Spending a night at the Zoo

January 11, 2018

Have you ever wanted to wake up next to a sea lion? Every time I lead an overnight program at Seneca Park Zoo, I continue to be amazed that this is something I get to do as part of my job. And the best part is, I get to share the experience with groups equally as excited to be at the Zoo as I am. 

Overnights are one of my favorite programs to lead. It’s such a privilege to be at the Zoo when it’s closed to the public and it’s just you and the animals. You feel more deeply connected to the animals and want to help their counterparts living in their natural ranges.

Photo by Laura Barrows

During an overnight, you will be the only people at the Zoo. It’s so different from the busy summer days most people think of when they picture a trip to the Zoo. You don’t have to worry about crowds or any animals seeking shade from the sun. Many animals prefer the cooler nighttime weather and the quiet after everyone has gone home. Animals that are primarily nocturnal, like the wolves, tigers, lynx, and snow leopards, are usually more visible to groups staying overnight than they might be during the day. The sea lions are also usually outside, since they only really sleep for about 20 minutes at a time, and that is especially neat for groups to see when the overnight is in Rocky Coasts Gallery, right next to the sea lion habitat.

Throughout the private Zoo tour, educators like me provide groups with interesting facts about the animals. We share information appropriate for all levels and leave plenty of time for questions so everyone in the group can get the most out of their overnight stay. This is also an opportunity for us to share what makes the animals so interesting from our perspective with the hopes that others can connect to these animals like we have. We also choose hands-on projects for the night that adults and kids can work on together, because the program should be as much about the people you are with as the animals you get to visit.

Photo by Dave Zimmerman

It’s so special to wake up, look out the window, and realize there is a sea lion swimming right next to you. If you are lucky, you may even see the polar bear exploring in the morning because that time of day seems to be her favorite. I can’t think of a better way to start the day.

– Tricia Chapman, Family Programs Coordinator

Interested in spending a night at the Zoo? Learn more: