Why We Love The Utica Zoo
For most people who have grown up in this area, there’s a good chance you’ve visited the Utica Zoo. Maybe it was on a field trip when you were little or maybe it’s because you have little ones of your own now. Or maybe you’ve never been but you keep hearing about it! Wherever you stand, it’s OK.
The Utica Zoo has undergone some major transformations over the past 5+ years and has even bigger plans in their future. Most recently, they became AZA Accredited which recognizes institutions that meet the highest professional standards for animal welfare, scientific education and staff training. This is a huge deal and we’re so proud of this accreditation!
As someone who works in tourism, I’ve been to the Utica Zoo a LOT for events, tours and with media. Their goal is to create unique experiences and promote public appreciation of wildlife through education, conservation and recreation. They host a multitude of events throughout the year. What I’ve learned from visiting and from working with the Zoo is that you can be ANY age to enjoy it. From snow shoeing to Brewfest to educational programs, there’s something for everyone.
So what kind of events do they host? Most recently, I went there for a Young Professionals Mixer. I wasn’t sure what to expect since it was the end of March but I wanted to show support and all I have to say is WOW! It was an awesome evening with tons of people and the Zoo went all out. There was catered food from A Moveable Feast, a fire pit, a place to roast marshmallows, outdoor heaters and beautiful furniture to lounge on. They even brought some animals out to interact!
The next major event being hosted at the Utica Zoo is the Annual Eggstravaganza. This year, it’s literally all about the egg! This event is totally family-friendly and is happening on Saturday, April 20 from 10am-3pm. Kids will be able to meet the Easter Bunny but there’s also an education factor! They’ll have the opportunity to explore and celebrate the many different species of animals that lay eggs and how truly different and unique each egg can be. There will also be animal meet and greets, egg enrichment for the animals and more! Don’t forget the bring your basket for the (optional) egg hunt! For more info and to RSVP, click HERE.
Some other signature events are Wine in the Wilderness (every June) and Brewfest (every August). Both take place on Saturday evenings during the summer and bring in an array of vendors from across the state. There’s always great food and drinks and it’s a super unique way to experience the Zoo. I personally love Wine in the Wildnerness and my game plan is usually to try some samples of wine, buy a bottle with my friends and hang out by the goats. Not many people can say they’ve done something like that! Brewfest is a very similar concept but with more breweries than wineries. Stay tuned throughout the next few months as they release more information on these two events!
The Utica Zoo also focuses on children’s education programs. Tomorrow, for example, they’re hosting a Zoo Adventures STEM Academy Spring Session. These sessions cater to a young child’s natural curiosity about the world and how it works. The STEM Academy introduces little learners to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math by engaging them in age-appropriate activities that focus on conservation, habitats and animals. Classes are interactive and may include live animal encounters, stories, crafts and nature play. The event tomorrow will look at Pollinators on Parade (bees, insects and hummingbirds) and kids can learn how they help grow our plants and flowers!
Another event tomorrow (4/18) is Night Prowl. The full moon in April is called the Pink Moon because some bright pink flowers typically bloom around this time. Head to the Zoo so your kiddos can look and listen for signs of spring! There will be animal meet and greets, zoo tours by moonlight and a fire with marshmallows to roast. There are so many other educational programs that the Zoo hosts like summer camps, school break sessions and more. Check out upcoming dates and programs here!
A major focus of the Zoo is conservation. Some people may question zoos and wonder about animal treatment. To give you a quick education with info from the Utica Zoo’s website, “ex-situ conservation is the process of protecting an endangered species of plant or animal outside of its natural habitat. SSP (Species Survival Plan) programs are designed by AZA to manage captive populations of threatened and endangered species within North American zoos and aquariums and are one of the primary ways the global zoo community is working to combat extinction. Sometimes, this means the zoo is asked to breed a species to help increase their numbers. In others, in means just providing homes to animals that are not in a breeding program or are otherwise not able to be released into the wild due to injury or human intervention.” Some SSP animals at the Utica Zoo are red pandas, ring-tailed lemurs, Mexican wolves, California sea lions and many more!
One super cool way to experience the Zoo is through animal encounters. These allow you to get up close and personal with some of the animals and there are different types of packages available! Encounters last approximately 30 minutes and are always overseen by a member of their Animal Care Staff who can answer your questions. Visitors can go inside the lion’s den for a behind-the-scenes look at their three African Lions. Or if you’re more of a Red Panda person, you can hand-feed them their favorite treat! Other animals include California Sea Lions, Bactrian Camels and Nigerian Dwarf Goats.
Overall, there’s far more to the Utica Zoo than what meets the eye. Working in this job has given me an appreciation for what the Zoo offers to all types of visitors. I was astonished to learn that some of their animals were injured and would not survive on their own in the wild. It’s amazing that the Zoo can help care for and protect these animals. It’s also incredible to see the variety of events offered. Whether you have children who you want to learn with hands-on experiences and educational programs or you want a night out with friends sampling local beers or wines while being surrounded by nature, chances are you can find something to do!