The Zoo’s grant-funded Free Field Trip Program is for students enrolled in Maryland public schools, including those in Head Start Programs and Judy Centers, visiting with their schools. Non-public Maryland schools, including private, parochial, and home schools, may visit through the program during a specific date range.
For the 2023-24 school year, the Free Field Trip Program is in effect for Maryland public schools on regular school days from September 5, 2023 through June 14, 2024. The program is in effect for non-public Maryland Schools on weekdays from September 5, 2023 through February 26, 2024.
For groups that are eligible for the Free Field Trip program, all the students in the group will be free during the regular school year when the teacher reserves a field trip through the online request system. Some other members of your group, however, such as parents and siblings of the student, might not be eligible for free admission.
Reserving a Free Field Trip
You will need to complete the online field trip request form. To ensure your request is processed as quickly as possible, please complete all the information in the form.
Yes! We invite teachers to prepare for their field trips by touring the Zoo in advance. To take advantage of a pre-planning visit, you will need to request a Planning Visit Ticket at least 72 hours in advance. This Planning Visit Ticket gives free admission for the planning teacher only.
Email the Zoo’s Visitor Services team to inquire: email@example.com
Non-public Maryland schools, including private, parochial, and home schools, are welcome to visit through the grant-funded program on weekdays from September 5, 2023, through February 26, 2024. Outside of those months, if your group has at least 15 people, you may be eligible to receive discounted rates through Group Reservations.
The Zoo requires one (1) chaperone for every eight (8) students. A chaperone is an adult on the field trip responsible for overseeing a group of children and for engaging them in learning. For visits booked through the Free Field Trip Program, this required ratio of chaperones is free.
Teachers and teaching assistants are NOT automatically free. Most groups, however, choose to allot their free chaperone slots to teachers. To determine the total number of required (free) chaperones, divide the number of students by 8. Round up if you have a decimal point. In preparing your Entry Pass, the Visitor Services team will be allotting “free chaperone” slots first to the number of teachers, and any remaining free chaperone slots to other adults. Additional adults beyond that ratio will be offered admission at the group sales rate. They must be accounted for on the Entry Pass and enter with the group to receive this discounted rate.
Parents/guardians beyond the free chaperones will be offered admission at the group sales rate. To receive this discounted rate, they must be accounted for on the Entry Pass and enter with the group. Any children accompanying them who are not part of the visiting class will also be offered a group sales rate and must be accounted for on the Entry Pass.
How you allot your free chaperone slots is up to you. Almost all groups allot free slots first to teachers. Some groups allot remaining free slots to the first parents who signed up. Others allot their remaining free chaperone slots to other school staff members coming along on the trip, such as classroom assistants, guidance counselors, or administrators.
The Zoo cannot invoice for field trip fees. Additional parents/ guardians and extra children (not a member of the visiting class) must be accounted for on the Entry Pass and enter with the group. The group leader is responsible for making one payment for any fees that may be due for the entire group.
The Zoo cannot invoice or bill for field trip fees and does not accept purchase orders. The group leader is responsible for completing the Entry Pass correctly to account for all individuals in the group, and for making a payment in a single transaction for any fees due for extra adults and extra children. Those not accounted for will need to purchase their own tickets at full price.
At the Zoo
Every day is different at the Zoo, and some animals might not be viewable during your visit. Be sure to check the Zoo website for any updates or special notices. On the Zoo homepage, look for the “Alerts” box in the top right corner.
Parking at the Zoo is free. During our parking lot renovation project, groups arriving by bus will be dropped off and picked up at our Pelican Gate drop-off zone. Buses will be able to drop off and pick up only. We will not have bus parking near the Main Gate during the parking project.
Please note your bus number and pickup time before entering the Zoo so your group members board the correct bus at the end of their stay. Adults driving separately will also need to park at Pelican Gate and enter with the school. If chaperones arrive by bus, please make sure they are seated near the students. There will not be an assembly area to organize your group when exiting the bus.
During parking lot renovation project, groups arriving by bus will be dropped off and picked up at our Pelican Gate drop-off zone. Buses will be able to drop off and pick up only. We will not have bus parking near the gate during the parking project. Please make note of your bus number and pickup time before entering the Zoo so your group members board the correct bus at the end of their stay.
During parking lot renovations, adults driving separately will need to park at Pelican Gate and enter with the school there. Additional directions and maps will be available when your program is confirmed. We strongly recommend that you give parents the cell phone number of the group leader in case there are any issues. Parents/guardians who do not enter with the group may be subject to full admission for entry. Once the group is inside the Zoo, Zoo staff cannot help unite a parent with the group.
The Zoo’s train, the Jones Falls Zephyr, is a ride that winds through a portion of Zoo grounds. There is a cost to ride the train. The Zoo’s Mobility Shuttle is a small-scale service to transport those with a particular mobility need from the Zoo’s Main Gate (where Wild Things Gift Shop is located) to Zoo Central.
The Zoo no longer has large shuttles for transporting visitors. School groups should plan to walk through the Zoo’s historic Main Valley to visit the prairie dogs and Wild Things Gift Shop in the Zoo’s Main Gate area.
Wheelchairs can be rented from the Zoo’s concessions partner at the Wild Things Gift Shop inside the Zoo’s Main Gate and at Wilderness Traders in the Zoo Central area.
If a member of your group requires a private space for nursing or to use a feeding tube, ask a staff member (green shirt) or volunteer (red shirt) to radio a Visitor Services Manager. The manager will assist you in finding an appropriate location.
Many school groups bring their lunches to the Zoo. Note that there is no storage available for lunches. It is the group leader’s responsibility to transport or set up any on-site lunches; Zoo staff are not available to provide any assistance. Keep in mind that your bus parking will not be located near the Zoo entrance. You should plan accordingly, as it may be challenging to retrieve lunches or coolers from buses during your visit.
Small tables are available in Zoo Central and at the Oasis. All seating is first-come, first-served. Some groups choose to picnic on benches throughout the Zoo or on grassy spots such as the hill next to Northern Passage. Most groups opt to have lunch in smaller chaperone groups rather than as one large class or school to make it easier to find seating.
For guaranteed seating or catering options, please consider renting Zoo space.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Visitor Services team at 443.992.4585 with further questions.