Food & Drink

Every Zoo Drinking Festival You Don’t Want to Miss in 2018

There are a lot of summer drinking events to attend. With drinking festivals in every state and plenty of summer drinking bucket list activities, there’s no shortage of libations to sip, savor and taste. Very few things, however, include both drinks and exotic animals, and it just so happens that some of the best drinking festivals you can go to this year are happening in zoos. Below are all of the zoo drinking festivals yet to happen in 2018, arranged by date.

Detroit Zoo in Detroit, Michigan

Event:Zoo Brew and Wild Beasts Wild Wine

Date: May 4 from 6 to 10 p.m. and August 24 from 6 to 10 p.m.

General admission cost: $45 in advance, $50 at the gate

What you get: Zoo Brew features 130 different beers from Michigan breweries, and the cost of admission includes 12 beer samples with the chance to buy more samples and food onsite. Each person going to the Wild Beasts Wild Wine event gets 10 wine tasting tickets and access to live music and zookeeper talks. Listening to the ins and outs of zookeepers’ days is already intriguing. Doing so with a glass of fine vino in hand makes it that much better.

Sacramento Zoo in Sacramento, California

Event:Wine & Brew at the Zoo

Date: May 12 from 5 to 8 p.m.

General admission cost: $55

What you get: It’s all about the local breweries and wineries for the Sacramento Zoo, and there are plenty from which to choose. Favorites like Grindstone Wines, Bear Republic Brewing Company, Firestone Walker and Sierra Nevada will all be present, as well as a healthy list of others.

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Zoo Miami in Miami, Florida

Event:Brew at the Zoo

Date: May 12 from 7 to 11 p.m.

General admission cost: $40

What you get: Miami’s biggest beer festival is wild. Well, as wild as it can get in a zoo. There are more than 100 different beers to choose from with unlimited samples. In addition to all the beer, food and music going on, you get that wild animal experience that Zoo Miami offers every day.

Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah

Event:Zoo Brew

Dates: May 16, June 6 and 27, July 18, August 15 and September 19. All events from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

General admission cost: $16.95

What you get: Stocked with cheap and plentiful beers, Zoo Brew at the Hogle Zoo is here to provide you with a good time. There aren’t any free drinks with a ticket purchase, but the ticket price is less than many zoos charge for their normal, not alcohol-focused day tickets. What sets Zoo Brew apart from a regular trip to Hogle Zoo is that there are cash bars, as well as no children. Each event benefits a different conservation effort by the zoo.  

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Maryland

Event:Brew at the Zoo

Date: May 26-27 from 1 to 7 p.m.

General admission cost: $39-$55

What you get: The beer festival is the Maryland Zoo’s biggest fundraiser and features more than 80 different types of local and national beers. Live bands play both days, and the ticket includes regular daytime admission to the zoo so you can enjoy some animal presence as well.

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Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia

Event:Brew at the Zoo

Dates: May 26 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

General admission cost: $125 advance and $135 at the door

What you get: There are more than 1,000 animals in Zoo Atlanta. During Brew at the Zoo, you get to see them all with more than 70 different beers and a small selection of wine. The animals will be out and about before nightfall, hanging out in their enclosures ready for people to check them out while enjoying a beer or two. After nightfall, some of the bars close, but others stay open and the party continues with live music throughout the zoo.

Los Angeles Zoo in Los Angeles, California

Event: Sustainable Wine+Dinner Series and Roaring Nights

Dates: Sustainable Wine+Dinner: May 31 and June 28. Roaring Nights: June 29, July 20, August 17 and September 14

General admission cost: Varies by event

What you get: The Sustainable Wine+Dinner Series takes California’s loves of sustainability and good wine and brings them together in a zoo. Each event includes farm-to-table dinners with a local winery providing a custom tasting. The dinners are held in various parts of the park and include talks from animal sustainability experts and winery representatives. The Roaring Nights is more of a party with DJs, keeper talks, animal encounters, food trucks and multiple full bars.

Nashville Zoo in Nashville, Tennessee

Event: Brew at the Zoo

Date: June 1 from 6:30 to 11 p.m.

General admission cost: $60

What you get: The Nashville Zoo has been holding a beer festival for seven years now, and it’s got all the kinks worked out. This year there will be more than 100 beers on tap, local food trucks, animal activities and, this being Nashville, live music. If you have any doubts, it was voted the best beer event in Nashville by Nashville Scene in 2014 and 2016.

Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio

Event:Wild About Wine, Cocktails for Conservation and Zoo Brew

Date: Wild About Wine: June 14 and August 9 from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Cocktails for Conservation: July 12 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and Zoo Brew: October 11 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

General admission cost: $40-$50

What you get: The Cincinnati Zoo knows how to party. The numerous after-hours drinking events vary in beverage focus, but they all share a focus on the animals. At Wild About Wine, different tasting locations are spread throughout the zoo for drinkers to stop at in between the close-up animal encounters. Cocktails for Conservation started as a Zootini event and now has a variety of spirits and cocktails. Zoo Brew brings the brewmasters to the zoo to talk about the science of beer and help everyone out in their drinking fun. All events have music and food.

