Going to The Calgary Zoo was always the best part of my summer growing up. We would all pile into my Aunt’s minivan and spend the day wandering around. Now that I have my own kids we try to go as often as we can and have learned some tips and tricks when visiting from out of town.

Where to stay:

Hotels

We love staying downtown when we go to Calgary for a short time. Our favourite lately has been staying at International Hotel & Spa because it fits all the criteria when travelling with kids: cheap rates, close to public transit (The C-Train station is minutes from the hotel. Our boys love riding the train to the zoo almost more than seeing the animals and we love not having to worry about parking when it is summer and the parking lot is full), swimming pool, and a FREE breakfast buffet. The rooms are huge and always so clean. We have also successfully used Priceline to get that last minute cheap deal when staying in hotels in Calgary.

Camping

We love lumping our Zoo trip in with longer camping trips in the area. When staying in Kananaskis (we love Mt. Kidd and Boulton) or Banff it is easy to pack a lunch and head to Calgary for the day to do the zoo. Calaway Park is a fun amusement park for younger kids with a great campsite (see website here) nearby. We will often do the zoo one day, camp overnight, and go to Calaway Park the next. This spot is not the prettiest because it is basically a parking lot but the location is great, bathrooms are clean, and at $40 a night for full service it is cheaper than a hotel.

Calgary Zoo tips:

  • Bring a stroller or wagon. The paths are paved and wide making it easy to bring the biggest stroller you can. Even animal enclosures like the Destination Africa exhibit have wide paths making navigating easy. So pack the big diaper bag, bring all the snacks, and all the water bottles because you will have no problem even on the busiest of days.
  • Skip the penguins if you arrive right when the zoo opens. This is where people go first making it have a lineup. You have to walk right by the penguins on your way out so if you wait you won’t be pushed through and your little one will have more time to watch them dip, swim, and waddle around without the crowd.
  • Skip the first gate for Canadian Wilds unless you are trying to get your steps in on your FitBit. It is a looonnnngg walk around to see some sheep and mountain goats. The fun animals like bears, mountain lions and wolves can be seen if you go to the exit right before you cross the bridge. Don’t get me wrong I like mountain goats, but when you’re travelling with a two year old that needs an afternoon nap and you’re on a time crunch bears are more fun to see.
  • On a hot day the Destination Africa building is a great place to sit and have a snack or to cool off. If the hippopotamus’s are out you can sit and watch them swim around but if they aren’t there there’s still lots of fish in the tank to keep the little ones entertained. This is also a great place to let toddlers walk and press their faces up to the glass to see in the water without dealing with a crowd.
  • The best bathrooms for a diaper change and bathroom break are in the TransAlta Rainforest building. They are big and both men’s and women’s have change tables. There is also a great fish tank right beside the bathrooms to keep the kids busy while waiting for everyone in your group. Fill up your water bottles here too!
  • The playground area may look crowded from the outside as the picnic tables get full fast but walk into the play area and go right to the back or side. There are benches built in all the way around so you can sit and watch the kids play without the crowd.
  • After the kids are tired from playing head to the ENMAX Conservatory to see the butterflies. Since the kids are exhausted by this point they may sit still long enough on the benches to let a butterfly land on them.
  • Eurasia has another playground that is for younger kids. If the big park looked overwhelming and head here to let them play. Another great place to explore is the rocks by the tigers.
  • Now you’ve made it to the very farthest part of the zoo. Get ready for the long walk back. This may be a good time for ice cream so you have energy.
  • The prehistoric park has a couple of loops so depending on how much time you have you can do a little or a lot of this part. If you are up for it the longest loop has the aquatic dinosaurs poking out of the water which our kids always love.
  • On your way out don’t forget to see the penguins!

What are your tips when going to the zoo with the kids? We would love to hear them!

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