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It's a zoo, in Amarillo

Monkey Island is the home for many black-handed spider monkeys.
Monkey Island is the home for many black-handed spider monkeys.
Photo by Janda Raker

Do you want to go to the zoo? But don’t want to go to San Diego, Washington, D.C. or San Antonio? How about Amarillo? Come check out the Amarillo Zoo.

Black-handed spider monkeys enjoy their home at the Amarillo Zoo.
Photo by Janda Raker

Fifteen acres of landscaped habitat, with large elms and mature spruce trees, as well as rolling prairie, provide plenty of room for even the buffalo, actually American bison, to roam. The twenty-seven species of mammals include bobcats, kangaroos and pronghorn, often called antelope. One favored exhibit is the monkey island with trees, ropes and a moat to prevent escape.

The herpetarium houses thirty-five species of reptiles, including anacondas, pythons and turtles, and five species of amphibians, with toads, frogs and salamanders. The various types of birds include macaws and a peacock. A few of the critters, like several tarantulas, scorpions, parrots and cockatoos are not housed in the general exhibit areas but are kept in the education building to be shown in special programs. (Click here for information.)

In existence since 1955, the zoo has been has been through several incarnations, beginning early on with monkeys, mountain lions, and, sad to say, a beloved elephant who died as a result of being fed bread including its plastic bag, by visitors. Later the zoo was limited to animals from the High Plains area. But now it has more than 100 animals of 60 species, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects from all over the world, including, yes, lions, tigers and bears, oh my.

The zoo is owned by the City of Amarillo and is supported by the Amarillo Zoological Society, as well as entrance fees, which are $4, with seniors for $3 and kids under age 12 for $2. Tots under 2 get in free. And Mondays there’s no charge for anyone. Hours are from 9:30 to 5, every day, except for four national holidays. (Click here for more info.) With Amarillo’s changeable weather, even throughout winter many days are good for a visit. A nice playground provides a place for youngsters to run and climb.

A concession stand is open most of the year, providing snack foods and beverages. Snacks from outside are not allowed because of litter and potential health issues if the animals eat human treats. The park is ADA accessible, and wheelchairs can be borrowed at the front gate. Restrooms are available.

The Amarillo Zoo is part of Thompson Park, one of Amarillo’s most elaborate and one of the largest municipal parks in the Texas Panhandle, at 330 acres. It’s located west of North I-27, near the intersection with North 24th Ave. (Follow signs. Click here for details.) Thompson Park includes a very good amusement park, swimming pool, Frisbee golf course, several playgrounds, tennis courts, fishing ponds and many shaded picnic areas, some reservable for large groups, birthday parties, family reunions and other entertaining events. For a fun outing, head to Thompson Park and the Amarillo Zoo.