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Hogle Zoo is a Great Activity for Kids and Adults
If the thought of taking the kids to the zoo this summer has you feeling tired and worn out before you even get there, Utah’s Hogle Zoo will be a nice surprise. Unlike the gigantic zoos in Los Angeles and San Diego, California, when you pay a visit to the zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah, it won’t take you several days to see everything. In fact, Hoogle Zoo is the perfect size for both kids and adults alike.
There were enough exhibits, shows, and activities to keep my husband and I busy and occupied throughout the morning and afternoon, but not so many things to do that we left the park feeling drained and cheated. In fact, this medium-sized zoo would make a great summer activity for kids of all ages.
Although local Utah residents might want to purchase an affordable family zoo membership that comes with free admission and discounts throughout the entire year, if you’re coming to Utah for your summer vacation or a business trip, you won’t find a better value for your time. With over 800 animals, a Conservation Carousel ride, a delightful bird show, and even a marvelous Lego animal display scattered throughout their current 42-acre spread, Hogle’s goal is to educate as well as entertain.
A Little Bit of Hogle Zoo History
From its humble beginning in 1911 as a monkey exhibit in Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park, by 1912, Hogle had evolved into an official, yet very small, zoo. That first zoo held five different types of birds, a couple of foxes, some squirrels, and a pair of monkeys.
However, despite the best efforts made by Salt Lake City’s Park Department to keep the animal’s cared for and the zoo running smoothly, the elephant, Princess Alice, kept breaking free of her compound and roaming the streets.
To alleviate the concerns of local residents, Mr. and Mrs. James A. Hogle donated a large parcel of land at the mouth of Emigration Canyon for the zoo’s new home. In February of 1931, the Salt Lake Zoological Society was formed to direct the zoo’s affairs and secure funding for animal acquisition and care.
On August 1, Utah’s Hogle Zoo opened its doors at 2600 East Sunnyside Avenue to over 14,000 visitors on their very first day.
Where to Find Utah's Hogle Zoo
Utah's Hogle Zoo is More Than a Zoo
Today, the zoo is owned by the city of Salt Lake with one of the Hogle’s grandsons the board’s president. It’s supported by admission costs, taxes, and private donations raised by the Utah Zoological Association. However, Utah’s Hogle Zoo is more than just a zoo. Currently, it houses fewer animals than it has previously because their new building plan, which began in 1998, gives the animals a larger, more natural environment in which to live, rather than crude cages.
The zoo’s mission also includes increasing the educational possibilities for local school children, scout troops, and adults. Some of these programs include:
- teaching conservation on a worldwide level
- college internships
- part-time and full-time job opportunities
- an up-close interaction program with the animals
- zoo classes and special camps
- scout badge programs
- overnight adventures
- a monthly book club
- special programs in the evening
- school field trips
- large company or private parties
Currently, the park is still under construction, and working toward the goals of their master plan. That does create a little bit of inconvenience for visitors. For example, there was no train ride available, due to this year’s African Savanna 2014 project, a 5-acre habitat that will allow the zoo to bring back lions and zebras next Spring. Also, a couple of the paths came to a dead end at the point of new construction.
Normally, the train costs $1.50 with a 10-ride punch card available for $12, but it won’t be back in service until 2014 when the African Savanna is ready to open. The Splash Park wasn’t open when we were there last week either, but that water area is scheduled to open up later on this June.
To compensate for the inconvenience of there being no train this summer, the free map that’s available at the zoo’s entrance where you present your ticket for admission contains a coupon good for $2 off of the train ride available at This is The Place Heritage Park. That coupon is good through October 2013.
Hogle Zoo Animals
The zoo is divided into sections and exhibits, with each section named for the type of animal you can find in that area. For example, the Elephant Encounter spotlights African elephants, but also the white rhinoceros. The plaque at the rhino’s cage reveals that the term “white” or “black” rhinoceros has nothing to do with color. A rhino is called “white” or “black” because of the way their upper lip is shaped.
The Asian Highlands section has several of the big cats of Asia. Many of them are endangered species. In fact, this area attempts to recreate a Himalayan village and has five different types of tigers you can see while you’re there.
Rocky Shores, on the other hand, features polar bears, grizzly bears, sea lions, seals, and river otters. They also have bald eagles in that area.
While Utah’s Hogle Zoo has many endangered species and unique animals such as an armadillo, a lama, a couple of crocodiles, and monkeys with tails like a horse, they also have typical zoo animals.
Giraffes, standard monkeys, foxes, lemurs, wolves, ducks, and other birds are plentiful. Once the African Savanna is completed, giraffes, ostriches, and other African animals will be able to interact with each other in the same way they would within their natural environment.
In the center plaza, there is a Conservation Carousel, which opened on June 7, 2008. Kids can ride the carousel for $2. You can also purchase a 10-ride punch card for $12. Instead of horses, as in a traditional carousel, this ride is made of many hand-carved endangered animals and a couple of chariots. Part of the $2 fee goes toward the zoo’s conservation causes.
Food and Drinks
Whether you’re on a regular diet, or a low-calorie, low-carb, paleo, or primal blueprint diet plan, the park offers four major cafes that you can choose from:
1. The Beastro: This café is the newest dining facility, located just down the hill from the main entrance. It is the zoo’s first indoor seating café. They offer brick-oven pizza, Artisan sandwiches, large grilled cheeseburgers with homemade Kettle Chips, hot dogs, homemade macaroni and cheese, sandwich wraps, and daily specials. They also have ice cream. The grilled food is prepared while you wait, so getting your burger to order without a bun shouldn’t be a problem.
