ASHEBORO, NC ­­— Boosted by a mild February and popular seasonal offerings such as Zoofari and Air Hike Ropes Course, the North Carolina Zoo established a new attendance record in 2017 as 860,148 guests came through its gates.

The previous mark was 840,410, set in 1994. The Zoo, which opened in 1974, began tracking attendance in 1981. The calendar-year mark for 2017 represents a 7.9 percent increase from 2016 when 797,159 guests were welcomed.

“We’re thrilled that more visitors than ever enjoyed all that this wonderful Park offers,” says Pat Simmons, the Zoo’s executive director. “Never have guests had so many things to see and do, whether they were only able to visit for a few hours or fortunate enough to stay a few days.”

The Zoo also set a single-day attendance mark on April 15, when 15,250 guests celebrated Good Friday as a perfect kickoff to the Easter weekend.

In addition to Zoofari and Air Hike, a much-talked-about new opportunity in 2017 was Dragonfly Paddle Boats, where guests experienced the Zoo’s scenic North America Lake as never before in an immersive paddle boat experience. All three offerings will return this April and will be available daily through October.

The Zoo’s five highest attendance years:

2017              860,148

1995              840,410

1994              811,655

2016              797,159

1997              764,720 

A testament to the Zoo’s continually growing presence as a premier destination is that it again has been awarded Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence for 2018. A similar honor was received in 2017, a year in which the Zoo also was voted No. 1 “Best Day Trip” by both GoTriad and the Winston-Salem Journal.


About the North Carolina Zoo

At the North Carolina Zoo, we celebrate nature. As the world’s largest natural habitat Zoo, we inspire a lifelong curiosity about animals for the hundreds of thousands of people who visit our Zoo each year. Our dedicated team of experts provides exceptional, compassionate care for the more than 1,600 animals and 52,000 plants that call our Park home. We also lead efforts locally and globally to protect wildlife and wild places because we believe nature’s diversity is critical for our collective future. The North Carolina Zoo invites all of our guests to witness the majesty of the wild in the heart of North Carolina and welcomes everyone to join in our mission to protect nature’s diversity. Visit to begin your life-changing journey.

About the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.

NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the North Carolina Zoo, the nation's first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call 919- 807-7300 or visit