the animal enclosures are far apart, it was nice to give the kids a break from walking.
Is It Worth Visiting The Greater Vancouver Zoo?
Quick answer: If you and your family absolutely love animals from far away lands… and world class zoos aren’t all that accessible to you, then yes. If you’re a “zoo snob” and only like the best staffed, Disney-design-type zoos… then maybe not. We are a little bit of both and found our experience enjoyable.
Traveling Islander Kids To Kids – What’s My Favourite Animal At The Zoo?
Got questions? Ask them in the comment section below. Happy to help with your travel plans!
Greater Vancouver Zoo
While our summer visit to The Greater Vancouver Zoo was complimentary, you can rest assured that our thoughts, opinions, and findings are our own as always.