2. Oasis Café: The Oasis is located by the Conservation Carousel and specializes in snacks such as snow cones, fruit smoothies, ice cream, and soft drinks. They have a 32-ounce Souvenir Cup, which we purchased for $3.50. That was a bit pricey, but refills were only a dollar, and the woman who helped us told us that as long as we brought our cup back on our next zoo trip, we could continue to enjoy $1 refills – indefinitely. In addition to snacks, they also had a pizza bar, hot dogs, hamburgers, and they can whip you up a special deluxe salad if you want to shun the carbs.
3. Cat Wok Café: If you’d rather have something a little more special than hot dogs, burgers, pizza, and ice cream, this café offers Asian rice bowls that you actually build yourself. That means you can dump the rice if you want to. They are located in the Asian Highlands section, near the tigers. Their sauces included teriyaki, sweet-and-sour, and a sweet chili sauce. They also serve American favorites such as corn dogs for the kids.
4. Shoreline Grill: This café specializes in catering to bear-sized appetites. Located in Rocky Shores, they offer bratwurst sausages, grilled chicken sandwiches, and gourmet bacon-ranch or bacon-cheese burgers. In addition, they also have freshly cut fries. Between the sausages, grilled chicken, bacon, and burgers, this café would be an easy pick if you need to stick to a low-carb diet plan.
For those on a tight budget or those who have dietary restrictions such as the need to be gluten free, the zoo differs from other Utah attractions because it allows you to bring your own food and drinks into the park. For those of us with special needs, that’s a big plus. You don’t have to go back outside to your car for lunch, and eat inside the hot car or standing up. Instead, you can bring your own cooler, thermos, a wagon, or a backpack into the zoo with you and eat in the shade.
However, if the weather is warm, you’ll want to bring something that will help keep your food and drinks cold, such as a backpack.
Utah’s Hoogle Zoo allows you to eat your lunch at any of their shaded tables outside of their cafés, or you can bring a large blanket and a picnic basket and plop yourself down on the grass at any of their large grassy areas. There are also several benches located at strategic points throughout the park that are underneath tarps and fans if you’d rather eat that way. There are also water fountains that come with lots of character.
Keep in mind that you’ll need an easy way to carry your cooler because many of the paths have a slight to moderate incline. While this zoo is particularly designed with kids in mind, the walk might be difficult if you try to lug a heavy cooler with you by hand. However, the zoo does rent strollers if you need one. This was our first trip to Utah's Hogle Zoo, so we bought diet sodas and went out to P. F. Chang's for a late lunch, since we didn't know what to expect as far as gluten-free food.
The World of Flight Bird Show
Although the zoo is currently small and their large African section isn’t due to open until the Spring of 2014, it does feature a variety of different animal and bird shows daily where you can sit down for half-an-hour and rest while you enjoy the program. The daily shows that were available last week were:
- Elephant Encounter
- Wildlife Theater Bird Show
- Rocky Shores’ Sea Lion and Seal Training Demonstration
- Discover Theater (live animal presentations)
- Eagles on the Plaza
We decided to attend The World of Flight Bird Show, and were extremely glad that we did, but since the show is what’s called a “free flight” show, it wasn’t something we could photograph easily. The birds were almost always in flight. The following video, however, captures the essence of what the show was about.
Wildlife Theater Bird Show at Utah's Hogle Zoo
Watch the Highlights...
While the video gives you a good idea of what to expect during the program, the presentation itself is something that you really have to see in person in order to fully appreciate what the birds have learned how to do. In addition to daily programs, the zoo also has special events and a spectacular light show during the Christmas season you won’t want to miss.
Creatures of Habitat
One of the most unique exhibits for the 2013 Summer season is the zoo’s Creatures of Habitat. This menagerie consists of a variety of Lego animals showcased at nine stations throughout the park. These are 32 individual Lego-brick sculptures designed by Sean Kenny. With only 13 Lego-certified professional artists in the world, the exhibit is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In fact, there are 95,000 Lego pieces in the polar bear alone.
This is a short-term summer-only exhibit. It opened on April 24, 2013 and is only going to be available for public viewing through September. If you’re the type of person who loves to look at light displays and decked-out yards during the holidays, or you have a child who is crazy about Lego blocks, these creative animal displays will be right up your alley. From penguins to turtles to birds and snakes, you won’t want to let this one pass you by.
Utah’s Hogle Zoo Open Year Round
Unlike other Utah adventures such as the hike up to the Tipanogos Cave, Utah’s Hogle Zoo is open year round, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 or 6:30 p.m., depending on the season. It’s also opened on Sunday. Parking is free, but if the parking lot is full, you can also park at This is the Place Heritage Park for $5.
If you’re interested in a zoo membership, $86 covers two adults and all of your dependent children for a year. Membership earns discounts on gift shop items, food, educational classes, camp, and their holiday light show. You’ll also get invitations to their members-only events, a membership newsletter, and discounts to 125 additional zoos across the country, as well as free admission to Utah’s Hogle Zoo.
Purchasing a membership can also make you feel good about doing your part to support and uphold the future of Utah’s wildlife through Hogle’s educational programs and numerous conservation efforts. The zoo also happily accepts donations. However, most important is the opportunity it gives our kids to not only learn about the various animals we don’t get a chance to see every day, but to also experience life in the only way that a zoo can give.