Zoo Atlanta: Ideal Time to Go and 7 Amazing Animals to See

Zoo Atlanta was established in 1889 after businessman George V. Gress acquired a traveling circus that was going out of business. He gave the city of Atlanta the circus animals, and the city chose to locate the animals in Grant Park, where the zoo is still located today.

Travelers searching for an excellent zoo can easily find Zoo Atlanta because of its convenient location and consistent ranking among the “top” zoos in the United States.

So when would be the best time to visit Zoo Atlanta? When you arrive there, which seven animals are the most spectacular to see? Let’s investigate.

The Best Times and Days to Visit Zoo Atlanta

Most zoos are comparable in terms of the best time to visit based on the day of the week and time of day. Weekdays are the least crowded days to visit the zoo, with Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday having the fewest visitors. It’s best to visit in the early morning, especially to Zoo Atlanta. In “Hot ‘Lanta,” lunchtime and early afternoons can be quite warm and muggy during the majority of the year.

Early morning visits are ideal not just for people but also for the animals. Animals are generally most active in the early morning and late at night. Thus, your best chance is to visit Zoo Atlanta as soon as it opens, which is at 9:00 a.m. But nine times a year, the zoo hosts a Twilight Trek from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. Visitors to this Twilight Trek can witness animals that are ordinarily hidden from view during the day and learn about the nighttime habits of all species thanks to night vision equipment. A few times a year, Zoo Atlanta hosts events after dark. Among them are the zoo’s yearly fundraising gala in May, Boo in October, Illuminights in November through January, and Cookies with Santa in early December.

The Best Time of Year to Visit Atlanta’s Zoo

When is the best time of year to go to the zoo? The zoo is most enjoyable in the fall and spring, but winter is also a fantastic time to come. In October, Atlanta experiences average high temperatures of 72°F and average low temperatures of 54°F every day. Similar to this, Atlanta experiences mild average highs of 73°F and lows of 49°F in April.

Nevertheless, keep an eye out during the winter months because Atlanta experiences mild winters. Even while Atlanta experiences occasional cold snaps, the city generally experiences mild, comfortable January days with highs in the mid-50s. Wintertime also means fewer people, so guests may experience the zoo on their own schedule.

Incredible Animals at Zoo Atlanta

Zoo Atlanta’s aim is to create a world “where wildlife and humans flourish together” by conserving animal habitats via research, education, and engaging in-person experiences. Which of the more than 1,300 creatures in the zoo—representing more than 220 species from throughout the world—must you see?

1. African Elephant

The African elephants of the zoo were relocated to the African Savanna in 2019. The elephants’ new area, which is specifically built to mimic the elephants’ natural environment, has tripled in size.

African elephants, the largest terrestrial mammal on Earth, are a perennially popular attraction at Zoo Atlanta. These amazing creatures, which weigh between 6,600 and 13,000 pounds, are normally calm but can become hostile during mating season, when protecting their young, or if they are frightened, ill, or hurt. African elephants are herd animals that live in family groups led by a female matriarch who spends decades imparting social conventions and survival skills to her charges. Elephants sense low-frequency sounds using their front feet. Through kilometers of land, they may converse using the same low transmission sound.

With Zoo Atlanta’s Wild Encounter Experience, you may get insider advice and be paired with a zoo specialist. Visitors receive a behind-the-scenes look at the zoo’s elephant care program, learning firsthand about the process. You can also feed one of the amazing African elephants at the zoo by hand if you select this add-on.

2. Giant Panda Bear

Since 1999, when Lun Lun and Yang Yang, two giant pandas on loan from China, arrived, Zoo Atlanta has taken great pride in being the home of gigantic pandas. The pair has enjoyed raising seven cubs since 2006; some of the babies were sent back to China. Two of their twins are still housed at the zoo. Ya Lun and Xi Lun, the twins, are slated to go to China in early 2024 as per the terms of the loan arrangement with China.

The friendly giant panda has a lengthy life of 20 to 35 years and can weigh up to 550 pounds. One of the rarest and most famous species in the world, giant pandas are found in the mountains of central and western China. The two things that set giant pandas apart from other bear species are their almost exclusively vegetarian diet and lack of hibernation. Giant pandas are solitary creatures that mostly consume the leaves, shoots, and stems of bamboo. Giants typically graze on bamboo for 12 to 15 hours per day due to its low nutritional value. Pandas are skilled climbers and swimmers, despite spending most of their time lounging and eating.

Like the elephant wild encounter experience, Zoo Atlanta provides a behind-the-scenes experience that lets guests get up close and personal with the gigantic panda.

