NC Zoo’s new treehouse attraction, opening Friday, lets you play among the trees

Because animals in the exhibits aren’t the only ones who like to play, the N.C. Zoo will open another new attraction for visitors on Friday called the Treehouse Trek.

Described as a new adventure for guests of all abilities, Treehouse Trek is built around treehouses, rope bridges and an oversized “play nest,” according to an announcement by the zoo on Tuesday. The park says a portion of the new play area is ADA accessible.

The zoo says the new attraction is near the Air Hike, a ropes course that opened in 2016 inside the Africa section of the park.

The N.C. Zoo, a unit of the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, has operating costs of about $20 million a year, not counting money needed to tend to a backlog of needed repairs and improvements. The park officially opened just outside Asheboro in 1976 with a plan to build a section for each inhabited continent and one for the world’s seas.

A lack of funding has limited the park’s development to two sections so far: Africa and North America. Plans for two additional, though scaled-down, sections on Asia and Australia are now in the works, with Asia to open sometime in 2023.

To increase attendance — and revenue — over the years, the zoo has added many smaller, permanent and rotating attractions designed to maintain interest in the park and get visitors to keep coming back.

The Air Hike, with 11 platforms, 23 obstacles and the chance to feed giraffes at their eye level, is one. Others include the Zoofari open bus ride, which takes visitors through the zoo’s 40-acre African Plains exhibit, home to antelope and rhinos; and the Dragonfly Paddle Boats, a thirty-minute, visitor-propelled cruise over the lake in North America.

Guests pay an additional fee for the attractions on top of the zoo’s admission cost.

The Treehouse Trek will cost $3 over the zoo ticket price. It’s designed for ages 3 and up, and children under 6 must be accompanied by a ticketed adult.

Like some other attractions within the zoo, Treehouse Trek will be weather dependent, and will operate daily through Oct. 31.

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Martha Quillin is a general assignment reporter at The News & Observer who writes about North Carolina culture, religion and social issues. She has held jobs throughout the newsroom since 1987.