Zoos with penguins are not rare, but not all of them are the same.
Are you a fan of the Penguins and want to meet these cute animals in person? If you’re anything like me, the answer is a resounding yes.
This is why I’ve created an ultimate list of zoos, complete with some of the best zoos and aquariums with penguins, and exclusive penguin encounters.
Come for the penguins, but stay for the adorable pictures they paint with their feet. You’ll see what I mean in just a second!
8 Zoos and Aquarius in the US with the Best Penguin Encounters
Here are some of the best ways to meet a penguin this year, from penguin expositions to feeding sessions and even swimming with them.
1. The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore – Play and Paint with the Penguins
Looking for zoos to meet and pet the penguins? Book a Penguin Encounter at the Maryland Zoo’s new African Section to get up-close and personal with African penguins.
In addition to snuggling with the penguins, visitors will also have a chance to get a photoshoot with this amazing endangered animal.
For more fun with the penguins, from Thursday to Monday (Tuesday and Wednesday off) at 3.20 at the Penguin Encounter Bench, the zoo hosts the Penguin Training experience.
This is a 30 minute long teaching demonstration of how the keepers train and feed the penguins.
If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to assist the Penguin Care Team during the feeding.
Have you ever wondered if a penguin footprint painting would tie your living room together?
At the Maryland Zoo, a few African penguins have found a passion in painting colorful and unique pictures, and you can bring one of the canvas homes. Depending on the size, the penguin’s artwork can cost from $200 to $300.
2. Denver Zoo – Admire the Penguins Dive in the Water
If you want to observe penguins in a close-to-natural habitat, the Denver Zoo has the answer.
The zoo recently added Pinnacol African Penguin Point, a new and improved designated area for penguins.
In this new home, the penguins at Denver Zoo can now live in an environment that’s spacious enough and intentionally designed to make them feel comfortable and stimulated.
This is great for the penguins, but is also perfect for the visitors, as you’ll be able to witness most of the penguin’s characteristic behaviors.
The new area also includes an underwater viewing space, where you’ll get to observe the penguins swimming from a unique perspective.
For a more exclusive and personal experience with the penguins, you can also schedule a Penguin Encounter.
During the behind-the-scenes encounter, guests can interact with the penguins, and learn from the zoo’s keepers everything about the everyday life of these cute and smart animals at the zoo.
3. SeaWorld – Explore the Penguins Habitat, and Swim Together
The San Antonio SeaWorld theme park is one of the best spots to observe exotic marine life in the US.
With available activities with sharks, orcas, and of course penguins, SeaWorld’s priority is to provide visitors with life-changing and unforgettable animal encounters.
Booking a Penguin Tour will get you backstage, where the aviculturist and penguin trainers will answer all of your questions about the animals.
After a short training, you’ll even get to pet the penguins and spend some time with them.
There is also a more exclusive penguin experience, the Penguin Interaction. During this activity, you’ll get to explore the penguin’s habitat (it’s pretty cold in there, so dress accordingly!), and even hold a penguin in your arms.
The Penguin Interaction lasts about one hour, so you’ll have plenty of time to interact with the animals and enjoy the experience with no rush.
Much more expensive, but exciting, is the Ultimate Animal Experience.
If you’ve always envied the keepers for being able to swim with open-ocean animals, this is your chance to make that dream come true.
You won’t just get to interact with the penguins, but also put on a wetsuit and swim with the whales.
4. National Aviary – Feed the Penguins in their Habitat
I can’t write a list without a shout-out to my home city!
The National Aviary in Pittsburgh, one of the best zoos with penguins, offers 3 different programs just for visitors to interact with the African Penguins.
The Penguin Encounter won’t get you in the penguins’ habitat, but you’ll meet the animals backstage and even feed them some tasty fish.
Participants are then encouraged to interact with the animals, pet the penguins to feel their special feathers, and listen to the knowledgeable keepers explaining interesting facts about the species.
