North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro

In this setting, it’s hard to decide what’s on display

North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro

A chimpanzee at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro

At the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, you can walk from the African grasslands to the North American Arctic Coast in a single afternoon. The zoo is home to more than 1,600 animals including elephants, zebras, giraffes, gorillas, otters, seals and puffins, all of which live in environments similar to those where they’d be found in the wild.

Situated in central North Carolina near the scenic Uwharrie Mountains, the North Carolina Zoo is the nation’s largest walk-through, natural habitat zoo. Five miles of walkways meander through 500 acres of carefully recreated habitats of various African and North American animal species. Another 2,000 acres remain available for future development.

The multi-exhibit Watani Grasslands boasts some of the largest and most technologically advanced facilities for the care and exhibition of elephants and rhinoceroses. The seven-acre pachyderm exhibit is home to seven elephants and includes an immersion walkway, which extends more than 100 feet into the living space to allow you an up-close look at the elephants – and vice versa.

The African Pavilion features baboons, lemurs, and gorillas including Bomassa and Olympia, born in August 2012.

A tree-level deck known as the Acacia Station is located at the northern edge of the Forest Glade. For a nominal fee, you can greet zebras, ostriches and giraffes, including a female named Juma born in July 2012, from among the trees while enjoying a bird’s eye view of their habitat.

Hundreds of exotic, brilliantly colored birds such as the scarlet ibis and Chilean flamingo populate the Forest Aviary, which has been listed among the top 10 American habitat exhibits in the United States by USA Today. The area also showcases more than 3,000 tropical plants in its enclosed rainforest environment.

Another indoor attraction, the Sonora Desert, teems with creepy-crawly creatures such as tarantulas, giant hairy scorpions, vampire bats, Gila monsters and rattlesnakes, as well as roadrunners and ocelots.

Interpretive galleries and informative signs throughout the zoo will teach you about the connections between people, animals and the earth. For younger guests, the zoo also features a playground that resembles a giant squash vine and contains a three-foot ladybug, a six-foot praying mantis and several super-size bees.

The North Carolina Zoo is open 364 days a year (closed Christmas Day). Allow at least five hours to fully explore the park.

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