A panel of industry experts and editors at USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice Awards has chosen the North Carolina Zoo as a nominee for Best Zoo.  We are excited and honored to be a nominee. You can vote once daily from February 5th to March 4th. 

Vote for us by visiting https://10best.usatoday.com/awards/travel/best-zoo-2024/north-carolina-zoo-asheboro-north-carolina/

Reasons to vote for the North Carolina Zoo

The North Carolina Zoo is one of only two state-supported zoos, so know that YOUR STATE ZOO is up for this award. It’s our 50th Anniversary, so we want to go for the gold!

Mission: The North Carolina Zoo’s mission is to protect wildlife and wild places and inspire the conservation of the natural world.

Unique Destination: The Zoo welcomes more than one million guests yearly who enjoy outdoor family-friendly adventures, such as Zoofari, Giraffe Feeding, Carousel, and a colorful butterfly garden. The North Carolina Zoo is in the heart of North Carolina, about seven miles south of Asheboro, and is open daily all year long, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. The North Carolina Zoo is a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, State of North Carolina, and is only one of two state-supported zoos nationally.

The Zoo has two main entrances and parking lots: North America and Africa. A global Desert dome is in the center of the Zoo. The original plan for the North Carolina Zoo envisioned wildlife from all continents. In 2022, the Zoo broke ground on the Asia region, with an anticipated completion date of 2026. In late 2023, the Governor and state legislature funded $60 million towards a replacement Aviary, and plans for Australia are underway. The Zoo runs a full Veterinary hospital, Commissary, and multiple greenhouses to support these animals and plants. Around 305 permanent state employees work at the Zoo, and combined with the Zoo Society and the on-site food services vendor, the total employee number rises to around 700. This provides an economic impact of around $180 million a year, expected to rise to $300 million with increasing attendance.

Many guests spend four to five hours at the Zoo, offering excellent value for the cost. Other amenities include public picnic sites overlooking lakes, free parking, and free transportation around the Zoo. Five miles of shaded trails provide guests with a healthy walking tour.

Learning: The Zoo is a beloved community resource that offers quality-of-life experiences for all our guests through first-class educational programming and unique guest experiences, such as face-to-face encounters with chimps, gorillas, cougars, and more. Informal learning programs reach children of all ages, and the Zoo excels at creating fun and engaging activities and animal encounters. Over 90,000 registered NC School groups visit the Zoo free yearly.

Animal Care and Wellness: The North Carolina Zoo’s dedicated team of experts provides exceptional, compassionate care for more than 1,700 animals found at the North Carolina Zoo.

Wildlife Conservation: Another vibrant program the Zoo leads is SMART, an anti-poaching program used in more than 80 countries globally. Working with wildlife parks worldwide, the award-winning SMART program has proven to reduce poaching in the wild. The Zoo also leads regional wildlife conservation efforts, including hellbenders, American red wolves, gopher frogs, and longleaf pine habitat. Guests help these wildlife conservation efforts by simply visiting the North Carolina Zoo—their entry fee helps save wildlife and wild places.

Sustainability: The Zoo’s award-winning sustainability program runs deep with an impressive composting facility, farm-to-table dining options, recycling, and more energy-efficient equipment like electric vehicles. The Zoo won the 2021 top award from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.