Trip to the Albuquerque Biopark and Penguin Chill exhibit

Getting out and being able to do something during the pandemic has been a blessing. Long months of isolation can be difficult. Luckily, the Albuquerque Biopark reopened, so we decided to take a trip to see the Albuquerque zoo penguins.

This New Mexico winter has been unusually mild. Hint, global warming. I’ve never considered visiting the zoo in January but it was 60 degrees on the day we went. 

Our last visit to the Albuquerque zoo was during the summer of 2020 and it was unbearably hot. A lot of the exhibits were closed and many of the animals were sheltering in the shade and not very active.

This trip was so much better. The weather was nice and the exhibit Penguin Chill was open.

Timed entry tickets

Due to Covid restrictions, the Albuquerque zoo is open to New Mexico residents only at the moment. This is kind of the trend for a lot of New Mexican establishments.

All visitors are required to buy timed-entry tickets in advance. You can choose your 30-minute entry slot, which means that you have to show up at the zoo and present your electronic ticket during that timeframe.

When we visited in the summer, most of the early morning slots were sold out days ahead of time. In January, all the time slots were available. Tickets are $10.00 for adults.

Both times, we arrived during our selected timeframe, presented the electronic ticket via a cell phone, and entered with ease.

Covid safety

There are many Covid safety measures in place at the Albuquerque Biopark Zoo. I didn’t mind any of the cautionary safety measures because I felt this trip to the zoo was safe for my family.

This is a list of the more prominent safety measures.

  1. All visitors must wear a mask. I didn’t see one person violating this mandate.
  2. The visitor gift shop is closed.
  3. Visitors must adhere to a one-way path through the park. This was not a problem at all; the path was clearly outlined.
  4. Indoor exhibits have capacity restrictions. We waited maybe a minute or two to get into Penguin Chill. The reptile exhibit had a much longer line, so we skipped it.
  5. The main front entrance restrooms were closed but there were a few available restrooms along the path. This is a smaller zoo so not a big deal.
  6. Some exhibits were completely closed.
  7. The carousel and train were not operating.
  8. The large zoo playground was closed.

Despite this long list, there are still plenty of things to see and do at the Albuquerque zoo.

Albuquerque zoo penguins

albuquerque zoo penguins

Penguin Chill is the most exciting exhibit at Albuquerque Biopark right now. Who doesn’t want to see penguins? My toddler was so excited to see live penguins.

The Penguin Chill exhibit opened in July 2019 and features gentoo, macaroni, and king penguins. Different viewing areas show the penguins above the water and underwater, which was really exciting.

The penguins were very active when we visited. I’ve never seen one that close before, so it was pretty astonishing. It was exciting to see them shoot up out of the water and land on solid ground with ease.

Overall, they seemed comfortable in their habitat and curious with visitors. This exhibit and the Albuquerque zoo penguins were definitely the stars of the trip.

Other exhibits and highlights during our trip

Any time you visit the zoo, there’s no guarantee that you will see all of the animals during one trip. Our trip during the summer was very different than our trip in January, in terms of the animals we saw.

albuquerque zoo giraffe

The giraffes are majestic and beautiful. During this trip, one of them was hanging out and chewing on some greens right next to the fence.

The elephant enclosure is extremely large and the elephants tend to hang out far away from visitors. For safety reasons, some of the elephant enclosure viewing areas were closed off, so we did not get a great glimpse of them.

We were able to see the two hippos walking underwater, which was a nice treat. It’s amazing how long they can hold their breath, up to five minutes underwater.

I have yet to see the Mexican wolves. Apparently, they are elusive in nature and don’t like to be seen. They have a rather large enclosure with a lot of landscaping. Visitors can peer into the enclosure through two small windows.

albuquerque zoo
Reptile sculpture at the Albuquerque zoo

Throughout the park, you will find a lot of vegetation and landscaping native to the Southwest. For me, this is very normal but might be new for out-of-state visitors.

Our toddler thoroughly enjoyed this trip. I could see her making the connection from her Zoo books to the real, live animals. She had fun naming the elephant, giraffe, and monkeys.

Special Events

Most zoos will offer special events throughout the year and the Albuquerque zoo is no exception. Notable events are Summer Night Concerts and Run for the Zoo. They also host Twilight Tours at the Zoo because some animals are more active at night.

In addition, the Albuquerque zoo has seasonal attractions for Halloween and Christmas. The nearby Botanic Garden hosts Harvest Days and River of Lights.

Length of visit

We spent a little under two hours at the zoo during this visit. This is on the shorter side because we skipped an exhibit, didn’t stop for food, and we didn’t carefully read all the exhibit signs. In addition, there were several exhibits that were completely closed.

If the Albuquerque zoo was fully open, a family could easily spend around four hours at the zoo. This would include getting a meal, going through all the exhibits, taking a train ride, and letting the kids ride the carousel and play at the massive playground.

Final thoughts on our trip to see the Albuquerque zoo penguins

Roaming peacock at albuquerque zoo
My daughter fascinated by the roaming peacocks

Although this zoo is on the smaller side when you compare it to other zoos across the country, it was a fun trip and it has a little bit of everything for all ages.

Even though I never considered visiting the zoo in the winter, it’s actually the perfect time to visit because there are less crowds and New Mexico winters are pretty mild. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water.

Since we’re not in the downtown Albuquerque area very often, one of our favorite things to do is have lunch at Sharky’s on Central. They have the best fish tacos in Albuquerque. If you’re visiting the zoo around lunch or dinner, consider Sharky’s for some tacos.

Leave a Comment