Des Moines kids and families love the Blank Park Zoo. Located on the south side of Des Moines, the Zoo is a favorite for Des Moines residents and visitors alike. Parents of younger children appreciate that this zoo is walkable and that the animals are easy to see – plus, there are fun bonus attractions such as the train that takes you on a tour of part of the park. Here are a few tips for making your next visit to the Blank Park Zoo the best it can be.
Know Before You Go
- Hours of Operation: May through September 9:00 am to 5:00 pm; October through April 10:00 am –to 4:00 pm. The Zoo will be closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
- Cost of Admission: Children (2 years and under) – FREE; Children (3 – 12 years) – $7.00; Adults (13 – 64 years) – $12.00; Senior Citizens (65+ years) – $10.00
- Parking: Surface parking is available for FREE.
- Food: For the safety of the animals, no outside food or drink is allowed in the Zoo. Food and beverages can be purchased at the Safari Grill, concessions near Kids Kingdom, the Gift Shop near the main entrance and from vending machines scattered throughout the park.
- Restrooms: There are several restrooms scattered throughout the park at the Main Entrance, Kids’ Kingdom, Safari Grill and in Africa near the Rhino Exhibit.
- Prior to your visit check out Blank Park Zoo’s website where you’ll find everything you need to know about the Zoo.
While You’re There
If it’s been awhile since you visited our local zoo, now is the time to go back. Several improvements have been made to the Zoo over the last few years. There’s also been two babies born in the last month. A Japanese Macaque (Snow Monkey) and a Bactrian (two-humped) Camel. Be warned the babies aren’t always on display, so you may want to keep it mum until you get there. The Zoo is easy to get around and is laid out according to the animals’ natural habitats in a circular pattern.
Just inside, the entrance leads you into the Discovery Center, where you will find all kinds of tropical animals that fly, slither and swim. If you get caught in the rain while visiting, this is a great place to bide your time– it’s warm and dry and you can check out the fun animals while you wait for the rain to pass. As you exit the Center, you will pass Flamingoes and are on the path to the Australia Adventure.
Be sure to be on the lookout for Wallabies, Emus and Cassowaries. After walking through an aviary, take a slight right to ride the rails at the Train Depot. Members can ride for $2.00 and non-members cost $2.50. Taking a ride on the train is a great way to take a little break from walking and catch a breeze on a hot day.
The train ride is not very long. The tracks wind around the Koi Pond and you see the backs of several of the exhibits. You do go through a tunnel and turn around near the Safari Grill, where diners wave as you go by. If you plan on riding the Carousel too, there is a Ride Bundle available, which includes tickets for the train, carousel and camel ride.
Next stop is Kids’ Kingdom. There are farm animals here, like goats and lamas and an opportunity to feed them along with the Koi in the pond. There is also a large play area for kids to burn off some energy. There are several opportunities to feed all kinds of animals at the zoo. If you plan on nourishing all of them, you may want to purchase a Feed Bundle which includes feed cups for the parakeet, ostrich, giraffe, Kid’s Kingdom animals and fish. After feeding all of those cute animals you will want to clean up at one of the zoo’s hand-washing stations.
Our next stop is usually the Face Painting hut. They have great face painters at the zoo! My daughter gets her face painted every time we go. As my son has gotten older he prefers to get a temporary tattoo over his face painted. Both are totally worth the price. We also take a peek at the Sea Lions and the Prairie Dogs in this part of the park.
We trek on to the Big Cats. Here you can see and learn about Lions, Snow Leopards and Tigers. There is also a Gibbons exhibit. By this time in our trip, we’re ready for some sustenance. Concessions inside the Zoo are operated by Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse and the food is pretty good. It’s your typical concession food like French fries, chicken fingers, hot dogs, etc. but we’ve found it to be quite tasty.
From this point you can make your way through the Butterfly Garden, past the Snow Monkeys and into Africa. Have you ever looked a Giraffe in the eye? You can at the Blank Park Zoo! You and your kiddos will love meandering on the boardwalk past Watusi on your way to the Giraffes. Kids also love the new expanded part of the African animal exhibits where they can beat on a drum and a Rhino is lurking around the corner.
If you are not one to go with the flow, break away from the crowd! I think most people tend to take the path described above when visiting the zoo, but it’s not necessary to follow along – try going counter-clockwise around the zoo instead!
After Your Visit
We typically get to the zoo when it opens and are ready to leave by early afternoon. If the kids are not exhausted by this point you can challenge them to a round of mini golf at the Blank Golf Course next to the zoo. You will also want to keep an eye on the Blank Park Zoo’s website for information about the cool events that they host throughout the year, including Adventure Days Festival (July 11th), Night Eyes, Santa at the Zoo and more!
Blank Park Zoo
7401 SW 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50315
Phone (515) 285-4722
Are you a regular at Blank Park Zoo? Share your tips with us in the Comment section below.