5 Ways to Save Money at the Zoo

If you have visited a zoo recently, you know that it can be an expensive outing. Most zoo tickets start around $15-$20 for kids and go up from there. For our family of five, it was going to cost us $100 to go visit the zoo. And that was before parking! Since a zoo experience is something that all families should get to enjoy, I’ve come up with 5 ways to save money at the zoo!

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How to Save Money at the Zoo

Become a Member

The best way to save money at the zoo is to become a member. It is not the cheapest option at first, but the more times you go visit, the better the deal becomes. The three closest zoos to us are Knoxville, Cincinnati, and Louisville. Each of these zoos offer a yearly membership for 2 adults and the children in the family that costs around $100. Some of the packages include parking (if you pay a little more up front). There are packages for single parents with kids, grandparents so they can bring their grandchildren or other family option.

We have done the zoo membership several years in the past. The best way to decide if a zoo membership is for you is to figure out how many times you plan to use it. Our Cincinnati zoo membership will allow us to visit the zoo anytime we are visiting family in the northern KY area – even during the Christmas lights programs. Don’t forget to check into reciprocal zoo memberships. Many zoo memberships will allow you to visit other zoos for half off!


Since one visit was basically the same cost as a membership, it was a no-brainer for us! Now we can visit for ‘free’ anytime we want to go exploring.

Look for free days

Many zoos offer special events throughout the season. They may have free nights once a month starting after 4:00 or a special event where you get in free on the second Tuesday of the month if you donate canned goods. Call your closest zoo and ask about special community days.


Ask for Discounts

Some zoos offers rainy day discounts. If you are wanting to visit and the weather is bad, don’t be afraid to ask for a savings. Or if you have special circumstances such as taking an elderly grandparent through with the kids, ask for discounts on wheelchairs or admission. The worst thing that can happen is for the ticket office to say no.

But if you are at the zoo and it starts raining, don’t give up! There are many ways to have a great day at the zoo even if it’s raining!

Smithsonian National Zoo

Bring your own snacks

Kids will get hungry and want to snack while you are visiting the zoo. Cut down on expenses by carrying a backpack with your own water bottle or juice packs and something to snack on. We usually toss in a snack bar for each person in the family. You can pick up cooler backpacks that will keep your snacks cold till you’re ready for a break!

About halfway through our zoo visit, we will find a bench where we can sit and enjoy a snack. If we get hungry at other times, we keep a pack of gum to hand out to the family. This keeps us fueled but doesn’t require more money!

Talk about the Extras before you go!

If you are planning to save money, talk about the train, the carousel and the extra 4D rides before you enter the park. These things cost extra and are not necessary to the enjoyment of the visit. If you discuss this before you go inside the gates, you will not have to deal with the pressure that comes when you see the sparkly lights and hear the fun music. Save them for another special day.

How do you save money on a trip to the zoo? What’s your favorite Zoo to visit? Got a favorite animal? I’d love to hear from you!

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  1. Sharon, a number of years ago I had a family membership to the Louisville Zoo. With this membership we were allowed to visit the Cincinnati Zoo and the Aquarium in Northern Kentucky AND the St. Louis Zoo at no additional charge. We visited them all over a few years and had a wonderful time. There may have been other zoos included but these are the only ones we visited.

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