The DFW area is fortunate to have two amazing zoos that are nationally acclaimed: The Dallas Zoo and the Fort Worth Zoo. Both are simply amongst the best in the country.
Planning a trip to either zoo is a great way to get the kids out of the house this summer break while giving them an educational experience at the same time.
Many people asked which one is better, and that question is hard to answer because both have their pros and cons. Many prefer one or the other, so we thought instead of sharing with you a long list of different people’s opinions, we’d share a list of important information about both zoos.
This way you can make your own decision on which one you want to visit (or even visit both!). Regardless of what you choose, we’re sure you’ll have fun!
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What you need to know about the Dallas Zoo
Address: 650 S R L Thornton Fwy, Dallas, TX 75203
Phone: (469) 554-7501
Hours of Operation: Spring / Summer Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. Closed on Christmas Day
$8-21 Adults / $8-16 Youth + Seniors
FREE for Members + for ages 2 & under
Parking: $10 per vehicle
$8 Tiger Tuesdays: $8 to visit the Zoo on the first Tuesday of each month and for more special offers and discounts, click here
Visiting the zoo can be expensive but there is a great deal that many people don’t take advantage of and that’s getting a membership.
A family membership will cost you $149 for the year but it will include 2 adults and 4 children to come year round (364 days a year!) for free parking, a subscription to the zoo magazine, free admission, exclusive members only event invites, and tons of discounts.
Dallas Zoo is located just about three miles south of downtown Dallas and is a much closer drive than the Fort Worth Zoo.
The zoo was established in 1888, and it is the oldest and largest zoological park in Texas. It has 106 acres of area to explore with thousands of animals to see and a lot of family activities to enjoy.
Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a number of updates and love the amount of shade they have built in across the Dallas Zoo – perfect for the hot summers.
Here are our Dallas Zoo Highlights
Encounters and Experiences give you the chance to meet up close to the animals and offer unique experiences along the way as you explore the zoo.
You get to learn about some of your favorite Dallas Zoo animals from the zoologists who take care of them and a chance to feed the giraffes on the Diane and Hal Brierley Giraffe Ridge.
Do not miss the Giant of the Savannah Exhibit
This hands down one of our favorite exhibits and what we do as soon as we arrive at the zoo every single time. We bypass all the other things and head straight to the African exhibit to feed the giraffes. This does cost extra (around $5) but is so worth it.
My advice is to get there early and do this first so the giraffes are hungry! The giraffes will come right up at your eye level and eat from your hands. It’s an amazing experience that you and your kids will never forget!!
The Hippo Exhibit
In the Spring of 2017, the Dallas Zoo opened a brand new $14 million dollar center just for the hippos! It includes an African water hole that is 24 foot by 8 foot underwater viewing window of the 120,000-gallon pool.
Visitors can get really up close and personal with the hippos in their new habitat.
The Dallas Zoo has a fabulous children’s area that is great for kids.
It is known as the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo, where you can find all the fun activities like a bubbling fountain called the Raccoon Springs. There is also a farm where children can pet some animals. And, at Travis & Zach’s Birds Landing, they have the opportunity to feed birds and enjoy them.
There is a fun water area so if you go during warmer months bring swim gear. We usually go during spring break and let the kids take shoes/socks off. You should also bring a towel.
Other features in this area include a Farm where you can pet and see baby animals, a Swap/Shop area, Bird’s Landing, and other fun amenities.
They also have eateries and places to sit in the shade. Just a warning; we usually do this LAST. Our kids NEVER want to leave this spot!!
The other Attractions include the T-Rex express Mini Train and Endangered Species Carousel, great activities to take a little rest from all the walking without missing any fun times. These activities include a minimal additional cost.
Eating at the Dallas Zoo
And, for dining, you certainly won’t get hungry at Dallas Zoo. There are restaurants available; The Prime Meridian Café has indoor seating and some outdoor deck tables overlooking the flamingo pond.
They offer sandwiches, salads, burgers, pizza, Farmer Brothers Coffee, and for some who have dietary restrictions, they will find gluten-free, low-carb, and vegetarian options. There is also the Serengeti Grill, which is outdoor seatings only, and it overlooks the elephants in the Giants of the Savanna. They offer gourmet burgers, kids’ meals, salads, and chicken tenders.
Note: Guests may bring their food and drinks, although glass items, alcoholic beverages, and single-use disposable straws are not permitted. There are no facilities available for food or cooler storage.
What do Moms say about the Dallas Zoo?
I like the Dallas Zoo just fine! Especially with a 2 year old – as you noted, it’s closer and opens earlier.
The elephant exhibit is excellent at Dallas AND there are elephant statues she can climb on!
We went to Dallas last week and Fort Worth Sunday. We’ve always preferred Dallas but when Fort Worth’s construction is done it will be amazing
HOWEVER Fort Worth was so insanely packed the other day we waited outside the gate in line to park for 15 minutes.
The employees at Dallas were everywhere interacting with people and monitoring things. At Fort Worth it was a massive free for all of people just stepping on each other and you can’t really see any of the cool animals. When we parked at the Fort Worth zoo my 4 year old daughter said “mom is this the real zoo or the other one?” Because she always has a lot more fun at Dallas. So our family really prefers Dallas.
We went to Dallas recently and it was great!!! Lots of animals out, most things were open, was not super crowded.
We went on Super Bowl Sunday at like 10. It was such a great experience. We rent a stroller there and we’re there till like 2! So much fun. We do want to go to ft worth at some point- my kiddo wants to see the kangaroos.
