Opened in 1930, Erie Zoological Park and Botanical Gardens is most commonly referred to as Erie Zoo, and consists of 15-acres of land in Glenwood Park. The facility has more than 400 animals, and the botanical gardens and adjoining greenhouse have over 600 species of plants and vegetation. Erie Zoo operates during the months of March through November, and attracts well over 400,000 visitors each year.
Since 1927, Erie has operated a zoo, ever since "Tom-Boy'' the elephant was gifted to the City of Erie. The Robert Evans estate was donated with the purpose of establishing a zoological park and permanent home for the elephant. The facility was constructed in 1929, and the park was opened a year later. John M. Cochran was the founder of the Erie Zoological Society and instrumental in the expansion and renovation of the zoo. Because of a 40-year, $1.08 million bond, construction of an ice arena and the Dixieland Children's Zoo were constructed, largely in part because of Cochran.
The Main Zoo Building was dedicated on August 7th, 1930, renovated and modernized in 1991; the building is now the central visitor entrance to the zoo. The building continues to incorporate the use of a wide array of animals. Constructed at a cost of $400,000, a new tiger exhibit opened at the zoo in the summer of 2008. The facility features a main exhibit area and indoor and outdoor containment areas. In March of 2008, the Erie Zoo received a breeding pair of Siberian tigers, which will join Kumar, the white tiger who arrived in April, 1994.
The Erie Zoo also has a traveling zoo which visits class rooms, personal care homes and many other types of organizations. The traveling exhibits allow guests to see, hear and touch the animals and artifacts, while receiving educational information in an interactive format. The Traveling Zoo is in operation during the months of November through April, Monday through Friday from 8 am until 3 pm.
The facility is family-oriented and contains many exhibits and areas of particular interest to children. The Children's Zoo, once called Pixieland, contains exhibits, a nature theater, water garden and playground. To keep children up-to-date about zoo happenings, the zoo offers a kids-only program called the Erie Zookids Club.
The Erie Zoo offers group tours and programs designed for visitors of all ages and abilities. The classroom programs allow children to get closer to wildlife and experience every aspect of the zoo. The programs cover different topics throughout the year and over the summer season occasional overnight stays are a part of the curriculum.
The Erie Zoo is opened daily from 10 am until 5 pm, and closed during the months of January and February. Zoo admission fees range is affordable and children under 2 years of age get in free. The facility is handicapped accessible and offers rentals of wagons and strollers for families with small children.