Tucson is a popular tourist destination for lots of reasons – but travelers often return here because of the warm welcome they receive from Tucsonans .  This open welcome is extended every day the Reid Park Zoo, where the staff is welcoming to all, and especially mindful of guests of all ages who may have special needs.  Research has shown the many benefits of visiting a zoo and interacting with animals, and The Reid Park Zoo meets all ADA guidelines and goes above and beyond  to offer these benefits to one and all.   

For example, if  you don’t like big crowds, they can advise you of the best times to visit.  There are stroller and wheelchair rentals.   The Zoo allows trained service animals to accompany you on the grounds (except inside the aviaries, where lots of birds are just walking around), and the website even has a map to identify areas where the sensory experiences (sounds, smells, and so on) might be a bit more intense.

A magical night

But every other year, there is a magical night at the Reid Park Zoo, only open to special children, (those who are differently-abled or have special healthcare needs) and their families.  DreamNight is a free event where everyone can enjoy the Zoo without concern for social stigma, the overstimulation of larger crowds, or worries about accessibility issues.   And don’t worry – these V.I.P. children and their families never need to miss the annual event – The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum also embraces the joy and importance of this wonderful evening and hosts it on alternating years with the Zoo.   Read on to learn about the many special activities and presentations planned for the Zoo’s 2021 event. 

The Origins of DreamNight

Tucson is a wonderful fit for these DreamNight evenings, but can’t claim credit for coming up with the idea.   We have the Rotterdam Zoo, in the Netherlands, to thank for this wonderful tradition.  The first DreamNight was organized for the Rotterdam Zoo in 1996, starting out to serve children from just one specific hospital who were fighting childhood cancer.   Since then, the inclusiveness, imagination and activities offered during this event have grown exponentially as it has been adopted by more than 300 zoos in 35 different countries!    But the warmth of the reception, the interaction with keepers, animals, and volunteers, and the opportunity to experience a zoo in a fun and carefree atmosphere is central to  DreamNights all over the world.

The good people at the Rotterdam Zoo have a special hope – that all zoos and aquariums around the world will decide to reach out to their communities by hosting their own DreamNights.

 What’s Happening: DreamNight 2021 at the Reid Park Zoo

  • This year’s DreamNight is upon us!  The fun will begin for families in the parking lot, where members of the Fire Department and Pima County Sheriff’s Department will have their vehicles – and even a K-9 unit – to show families and answer questions.   In the front plaza of the Zoo, children and their families can meet the Arizona Ghostbusters – a nonprofit that spreads fun and goodwill, complete with Ghostbuster Uniforms, Vehicles, and of course lots of information about slime!
  • The evening is all about creating magic and enjoyment for everyone, and the Zoo’s staff and volunteers truly cherish the opportunity to be a part of it.   It’s a wonderful time to be in the Zoo, because in the calm of the early evening, the animals often exhibit behaviors that guests might not be able to observe during the day.  Zoo keepers and volunteers will be providing special information about the animals, with presentations about the Alligator, the Jaguar, the Rhinos, the Giraffes, the Lions, and of course the beloved African Elephant herd.   
  • There is truly something planned to delight every child.     As families meander through the Zoo, marveling at the animals, they’ll also encounter some other special guests, like members of our own professional ice hockey team, the Tucson Roadrunners.  If fairy tales or seafaring adventures are more to their taste, they can interact with various princesses from Tucson Ever After and the Magic Glam Princesses, or a group of Bleed’n Heart Cove Pirates, or even Mermaid Odette.  As the sun sets, the twinkling lights throughout the grounds will add even more magic to the evening.
  • If special activities are in order, families can enter the central Event Garden, where children can play lawn games, get glitter tattoos, experience science fun from the UA’s Flandrau Science Center, and even meet some special Star Wars characters.  

The Reid Park Zoo is carrying on a wonderful tradition begun 25 years ago in faraway Rottterdam – and a group of very special children (not to mention some excited adults)  in Tucson can’t wait to be a part of it! 

The Reid Park Zoo Expansion website is not produced by the Zoo. We’re a group of concerned Tucsonans who enthusiastically support the Zoo and want you to know more about the Zoo’s value to our community, and especially the amazing animals that the RPZ works to save every day.