I was just at the Dallas zoo with my 4 year old and she loved it.
The petting zoo and kids play area was opened back up along with a lot of other stuff that was closed due to Covid. Cheap tickets and easy to get there.
We went to the Dallas Zoo on Sunday and it was great! When we were there all the animals were out and everything was open.
The elephants were playing and we had a good time. We took our 5-month-old and she loved it, she babbled at all the animals. I think Fort Worth is better for bigger kids.
Dallas Zoo is our favorite, my kids could spend hours in the children’s area and every time we go we discover something new.
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- Dallas Zoo
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How much does it cost?
As of March 1, 2021, an adult CityPASS is $47. A child’s CityPASS (4-12) is $31.
What you need to know about the Fort Worth Zoo
Address: 1989 Colonial Pkwy, Fort Worth, TX 76110
Phone: (817) 759-7555
Hours of Operation:
(Daily)The Zoo is open 365 days a year
Admission $16 Adults / $12 Youth + Seniors
FREE for Members + for ages 2 & under
Parking: $5 per vehicle
Wednesdays are half-price admission.
You can get one free admission per person to the Fort Worth Zoo with the Pogo Pass membership
Visiting the zoo can be expensive but there is a great deal that many people don’t take advantage of and that’s getting a membership.An adult membership costs $64 per year/$32 for kids and provides some many benefits:
- Unlimited admission to the Zoo every day during regular operating hours
- FREE parking — save $5 each time you visit
- $3 discount off one-day Zoo admission for your guests*
- $1 off tickets for the Yellow Rose Express Train
- $1 off tickets for the Country Carousel
- 20 percent discount on tickets to Safari Splash
- 10 percent discount at all merchandise locations (excludes rentals) and most food locations
- 50 percent discount at more than 100 zoos and aquariums across America.(See a list of participating AZA facilities.)
- 25 percent discount on admission to Stingray Cove
- FREE subscription to “Roar!” magazine and “Tracks” newsletter
- 10 percent discount on birthday parties at the Zoo (maximum 30 people)
- Discounts on Zoo education programs
- Special invitations to members-only events
- Discounts on Zoo special events such as Zoo Run, Beastro and Boo at the Zoo
Do not miss these Fort Worth Zoo Exhibits
- African Savanna
- Museum of Living Art
- Raptor Canyon
- World of Primates
- Stingray Cove
- Texas Wild
- Toyota Children’s Ranch
Great news: Elephant Springs, the Zoo’s newest habitat, is now open at the Fort Worth Zoo. It includes green spaces and various watering holes for the Asian elephant herd, consisting of a three-generation family and a greater one-horned rhino for them to roam.
Here are a few of the other Fort Worth Zoo attractions
Outdoor Learning Theater gives everyone some entertaining and educational encounters with some of Fort Worth Zoo’s animals. It consists of an outdoor amphitheater and a stage and service building for public performances and animal displays.
Yellow Rose Express Train travels between the Safari Depot and Texas Wild! One-way tickets are $4 per person and are available at the Train Depot in both locations.
Country Carousel, Play Barn, Wild West Shooting Gallery, and others.
Eating at the Fort Worth Zoo
Lastly, for dining, there are a lot more options here. There are restaurants, and concession stands located throughout the Zoo.
Eateries include Pizza Hut, Dickey’s Barbeque, Ranch Grill, Zoo Creek Cafe, Jungle Grill and ice cream parlors with Bluebell ice cream.
Note: Outside food and beverage are permitted, with the exception of straws, lids, glass containers and alcohol. If you choose to have a picnic lunch inside the Zoo, you may take your cooler back to your car and re-enter the Zoo as long as you have your hand stamped before exiting.
I prefer Fort Worth Zoo. It’s way less spread out and so much easier to get around. The animals were way more lively and easy to spot. The kids area was cute and contained. The food options were easier to access.
There was still a bit of traffic at the gate but considerably less than Dallas. My almost 2 year old had a blast at Fort Worth. Even the bubble wand options were better at Fort Worth.
I was a teacher and have been to both on field trips. Both are nice but I prefer Fort Worth. I haven’t been since last summer though.
Fort Worth has a lot more shade. When it is hot out, Fort Worth Zoo is more pleasant to walk through I think. But I haven’t seen all the construction
We were just at Ft. Worth Friday last week. We still enjoyed it and there was still so much to see that our two year old definitely wore out.
But if you are looking forward to seeing the big cats and the elephants, Dallas might be better! Both are great regardless.
So what do we think about which is better: the Dallas Zoo or the Fort Worth Zoo?
Both are listed in our 16 places to visit with Animals around DFW
You know what? We think you should do both and decide for yourself. There are certainly Pro’s and Con’s to both. If you’re planning to head westwards towards Fort Worth, be sure to check out how you can spend a Family fun day out in Fort Worth or enjoy some fun at the Fort Worth Stockyards
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Each pass includes free admission to kids’ activities at 22 destinations around Dallas/Fort Worth for only $49.98 per person.
Give the gift of experiences all over DFW!
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If you have Questions, we’ve written a huge guide to the Pogo Pass to help you!
Which is better – The Dallas Zoo or the Fort Worth Zoo?
The answer is – it depends.
It’s is an age old debate in toddler mom worlds. The Dallas Zoo is smaller while Fort Worth Zoo is bigger. The Dallas Zoo has a shaded natural looking creek play area. The Fort Worth Zoo has a park like attraction. If you have 2 littles close in age, Dallas may more manageable.
But if your kids are older or more spread out in ages, you may enjoy Fort Worth Zoo just as much.