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A Review: The Virginia Zoo

Updated on January 11, 2016

Where is it?

3500 Granby Street Norfolk VA, 23504

A little About the Zoo

This is a neat little zoo. Sure, its not as big as the National Zoo in Washington DC or Henry Doorly in Omaha, NE, but this is a very nice zoological park none the less. It as the classic zoo animals like lions, tigers, giraffes, and elephants. But, it also has a wide array of local animals too. Like many zoos in the United States the Virginia Zoo is accredited by the AZA (Association of zoos and aquariums). This means that the Norfolk Zoo follows strict guidelines when it comes to animal care and health.

The Virginia Zoo is broken up into several parts: Asia, Africa, Australia, North America, the petting farm, and the small animals house.

Asia

This is one of my favorite exhibit collections. The Asia section of the zoo was recently renovated and you can tell that a lot of time and money went into making this section better. There are various species of primates, including the ever popular orangutans. There are tigers. There are even small clawed Asian otters, which are always a big hit with children. There are birds throughout the section, some are quite colorful.

One of my favorite exhibits is the red panda exhibit. The exhibit is open all around you. Its like you are up in the trees with the red pandas. I've very rarely seen these animals move, but when they do its amazing to watch them walk about the trees with ease.

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One of the two tigers at the zoo. Two of the zoo's red pandas A sign from when the area was under construction/One of the many species of bird found on the Asia trailA red panda sleeping in the treesMore red pandas sleeping in treesThe hornbill is one of the many species of bird found in the area of the zoo. This sign makes me laugh every time I see it. But, it is true, Tapirs can spray their urine, and it smells.
One of the two tigers at the zoo.
One of the two tigers at the zoo.
Two of the zoo's red pandas
Two of the zoo's red pandas
A sign from when the area was under construction/
A sign from when the area was under construction/
One of the many species of bird found on the Asia trail
One of the many species of bird found on the Asia trail
A red panda sleeping in the trees
A red panda sleeping in the trees
More red pandas sleeping in trees
More red pandas sleeping in trees
The hornbill is one of the many species of bird found in the area of the zoo.
The hornbill is one of the many species of bird found in the area of the zoo.
This sign makes me laugh every time I see it. But, it is true, Tapirs can spray their urine, and it smells.
This sign makes me laugh every time I see it. But, it is true, Tapirs can spray their urine, and it smells.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
A giraffe inside the enclosure for giraffes and elephants.An elephant in a behavioral training session.A fennec foxThe female and juvenile giraffeOne of the many zebra.The bongo breeding program has been rather successful.The giraffesThe lionsThe male lion sleeping on the heated rock.
A giraffe inside the enclosure for giraffes and elephants.
A giraffe inside the enclosure for giraffes and elephants.
An elephant in a behavioral training session.
An elephant in a behavioral training session.
A fennec fox
A fennec fox
The female and juvenile giraffe
The female and juvenile giraffe
One of the many zebra.
One of the many zebra.
The bongo breeding program has been rather successful.
The bongo breeding program has been rather successful.
The giraffes
The giraffes
The lions
The lions
The male lion sleeping on the heated rock.
The male lion sleeping on the heated rock.

Africa

In this section you will find classics like: lions, giraffes, and elephants. But, you will also find some more rare creatures like the bongo, which is an endangered species. There are also fennec foxes, ostriches, zebra, and a white rhinoceros. The giraffes and elephants have an indoor enclosure that is open to the public, this means that you can see training sessions with these animals. If you ever have the chance to watch exotic animals in a training session I suggest you take it.

This is also the section of the park where you will find the zoo cafe. It has typical theme park food and is reasonably priced. There is plenty of seating both inside and outside. This area is also home to the new veterinary building.

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Australia and North America

There aren't very many exhibits for these two groups. Lets face it, in a zoo that is located in North America many visitors don't want to see local animals. They want to exotics, so the species native to North America are often left out of many zoos. At the Virginia Zoo you will find a few iconic animals: the bald eagle, bison, and prairie dogs.

As far as Australian animals go there really isn't much variety. There are some kangaroos and emus. It is entertaining to watch the kangaroos hop around if you happen to walk by while they are awake. They recently renovated the Australia exhibit. Guests are now able to walk through with the animals. Some of the animals will get rather close to the walking trail, while other stay away. It is a neat experience and allows guests to get up close and personal with the animals.

