Who can book a field trip under the grant-funded Free Field Trip Program?

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 from September through February only.

When is the Free Field Trip Program in effect?

For the 2022-23 school year, the Free Field Trip Program is in effect for Maryland public schools on regular school days from September 6, 2022 through June 16, 2023. The program is in effect for non-public Maryland Schools from September 6, 2022 through February 2023.

Are students always free at the Zoo?

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

How do I reserve a field trip through the Free Field Trip Program?

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.

Can I visit the Zoo to plan before I bring my students?

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: fieldtrips@marylandzoo.org

What if my group is a private school, homeschool, or preschool?

Non-public Maryland schools, including private, parochial, and home schools, are welcome to visit through the grant-funded program from September through February. Outside of those months, if your group has at least 15 people, you may be eligible to receive discounted rates through Group Reservations.

Planning Ahead

How many chaperones must I bring?

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.

Are all teachers 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.

Can additional parents/guardians also visit with the group?

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 do I decide which parents get the free chaperone slots and which must pay the group sales rate?

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.

How do I pay for extra adults and extra children? Can I get an invoice?

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.

If additional parents show up that day, can the Zoo just bill my school?

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

Are school visitors required to wear masks at the Zoo?

Please check our Zoo Ticketing & Guidelines page before your visit for the most current information related to mask requirements.

Will any exhibits or attractions be unavailable during my visit?

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.

Where can we park at the Zoo? Is there a fee to park?

Parking at the Zoo is free. For directional assistance, use “1 Safari Place” as your destination in a GPS. Those arriving by car should follow signs and the instructions of the Zoo’s parking attendants. Buses can either park or drop off students in parking Lot C. All lots are accessible from the main Zoo entrance.

Where will we enter the Zoo?

School groups visiting during the busiest time of year (spring) will enter at Eagle Gate. In fall and winter, groups will likely enter via the Main Gate. Be sure to follow the directions of the Zoo’s Visitor Services staff. If there is no staff in the bus parking lot when you arrive, walk down from the lot toward the Zoo’s Main Gate to enter there.

How will parents driving separately find our group?

Please let parents not arriving on the bus know that they should plan to wait for the group in the area right in front of the Zoo Main Gate. We strongly recommend that you give parents the cell phone number of the group leader. Once the group is inside the Zoo, Zoo staff cannot help unite a parent with the group. Parents/guardians who do not enter with the group may be subject to full admission for entry.

What is the difference between the train and the Shuttle?

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 to Zoo Central.

Can school groups ride the Shuttle?

The Zoo no longer has large shuttles for transporting visitors. School groups should plan to use the walking path.

Are wheelchairs available at the Zoo?

Wheelchairs can be rented from the Zoo’s concessions partner at the Wild Things Gift Shop inside the Zoo’s Main Gate.

A member of my group needs mobility assistance to get back to the bus lot. What can I do?

Ask any staff member or volunteer to radio the Mobility Shuttle for you. This service is available to transport those with a particular mobility need between the Zoo’s Main Gate and Zoo Central.

Is there a private space that nursing mothers or someone with a feeding tube can use?

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.

What do we do with our lunches at the Zoo?

Many school groups bring their lunches to the Zoo. Note that there is no storage available for lunches. Food can also be purchased at the Zoo. Keep in mind, though, that lines for food purchases can be long on busy days, and the wait can be very time consuming.

Where can we have lunch?

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.

Please email fieldtrips@marylandzoo.org, or contact the Visitor Services team at 443.992.4585 with further questions.