Virginia Beach Attractions

Virginia Beach Zoo

Being an animal lover, the local zoo is one of my favorite area attractions and sits on 53 acres along the Lafayette River in the Granby area of Norfolk, VA. It's just a quick 20 minute drive from the boardwalk and it's proximity to Virginia Beach makes it a welcome addition to our list of things to do.

Entrance to the Virginia Zoo

For more than a century, the Virginia Zoological Park has been home to hundreds of animals. Current residents include Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, Elephants, Zebras, Rhinoceroses and my favorite, the Meerkats. Almost 400 zoo animals reside in the 53 acre facility which is landscaped to encourage natural activities for the animals while offering fantastic viewing areas and learning opportunities to the public.

This wildlife reserve is family friendly in size and you can see all of the exhibits in a few hours. An overview of the map shows that the facility is laid out in a nice circle and divided into nine areas that are called Gardens. It's easy to see all of the exhibits without worrying you are missing something.

Virtual Tour

Take a quick visit to the animal park with my nephews, Jack & Sam! They are super cool kids and it was a great day.


The history of the zoo begins in 1892 when the City of Norfolk purchased 65 acres of land with the intent of developing a park for the bustling community. It was a time of suburban growth for Norfolk, Virginia. Electric street cars replaced horse-drawn carriages and Norfolk's city limits increased from just 1.3 miles in 1880 to 9 square miles by 1911. The planned suburb of Ghent was the city's most noteworthy residential development and appealed to middle and upper-middle class residents. The 65 acre parcel of land that the city had purchased several years before opened as Lafayette Park in 1900.

By 1910, administrators had acquired hundreds of animals and visitors could drive through the exhibits on paved roads. The property was known as both the Lafayette Park Zoo and the Norfolk Zoo to locals.

There were several upgrades throughout the mid-to-late 1990's including the Mother Goose Barnyard where children could pet and play with barnyard animals, a pool area for sea lions and construction of the Mammal House for Elephants and Rhinoceroses.

In 1974, almost 75 years after the park began collecting animals, the city fenced off the animals from Lafayette Park and christened the area the Lafayette Zoological Park. Norfolk finally had an official zoo.

virginia zoo giraffevirginia zoo bongonorfolk zoo monkeyvirginia zoo elephantnorfolk-zoo-fox

Zoo Animals

Home to almost 400 different animals, the reserve is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and participates in many of the AZA programs including Species Survival Programs (SSP). The animals in the SSP program are critically endangered and many animal welfare organizations work together to promote cooperative breeding programs, research, public education, fundraising, field projects, and reintroduction projects to ensure the long-range survivability of the species.

For a list of current residents, check out our Zoo Animals page!

According to the official website, they are currently participating in Species Survival Programs for 12 species:

In fact, the African Lions were the proud parents of four new cubs last year! What a wonderful addition to the park and to the world!

virginia zoo zebra border

What's in a Name?

This area attraction has many names:

Depending on who you speak with in the area, you may even hear it referenced by another name or two! It can be confusing to someone not familiar with the area, but be assured that all of the zoos listed above are one in the same! Even though Virginia Beach, VA does not have a zoo within its city limits, there are 74 searches a day for Virginia Beach Zoo. People know there is a wildlife attraction in the area, but just don't know the name.

Remember! When if you're looking for walk on the wild side, this family attraction is just a quick 20 minute drive. Support the animals and support wildlife conservation. Your visit makes a difference!

Google Map Link to Virginia Beach Zoo
3500 Granby St, Norfolk, VA 23504
(757) 441-2374

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virginia zoo kinkajou Kinkajou: While the Kinkajou looks like a primate, it is more closely related to a raccoon.norfolk zoo ocelot Ocelot: nocturnal and territorial, these tough cats are aggressive and will fight to the death if threatened.norfolk zoo lion African Lion: Simba, the Swahili word for lion means "king," "strong" and "aggressive."virginia beach zoo giraffe Giraffe: a giraffe can clean it's own ears with its long 21 inch tongue!virginia beach zoo fox Fennec Fox: these foxes weigh just 3-31/2 lbs and are the worlds smallest canid.norfolk zoo bongo Bongo: it is estimated that less than 500 Bongos remain in the wild. The Norfolk Zoo proudly participates in the AZA Bongo Species Survival Plan and three babies were born to the facility in 2009.virginia zoo monkey Spider Monkey: observed hanging upside down from all four limbs and their tail gave these monkeys the appearance of a long-legged spider, hence the name Spider Monkey!norfolk zoo hedgehog Hedgehog: these cute critters get their name from rooting through hedges and undergrowth while looking for tasty meals consisting of insects, snails, snakes, bird eggs, roots and berries. norfolk zoo meerkat Meerkat: the dark patches around the Meerkat's eyes act like sunglasses and protect their eyes from the harsh glare of the sun.