One Millionth Guest for 2023

Thanks a Million: North Carolina Zoo Celebrates Record Attendance Milestone


Asheboro, NC – December 28, 2023 – Thanks a Million: North Carolina Zoo Celebrates Record Attendance Milestone


The North Carolina Zoo, nestled in the heart of North Carolina, is world-renowned as an oasis for families, nature enthusiasts, and conservation advocates alike. With its diverse array of animal habitats, interactive programs, and immersive naturalistic design, the Zoo captivates audiences from all walks of life, as evidenced by the Zoo’s latest milestone: exceeding one million guests in a calendar year.


This milestone showcases the Zoo’s growing popularity and highlights the passion shared between Zoo personnel and guests for conservation, education, and forging a deeper connection with the natural world.


The previous record for highest attendance in a calendar year (930,002) was set in 2022 after the COVID pandemic. However, after welcoming dozens of new animals and earning national recognition for its talented staff in 2023, Zoo attendance skyrocketed. Guests began shattering monthly attendance records early, hinting at a particularly promising year and setting the stage for Ran Liu to be the millionth guest to enter the gates since January. 


“Being recognized as the millionth guest was a pleasant surprise and an honor,” says Liu, a Zoo member who was visiting with loved ones when he received the historic news. “The Zoo is an awesome place to bring my family—the animals seem happy and well cared for, and I appreciate the effort staff members make to provide large habitats for the animals to live and play in. I always look forward to coming back.”


Liu says he hopes his story will inspire others to pay a visit to the world’s largest natural habitat zoo. 


“I look forward to the day when [the Zoo] celebrates two or three million guests in a year,” he explains. “Everyone should experience it for themselves. I encourage others to come, volunteer, or find a way to get involved with the great work the Zoo is doing for animals and conservation.”


Upon entering the gates, Liu received a special reception and gift basket, including a Family Membership and a Zoo gift collection courtesy of the North Carolina Zoo, NC Zoological Society, and The Heart of North Carolina Visitors Bureau (Randolph County Tourism Development Authority). The historic moment occurred on December 27, just before the Zoo’s 50th anniversary kickoff in 2024.


“The North Carolina Zoo is more than a destination; it’s a community of individuals united by our love of the planet and its inhabitants,” says North Carolina Zoo CEO and Director Patricia Simmons. “As we prepare to celebrate our golden anniversary in 2024, we are honored and grateful that so many guests have joined our mission and shared our commitment to saving wildlife and wild places. We look forward to the next million guests and the strides we will take together toward a brighter, more sustainable future for our world.”