This is a paid piece from the Great Plains Zoo.

Simplified: As the zoo gears up for a big kickoff to its 60th season this weekend, here's a look at new ways you can hang out around the animals this summer.

Why it matters

  • The Great Plains Zoo is growing. Just since January, the zoo has officially merged with the Butterfly House and Aquarium, announced a new splash park and broken ground on a new lion exhibit.
  • This year, the zoo is also celebrating its 60th birthday. And to kick off the season, it's hosting a Summer Kickoff presented by GreatLIFE with a day full of fun activities on Saturday, May 27.
  • Alongside the growth and celebrations, the zoo is also adding a number of new features this summer, from happy hour options to golf cart tours to new locations for some of the animals.
"We're in a period of growth here at the Great Plains Zoo, and we will be for several more years," PR and Marketing Director Denise DePaolo said. "It's our goal that through it all visitors get to have a full and comprehensive zoo experience."

Tell me more about the Summer Kickoff event

The day is packed with activities starting with a fitness class and a morning bubble party with the bison at 10 a.m.

  • Throughout the day, the zoo's education team will be around to share animal facts and animal trivia.
  • Visitors can also enjoy a snack during watermelon breaks and see both giraffe and primate feedings.

Find a full schedule of the day here.

Tell me more about what's new this summer

One of the big changes is later hours on Wednesdays. The zoo – as well as the Roar Cafe – will stay open until 7 p.m.

"We want people to bring their happy hour plans to the zoo or come for dinner at the cafe," DePaolo said. "That hasn't been an option before."

Visitors who come late on Wednesdays will also have a chance to see Raindancer, the zoo's beloved mini-horse.

This summer, visitors will also have daily chances to feed giraffes in the giraffe barn.

There's also a new way to tour the zoo in a private golf cart.

  • Starting June 2, guests can book a private, guided golf cart tour of the zoo. Tours are about 25 minutes long and cost $25 for members and $30 for non-members.
  • Four adults (and up to four lap children) can fit on the carts.
  • Guests who attend the Summer Kickoff will get a preview of this new feature. Tours can be booked online.