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Wild Encounters Des Moines’ Blank Park Zoo

Blank Park Zoo is a hidden gem that’s a bit off the beaten path in Des Moines, Iowa. My family is most familiar with the downtown area and, of course, Adventureland; however, we decided this summer, it was time to pay this zoo a visit. I’m glad we did! I just wish we had allowed more time to explore – we visited on the last day of a great weekend in Des Moines.

Disclosure: Our trip was hosted by Catch Des Moines, and this blog post originally appeared on All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

A young girl walks across a bridge inside the Discovery Center at Blank Park Zoo

You can explore the zoo in an afternoon – there are 49 acres of exhibits and facilities to see. Here are some of the things we discovered at the Des Moines zoo:

Not-to-miss animal encounters

Blank Park Zoo loads their summer days with animal encounters, keeper chats, feedings and more. You can see the feeding schedule here and the keeper chats/daily activities here. They are, of course, subject to change. Some of the weather-dependent animal feedings include feeding parakeets, camels, and the goats at Kid’s Kingdom. My family caught an educational program at the penguins, and the kids really enjoyed it.

A girl feeds giraffes at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines

Our favorite add-on with the animals was the giraffe feeding, which I thought was reasonably priced. It was $3 for one treat and $5 for three treats. I thought it was more fun getting up close to giraffes than camels.

Note: The giraffe and parakeet feeding open for the season on May 25, 2024.

Most unique ways to see animals

I appreciate it when a zoo finds an interesting way to get you (safely) close to animals to observe them. Two of my favorites were at Blank Park Zoo. There’s an underwater viewing area for the sea lion exhibit that was one of our favorites. The animals would swim past the windows frequently.

A girl sits by a window with an underwater view of the sea lion exhibit at Blank Park Zoo

My kids liked crawling through the prairie dog tunnels and popping their heads into the bubble in the exhibit. Parents: Only attempt crawling through them yourselves if you don’t mind looking super awkward.

Don’t skip the Blank Park Zoo’s play area

Having visited many Midwest zoos, there always seems to be a playground of some sort planted somewhere within. Blank Park Zoo has a fantastic space that’s tied in with its petting zoo. Don’t skip Kids Kingdom – there’s plenty of room to climb and play.

A kid raises her hands at the entrance of Kids Kingdom at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa

And so you don’t have disappointed kids, you’ll need some money to purchase a food cup so your kids can feed the goats and llamas.

How to get a discount to Blank Park Zoo

If you have a membership to a zoo that belongs to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, you may get 50 percent off admission. Visit this AZA Reciprocal Admission Program page for more details and to check to see if your zoo participates. It’s also a good idea to call ahead to be sure.

Learn more about the benefits of reciprocal programs for zoos, museums and botanical gardens!

Blank Park Zoo FAQs

Where is Blank Park Zoo?

Blank Park Zoo is in southwest Des Moines, a part of Greater Des Moines that’s a bit of a drive from other major attractions. The address is 7401 SW Ninth St., Des Moines. We’ve only visited the zoo once, in spite of visiting the city many times because of its distance.

Does Blank Park Zoo have an aquarium?

Yes, the Blank Park Zoo has an aquarium, as well as a 15,000-gallon salt water aquarium inside the Myron & Jackie Blank Discovery Center, among many other interesting exhibits and a waterfall. The Discovery Center is open year-round.

What are the zoo’s hours

The zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST.

Does Blank Park Zoo have elephants?

No, there are no elephants at Blank Park Zoo. Large animals at the zoo include Eastern Black Rhinoceros, African Lion, tigers, and reticulated giraffe.

Want to explore more of Des Moines?

Chances are good that if you have a visit to the zoo on your itinerary, you’re in Des Moines with kids. Here are a few more ideas for making the most of a family getaway to the city with youngsters in tow:

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