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Tampa Bay Day Trip: Lowry Park Zoo

This is one of the top attractions in Tampa and one of the best zoos in America, winning multiple awards. It costs $24.95 for adult admission and $19.95 for kids. But I’ve also found some strategies for getting in cheaper, or even for free! Woot!

It was a rainy day when we went. We brought ponchos and were prepared to get wet. But then the rainclouds held. Which I guess was okay, even though I was secretly hoping to play in the rain. Anyways…

I’ve toured the zoo many times (wife has an annual pass + a guest pass, my boy is free), but this was the first time I had sense to bring the camera and get some good pictures. Later in the post we’ll talk about your visit and how you can do it too, on the cheap.

So let’s get started…

Getting there: From I-275, take exit 48 (Sligh Ave). Go west on Sligh Ave for 0.9 miles. The Lowry Park Zoo entrance will be on your right. Here’s the address for those of you who just want to punch it into your GPS and be done with it: 1101 West Sligh Avenue, Tampa, FL 33604.

First off, parking is free. Hallelujah! Thank you Lowry Park Zoo for not falling in line with everybody else and charging an arm and a leg to park the car. I feel it makes a good impression on new visitors. I know it makes me feel happy, most of my visits start off with me looking like this:

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Yup, that’s me. A pretty happy-go-lucky guy (reader’s note: I’m not quite sure why, but as I was typing this my wife’s eyes rolled. Hmmm…strange. She must have something stuck in them). Anyway, Lowry Park Zoo has way too many things for me to go into minute detail about. So instead, I’ve selected my five favorite sections of the park. Here we go:

#5. PRIMATES

Lowry Park Zoo has a good selection of primate habitats to choose from. My favorite is the Bornean Orangutans. There’s some old ones and young ones and lazy ones and playful ones. Red and harry, these guys are fun to watch for their play and social interactions. Sadly, the Bornean Orangutan is an endangered species due to habitat destruction and the pet trade.

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The orangutans have clothes in the habitat to wear if they want. This one is putting on a shirt.

The orangutans have clothes in the habitat to wear if they want. This one is putting on a shirt to stay cozy.

 #4. STINGRAY BAY

At Stingray Bay visitors get to pet stingrays. Don’t worry. They are harmless. They have been de-stung. If you want you can buy some food for feedings. If you do, it feels like feeding a soggy vacuum cleaner. Sluuuuurrrrrp!

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Here, I demonstrate perfectly to my son the two-fingered sting ray petting technique.

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Here he is. Fast learner. We had to get his swim gear on first though.

#3. SPLASH PAD

The Billabong splash pad is in the zoo’s kid section, Wallaroo Station. It’s Australian themed, has water, rides, and kiddy animal attractions; like the petting zoo or pony ride. I find it’s usually a pretty good halfway point when touring the zoo. Gives my son time to run around like a maniac and to work off some energy.

The leaky wall. One of many things that can get kids wet.

The leaky wall. One of many things that can get kids wet.

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Here we are, just hangin’ around!

#2. MANATEES

This rivals my #1 choice, not just because of the animal in question, but because of the facility and what it means. Lowry Park Zoo operates the world’s only non-profit manatee hospital. To date, the hospital has cared for over 330 manatees. Visitors can view the manatees from above in the amphitheater or from below the waterline in a tunnel. And if you didn’t know, Florida loves their manatees.

View from the amphitheater.

View from the amphitheater.

One of the hospital pools.

One of the hospital pools.

I didn't have any fantastic close ups, so here's a great one courtesy of Albert kok. This was taken at Crystal River, FL.

I didn’t have any fantastic close ups, so here’s a great one courtesy of Albert kok. This was taken at Crystal River, FL.

#1. ELEPHANTS

Yup. Elephants are the best, and it’s not coincidence that Lowry Park Zoo uses an elephant as part of their official logo. The whole thing started with just one elephant years ago, and they have continued the tradition by keeping an immaculate and spectacular elephant habitat. Which now includes two baby calves.

And then hides under mom again.

Nobody else can even come close to beating the adorable factor.

Feeling nice and cool after taking a dip.

Feeling nice and cool after taking a dip. For more elephant pics click here.

BONUS HABITAT!!! The giraffes are right next door to the elephants. There’s a bunch of them and you can feed them for $3! I mean, really…how often do you get to feed a giraffe? Unfortunately, we had camera malfunctions when it was my turn. Oh well, perhaps another day. Here’s a different picture to hold you over until then.

Yes, really tall. I was told by a Busch Gardens zookeeper that giraffes only live for about 15 years. That amazes me and I'm not entirely sure I believe it.

