Saturday, April 20

NC Zoo Revises Mask / Timed Entry Policies

ASHEBORO NC – With the holiday season over local families will be looking forward to taking advantage of one of the many benefits of living in Asheboro. Visiting the NC Zoo during the slow season. The new year brings with it new policies and changes at the NC Zoo that you should know before planning you visit.  

Face-Covering Requirements 

The NC Zoo’s revised face-covering policy started today. “We are requiring face coverings throughout the Park starting January 1, 2021 (exemptions for children under 5 and those requesting an exemption due to a medical or behavioral condition, or when actively eating or drinking, in which case you must social distance from others outside your group” said Diane Villa, the Director of Communications and Marketing with the NC Zoo says. Previously face-coverings were only required for entry into the zoo, inside indoor habitats, when at viewing areas, or within six feet of other guests. 

Walk-up Entry

When the NC Zoo re-opened to the public on June 15th, 2020 guests were required to have a reservation or pre-purchased ticket, all of which were time-based. “In higher attendance months, we required timed ticketing for general admission or a reservation for members,” said Villa, As temperatures and attendance rates drop, it’s possible to visit the zoo without a reservation or pre-purchased ticket. Going into detail about the changes to timed entry Villa says “during the winter months with lower attendance, we are encouraging (not requiring) timed ticketing and we will allow walk-ups”.

Entry isn’t guaranteed. Villa used the day we spoke with her as an example; “we know we have 280 timed ticketed guests and members today, so we can allow additional walk-ups easily” 

While the zoo is still subject to the daily admission cap of 3,000 visitors (or around 30% of normal attendance), guest services report an average of 1,000 visitors per day, with higher averages during the holidays and on days with better weather.  

If you have some free time and want to try your chances with walk-up admission, you may want to avoid the busiest entry times are which are typically 10:00 to 11:30 AM. As a reminder, the last entry time is 12:30 – 1 PM, and the NC Zoo closes at 4 PM during the fall/winter seasons.

If you are able to take advantage of walk-up entry, enjoy it while you can because it’s not likely to last. “As warmer weather returns and our attendance naturally increases, we will resume requiring timed ticketing and reservations,” said Villa. 

Safeguards In Place

The revisions to the face-covering and timed entry policies are just the latest in a long line of safeguards put in place by the zoo to help limit the spread of Covid-19. These safeguards include rigorous cleaning and sanitizing, hand sanitizer stations placed throughout the zoo, ensuring social distancing with timed entry, limiting daily capacity, one-way traffic walkways, and placing dining tables and benches six feet apart.

Attractions, such as the Giraffe Deck, Air Hike, Zoofari were temporarily closed over the summer and fall, and while they are normally closed during the winter season a return date has not been set yet.

In-person educational programs and events including keeper talks and Smart Carts have been suspended but the staff at the zoo’s marketing office point out that they are offering a lot of virtual programming which can be found on the zoo’s website at

Gift shop and food service locations are still limiting the number of guests inside the shops and stores, using designated entrance and exits, one-way traffic, and distance markers. Prepackaged food items are available for guests to purchase. 

To see a full list of changes as well as the policies and procedures the NC Zoo is using to keep guests safe you can visit:

Ft Image: (Scott Pelkey / Acme News Archive)