Family Day Trip to the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk – Itinerary & Tips

Family Day Trip to the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk – Itinerary & Tips

The Virginia Zoo: Seeing tigers, lions, and bears up close can be an unforgettable experience for your kids! It’s an opportunity to learn about different species and their habitats while also having some family fun.

If you’re looking for an exciting day trip, the zoo is the perfect option. And if you live near one of the larger zoos in the country, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Have you been to the Virginia Zoo un Norfolk, VA with your family recently? What was your favorite part?

Virginia Zoo Details

The Virginia Zoo located in Norfolk, Virginia and started collecting animals in 1901! With over one hundered years of history, you’ll love this family attraction.

Address: 3500 Granby St, Norfolk, VA 23504
(757) 441-2374



Map to Virginia Zoo

Virginia Zoo Seasonal Hours

  • Open Daily from 9:30 am – 4 pm
  • Except these major winter holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day
entrance to Virgina Zoo

Virginia Zoo Tickets

We love that the Virginia Zoo is open year round- even in the cooler months, Virginia weather is fair enough to venture through the exhibits and have an ice cream or hot chocolate in any season!


How much does it cost for Virginia Zoo tickets?

2023 Update: During construction, general Zoo admission will be discounted to $11 (including the Conservation and Technology Fee) for all ticket levels.

  • Adults (ages 12+) $17.95
  • Seniors (ages 62+) $15.95
  • Children (ages 2-11) $14.95


  • Children under 2
  • Virginia Zoo Members
  • Individuals with ADA-Recognized Disability and One Companion can receive free admission upon request. Advance reservation by phone is no longer available and walk-up entry is permitted for this discount only. Any additional paid tickets cannot be purchased onsite and must be reserved in advance online.


Choose Membership. If you can afford membership to the Zoo, which is almost a breakeven for the cost of day tickets for the whole family, I encourage your family to become a member.

Not only does it help maintain support for the Virginia Zoo, but it also adds an activity idea to your list when the kids are bored and you aren’t sure what to do. Your trip will already be included in your membership and you can head over for a day of fun!

Membership Levels

  • $69 One Adult
  • $89 Zoo for Two
  • $109 One Adult + children or grandchildren
  • $129 Household (2 Adults + children)

We love having a membership because if the weather is nice and the kids are bored, we can head to the zoo to get fresh air and sunshine! With a 5 and 10 year old, we are on year 3 of holding a membership.

Memberships make a great Christmas gift that you can all enjoy together. So consider asking your families to chip in for a family membership, which even includes a few free entries for grandparents, cousins and friends.

Virginia Zoo in Norfolk VA


Lafayette Park began its acquisition of animals in 1900, but did not officially become the Lafayette Zoological Park until 1901 when deemed a city park by the City of Norfolk.

Today, the Virginia Zoo spans 53 acres adjacent to Lafayette Park and is bordered by the Lafayette River. Zoo “residents” from around the world include more than 700 animals representing more than 150 different species. The Lafayette Zoological Park was accredited in 1974 and continues to adhere to the high standards set by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. In 1985, the park became the Virginia Zoological Park and is now called the Virginia Zoo

– Virginia Zoo History

Tips for Visiting the Virginia Zoo

  • Arrive early when it’s not crowded
  • The cooler months (fall, spring) are wonderful for enjoying the zoo to the fullest without the full heat of summer
  • We love to grab an early lunch before the rest of the visitors
  • If you are local, opt for the membership – it pays for itself
  • Snap a photo of the map kiosk so you can easily look up where you’re headed
  • Grab a spot on the bench by the large snake play area for kids and sit in the shade for a break
  • Take a train ride to rest your tired feet

Is Virginia Zoo Parking Free?

Parking is FREE at the Zoo. There is a large parking lot and even on busy days we’ve never not been able to fins a spot.

What Animals are at the Norfolk Virginia Zoo?

The Norfolk Zoo has many different animals that you can see. They have lions, tigers, bears, and monkeys. If you are looking for a place to take your family or friends, then the Norfolk Zoo is a great place to go.

Here’s a list of our favorite animal exhibits at the Virginia Zoo (but not exhaustive by any means):

  • African Lions
  • Alpaca
  • Black Bear
  • Bongo
  • Cheetah
  • Chinchilla
  • Hedgehog
  • Goats
  • Pigs
  • Primates
  • Giraffe
  • Otter
  • Tapir
  • Tiger
  • Red Panda
  • Sloth
  • Tortoise
  • Reptiles
  • Peacocks
  • Parrots
  • Eagle
VA Zoo map

Itinerary for the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk

It’s easy to do it all in a day at the Virginia Zoo- you can start at the beginning and make a loop, or bounce around to your must-see exhibits. Here’s how we like to do the Zoo.

9-9:30AM Arrival & Entrance

We like to start with the penny machine for a souvenir penny or two to commemorate the trip. Then we head to the left to walk through the Asia Tiger Trail.

After that, if the kids need a break, we loop back by the entrance and grab a ride on the train. All aboard!

11-11:30AM Early Lunch

By then we are hungry and head to the African Village Cafe dining hall to grab lunch or a snack. (Read our food review at the end of this post).

giraffes at virginia zoo

11:30-12PM African Delta / Giraffes

Continue along the trail to the giraffe exhibit where you’ll catch some shade and a breeze. We usually spend the most time at this exhibit because the giraffes are so active. It’s fun to watch them interact with each other, eat, and play.

