By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Oklahoma City Zoo is offering lots of fun ways to spend time during the winter holidays. Each Tuesday in December, January and February visitors can buy one Zoo admission ticket and get one free (of equal or lesser value). The Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Zoofriends offers special discounts that make great stocking stuffers. Receive $5 off any new, renewal or gift membership purchased now through December 31 (excludes Junior memberships). Use the promo code “WILD15” and save an additional $5 off. This offer is available online at zoofriends.org, by phone at 405-425-0618 or in the Zoofriends’ membership office.
Animal adoptions make great holiday gifts to Zoo lovers on your list. Contributions from these symbolic adoptions support the health, enrichment and nutritional needs of all the animals at the Zoo. With each $45 donation, recipients receive their choice of a plush elephant or otter, adoption certificate, a fact sheet about their adopted animal and name recognition on the Zoofriends’ website for one year.
All through December, Zoofriends’ members can shop and save with a 25 percent discount at the Zoo’s Safari Gift Shop. This discount only applies to non-sale items.
Located in the Global Plaza, the gift shop provides complimentary gift wrapping for all purchases made in December, parking is free and Zoo admission is not required.
Discover locally made and designed apparel options or beautiful home decor from Natural Life, a company that gives 10 percent of proceeds to several non-profits including nature education.
Original artwork made by the Zoo’s resident animal artists with some help from their keepers (of the animals,not the artist) is also available. Artist animals include birds, grizzly bears, hogs, sea lions, snakes and stingrays. All proceeds from Zoo animal artwork support Zoo conservation and enrichment programs. Visit www.okczoo.com to purchase one-of-a-kind paintings online, or stop by the Guest Relations office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Zoo fans have an opportunity to enrich the lives of the animals by purchasing gifts from the Wild Wish Tree located in the Guest Relations office. The tree displays ornaments with descriptions of enrichment items selected to generate the interest, curiosity and enjoyment of particular animals or species.
Wish list ornaments can be purchased in the Guest Relations office daily. After purchasing the item, bring the gift back to the Guest Relations’ office any day through December 31. Gifts can also be purchased directly from the Wild Wish List Amazon link, www.amazon.com (type in Oklahoma City Zoo in the search field), and the item will be shipped automatically to the Zoo. For more information, call 405-425-0262.
On Friday, December 11, from 6-8 p.m. the Zoo’s Education team will host the ”O’ Christmas Sea Party.” The evening includes snacks and beverages, an ugly sweater contest, and the opportunity to pose with a sea lion for that special holiday photo. Attendees must be 21 and older. Cost is $30 per Zoofriends’ member and $35 for nonmembers. Advanced registration and payment is requited at 405-425-0218.
At noon on Saturday, December 12, Gayla Peevey Henderson, best known for her 1953 hit “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” will lead a Skype broadcast sing-a-long of her popular tune.
The free event will take place in the Zoo’s Education Center’s auditorium on the east end of the Zoo’s parking lot. Light refreshments will be served. For information, call 405-425-0262.
On Tuesday, December 15, at 10:30 a.m. Santa will be stopping by the OKC Zoo to deliver “animal approved” gifts to his wild friends in the Barnyard area of the Children’s Zoo. The fun continues in the Canopy Restaurant with free hot chocolate and snacks, while supplies last. Bring your camera to get pictures with Santa. Reservations are not required.
The Zoo’s Winter Family Programs offer fun educational opportunities. Guests can make holiday crafts and edible treats for Zoo animals and their pets, hear winter stories, or take their photo with Santa. Adults must accompany children. Parents are free with paid child registration. Pre-registration and pre-payment is required. For details, call 405-425-0218 or visit www.okczooed.com.
Programs include Santa’s Ocean Adventure on Saturday, December 12, from 10-11:30 a.m.; Ages 4 and up; $20 for Zoofriends’ members, $23 for nonmembers. On Saturday, December 19, Zoo Chef Christmas Style will be held from 10-11:30 a.m. Ages 3 and up; $12 for Zoofriends’ members, $15 for nonmembers. Allergy alert: includes possible allergens.
Safari Day Camps are available for kids ages 4-11. Drop off is from 8:15-8:30 a.m. and for half-day campers they must be picked up at 12:30 p.m. ($25) or for full day 5:15 p.m. ($45). Snacks will be provided, but campers must bring their lunch. Advance registration and payment is required. For more information, call 405-425-0218 or visit www.okczooed.com. Program dates include: December 18, 21, 22, 23, 28-31 and January 4 and 18.
The following Zoo attractions have established winter season hours and will be operational weather permitting of 55 degrees or higher.
• The ZooZeum, Endangered Species Carousel, Explorikeet Adventure and Children’s Zoo Barnyard area will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
• Elephant Express opens at 10 a.m. daily.
• Giraffe feedings are from 11 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Friday through Sunday.
• Elephant presentations are at 2 p.m., Friday through Sunday.
• Stingray Bay is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Hours are subject to change without notice due to weather conditions or routine animal care.
• All other rides and attractions are closed for the season.
The Zoo is closed on Christmas (Dec. 25) and New Year’s Day (Jan 1).
To learn more about these and other Zoo events, call 405-424-3344 or visit okczoo.com.