If you have small children, I recommend booking the Jr. Penguin Encounter. It’s similar to the regular encounter but is designed to appeal more to young children.
Especially toddlers and in general children under 6 years old are in for the time of their life.
The Private Penguin Feeding brings animal encounters to a different level.
Super immersive and entertaining, this activity includes putting on the raincoat and entering the penguins’ habitat to hand-feed the sweet animals with fish. When it comes to engaging with penguins, this is one of the best programs in the US.
5. OdySea Aquarium – It’s Penguin Playtime!
Another good option for a penguin encounter is OsySea Aquarium in Scottsdale. The encounter is not private but it can include up to 10 people, meaning you won’t have to compete for the penguin’s attention.
During this 45-minute-long activity, you’ll observe the keepers training the penguins, learn more about their routine, and assist the keepers with “playtime” with the penguins.
There is no fixed activity schedule, as the keepers make it clear that most of what you’re going to do depends on what the penguins feel like doing at that specific time.
While it could sound a bit disorganized, I think not knowing exactly what the encounter will entail adds a bit of suspense, realism, and spontaneity to the experience.
At the end of the encounter, stay for a few minutes to pose and get an amazing picture of hugging or holding an African penguin.
6. Tanganyika Wildlife Park – Swimming with the Penguins it’s not Just a Dream
Did you know you can swim with penguins? What was just a dream, can now become reality at the Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas.
The Penguin Swim activity is one of the top-rated penguin encounters in the US, and it’s not hard to see why.
It’s not every day that you get to play in the water with the penguins, float next to them, hug them underwater, and essentially become a part of the colony.
Everything you need gear-wise will be provided, from the wetsuit to towels and water shoes.
A professional photographer will capture great moments for all participants, so don’t worry if you don’t know how to take pictures in the water.
You can also pose with one of the zoo’s penguins out of the water after the swimming activity.
For those who are not super comfortable in the water, the park also offers a Penguin Meet and Greet session. You’ll get to know the friendliest penguins at Tanganyika, learn more about their personalities and their favorite games, cuddle and play with the penguins and take a selfie with your new friends.
7. Indianapolis Zoo – Meet the Penguin Picasso for a Painting Session
For the art lovers out there, the Indianapolis Zoo offers the unique opportunity to meet the King Penguins, and bring home a one-of-a-kind penguin-made painting, just for you.
The Animal Art Adventure is an unparalleled animal encounter, as you’ll be able to witness the artistic side of the penguins and get the most exclusive souvenir afterward.
There is a maximum of four participants for this activity, making it perfect for small groups or families with children to have a completely private and intimate experience.
During the encounter, you’ll enter the penguins’ area that’s usually closed to the public, get to know one penguin, interact with the animal, and then observe him feet-paint a work of art for you.
If you’d prefer to meet all of the penguins, you can check out the Penguin Feed Demonstration and see the penguins dive for fish from the underwater viewing windows.
8. Brookfield Zoo – The Ultimate Penguin Feeding Adventure
Brookfield Zoo offers the chance to both meet and hand feed the Humboldt penguins, for a truly all-inclusive, all-about-the-penguins experience.
First, you can meet the penguins by taking part in the Penguin Encounter. After listening to a few rules to follow to ensure the well-being of the penguins, you’ll be introduced to the Brookfield Zoo’s penguin colony.
This is a great opportunity to connect with your favorite animal, interact in a protected environment and learn a few fun facts along the way.
Nothing beats watching the penguins eating from your hands, so after the meeting, you should head for the amazing Penguin Feeding Adventure.
This is an up-close, exclusive encounter, where you’ll be able not only to interact with the animals but hand-feed them fish directly.
If you want a memory of this amazing time at the zoo with the penguins, have a friend take pictures of you from the outside, as cameras are not allowed for safety reasons.
More Animal Encounters in the US for the Wildlife Lovers
For the fans of marine life, pick your next destination from the best aquariums in the US.