The Pond

The zoo is bordered by the Layette River. There is a natural inlet that goes right inside the zoo grounds. This is where you will find a lot of native wildlife. All of the animals that you see are wild and have come in on their own free will. There are turtles, fish, frogs, and many species of birds. There are sometimes of the year when you will even see swans passing through.

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Emus in the Australia area of the zoo. Kangaroos and wallabies A bald eagle eating a fishA species of giant tortoise enjoying carrotsA local species of tree frog outside of one of the exhibits.native species of turtles basking on the logs near the pod.The zoo's two bald eagles.Swans at the pond in the zoo.
Emus in the Australia area of the zoo.
Emus in the Australia area of the zoo.
Kangaroos and wallabies
Kangaroos and wallabies
A bald eagle eating a fish
A bald eagle eating a fish
A species of giant tortoise enjoying carrots
A species of giant tortoise enjoying carrots
A local species of tree frog outside of one of the exhibits.
A local species of tree frog outside of one of the exhibits.
native species of turtles basking on the logs near the pod.
native species of turtles basking on the logs near the pod.
The zoo's two bald eagles.
The zoo's two bald eagles.
Swans at the pond in the zoo.
Swans at the pond in the zoo.

The Petting Farm and Small Animals House

This area of the zoo was recently renovated. The petting zoo is home to various barnyard species where kids and adults can get up close and personal with the animals. The goats are a big draw and are rather friendly. There are several peacocks that roam freely around the zoo grounds, do not try to pet these birds.

The small animal house is home to many species of reptiles and mammals. Many of the mammals that you will find in this area are nocturnal so the areas where they are are kept dark. The zoo was kind enough to have two entrances, one where you can view all of the animals and one for people that wish to avoid the reptiles and giant spiders.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This sign from the older exhibit always made me laughLlamas resting in the cold of winter.A small species of hoofed mammal.Armadillos are very hard to get pictures of when the are moving.One of the many peacocks that roam the zoo.The renovated petting farm area.Many of the goats came running over to us when we walked in the enclosure.
This sign from the older exhibit always made me laugh
This sign from the older exhibit always made me laugh
Llamas resting in the cold of winter.
Llamas resting in the cold of winter.
A small species of hoofed mammal.
A small species of hoofed mammal.
Armadillos are very hard to get pictures of when the are moving.
Armadillos are very hard to get pictures of when the are moving.
One of the many peacocks that roam the zoo.
One of the many peacocks that roam the zoo.
The renovated petting farm area.
The renovated petting farm area.
Many of the goats came running over to us when we walked in the enclosure.
Many of the goats came running over to us when we walked in the enclosure.

Overall

This is a very respectable little zoo. You can tell that the animals are well cared for and the exhibits are kept up nicely. In the summer there are a lot of places to get snacks, but in the off season there is only the cafe at the back of the zoo. There are plenty of places for kids to play, and many interactive exhibits. The zoo has a large staff of volunteers that are able to inform guests about the animals in the zoo's collection. There is a beautiful garden between the North America and Australia exhibits that is filled with color.

There is only one gift shop at the zoo. Personally, I was not too impressed with the selection of items found in the gift shop, but I also do not have young children. I am more interested in home good things and there are few of them at the gift shop. However, I was very pleased to see that the zoo features artwork created by some of its animals in the gift shop. These unique pieces of art are very reasonably priced. I was able to get a large (19.5 by 25) painting that one of the elephants had done for only $40. How many people do you know have elephant art in their home?


If you would like more information on the Virginia Zoo you can visit their website here.

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    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      It is very interesting. I used to visit zoo when I was a child about 50 years ago in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. I love zoos.

      Thanks for sharing about this Virginia Zoo with beautiful photos which remind me my childhood.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for this interesting review of the Virginia Zoo and for sharing the photos. I have mixed feelings about zoos, but the best ones that provide good habitats for the animals can certainly be very educational. They also have a role to play in breeding endangered animals. I was glad to read that the animals in the Virginia Zoo seemed to be well cared for.