Spend the Night at Zoo Atlanta
As we travel we like to look for experiences that indulge our children’s curiosities. Currently, that means animal encounters. Our Easter visit to Atlanta perfectly coincided with one of Zoo Atlanta’s Night Crawler family programs, so we signed up to spend the night at the zoo.
Zoo Atlanta’s Night Crawler program accepts children five and up when accompanied by an adult. The Little Little stayed with my parents, who live in Atlanta, while Jeff and I accompanied the Big Little (7) and Middle Little (5) on the program. We could have just sent one adult with the two littles, but it was more fun for us all to go.
This program is perfect for animal loving littles. The Night Crawler program includes peeks behind the scenes, animal encounters, educational components and lots of late night animal viewing time.
What to Pack.
You are separated from your bags for most of this one night program, so you really won’t need to pack much.
We recommend the following in your overnight bag:
- Sleeping bag
- Lovies (the sleep team)
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste
- Glasses/Contacts and solution
- Small hand-towel for face washing
- Change of clothes for the morning
- Phone battery charger (plugs in sleeping areas are limited)
- Ear Plugs / Sleep Mask
In a day pack or purse we recommend:
- A water bottle
- Supplemental snack
- Weather appropriate gear (cold or rain)
You will be provided some mats to place on the floor under your sleeping bag. A snack is served. Flashlights are prohibited as they may bother the animals.
What to Expect
First and foremost, expect to be flexible. The program really depends on so many factors, one of which is what the animals are doing.
When you arrive for the Night Crawlers Program park close to the education gate (far right of the parking lot when facing the zoo). A security guard was there to help us all get parked together. Zoo Atlanta does this because they look after the parked cars overnight and clustering them makes it easier to secure them.
Grab your sleeping bag and overnight bag and go check in at the front of the zoo. This is where we parted ways with all our things, throwing them into a zoo mobile where they stayed until bedtime.
Once the group was gathered we headed into the zoo. We were briefed on the rules – like no flashlights or loud noises and of course staying together! Then, as the last guests left the zoo, we went to see some animals.
The theme of our evening was Pandas so we started there. An education table was prepared for us full of bones and photos. We got a lesson all about the Pandas, where they live and what makes them so cute.
Then we spent about 45 min watching the Pandas and having all our questions answered. They are just so cute!
Post Pandas it was snack time! Snack was hot chocolate and a choice of cheese crackers, animal crackers or a granola bar. (They also offered gluten free Pop Chips.) Snack time is outdoors in the group pavilion near the splash pad.
After snack we hiked back across the zoo to the reptile house. We stopped along the way to see what animals were awake and moving around. All the birds were making a racket, so of course we hung out with them for a while.
In the reptile house we were set free on a scavenger hunt to find a few animals. The kids loved searching out the best camouflage, largest snake and an animal that is completely extinct in the wild, just to name a few.
Then we left the visitor section of the zoo and headed behind the scenes to the kitchen. Here we were able to see all the food prep that happens for the animals.
The pantry was fun to see, there are lots of similarities between our pantry at home and the one at the zoo.
Our night ended with a kids vs. parents game of Panda Jeopardy in the education building. The parents won but not by much.
The next morning the program concluded with an animal encounter in the education building.
Where you sleep
When we visited there were three sleeping areas: Upper Treehouse, Lower Treehouse and Willie B. One group chose Upper Treehouse and our group chose Willie B.
When we arrived at our sleeping area the zoo vehicle was parked outside. We retrieved all our gear from the vehicle and set up our spot inside the building. The floors are concrete but they have a ton of mats available to sleep on. We piled a few down and put our sleeping bags on top of it. Jeff is an Eagle Scout, so he had ninja skills with the mats. The room was large enough that each family has their own space.
There are not a lot of outlets in the building, so phone charging was a premium. We packed an external battery and just charged up off of that the next morning.
The bathrooms are a short walk. There you can brush your teeth and change into your PJ’s. There are no showers available, so plan on an easy bedtime routine. We utilized the baby changing room so the whole family could get changed together.
The lights were turned out in the room around 11pm. Families pretty quickly fell asleep. If you are a light sleeper then pack ear plugs and an eye mask. The room has a large window that the moon shone in all night. There were also plenty of sleeping noises as the whole group was in one room.
We heard from the group over in Upper Treehouse that the birds wake up early. Our group was woken up at 7am by one of the guides coming in and waking us all up.
We had about an hour to get dressed and packed up. All the gear was loaded back into the zoo mobile and driven out to our cars. We loaded our cars up with our stuff and then went back into the zoo for breakfast.
There were quite a few options for breakfast, but it’s best to consider it a cold buffet breakfast. Coffee and Hot Chocolate were provided to warm us up.
Once breakfast was done we ended our stay by meeting three of the zoo’s outreach animals.
We had the chance to meet a tortoise, an armadillo and a snake.
Your spend the night includes zoo admission for the next day. We are members of the zoo and wanted to get back to the little little so we exited the zoo.
Before going home though we popped into Grant Park for the Grant Park Farmers Market. We supplemented our breakfast a bit with coffee and tasty treats and looked over the wide variety of produce.