Knoxville, Tenn. (May 15, 2020) – Zoo Knoxville is reopening to the public on Monday, May 18, with carefully planned protocols to ensure the safety of their guests, staff and animals.  The zoo closed to visitors on March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In accordance with the City of Knoxville and Knox County COVID-19 Reopening Phase 1 plan, Zoo Knoxville is open for passive outdoor use only, which means no indoor areas or interactive experiences like rides and animal encounters can be offered at this time.  Playground areas, including the splash pad, will also remain closed in this phase. 

To control the number of guests in the zoo daily, advance purchase timed entry tickets are required.  Circle of Friends members and annual passholders will continue to receive free admission but will be required to make a reservation online for a timed entry on a specific date. 

The zoo has added more than 30 additional hand sanitizing stations throughout zoo grounds and restaurants have modified their ordering and delivery systems to minimize contact.

Zoo Knoxville asks all guests to take the safety of other visitors, zoo staff and the animals seriously by following CDC recommendations:

  • Wearing a mask or face covering
  • Washing your hands and using hand sanitizer stations throughout the zoo frequently
  • Maintaining 6 feet of physical distance between groups
  • Using ground markings and directional signs to maintain safe distancing in areas where people may gather
  • Staying home if you are sick or in a high risk group

“We have been very, very deliberate in our planning,” said President and CEO Lisa New.  “We are reopening responsibly so our guests have a safe, secure environment to return to and they can feel confident their safety is our top priority.  We also need to keep our staff healthy so the care of our animals is not impacted.  We are grateful for the support of our community and we hope we can give our guests the opportunity to experience some feeling of normalcy during this time.”

To show appreciation for the outpouring of care and support during the closure, Zoo Knoxville will be offering tickets at a reduced price of $14.95 for adults and $11.95 for children ages 4-12 and seniors over 65.  Ages 3 and under are free.  Tickets and entry times can be purchased and reserved at  

COVID-19 Phase 1 Reopening FAQS

Can I purchase tickets when I arrive at the zoo?

  • During this phase of re-opening, tickets must be purchased in advance online at or by phone at (865) 637-5331 with an assigned entry time so we can limit the number of people in the zoo for safety.

What if I am a passholder or member?   Do I need a timed entry ticket?

  • Yes, you will need to make a reservation online for an entry time, but there will be no cost for passholders and members. 

What if it rains on the day and/or time of my ticket?

  • General admission tickets are valid only for the date and time they are issued during our Phase I reopening since capacity is extremely limited and no rainchecks are available during this phase of reopening.  We can issue tickets to return when timed entries are not required.  Annual passholders and members may opt to schedule for another date and time online pending availability.  Zoo Knoxville is open rain or shine. 

It says the zoo is open for “passive use”.  What does that mean?

  • The outdoor pathways to view animals are open, but all indoor areas will be closed and interactive experiences, such as rides and animal encounters, will not be offered in Phase 1 of reopening.  Areas that make physical distancing a challenge will also be closed, and some pathways will be one-way only.  Think of it like a public park or greenway.

Am I required to wear a mask?

  • We strongly urge visitors to wear a mask to help us protect other guests, our staff and our animals.  Don’t have one?  We have inexpensive ones available for purchase at the zoo.

Will hand sanitizer be available?

  • Yes, hand sanitizer stations will be located throughout the zoo and restrooms will be open for handwashing.  

How often are you cleaning in guest areas?

  • Our cleaning protocols currently include scheduled wipe-downs and cleaning of benches, railings and other public contact points three times daily with a deep-clean sanitation spray before reopening daily.   

What areas are closed?

  • To make sure we are in compliance with the Knox County Health Department’s Phase I guidelines, all indoor areas and any outdoor areas that make it difficult to maintain physical distancing will be closed.  We will not be offering carousel, camel, or Zoo Choo train rides, and play areas will be closed.  Some areas of the zoo will operate in a “one-way” direction along pathways for safety.

Will the restaurants be open?

  • The Beastro and Aldo’s Grill will be open, but operating with safety protocols for ordering and food delivery.  Indoor dining areas are currently closed.

Are Restrooms Open?

  • Yes, restrooms are open and when possible doors are propped open to avoid touching door handles.