NC Zoo celebrates 1 millionth visitor in 2023

With just a few days before the end of the year, the North Carolina Zoo exceeded one million guests in a calendar year for the first time in its history.

On Dec. 27, Ran Liu and his family became the one millionth visitor to the North Carolina Zoo in 2023. The previous record for highest attendance in a calendar year was 930,002, set in 2022.

“Being recognized as the millionth guest was a pleasant surprise and an honor,” says Liu, a Zoo member according to a press release from the 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.”

Liu received V.I.P. treatment along with a gift basket, including a Family Membership and a Zoo gift collection.

Attendance at the NC Zoo has been steadily on the rise since 2015. The Covid-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders caused attendance to drop to its lowest level in 2020 with only 350,039 guests visiting that year. However, by 2022 attendance levels had not only bounced back but exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

In 2023, guests were shattering monthly attendance records and by Oct. 31 the zoo was sitting at just over 920,000 guests for the year. Finally, with only 4 days left in 2023, the Zoo hit the one million-guest milestone, just ahead of the Zoo’s 50th anniversary 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,” said North Carolina Zoo CEO and Director Patricia Simmons in a press release. “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.”

By Scott Pelkey, North State Journal