Yes, really tall. I was told by a Busch Gardens zookeeper that giraffes only live for about 15 years. That amazes me and I’m not entirely sure I believe it. They seem too big to live for such a short amount of time.

So there’s the top 5. I could easily have done a top 10, but decided it would take way too long. Anyway, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty. Planning your trip.


Planning your trip and doing it on the cheap

Note: It all depends on what you want. Some of my strategies will cost more upfront but will add longevity to your dollar in the form of unlimited yearly visits or bundles that include other attractions. While others will get you that one off visit cheap or even free. In any case, following my strategies will get you a better deal than the standard one-time full day priced admission.

I have the strategies split into three categories: single day admissions, bundles, and annual passes. It will be up to you to figure out which strategy works best for you and your given situation. Good luck!

Single Day Admission Strategies

If you want to visit the zoo and only the zoo one time, the single day admission might be best for you. The normal cost for a single day admission to Lowry Park Zoo is $24.95 Adult and $19.95 Child. Seniors (60 and up) are $22.95. Children 2 and under are free.

Brochure Coupon Strategy: This is the easiest and simplest way to save money and will only take you few minutes. Go to the brochure display at any hotel or tourist center. Look for the brochure that says “Lowry Park Zoo.” Take it and flip it over: $3 off!

$5 (or $6, depending) Admission Days: Periodically, Lowry Park Zoo opens their gates for only 5 bucks. There are no scheduled dates as of now, but there will be. There always are. Keep tabs on the Lowry Park Zoo website to be informed of the next offering, and of course I’ll post it here on the blog as soon as it’s announced.

Red, White, and Zoo: Discounts for active duty military and veterans, and up to three people in their immediate family/direct dependents. Military ID required. Dependents 10 and over must present valid dependent ID. Purchase at zoo ticket window.

Free Admission on Birthday: Yes, that’s right. Go to the zoo with valid ID to prove it’s your birthday and you get in for free. Not a bad way to celebrate the b-day.

Children 2 and under are free: Just in case your forgot or missed it.

Bundle Strategies

Getting a bundle deal that includes several major attractions just might be the way to go if you want to take a one time tour of Tampa. It’s a good way to save money overall and to simplify the process of searching for the best deals, while not having to mess with the hassle of purchasing multiple admission tickets to various attractions.

Tampa Bay CityPASS: The CityPASS gets you into Lowry Park Zoo, Busch Gardens, The Florida Aquarium, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and either the Chihuly Collection or the Museum of Science and Industry. The adult pass (10 and up) is $119. The children’s pass (3-9) is $99. They are all great places to see, and seeing them through CityPASS saves you a total of 38%. CityPASS can be purchased through the zoo website.

Tampa Yankees Friends and Family Saturday: At every Saturday home game, the Tampa Yankees offer the Family 4-Pack deal: 4 Reserved Tickets to the game, 4 hot dogs, 4 bags of chips, 4 sodas, 4 Tampa Yankees caps, and 2 passes to Lowry Park Zoo. It must be purchased at the ball park’s box office window.

Annual Pass Strategies

If you live in Tampa Bay and enjoy going to the zoo, there is no better deal than getting an annual pass. They generally pay for themselves in just two visits, offer discounted rates to other zoos across the country, and even free admission to The Florida Aquarium and Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry during “Swaptember”.

Individual Annual Pass: One primary adult for $65.

Dual Annual Pass: Two primary adults or one primary adult plus one guest pass for $95. If your family is like mine, this pass works nicely. My wife is the primary adult, I use the guest pass, and my under 2 kid is free.

Family-One Adult Annual Pass: One primary adult and up to 4 designated children aged 3-17 for $130. Children must be legal dependents of the designated adult.

Family-Two Adults Annual Pass: Two primary adults and up to 4 designated children aged 3-17 for $160. Children must be legal dependents of the designated adult.

Family Plus: Same as the Family-Two Adult pass, but it includes two guest passes as well. It costs $210.

Swaptember: Pass holders of MOSI and The Florida Aquarium can use their memberships to get into Lowry Park Zoo for free from September 2 through the 30th in 2014. This is usually a yearly event in Tampa. (Zoo members can use their passes for MOSI and the Aquarium). Personally, I think Swaptember is fantastic.

You can add-on an additional guest pass to any of the zoo’s annual passes for $30. Yay!

If anybody out there knows of any other deals or strategies for Lowry Park Zoo, please let me know! I’d love to hear about it!

All above information is accurate as of the date of this post. All promotions, coupons, deals, and dates are subject to change.

Featured image by TampAGS

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