Location: Toronto, Ontario
Highlights: White lions, Mayan Temple exhibits, Polar bear pool
Children Friendly (8): So many sights for youngsters to see and do. Plenty of activities and child friendly events. Also has a children’s area with animals, jungle gyms, and a wet play area. Discounted admission for ages 4-12, and free under 4. Downside is that it is a very big zoo so little feet may get tired quite quickly, and a variety of the exhibits are hard to view the animals if you’re under a certain height.
Animal Diversity (10): Huge zoo boasting 450+ species and over 5000 individual specimens. They are not an aquatic zoo therefore they don’t have any whales, dolphins, seals, etc. but overall I feel that with such a wide variety of other animals representing so many different areas of the world and representing all 6 of the groups of animals I feel they deserve a 10.
Animal Viewing (8): Certain exhibits allow the animals many hiding spots, making them quite hard to find. As well, many exhibits only allow viewing from one side. There are always a variety of animals off display – however there are lists both on the website as well as at the gate before you enter (I did not deduct many points for this reason as well as the fact that due to the zoo’s size having one animal off display does not affect the entire experience greatly).
Animals Happiness (8): Most enclosures have a variety of enrichment activities for the animals to partake in as well as basic needs such as food, water, and shade. The animals seem well cared for and most do not show any obvious signs of stress. I have noticed instances of pacing in some of the larger carnivores.
Photography (7): As noted in Viewing, many of the exhibits have partial blockage or do not allow all angles to be accessed. Also a number of the exhibits have quite obstructive fencing (most notably the outdoor gorilla exhibit) and glass which makes it quite difficult to photograph through without glare (most notably the orangutan exhibit).
Layout/Map (7): The map is quite well done, showing silhouettes of animals over where they reside as well as being colour coded. Another great feature is showing where and when feeding times are in an easy to follow path of numbers with a legend at the bottom. The area where I deducted points is the layout. I do like that they followed a layout based on origins of the animals not on animal type; however, the long walking distance between these areas can be rough for younger children or the elderly (or everyone in the summer heat!). I also feel the walk and steep hill to the Canadian domain discourages many people on visiting it, therefore missing out on some great exhibits. The long walk in Eurasia also tempts many people to skip this section.
Hours (10): Open at the same time every day year round is fantastic, as well they have generous closing times. Extended hours during the summer, spring/fall weekends and March break is great for families.
Price (8): As mentioned in the Children sections, discounts are great for kids. A general admission of $20 plus $10 parking won’t break the bank especially for the amount of animals and activities to take part in. The membership options (10 different ones!) are amazing and I would definitely recommend one of them to anyone planning on going to the zoo at least twice a year. The food may cost you as much as admission if you partake in all the goodies offered.
Food (8): Quite a bit of variety from sandwiches and salads to burgers and popcorn. It’s what you would expect from an outing at an entertainment area with a couple of bonus’ such as the Beavertails stands and a licensed patio.
Website (10): Awesome website! Provides so much information from events and news updates, to conservation initiatives and facts about the zoo. Easy to navigate, has plenty of pictures and information, and is updated frequently.
Gift Shop (10): Having more than one, and all being large allows for less crowded areas during the busy season. They have great variety in the gift shops and items are frequently on sale. They also have an area selling uniquely African souvenirs and gifts.
Quiet Areas (8): Quite a few of these throughout the park. Although I knocked the distance between areas in the Layout, it does provide for many quiet areas to sit and enjoy some peace and quiet or regroup. Eating areas can get quite busy, but there are picnic benches or park benches along most pathways.
Safety/Cleanliness (9): I’ve always found this zoo quite clean. I rarely see garbage lying about or food everywhere. All exhibits appear to be well taken care of with no signs of being rundown or safety issues of animals escaping.
Extras (8): There are always plenty of events that the Toronto Zoo hosts or is a part of. They do have camps and fundraisers throughout the year (bonus not just having them in the summer!). I would like to maybe see some more activities aimed towards the adults (talks, conservation information sessions, etc).
Overall (8.5): LOTS of animals (which means lots of babies year-round), exceptional hours making for great off season visits, upgrading and welcoming more species/individuals all the time. I would highly recommend this zoo for every visitor. Great for families, young adults, seniors, and everyone else!