There’s a great shaded walking path up to the “treehouse” that has benches. It’s a nice place to sit for a minute, drink some water and take photos of the giraffes in action.

On the way out of the giraffe trail, you’ll see rhinos, lions and zebras running wild (not together). You’ll end up at the bronze tortoise statue which is a great photo opportunity for the kids to sit on the statue & take a pic.

Next we follow the path to the Australian exhibits to see the kangaroo and emus. This area is mostly gardens, so the kids rush through, but it’s nice for a day date.

12:30PM Run Wild! Discovery Zone

This is such a fun play area. It’s a break from the walking. In a shaded alcove of the zoo park, there are tree stumps to climb and jump on, wooden musical instruments, the infamous homo sapiens cage, bamboo and sticks. You know quickly a stick can turn into part of your family that will be carried all the way home.

We truly enjoy stopping to play in this area for awhile!


1:00PM World of Reptiles

You will walk through the shade garden (snap a few pictures of what you plan to add to your yard) and grab a snack or water refill at the Beastro.

Next, the reptile house holds all of the dark creepy crawlys. I love to skip this part! But alas, the boys love the snakes and lizards. At least it’s air conditioned and out of the heat.

Once you come out of the reptile zone, you’ll run into the Zoo Farm.

1:30PM Zoo Farm

Next up is the Zoo Farm area- it’s farm animals like miniature cattle, goats, pigs, alpaca, sheep and peacocks. While it isn’t a petting zoo, most of the animals are close to the fence and like human attention and interaction- especially the goats.

alpaca at norfolk zoo
snake play area at virginia zoo

2:00PM Snavely

Lastly, we hit the Snavely, the 67 foot Rhinoceros viper snake sculpture that the kids can jump and balance on. We call it Anaconda because, Ice Cube, but I know that’s inaccurate.

This gives me a chance to sit in the shade on a bench or at the picnic tables while the kids jump on the snake and play with other kids. When it’s hot, the shade is a godsend.

2:30PM Dippin’ Dots & Gift Shop

We end the day with a Dippin’ Dots treat, bathroom break to wash our hands and faces before the trip home. Don’t forget to hit the gift shop for a momento.

Okay, we usually skip this part- but I have to admit we started collecting stickers from the Zoo’s and museums we visit and put them all on a plastic tub at home (that holds the dog food) so we them it everyday and remember the fun we had.

We also collect coffee mugs from museums and zoos, so there’s a collection of those too. But we only buy the first time we visit, then it’s skip the shop.

There you have it! A full, fun packed day at the Virginia Zoo. Here is a bulleted recap of the itinerary for your convenience in case you need a quick list instead of all the guts.

  • 9-9:30AM Arrival & Entrance
  • 11-11:30AM Early Lunch
  • 11:30-12PM African Delta / Giraffes
  • 12:30PM Run Wild! Discovery Zone
  • 1:00PM World of Reptiles
  • 1:30PM Zoo Farm
  • 2:00PM Snavely
  • 2:30PM Dippin’ Dots & Gift Shop

Activities at the Norfolk Virginia Zoo

In addition to walking through the gorgeous zoo campus and watching the animals, it’s easy to fill your day with fun around the zoo. Here’s a list of some of the other fun activities we enjoy while visiting:

  • Breakfast with the Animals ($8.95/person with membership)
  • Making a souvenir penny
  • Riding the zoo train
  • Keeper Chats insider information about the animals (Ask daily for schedule)
  • Walking through the feeding garden where fresh veggies are grown for the animals
  • Photo opp with the bronze tortoise
  • Playtime in the Run Wild Zone
  • Jumping on the HUGE snake in the shaded area near the Zoo Farm
  • Calling over goats in the Zoo Farm
  • Water Plaza – run through fountains at the entrance in the hot summer months
  • Gift shop! No trip is complete without spending $900 on another stuffed animal 😛


Where to Eat at the Zoo?

Multiple dining options meet all your food and beverage needs; from snacks to full-on lunches, the possibilities are endless. Gluten-free options available.

African Village Cafe – located at the entrance of Africa – Okavango Delta. *Outdoor seating and bathrooms are located here.

Beastro – located next to the World of Reptiles and Friends

Snack Shack – located in the Zoo’s Plaza and entrance

Dippin’ Dots– located near the Aldabra tortoise exhibit

Our Review of the Zoo Food

Usually we eat at the African Village Cafe where you can grab a snack or lunch. We opted for the hot dogs, chicken nuggets and fries and a popcorn. It was typical fried food, better than the dry chinese restaurant, comparable to Wendy’s.

But when you are hungry and hot from walking for hours, it tastes pretty good, ha! The chicken tender strips were better than the nuggets and the fries are fine when you add a little salt and ketchup.

Grab a souvenir cup full of caffeine so you have a drink in hand while walking the park. Don’t forget to wash it in the dishwasher once your home so that it’s warped and never sits level again (I know I’m not the only one who thinks hand wash is a “suggestion”).

Don’t forget to get Dippin’ Dots at the kiosk near the exit or over by the turtle sculpture! They come in these tear top bags that are easy to eat and toss.

dippin dots at the virginia zoo

Other great things to do with kids near the Virginia Zoo:

Virginia Zoo Itinerary for Spring 2023
Virginia Zoo things to Do
Virginia Zoo things to Do

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