Nestled on Cheyenne Mountain lies the #4 (2020) best zoo in America, yes, in the whole country! The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo! You’d never think a top 10 zoo would be in a place like Colorado Springs, but here it is in the Broadmoor area. What I love about this zoo is the ambiance and the scenery. This zoo doesn’t just offer a great up-close experience with a wide variety of animals, but it also offers fantastic panoramic views. As the zoo is (quite literally) on the mountain, the higher you go up, the better the view. At the highest points you get an absolutely breathtaking view of the city and the entire zoo. In many ways it doesn’t even feel like a zoo if it weren’t for the hippos, tigers and bears there.
The drive to the zoo itself is a pleasant experience as you go up the mountain. The Broadmoor area is beautiful, it has spectacular homes, beautiful landscaping and greenery, oh, and of course- ridiculously awesome mountain views! When you have your ticket scanned to get in, they do something special. They give you coins that represent a donation you can give to the conservation of an animal of your choice that is represented at the zoo. They have these tall boxes with pictures of different species and you can decide which species you want to “donate to”. It’s a great way to engage guests and help guests feel like they’re personally making a difference. The “donations” actually are given to the cause, it’s not just symbolic. Awesome!
Our first stop once we got in was the giraffes. All throughout the zoo, there are plenty of opportunities to feed and engage with some of the animals, giraffes are one of the most popular stops for people to do so. You can feed them lettuce. Because the giraffes know this, it’s easy to get an up-close experience even if you don’t have lettuce to give. But, in honesty, many will often blow you off the moment they realize you don’t have an offering for them. You must earn their affection… with lettuce! Even though we didn’t have an offering to our great giraffe friends, we still got a few friendly interactions and cuddles.
Just a quick overview of the different zones of the zoo, they are: Encounter Africa, African Rift Valley, Australia Walkabout, the Loft, Bear Grotto, Primate World, Rocky Mountain Wild, Asian Highlands, My Big Backyard and Monkey Pavilion. Zones are color coded and there are tons of signs directing you where to go, even the most directionally challenged will be ok here. I won’t go into the details of describing every animal there, I’ll discuss my favorite personal experiences. Just to note, I skipped the reptile house! I love lizards and amphibians, but any house that has snakes is an absolute hell-to-the-no for me. While my friend explored that area, I checked out the snow leopard in Asian Highlands where I felt safer.
The BIGGEST highlight of our trip, a definite highlight of my entire life experience as well, was getting to feed and pet Matilda the wallaby. Much to my surprise, when you enter the Australia Walkabout there are a series of gates to get in. And that’s because there are wallabies hopping around free to roam. We were pretty much in love with these little sweet creatures. One of the zookeepers could tell how endeared we were to them that after we finished feeding the budgie birds she asked if we would be interested in feeding the wallabies. There was no hesitation just a very enthusiastic “eeek” sound followed by a loud “YES!” We were introduced to the very friendly Matilda and we fed her peanuts. She was super gentle and a total sweetheart. She had no problem letting us pet her and she was very affectionate. My heart melted! I was in heaven, I’m fairly sure I heard angels singing I was so elated. But this perfect moment, alas, could not last forever sadly. As we said goodbye to our new Aussie friend, we were pretty much shedding tears of joy. You can’t beat that experience. Petting giraffes, feeding budgies, and feeding and petting a wallaby- what could be next?! Feeding elephants lettuce?! Yes, please! I love elephants, they are truly the gentle giants of this earth and absolute goofballs. Unfortunately, we got to the elephants at 2:45 and the final feeding time was 2:30! Of course! O well, guess we’ll just have to come back again, the zoo is only 8 miles from us!
Other noteworthy and super cute animal experiences, in my opinion, were the new baby orangutan “Kera” cuddling with her mommy and showing off her awesome climbing skills, the meerkats chasing each other with their little paws, the sloths sleeping in their hammocks above guests’ heads and waking up to say hello to us, the big cats (especially the snow leopard and tiger) and the Asiatic black bears (who resemble my Newfoundland, Nixie). You get a lot of variety of species at this zoo. And the zoo offers a lot of close encounter experiences for guests, many of which you don’t have to pay extra for. This zoo is truly a great value, it’s not expensive. The animals are in huge enclosures and are given lots of enrichment, which is important for their happiness and fulfillment! I was impressed. I’m a firm believer that zoos should not exist solely for human entertainment but should also serve a greater purpose for conservation, rehabilitation of animals, educating people, encouraging the protection of wildlife, engaging peoples’ compassion and empathy for all creatures and for focusing on the happiness of all the animals. I could see this zoo is built on a great love and empathy for all creatures.
Some other great features of this zoo are the Mountaineer Sky Ride, which is basically a ski lift that takes you from the bottom to the top of the zoo (up and down the mountain) and offers breathtaking views, and the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, which is a strange-looking tower 1.4 miles from the entrance, over 8,000 ft above sea level. The Shrine of the Sun gives you perfect views of the Springs and the Pikes Peak area. Zoo admission gets you in! There are several “stations”, we will call them, where there are steps or elevators that help you get to the next “level” of the zoo. You go higher up as you explore the zoo, so you find yourself getting a better view as you keep going. One of my favorite views is in Encounter Africa where there is a long bridge leading to the Elephant Barn (this is where they house and take care of the elephants). You get that total, complete panoramic view of the city on the bridge all around you. You can see it all. It really gives you an appreciation for the architects and designers of this zoo that they have created this fantastic experience with the animals in a beautiful setting and gorgeous views AND on the side of a mountain. It really is a unique and innovative design. You come to see the animals AND come to see the views! If you’re a fan of taking photos, it won’t just be the animals you’re going to want to capture at this place. This zoo is so well thought out and lovingly accomplished for a perfect experience for all creatures who come to this place. Well done, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo! I definitely can see why you’re nationally ranked. 😊