3. Western Lowland Gorilla

The zoo is well-known for its Western lowland gorillas, which are by far the most popular animals among visitors. The most famous gorilla in Zoo Atlanta’s history is Willie B., a gorilla who spent his first 29 years of existence indoors. When the Ford African Rain Forest at Zoo Atlanta opened, almost 25,000 people came to see Willie B. make his first trip into his spacious new outdoor habitat. The moms of Willie B.’s progeny would be among the new generation of gorillas to call the forest home. After the gorilla Willie B. passed away in 2000, the zoo built a memorial for him outside of the Ford African Rain Forest.

The Western lowland gorilla can live for 35 to 50 years on average, and during that time it can gain weight of more than 400 pounds. The Western lowland is a very intelligent mammal that can run up to 25 mph. Having an average of four to eight members, compared to up to fifty for other gorilla groups, they have the fewest family members of any gorilla species.

The nearly two-acre rainforest continues to draw large crowds of visitors who come to see Willie B.’s grandchildren. In an effort to enhance the gorilla experience, Zoo Atlanta launched Gorilla Trek, a 360-degree virtual reality theater that lets guests digitally explore Rwanda and interact up close with these amazing primates.

4. African Lion

To create sustainable plans for people and lions to live together, Zoo Atlanta teamed together with Lion Guardians. To stop individuals trying to poach African lions, they enlist and educate young Masasai. Their ultimate objective is to lessen hostilities between lions and people. African lions at the zoo are housed in the Quarters for Conservation champions. Visitors may witness the fully grown male African lions, Azizi, Hondo, and Hatari, every day.

African lions are carnivores that can live up to 15 years and weigh up to 550 pounds. These are the biggest cats in Africa, and although they hunt alone, they lead gregarious lives in their pride, which is primarily composed of females. African lions can run up to 37 miles per hour and hunt zebras, antelopes, and other animals with hooves. The lion’s powerful roar, which may be heard up to five miles away, can warn other animals. Visitors can see the lions all year round in Atlanta, except on the wettest and coldest days.

5. Ring-tailed Lemur

One of the three types of lemurs that call Zoo Atlanta’s The Living Treehouse home is the ring-tailed lemur. The crowned lemurs and the black-and-white ruffled lemurs are the other two.

The tiny island nation of Madagascar is home to lemurs; in fact, it is the only place they can be found. Primate species with long, thin tails are called ring-tailed lemurs, and they are primarily found in rainforests and scrublands. Ring-tailed lemurs are little animals that weigh five to eight pounds for both sexes. Because of their propensity for gripping, they spend most of their time in trees. They are also one of the rare species that have matriarchal societies, with a single female in charge of each tribe. Males, on the other hand, move between groups during their lives, whereas this dominant female spends her entire life with one.

Visitors to Zoo Atlanta can interact with and feed these Madagascan residents during the Lemur Wild Encounter. The Lemur Wild Encounter is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 11:00 a.m. from the end of March through the end of October.

6. Bornean Orangutan

The highly intelligent red ape from Borneo’s third-largest island, the Bornean orangutan, is another animal in which Zoo Atlanta has dedicated a great deal of time and energy to its conservation. The goal of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) is to preserve, replenish, and safeguard the rainforests that the world’s palm oil industry has ravaged. By destroying their habitat and severing the young from their moms, the industry’s clear-cutting has put orangutans in risk. Four Bornean and six Sumatran orangutans have been adopted by Zoo Atlanta and placed in its Orangutan Habitat area as part of a partnership with BOSF. The first Bornean orangutan to be born at Zoo Atlanta in 2003 was named Satu, which translates to “first.”

In contrast to other ape species, Bornean orangutans live alone rather than in social groups. Bornean orangutans have sophisticated cognitive and spatial abilities, making them skilled at puzzles and scenarios requiring object recall and matching, sequencing, or memorizing. Borneans can live up to 60 years old in a protected habitat, while their usual lifespan is between 30 and 40 years.

Bornean orangutans at Zoo Atlanta browse all throughout the Asian Forest, whether it’s outdoors or huddled in their inside nests. The zoo welcomed Nangka, a male Sumatran orangutan, who was four months old, in September of 2023. After that, Nangka was taken in by Madu, a 40-year-old woman who, in the previous 20 years, had taken in four other orangutan newborns.

7. Laughing Kookaburra

The loud call and “laughter” of the laughing kookaburra, one of four species of kookaburra, make it a favorite animal at Zoo Atlanta. This bird is native to Australia and is a subspecies of the kingfisher breed, with smaller numbers found in New Zealand and New Guinea.

The laughing kookaburra is a social bird that lives in communal groups in both natural and man-made environments. They usually accept human contact well and are most active around dawn and dusk when they use their cackling “laughs” to mark their territory. This diurnal bird, also called an old gum tree, spends about 12 hours sleeping at night in eucalyptus trees.

The aforementioned seven remarkable creatures represent but the very beginning of what awaits you at Zoo Atlanta. For anyone who wants a closer look at these amazing animals, Zoo Atlanta is a true delight, home to 1,300 animals representing 220 species from around the globe.