Location: 6800 Zoo Drive, Kansas City, Missouri 64132 (in Swope Park)
Cost: Varies–check the Web site for current pricing
Web site: http://www.kansascityzoo.org/
Put simply, the Helzberg Penguin Plaza is amazing. All that separates you from the birds is a sheet of glass: depending on the birds’ moods and movements, you can be inches away from these wonderful creatures. You can watch the penguins waddle and groom themselves, and you can be inches away as they fly through the water. The birds and the exhibit are beautiful and beautifully done.
In addition to the penguins, there are three large tanks for fish. One has a school of fish in a tube; when we were there, these fish tended to stay towards the bottom of their tank, so they were hard to see. There’s a second tank for jellyfish; the jellies had not moved in yet when we were there. The third tank is a coral reef with model coral around the bottom of the tank. Even if your kiddo isn’t able to see the brightly-colored fish in the tank, s/he will be able to feel the faux coral in front of the tank.
The sounds of the penguins in the main enclosure are piped into the exhibit at large, so there’s lots of audio interest. There’s also a rock hopper penguin game next to the ramp down to the swim tank. Essentially, an image is projected onto the floor of rock hopper penguins trying to jump into a pool. Kids run through the image, creating splashing noises and ripples in the image, to get the penguins out of the pool. Peanut and Sprout were both entranced with this: even if the penguins aren’t ‘seeable,’ the noises were enough to pique Peanut’s interest.
I fell in love with the penguins and their new exhibit on this first visit, and I will absolutely go back to visit them again. Peanut and Sprout were not as awed as Efrit and I were, but I think the exhibits still really worked for them. The penguins are high-contrast, and, since the space where you walk as visitors is darker than the exhibits themselves, the exhibits ‘pop’ and are brighter and easier to see. The Helzberg Penguin Plaza is definitely worth a visit to the Kansas City Zoo.