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Virginia Zoo in Norfolk reopens today to visitors

The zoo outlined guidelines visitors will have to follow. It closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Virginia Zoo is reopening to visitors on Thursday more than three months after it closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The reopening will come with some modifications and a new schedule.

For its first stage of reopening, the zoo put these changes into place:

  • The zoo will limit capacity to about 25% of its normal capacity to ensure there won't be overcrowding. Tickets have to be purchased and reserved in advance for a specific time slot. That applies to zoo members as well as other visitors. Reserved time slots will be available beginning at 10 a.m. with the last slot being at 3 p.m.
  • Tickets and reservations will be available, Tuesday, June 16 at 10 a.m. and can be made up to 2 weeks in advance.
  • The zoo will be open to everyone, including zoo members, Thursday to Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday will be for zoo members only. The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and reservations are required.
  • The zoo will be a one-way, one-mile loop. That loop includes Asia, the Animal Wellness Campus, Africa and Flora Point. Food and beverages can be purchased throughout the zoo. Strollers and wheelchairs will be available for rent on a first-come, first-served basis. Run Wild! Nature Play will be open. Some amenities and exhibits will be closed temporarily, including the World of Reptiles, ZooFarm, ZooTrain, Enrichment Playground, Gift Shop, Water Plaza and Membership Office. Keeper Chats, ZooLive! Stage presentations and other animal encounters will be postponed.
  • To help ensure the safety of all guests, and to comply with all state and local regulations, all zoo staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks. Per mandated regulations in Virginia, all visitors ages 10 and older will be required to wear a mask upon entry into the zoo, indoors, or when within 6 feet of people from a different group. Increased cleaning protocols have been mandated and hand sanitizing stations will be located throughout the zoo.

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The zoo had a soft opening for its members, staff, and volunteers June 22-24. Memberships will be extended for any that were current on March 13 or have been purchased or renewed since then. Zoo staff is in the process of adding time to memberships, and temporary membership cards will be emailed with the new expiration dates.

“The staff and animals have missed seeing all of our visitors, so we are anxiously waiting to welcome everyone back through our gates,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “Your next visit to the zoo will look a different, but the health and safety for our animals and human friends is our top priority, which is why we have created our own staged opening approach to ensure a safe environment, positive and fun experience for everyone,” Bockheim added.

The zoo said it will increase capacity when it is safe to do so. Walkups eventually will resume. Indoor exhibits will open with limited capacity and amenities will return. For more information, you can visit Virginia Zoo's website.

RELATED: 'Vacation at last' | Norfolk and Virginia Beach Visitors Bureaus working to boost tourism

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