Adventure In Our Own Backyard: Zoo Knoxville


I really wanted to get a season pass to a theme park or kid-centric fun place this year to give us more encouragement to get out of the house. I couldn’t decide where until about May 2017. Requirements were: lots of fun, toddler-friendly, kettle corn, affordable, and great for all seasons.

I settled on a family pass to Zoo Knoxville and I’m going to tell you why:

1. Close to home

It’s less than 45 minutes from our house in Campbell County on a normal day. Traveling further on a regular basis with a toddler is pushing it for me. For Knoxvillians, the zoo is a hop and a skip away.

2. We can pack a lunch and take it in

Kids are picky, especially mine. Being able to take in only her favorite foods is a major win and it’s budget friendly. 

3. Affordable pass options

One size does not fit all. Zoo Knoxville offers five different annual pass options to accommodate what will work best for your family. The package we settled on comes with two free guest tickets, 10 free carousel rides, and an “add a guest” feature which means that we can take someone besides my husband or me for free every time we go. Friends and family who aren’t frequent visitors, like us, love this perk!

4. Discounts

We get 15% off all our food, drinks, and merchandise with our passes. Additionally, there are discounts for birthday parties, seasonal events, Ripley’s Attractions in Sevierville, TN, as well as Dollywood and Dollywood Splash Country visits.

5. Parking

Members with an annual pass get to park for free. I’m also not breathing heavily when I walk from the lower parking lot, assuming I skipped the trolley.

6. Events

Zoo Knoxville offers tons of events year round. Some favorites are: Hogwarts Adventure, Boo! at the Zoo, and Santa’s Village. Some events are posted on their website but you can get a full update of events and reminders by liking their Facebook page

7. Splash pad with shaded seating

In the summertime, this is amazing. She plays, I sit. And take an unnecessary amount of photos of her running through water. 

8. Annual pass

This made all the difference for me. As I said before, I couldn’t make a decision until May. Since the Zoo pass is annual, meaning 365 days from the day of purchase, this sealed the deal for us knowing we could get our money’s worth with a full calendar year. Zoo Knoxville is open year round, only closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 

Now that you know why I purchased an annual pass prior to experiencing Zoo Knoxville, here’s why we are going to get them again and again: unlimited fun

The animal exhibits are fantastic, and we visit most of them each time we’re at the Zoo, but it’s the “extras” that keep us coming back. With a pass, we don’t have to get everything done in one day, and that automatically reduces the mother stress level by 10. There are so many fun areas, it’s hard not to want to devote an entire day to one place. 

  • Nature Play 

    Run through bamboo, skip on stumps, or watch an interesting show. Right next door are the train and the camel rides, which we frequent. It is $3 per ride on the train and $5 per ride with the camels. Zoo Knoxville offers an experience wristband, which I highly recommend; at $10 for members, it provides unlimited rides on the train, camels, and carousel. 

  • Wee Play

    An indoor interactive area (complete with a nursing mother’s room, yay!) to stimulate the imagination, get to know some reptiles, and hide from a rain shower. 

  • Kids Cove

    A ginormous sandbox, rope climbing, slides, a little creek — need I say more? Yes? There are chickens, goats to pet, a bird area where you can hold a parakeet, and nocturnal animals so you can see how absolutely adorable baby skunks are when you can’t smell them. Up the hill is the carousel, which is a major crowd-pleaser in this family and is $1 per ride for Zoo members (unless you purchased an experience wristband which means you will ride the carousel 42 times).

  • Other fun activities aside from the designated play areas and animal visits are giraffe encounters, the splash pad, the bird show, and other daily animal encounters that are free with general admission.

What are your favorite activities to do at Zoo Knoxville? Are we missing any great experiences? Let me know! 



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