Bronx Zoo in New York, New York

Event:Brew at the Zoo

Date: June 15 from 6-11 p.m.

General admission cost: $69.99

What you get: The Bronx zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States, and on June 15 it’s full of beer and wine. Animal exhibits like grizzly bears, giraffes, lemurs and sea lions will be open from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and the real attraction (the brew, obviously) starts pouring at 7 p.m. There will be more than 100 types of wine and beer to choose from, and your general admission ticket gets you unlimited beer samplings in the 5-ounce cup. Study up before going to try your hand at animal bar trivia, or enjoy the live music and many food trucks.

Birmingham Zoo in Birmingham, Alabama

Event:Zoo, Brews & Full Moon Bar-B-Que

Date: June 16 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

General admission cost: $35

What you get: A dozen breweries from Alabama and the Southeast will be pouring their best beers, and wine will be available as well. Kids activities will be going on to distract any little ones you bring along, and dinner will be provided by Full Moon Bar-B-Que.

Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois

Event:Craft Brews at the Zoo

Date: June 15-16 from 6 to 10:30 p.m.

General admission cost: $49

What you get: Currently in its fourth year, the Craft Brews at the Zoo event features pours from 40 different breweries. There will be lawn games, so you can play cornhole while staring at all of the animals and listening to a DJ spin the hits. Each ticket gets you 20 different 3-ounce samples.

Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois

Event: ZooBrew

Date: June 23-24

General admission cost: $55

What you get: Yep, Chicago has two drinking-at-zoo events. This one comes with admission to the zoo during the day, then admission to the ZooBrew tent at night. The event promises “bears and beers, lions and lagers, anteaters and ales.” More than 80 beers will be available for sampling.

Denver Zoo in Denver, Colorado

Event:Do at the Zoo

Date: June 21 from 7 to 10 p.m.

General admission cost: $175

What you get: Seventy restaurants and breweries are heading to the zoo to give you unlimited drinks (beer, wine and cocktails) alongside live music and entertainment. The dress is a little more formal, with cocktail attire suggested—bonus if it includes animal print and/or safari khakis.

Philadelphia Zoo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Event:Summer Ale Festival

Date: June 23 from 7 to 10 p.m.

General admission cost: $59.95-$64.95

What you get: If you haven’t been to the Philadelphia Zoo before, there’s a literal catwalk where tigers, jaguars and pumas can gracefully stroll over passersby walking through the park. And during the Summer Ale Festival, they can stroll over a bunch of people enjoying local beers. There’s also a tent with a concert, food trucks and plenty of time to see the animals up close and personal.

Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C.

Event:Brew at the Zoo

Date: July 19 from 6 to 9 p.m.

General admission cost: $65 ($50 for members)

What you get: First things first, there are animal encounters at this event—but there aren’t too many details about which animals people will be able to encounter other than “exotic.” Whatever it is, it’s better than just seeing the animal behind the enclosure like during normal zoo hours. Also there’s beer, as the name suggests. More than 70 breweries are participating in the event, and there are complimentary tastings from all of them.

Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island

Event:Brew at the Zoo

Date: August 25 from 5 to 8 p.m.

General admission cost: TBA

What you get: This zoo is where you’ll find Rhode Island’s largest outdoor beer festival, and the only Rhode Island beer festival that features monkeys, wolves and bison. More than 170 different beers from more than 80 different breweries will be poured, and live music will be played. Drink some beer from Foolproof Brewing next to seals, or some 21st Amendment and Tiger Beer in close proximity to elephants. Unlike many of the other zoo drinking experiences across the country, Roger Williams Park is keeping all zoo exhibits open during its Brew at the Zoo.

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San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California

Event:Food, Wine and Brew Celebration

Date: September 22 from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.

General admission cost: TBA

What you get: The San Diego Zoo goes all out. The ticket gets you free samples from more than 150 restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries. The open areas of the zoo are split into seven different zones with seven different live music stages. Five animal shows will go on throughout the night where you can meet the zoo residents, and activities from Skyfari Rides to the Critter Casino are scattered across the park. If it rains, the event is canceled and there’s no refund (they ask to consider the ticket purchase “a donation to San Diego Zoo Global”), but it’s San Diego, so the chances of precipitation are pretty low.

Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington

Event:Brew at the Zoo

Dates: October 4 from 6 to 9 p.m.

General admission cost: TBA

What you get: The Pacific Northwest is a beer and cider lover’s dream region. The Woodland Park Zoo event will feature beer and cider from 56 different breweries. Each general admission ticket comes with seven tasting tickets. Some of the photos from past years show people getting the chance to pet a live animal—the animal was an opossum, but it’s a live animal nonetheless, and owls were present as well.

Kansas City Zoo in Kansas City, Missouri

Event:Brew at the Zoo & Wine Too

Date: October 20 from 7 to 10 p.m.

General admission cost: TBA

What you get: The name is pretty encompassing, but leaves out that distilleries will also be on sight for cocktail fans. Each ticket includes beer and wine samples as well as two full-size drink tickets. Food trucks will be “on site to tame the roar in your belly” and live music will keep you rocking.