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Cameron Park Zoo, little girl and otter

A Guide to Cameron Park Zoo

Everything you need to know about visiting this haven for animals in Waco with your kids

Originally established in 1955 as the Central Texas Zoological Park, plans to open a new facility in Waco’s Cameron Park were developed in 1981. The Cameron Park Zoo we know today opened July 18, 1993 in the heart of Waco. The zoo, which aims to promote conservation awareness through education and recreation, is an animal oasis that’s great for families to visit. After all, the exhibits offer safe, up-close views of animals, there’s a playspace for kids and you can meander along the nature trail through the center of the zoo.

And since it’s just under 2 hours south of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Cameron Park Zoo is a great day trip destination for your next family outing. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your visit.

RELATED: A Guide to Zoos in Dallas-Fort Worth

Cameron Park Zoo hours:

The zoo is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 5pm. Last entrance is accepted at 4:30pm. The zoo is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Zoo location:

1701 North Fourth Street, Waco, just under 2 hours south of Dallas-Fort Worth

Zoo admission:

General admission is $14 for adults; $12 for seniors ages 60 and older; $10 for children ages 3–12; free for children 2 years and younger.

How big is Cameron Park Zoo?

Cameron Park Zoo is spread across more than 52 acres, so make sure you plan to spend at least a few hours here walking around and seeing the more than 1,700 animals. The zoo is made up of four main areas:

  • The Meadows, where you can see bald eagles, gibbons, Galapagos tortoises, macaws, squirrel monkeys and more
  • Brazos River Country, where you’ll find aquariums, an aviary, mountain lions, otters, black bears, bobcats, bison, white tailed deer, reptiles, and more
  • African Savanna, which is home to giraffes, meerkats, African lions, white rhinos, storks, African birds and more
  • Asian Forest, where you’ll see sumatran tigers, komodo dragons, orangutans, and Lemur Island
Mowgli, an American black bear at Cameron Park Zoo
Pictured: Mowgli, an American black bear

Can’t-Miss Exhibits and Activities

Because all of the zoo’s exhibits are designed as all-natural habitats—and you can safely get up close to the animals—all of the exhibits are considered can’t-miss. But there are a few spots in Cameron Park Zoo that are particularly popular with families.

The river otters exhibit has a slide that passes through it, and the otters can swim around the children as they are in the slide. The orangutan exhibit is especially popular if it’s on a day that Razak, the juvenile, is on exhibit with his parents.

If your kids need a play break, stop by Grammy Nell’s Playspace in the middle of the zoo. It features a treehouse with a slide, a snake little ones can play on and in and a big musical instrument to play. Visiting in the summer months? There’s a splash pad available from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Kids sitting on a stone tortoise at Cameron Park Zoo

Want to make your visit to Cameron Park Zoo extra-special?

Before your visit, adopt an animal to help support the zoo’s conservation efforts. There are two adoption levels. For $50, you’ll receive an adoption certificate, animal fact sheet, photo of your adopted animal and a stuffed animal. For $100, you’ll get everything listed, as well as a behind-the-scenes experience with your adopted animal. Available animals to adopt include giraffe, elephant, lion, orangutan, tiger, komodo dragon, white rhino, river otter, and mountain lion (not available for tours).

Or coordinate with a few family friends and schedule an evening adventure with Wild Nights! Offered most Tuesday–Thursday evenings, you’ll join an education team member for an immersive, behind-the-scenes tour and an animal presentation.

Dining options at Cameron Park Zoo

Cameron Park Zoo has two cafés. The Plaza Café, located near the entrance, offers a few food options and various hot and iced coffees and other drinks. The Tree Tops Café, located by African Savanna, offers various a la carte and combo meal options. Here, kid’s meals come with a souvenir cup, snack and reusable bag.

If you’d rather pack your own picnic lunch and snacks, the zoo lets visitors bring their own food and drinks in! The zoo just asks that you not bring alcohol, glass containers or plastic lids and straws (to-go cups). And don’t share your food with the animals, as it can be harmful to them.

Tips for Visiting

Getting ready to visit Cameron Park Zoo? Here are a few more things you’ll want to know:

  • During the school year, the zoo hosts storytimes geared toward little ones ages 2–6. This year’s storytimes are done for the season, so check back next school year for the schedule.
  • Bathrooms are located throughout the zoo, including at the entrance and by Grammy Nell’s Playspace in the Meadows.
  • If you are a parent who is nursing, Cameron Park Zoo has a nursing pod located near Grammy Nell’s Playspace in the Meadows.
  • Parking is free!
  • Want to visit the zoo when it’s less crowded? Your best bet is to come on a weekday, as the zoo’s busiest days are usually Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Check out the zoo’s calendar for any special events that may be happening while you’re there.

Want more info? Follow Cameron Park Zoo on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube; call 254/750-8400; or visit cameronparkzoo.com.

All photos courtesy of Cameron Park Zoo